5 Books to Read This Black History Month

It’s Black History Month, and I’ve endeavoured to pull together a diverse list of reading options to celebrate it with, geared towards all kinds of readers and covering a wide array of styles and subject matter. Please take a look and sound off in the comments with what sounds good as well as what should have been on the list!

Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama

With the nation recently marking the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration with the largest protests since the women’s march one year prior, how much do you miss America’s first black president? The Audacity of Hope was a campaign book, albeit a particularly good one. It would have told you what the young senator and soon-to-be presidential hopeful Barack Obama was all about, politically. But Dreams From My Father, arguably, told you more about the man himself, when the White House was still a secret, distant dream.

I recently read Joe Biden’s biography and I appreciated that it was about his principles, his love for his family, and his recent emotional experiences and not about policy or partisanship. While the tabloid-style tell-all about Trump is selling like hotcakes, it might be better for your soul to take a break from the endless national car crash and focus on something positive. Good leadership and good government will come again.

Dark Matter: A Century of Science Fiction From the African Diaspora by Sheree Thomas

Speaking of former president Obama, did you know he was an avid reader and particularly enjoyed science fiction? One of the things I like about much science fiction is that it can be hopeful of better days to come, and Afrofuturism, well represented in the Dark Matter anthology includes much of that kind of hopefulness. It also includes many important darker works from throughout the twentieth and early twenty-first century. The biting social commentary, written by black authors anywhere from the 1920s to the early 2000s provides an eye-opening perspective on race in America and how it has and has not changed, but the perspectives on the future suggest a belief it can all get better.

Black Panther & The Crew: We Are The Streets by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Yona Harvey

Continuing on with Afrofuturism, the long-awaited Black Panther movie is poised to be a smash hit for Marvel studios this month, but you might be surprised to know that several storylines in the comics of the last few years were penned by none other than Ta-Nehisi Coates. Exploring race issues through fiction, especially comic book fiction, certainly leaves open the possibility of tonedeafness or dumbing down. But not when it’s written by one of the most insightful and intelligent commentators writing on race in America today. This story in particular also features a number of black superhero character favorites, including Luke Cage and Storm. On top of that, it’s set in Harlem, and grapples with the issue of police brutality amongst other things. This is not a turn off your brain and fantasize story, kids. Prepare to be thrilled as well as thought-provoked.

They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement by Wesley Lowery

Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery traces the genesis, development, and possible future of the Black Lives Matter movement, which he covered extensively for a couple of years. As a young black man himself, he also put himself at risk every time he went out to cover this story.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley and Malcolm X

Need I say more? 2017 was a brutal, brutal year. I’ve provided some relatively escapist options on this list, which allow us to engage with the nightmarish reality of racially-motivated murder, and socially and economically oppressive policies from an increasingly white supremacist state obliquely, through fiction, or sidestep it altogether by thinking about better times past or yet to come. But maybe you’re ready to get riled up. Maybe you want an instructional manual for civil disobedience, counter-protesting, government watchdogging, and grassroots activism of that kind that often ends in tear gas. Well as bad as it’s been this last year, it’s been this bad before, and Malcolm X is the one to tell you about it. We all love Dr. King, but I get if you’re not in “turn the other cheek” mode right now.

Photo credit: David Shankbone / Flickr

147 comments

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Marie W4 months ago

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Chad A7 months ago

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Veronica Danie9 months ago

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Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie9 months ago

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Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie9 months ago

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Past Member 9 months ago

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William C10 months ago

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