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10 More Books For Black History Month

Can we ever really have enough? No, I say. So here are more picks for you!

Black Faces, White Spaces by Carolyn Finney: Why are African Americans so underrepresented when it comes to interest in nature, outdoor recreation, and environmentalism? In this thought-provoking study, Carolyn Finney looks beyond the discourse of the environmental justice movement to examine how the natural environment has been understood, commodified, and represented by both white and black Americans. Bridging the fields of environmental history, cultural studies, critical race studies, and geography, Finney argues that the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial violence have shaped cultural understandings of the great outdoors and determined who should and can have access to natural spaces.


Drawing on a variety of sources from film, literature, and popular culture, and analyzing different historical moments, including the establishment of the Wilderness Act in 1964 and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Finney reveals the perceived and real ways in which nature and the environment are racialized in America. Looking toward the future, she also highlights the work of African Americans who are opening doors to greater participation in environmental and conservation concerns.


Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile: A mother-daughter story of reinvention—about an African American woman who unexpectedly inherits a sugarcane farm in Louisiana


Why exactly Charley Bordelon’s late father left her eight hundred sprawling acres of sugarcane land in rural Louisiana is as mysterious as it was generous. Recognizing this as a chance to start over, Charley and her eleven-year-old daughter, Micah, say good-bye to Los Angeles.


They arrive just in time for growing season but no amount of planning can prepare Charley for a Louisiana that’s mired in the past: as her judgmental but big-hearted grandmother tells her, cane farming is always going to be a white man’s business. As the sweltering summer unfolds, Charley must balance the overwhelming challenges of her farm with the demands of a homesick daughter, a bitter and troubled brother, and the startling desires of her own heart.


Penguin has a rich tradition of publishing strong Southern debut fiction—from Sue Monk Kidd to Kathryn Stockett to Beth Hoffman. In Queen Sugar, we now have a debut from the African American point of view. Stirring in its storytelling of one woman against the odds and intimate in its exploration of the complexities of contemporary southern life, Queen Sugar is an unforgettable tale of endurance and hope.


Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: An unforgettable true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to end mass incarceration in America — from one of the most inspiring lawyers of our time.


Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit law office in Montgomery, Alabama, dedicated to defending the poor, the incarcerated, and the wrongly condemned.


Just Mercy tells the story of EJI, from the early days with a small staff facing the nation’s highest death sentencing and execution rates, through a successful campaign to challenge the cruel practice of sentencing children to die in prison, to revolutionary projects designed to confront Americans with our history of racial injustice.


One of EJI’s first clients was Walter McMillian, a young Black man who was sentenced to die for the murder of a young white woman that he didn’t commit. The case exemplifies how the death penalty in America is a direct descendant of lynching — a system that treats the rich and guilty better than the poor and innocent.


Rooted In The Earth by Dianne D. Glave: Crossing the ocean on a slave ship, working the land under threat of violence, eluding racists in nighttime chases through moonless fields and woodlands, stumbling across a murder victim hanging from a tree—these are images associated with the African American experience of nature. Over the decades, many African Americans have come to accept that natural areas are dangerous. Unfamiliar with the culture's rich environmental heritage, people overlook the knowledge and skills required at every turn in black history: thriving in natural settings in ancestral African lands, using and discovering farming techniques to survive during slavery and Reconstruction, and navigating escape routes to freedom, all of which required remarkable outdoor talents and a level of expertise far beyond what's needed to hike or camp in a national forest or park.


In Rooted in the Earth, environmental historian Dianne D. Glave overturns the stereotype that a meaningful attachment to nature and the outdoors is contrary to the black experience. In tracing the history of African Americans' relationship with the environment, emphasizing the unique preservation-conservation aspect of black environmentalism, and using her storytelling skills to re-create black naturalists of the past, Glave reclaims the African American heritage of the land. This book is a groundbreaking, important first step toward getting back into nature, not only for personal growth but for the future of the planet.


Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson: Rose Mae Lolley's mother disappeared when she was eight, leaving Rose with a heap of old novels and a taste for dangerous men. Now, as demure Mrs. Ro Grandee, she's living the very life her mother abandoned. She's all but forgotten the girl she used to be-teenaged spitfire, Alabama heartbreaker, and a crack shot with a pistol-until an airport gypsy warns Rose it's time to find her way back to that brave, tough girl . . . or else. Armed with only her wit, her pawpy's ancient .45, and her dog Fat Gretel, Rose Mae hightails it out of Texas, running from a man who will never let her go, on a mission to find the mother who did.


Starring a minor character from Jackson's bestselling gods in Alabama, BACKSEAT SAINTS will dazzle readers with its stunning portrayal of the measures a mother will take to right the wrongs she's created, and how far a daughter will travel to satisfy the demands of forgiveness.


