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Five Great Reads for This Black History Month

In waiting for the year to cycle back around to February, Black History Month has finally arrived. Supporting Black creators and artists does not start or stop here with this month-long celebration, so let’s keep it going throughout the year. As Black History Month is coming to a close, here are five must-reads — my personal recommendations on strong Black stories and narratives from all genres — going into the month of March.

all about love by bell hooks

One of the first pioneering feminists to discuss inequalities among women in her literature, Hooks’ All About Love touches on love today in our modern society. She offers us new, “radical” ways to think about love — how we love, and the interconnectedness of love in our public and private lives. Her feminist perspective and beautiful language offer a comforting read that is especially good for those who wish to learn more about their style of “loving” or, as I recommend, for people who may not have been raised by good love models. 

giovanni’s room by james baldwin

Giovanni’s Room is a bold, emotional work of fiction and considered to be one of the most timeless reads. It follows the catastrophic relationship and affair between two gay men in 1950s Paris, France. Known for his excellence in literature and activism, Baldwin’s writing highlights the struggle to be not only a man but also a Black, gay man in a world where these identities had yet to be accepted. This story is a great read, and it truly articulates love, acceptance, heartbreak and everything in between. You’re going to want to grab the tissues for this one. 

a taste of power: a black woman’s story by elaine brown

Brown is one of the most notable women in the now-disbanded Black Panther Party, which makes this read amazing. A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story is her autobiography, where she covers her fascinating rise to power in the party in the late ’70s. In her authorship, she intertwines the political history, tough relationships, power struggles and patriarchy — all of which details her experiences and explain the factors that led to her abandoning her role as the first Black chairwoman in the party. Brown’s feminism stuck with her and she continued to pioneer for not only women but also Black women as a political activist. This one is a stellar read. 

Purple Hibiscus by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie

Adichie’s known-for and debut novel, this forgotten read from 2003 is truly a classic. This novel is exquisite following 15-year-old Kambili living in luxury in Nigeria. Living in the shadows of her Catholic father, he commands an abusive role — demanding perfection from both her and her brother Jaja and making no effort to hide his violence towards Mama. This book takes an interesting turn, and it is up to Kambili to find the strength to keep her loved ones together amidst all the turmoil. Through her use of diction, Adichie’s descriptions of the Nigerian landscape feel just like home. She is one of my favorite authors — her ability to make you fall into the story is incredible. In my opinion, she perfectly describes tough decision-making and a young girl’s fight between head and heart.

The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore

This novel is a true story, following the lives of two men named Wes Moore, both from Baltimore that happen to lead entirely different lives. The story is essentially a tale of one name and two fates, highlighting the differences that background, upbringing and socialization play into which direction our lives lead. I don’t want to say too much, as this read is a personal favorite and truly showcases the roles and struggles of Black men in America. 

I hope all of you take the initiative to read some of my favorites and educate yourselves not only during Black History Month but also during all months of the year. Black lives matter, and we must support them through literature too. Books in my opinion are one of the best and most powerful mediums for storytelling, and I would love to see our generation reading more.

Sanaa Payge

Virginia Tech '23

Sanaa Payge (she/her) is a junior at Virginia Tech. She is majoring in smart and sustainable cities with a minor in Africana studies. In her free time, she enjoys reading, fashion, hanging out with friends, and you will always find her playing music - especially on vinyl! Working on the editing and writing teams for Her Campus is her passion!
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