As we celebrate Black history and culture this month, I wanted to recommend some of my staple reads that inspire me to be confident, creative, and courageous all year round! In this list, you will discover stories that continue to transcend time and new stories that will surely be revisited time and again. Help us continue to elevate Black voices beyond the month of February by sharing the stories that have inspired you!
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
I first read this novel in college and I remember being very angry after closing the book. A few years later, I decided to read the story of eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove again and something about the timing and place (I finished it in about 3 hours on a rainy day at a coffee shop) of digesting the pages again made me feel a sort of reconciliation with this particular story and with my own struggles with racism and colorism as a child and adult.
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
This is a time-travel novel that had me both eager and terrified to turn to the next page. I often re-read this story because it’s a history lesson, love story, and action movie all combined into a roller coaster of emotions. Speaking of an action movie, the novel will be adapted into an upcoming series on FX. I can’t wait to see this story unfold on screen!
Just as I Am: A Memoir by Cicely Tyson
Cicely Tyson is a film and television icon who we sadly lost in 2021. Watching her on-screen always captivated me because she used her roles as teaching moments that went beyond the plot. I like to just pick a moment in time from her memoir and revisit how she navigated the entertainment industry for over seven decades!
Finding Me: A Memoir by Viola Davis
I look up to actress Viola Davis on a daily basis (she’s so fun on Instagram) because she continues to take on roles that reflect the multiple generations of women in my family and myself. She addresses the topics that are sometimes hard to unpackage as a Black woman but it’s somehow comforting to know that she has gone through those trials and come out on TOP!
The Education of Kevin Powell by Kevin Powell
I recently decided to watch the first season of The Real World where writer and activist Kevin Powell was a cast member. He stood out to me because he addressed his experiences as a Black man struggling and overcoming racism in this country. This was back in the early 90s, so this topic was, for the most part, taboo for a mainstream television audience. It was illuminating to hear him discuss his journey during that time and know that today, many (if not all) of those issues still run rampant. This memoir allowed me to dive deeper and learn more about Powell beyond a reality show.
The Deep by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes
The concept of this novel is one of the most imaginative things that I have come across since reading Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred. I tend to get overwhelmingly sad or angry when I read narratives dealing with African-American slavery, but this was another way to digest those emotions. We’re talking about mermaids!
She Memes Well: Essays by Quinta Brunson
I’ve been a fan of comedian Quinta Brunson since my college days binging her Buzzfeed skits when I was supposed to be studying. Her essays here are naturally funny but they are also really touching as she reflects on her journey trying to make it big in Hollywood. Check out her new TELEVISION series Abbott Elementary on ABC. What a success story!
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
I actually just received this novel a few days ago and I haven’t been able to put it down! I am adding it to this list because I already know that it is a staple to return to. I have a younger sister and over the years, we have definitely had our differences growing up and trying to come into our own. What I cherish the most about our relationship and bond is that we have dealt with some of the same experiences at the same time. As adults, we can reflect and unpack some of our traumas together, which reminds me of the characters Byron and Benny’s story here.