The Book of Night Women by Marlon James: The Book of Night Women is a sweeping, startling novel, a true tour de force of both voice and storytelling. It is the story of Lilith, born into slavery on a Jamaican sugar plantation at the end of the eighteenth century. Even at her birth, the slave women around her recognize a dark power that they and she will come to both revere and fear.


The Night Women, as they call themselves, have long been plotting a slave revolt, and as Lilith comes of age and reveals the extent of her power, they see her as the key to their plans. But when she begins to understand her own feelings and desires and identity, Lilith starts to push at the edges of what is imaginable for the life of a slave woman in Jamaica, and risks becoming the conspiracy's weak link.


Lilith's story overflows with high drama and heartbreak, and life on the plantation is rife with dangerous secrets, unspoken jealousies, inhuman violence, and very human emotion between slave and master, between slave and overseer, and among the slaves themselves. Lilith finds herself at the heart of it all. And all of it told in one of the boldest literary voices to grace the page recently--and the secret of that voice is one of the book's most intriguing mysteries.


Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Poetry by Camille T. Dungy: Black Nature is the first anthology to focus on nature writing by African American poets, a genre that until now has not commonly been counted as one in which African American poets have participated.Black poets have a long tradition of incorporating treatments of the natural world into their work, but it is often read as political, historical, or protest poetry—anything but nature poetry. This is particularly true when the definition of what constitutes nature writing is limited to work about the pastoral or the wild.


Camille T. Dungy has selected 180 poems from 93 poets that provide unique perspectives on American social and literary history to broaden our concept of nature poetry and African American poetics. This collection features major writers such as Phillis Wheatley, Rita Dove, Yusef Komunyakaa, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sterling Brown, Robert Hayden, Wanda Coleman, Natasha Trethewey, and Melvin B. Tolson as well as newer talents such as Douglas Kearney, Major Jackson, and Janice Harrington. Included are poets writing out of slavery, Reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement, and late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century African American poetic movements.


Black Nature brings to the fore a neglected and vital means of considering poetry by African Americans and nature-related poetry as a whole.


Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: A masterly, haunting new novel from a writer heralded by The Washington Post Book World as “the 21st-century daughter of Chinua Achebe,” Half of a Yellow Sun re-creates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria in the 1960s, and the chilling violence that followed.


With astonishing empathy and the effortless grace of a natural storyteller, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie weaves together the lives of three characters swept up in the turbulence of the decade. Thirteen-year-old Ugwu is employed as a houseboy for a university professor full of revolutionary zeal. Olanna is the professor’s beautiful mistress, who has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos for a dusty university town and the charisma of her new lover. And Richard is a shy young Englishman in thrall to Olanna’s twin sister, an enigmatic figure who refuses to belong to anyone. As Nigerian troops advance and the three must run for their lives, their ideals are severely tested, as are their loyalties to one another.


Epic, ambitious, and triumphantly realized, Half of a Yellow Sun is a remarkable novel about moral responsibility, about the end of colonialism, about ethnic allegiances, about class and race—and the ways in which love can complicate them all. Adichie brilliantly evokes the promise and the devastating disappointments that marked this time and place, bringing us one of the most powerful, dramatic, and intensely emotional pictures of modern Africa that we have ever had.


Salvation by Bell Hooks: Written from both historical and cultural perspectives, Salvation takes an incisive look at the transformative power of love in the lives of African Americans. Whether talking about the legacy of slavery, relationships and marriage in Black life, the prose and poetry of Martin Luther King, Jr., James Baldwin, and Maya Angelou, the liberation movements of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, or hip hop and gangsta rap culture, hooks lets us know what love’s got to do with it.


Combining the passionate politics of W.E.B. DuBois with fresh, contemporary insights, hooks brilliantly offers new visions that will heal our nation’s wounds from a culture of lovelessness. Her writings on love and its impact on race, class, family, history, and popular culture raise all the relevant issues. This is work that helps us heal. Salvation shows us how to create beloved American communities.


The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle: Eckhart Tolle's message is simple: living in the now is the truest path to happiness and enlightenment. And while this message may not seem stunningly original or fresh, Tolle's clear writing, supportive voice and enthusiasm make this an excellent manual for anyone who's ever wondered what exactly "living in the now" means. Foremost, Tolle is a world-class teacher, able to explain complicated concepts in concrete language. More importantly, within a chapter of reading this book, readers are already holding the world in a different container--more conscious of how thoughts and emotions get in the way of their ability to live in genuine peace and happiness.

Tolle packs a lot of information and inspirational ideas into The Power of Now. (Topics include the source of Chi, enlightened relationships, creative use of the mind, impermanence and the cycle of life.) Thankfully, he's added markers that symbolise "break time". This is when readers should close the book and mull over what they just read. As a result, The Power of Now reads like the highly acclaimed A Course in Miracles--a spiritual guidebook that has the potential to inspire just as many study groups and change just as many lives for the better. --Gail Hudson


*Book descriptions provided by Good Reads

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