Luster, Raven Leilani
A working class Black girl’s struggle to find herself while navigating a complicated relationship with her white male lover.
Finna, Nate Marshall #blackboylit
A moving book of poetry about Blackness, love of Black people, and Chicago.
The Girl with the Louding Voice, Abi Dare
A young Nigerian girl overcomes a tremendous number of hardships, holding true to her desire to be educated and to find her voice.
Concrete Rose, Angie Thomas #blackboylit
Maverick Carter’s story is powerful: teenage father learning to find his voice and his own power. It will make you immediately go reread The Hate U Give
Memorial, Bryan Washington
Queer love story about a Black man and his Asian lover, a dying father, family dynamics, and what happens when a relationship can (and should?) end. It’s not easy, by any stretch of the imagination.
Black Kids, Christina Hammonds Reed
I appreciate this book for breaking me out of my reading rut. Fabulous, thoughtful, complex look at a young Black girl who is wealthy, goes to school in a predominantly white environment, and is trying to figure out all the identities she has and wants to be. I’d also use this book as a craft study b/c Hammonds Reed can write a brilliant sentence, and this book has so many. One of my faves of the year at this point.
You Should See Me In a Crown, Leah Johnson
I continue to turn to YA as a way to get my reading life restarted. Liz Lighty is an overachieving Black girl who wants to go to the local PWI more than anything. She’s queer, which is hard in a small Indianapolis town, made even more complicated because she runs for prom queen. I felt for Liz, who has be to exceptional in every way, struggles with anxiety, and the loss of her mother, and, well, being working class in a white midwestern town.
We Are Not Broken, George M. Johnson
Another entry to the #blackboylit canon that gives us a nonbinary young person living their best life. This was a great example of all the ways young people can grow up whole, free, and supported by a loving community. A memoir in vignettes, too!
Things We Couldn’t Say, Jay Coles
I read this one with the Johnson book above in preparation for moderating a panel for SLJ’s Day of Action. Another #blackboylit title. I so appreciated the main character, a bisexual Black boy who experiences depression, a missing parent, and falling in love. I loved Gio so much, and also appreciated his comments about school, lol, especially being dragged through a reading of To Kill A Mockingbird.
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, Deesha Philyaw
This book got me OUT of my reading rut. Just an excellent collection of short stories about Black women that is beautifully written, funny, sad, healing…just everything. I wished it was longer, have recommended it as my favorite book this year, and gift it, too.
Fugitive Pedagogy: Carter G. Woodson and the Art of Black Teaching, Jarvis Givens
I stan for Dr. Givens and his scholarship because it helps me locate myself in the tradition of the art of Black teaching. Lots about the life of Carter G. Woodson, Black teachers, and why what we do matters even more today. It’s also an important reminder that as teachers we need to be “scholars of the practice” and make time to read scholarship.
The Prophets, Robert Jones, Jr.
This queer love story set during enslavement was moving and reminiscent of Morrison in so many ways. I loved the love and resistance of characters and felt such deep sorrow to read about the ancestors, real and imagined. Once I started, I read right through the days to finish, and the two men at the center of the story, and their insistence on loving each other, was so very powerful and beautiful.
Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry, Joya Goffney
Just a fun YA book, perfect for the summer. See my Twitter thread about loving this book and why it’s SO necessary.
Barracoon, Zora Neale Hurston
This book came up at the library and I’ve been wanting to read it. The story of Kossola, the last survivor of the Clotida, is devastating. It’s important for understanding the impact of enslavement, how Africans were treated by African Americans, and the lasting legacy that so many of us carry with us. Required reading. Plus, it’s a powerful account of the anthropological work of Zora Neale Hurston.
The House of Historical Corrections, Danielle Evans
I’m a Danielle Evans fan. Her first short story collection is one of my all-time favorites. This second collection is even more brilliant. She can write a beautiful sentence and tell a brilliant story while breaking your heart and affirming your Blackness and brilliance all at once. These short stories are definitely teachable in high school classrooms, too, and ones I wish I had access to when I was looking for something different for my own short story units…
So We Can Glow, Leesa Cross Smith
Seems like the universe is trying to help me find my way back to my reading life. These short/micro stories are delightful. Lots take place in Kentucky, so that’s even more special to me, and Cross-Smith is SO good at writing about women in the everyday. I felt so seen while I read this collection in all parts of my life: high school, college, post-college, now.
Act Your Age, Eve Brown, Talia Hibbert
I finished the final book of Hibbert’s trilogy and found it quite satisfying. Hibbert’s characters are funny, thoughtful, smart, and real. A great easy breezy read that also features characters with autism, depicted multidimensionally, where the characters are so much more.
