Welcome to our newest series. In “Friday Favorites,” our team will share a handful of favorite items. These can range from clothes to beauty products to recipes to books and anything in between.
In the last several days, the outrage over the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others has sparked a movement on social media and elsewhere to listen to black voices and understand the issues surrounding racism. For me, books have always been a powerful bridge to understanding and empathy for a multitude of situations different from mine. While there is so much more to be done to support a world suffering from racism, books are a point of connection to begin the journey.
This is by no means an exhaustive or comprehensive list, but I hope it gives you a starting place to diversify your bookshelf. Here are a few of my favorite books by black writers.
Between the World and Me was one of the first books I read that made me deeply uncomfortable about racism. Ta-Nehisi Coates writes this book as a letter to his son and explores many of his experiences with racism and emotions surrounding the disregard American society gives the black body. I was moved to tears multiple times and have read this book more than once.
Such a Fun Age is the fictional story of Emira, the black babysitter of a social media influencer named Alix. One night Alix calls Emira, who is clubbing with friends, to watch her daughter due to a family emergency. Emira is racially profiled by the police, and a domino effect ensues in both women’s lives due to the fallout. This book really illustrated the microaggressions and assumptions made against black women wrapped in a compelling plot where many situations are not as simple as they look at first glance.
Americanah is the story of Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman who moves to the United States on a college scholarship. She navigates the racism inherent in the United States as she navigates work and study, eventually writing an anonymous blog about what she calls Racial Disorder Syndrome. Ifemelu’s life becomes double – in America, she falls in love with a wealthy white man while missing her first love Obinze, whom she left behind in Nigeria. Even when she returns to Nigeria, her family members question the changes in her, from her ideologies to her hair (the author said in an interview once that Americanah was a story about hair).
Americanah is a long, involved story with moral questions at its heart. I loved the way Adichie created her characters in such detail, giving me a glimpse into all parts of their lives.
The Sun is Also a Star is a love story that takes place in a single day. Natasha’s family, who are undocumented immigrants to New York City from Jamaica, are about to be deported. She is spending her last day in the city trying to change what is coming; in the process, she meets Daniel, a Korean boy on his way to a college interview that will cement his future. While they only have one day together, they manage to change each others’ lives.
I read this sweet book in one day, cynicism about a one-day romance notwithstanding. It is packed with emotion and deep conversations between the protagonists about their lives and the pressures they face. While more lighthearted than the other books on this list, it is a worthwhile read that will pull your heartstrings and change your perspectives.
The Color Purple is a classic, but I didn’t read it until a few weeks ago. I’d pulled it out of a Little Free Library just before the pandemic hit us in full force. As it sat on my nightstand, the long days of quarantine felt like the perfect time to jump in.
This book is not for the faint of heart. The protagonist, Celie, endures unbelievable abuse from the men in her life. Still, she manages to form meaningful relationships and to find beauty in the world through the darkness. Despite all the difficult content, I ultimately found The Color Purple to be an uplifting story about growing through the mud of life to create beauty. The writing was luminous and so evocative; I felt as though I was alongside the characters as I read.