Black History Month is a month dedicated not only to remembering the long history of Black American culture, but to honoring Black excellence in all forms. Every day we should strive to educate ourselves on Black history and culture and celebrate Black talent. What better way to do so than by reading books by brilliant, proud and revolutionary Black writers. Here are the five must-read books to celebrate Black History Month:
1. “The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings” by James Baldwin
Baldwin is one of my favorite authors of all time, so maybe I am biased in suggesting this collection. However, I believe this is a must-read for every person I know. I chose this book in particular because it’s one of his lesser known collections, but possibly one of his most powerful. It is a gathering of essays, articles, reviews and interviews that covers issues such as the possibility of an African-American president and what it might mean (which is a bit foreshadowing), the Black church in America, anti-Semitism, the trials of Black nationalism, the blues and the role of the writer in our society. It is still very relevant to the times we live in and insightful to issues of importance to not only the Black community, but to all communities.
2. “Who Fears Death” by Nnedi Okorafor
If you’re a lover of fantasy and science fiction, this book is perfect for you. In this novel, award-winning literary author, Nnedi Okorafor, delivers an engaging supernatural fantasy with a novel of post-apocalyptic Africa. It follows a girl named Onyesonwu, which means “Who Fears Death?” in an ancient African tongue. Through teaching of a shaman, Onyesonwu discovers her destiny — to end the genocide of her people, the Okeke, by another tribe called the Nuru. Through this journey she experiences tradition, history, nature, true love and the mysteries of her culture. This novel was also picked up by HBO, and will become a show in 2018.
3. “salt.” by Nayyirah Waheed
The list of talented Black poets is endless. However, Nayyirah Waheed is one of my favorites. Her collection of poems in “salt.” is absolutely beautiful. In her poetry, she explores identity, blackness, womanhood, pain, love, community, healing and much more. If you want to be moved in a powerful way, this collection of poetry will do the trick.
4. “Killing Rage: Ending Racism” by bell hooks
Another one of my favorite authors, bell hooks, has always stated that eradicating racism and eradicating sexism must go hand in hand. In this book, she speaks to that issue throughout her collection of essays. They address topics having to do with race and racism in the U.S., such as anti-Semitism and racism, trauma from racism, friendship between black women and white women, racism in movies and the media and more. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the book is how she writes about the the anger of Black people hurt by instances of everyday racism. She calls this “killing rage.” She explains that it is possible to find a healing source of love and strength and a source of encouragement for that positive change in that rage.
5. “Zami: A New Spelling of My Name” by Audre Lorde
In this book, Audre Lorde, another skilled and strong poet and author, tells the story of her life from her childhood into her early adulthood. Through her beautiful language, she explains her life living in New York in the 1950s as a queer woman of color. She explores the intersections of race, class, sexuality and gender, as well as the ways one can find beauty through the pains and joy of life. After all, as stated in the book, “A choice of pains. That’s what living was all about.”
All of these books are excellent reads, but there are a ton more books written by talented Black authors. I encourage you all to seek out these books, and to continue to celebrate Black talent and Black lives every single month of the year.