Motherhood So White: A Memoir on Race, Gender, and Parenting in America, Nefertiti Austin
I try to read books on Black motherhood because there are so few out there. I would like a mirror for that part of my experience, too! Austin’s book is an interesting take on adoption and makes a strong case for why and how to do it. I found myself bothered by her perspectives on birth parents and there was an air of respectability that was hard for me. I’m glad this book is out there for folks, though.
Seven Days in June, Tia Williams
Just when I needed a good romance that centered on a single mom suffering from debilitating migraine headaches who was an amazing writer and got back in touch with an old flame, this book delivered. A solid rom-com, filled with some great humor (the tween daughter is well-written, much because I bet Williams drew on her success writing your a YA audience in a couple of her earlier books). Love this, too, especially for the summer.
How Much of These Hills is Gold, C. Pam Zhang
I wanted to immediately teach this book with juniors, especially in all those discussions about the “American Dream.” A story of two Chinese girls in the west, their family, their hopes, their dreams, and, well, what happens as they try to survive during brutal settler colonialism. So many beautiful, heartbreaking sentences and characters who I absolutely loved.
All About Love: New Visions, bell hooks
How I appreciate Black women for being able to lovingly gather us. bell hooks lays it down about why we need to actively choose love again and again, and how we can heal ourselves. I found myself stopping and rereading so much of this book; so much resonance, especially right now.
Summer On the Bluffs, Sunny Hostin & Veronica Chambers
My reading slump continues, apparently. I love Oak Bluffs for many reasons, some which showed up in this book about a Black fairy godmother and her goddaughters. There were a few juicy plot twists, and, if you’ve been to MV and OB, a few details that spark great memories. Nice summer read but, seeing as I wasn’t reading it in the summer, lol, it was easy breezy and enabled me to finish October able to reconnect to some steady reading.
The Firekeeper’s Daughter, Angeline Boulley
This book is EXCELLENT. Daunis Fontaine is an Ojibwe young woman who is deeply connected to her community, the elders, and her family. The mystery at the heart of the complex story kept me reading straight through the weekend. I felt all the emotions and I so appreciated this specific, beautifully written novel. It definitely needs to be in kids’ hands. One of the best books I have read this year.
Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close, Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow
I’ve been reading at this book for a long time and finally finished it. Really reflective way to think about one’s friendships and to determine if there are “big friendships” in our life. I also appreciate how the authors go there and take up how hard it is to maintain a real friendship and that it’s worth the work. Makes me want to definitely also reach out to the folks I’m in big friendships with (okay, one person, lol), and make sure she knows how important she is to me.
Black Widow: A Sad-Funny Journey Through Grief for People Who Normally Avoid Books with Words Like “Journey” in the Title, Leslie Gray Streeter
Leslie’s book about the death of her husband is both tragic and hilarious. I was so sad for her, especially after she found the love of her life and lost him so unexpectedly. Leslie doesn’t sugarcoat the grief that she felt and how she dealt with it, but her writing is also so funny that I laughed AND cried while reading. Oh, and Leslie also was in the process of adopting her sun, a story arc for which I cheered. I’m so happy I’ve been able to read Black women’s words this year; such a range of diverse voices that are needed so very much.
Libertie, Kaitlyn Greenidge
This book was exquisite. So much history here: a Black free doctor raising her daughter, helping Black folks who had freed themselves. Many themes here that are classic and eternal; the ones that stuck with me the most were about the relationship between mother and daughter and what one does for independence and freedom, as well as the ways that we find and keep friendships, especially among women. I would definitely teach this one in the classroom.
Milk, Blood, Heat, Dantiel Moniz
This short story collection was uncomfortable to read in all the best ways. It’s filled with every day characters trying to figure out all the things in life that are, well, worthy of taking up in short story form. I cringed, I reread, I felt all the feelings, and was deeply appreciative for all of them.
A Sitting in Saint James, Rita Williams-Garcia
I couldn’t put this one down. A fascinating portrayal of the role of white women in enslavement and all the ways Black folks resisted, persisted, and remained free within themselves. A thoughtful look at a white family bent on maintaining their whiteness at all costs. So many complicated issues here. I would couple it with They Were Her Property to build a text pairing that can help readers understand–really, truly understand–history.
Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century, edited by Alice Wong
We need diverse books has to include disability justice, or else it’s an incomplete movement. Here is an excellent collection of essays that expanded my own understandings, pushed me to confront my own biases, and has made me think deeply how my work has to center disability justice. I’d definitely have this book in my classroom library and I’d regularly pull essays from the collection for whole-class discussions.
Any suggestions about what I should add (or fast track to the top) to my stack? If so, leave them in the comments. Thank you!
2 responses to “2021: A Reading Year-In-Progress”
I have Black Futures in my TBR stack on my Kindle. Super excited about it. Thanks for the other suggestions in this post!
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