Hello everyone, as you can tell from the title of the post I’m not doing a review today. Instead, I wanted to share some books/authors you may want to read in order to learn more about Black experiences and the Black Lives Matter movement. I’m a white British girl, and I am working hard to be more aware of my own privilege and work AGAINST racism. For me, as for many other people, this means we need to be more educated. However, it is not the responsibility of Black people to educate us, which is why I wanted to offer my own suggestions — some of these books I’ve already read, some of them books on my TBR — to hopefully provide people with a starting point. I’ve seen a fair few people doing this, so hopefully there’s already a lot of suggestions out there for people to be getting on with, but I wanted to use my platform to promote this cause as well. Please do feel free to leave any additional suggestions in the comments section if you would like to!
As a warning, all these books are likely to contain discussions of violence due to the nature of the topic being covered. I will add any additional warnings I think may be important.
We all love fiction, right? It’s great, it’s a way to escape our lives. What most people don’t read a lot of is nonfiction. And in this case, fiction can only get you so far, to be honest. You absolutely cannot expect to come close to understanding systemic racism purely from fiction. That said, supporting Black fiction authors is still great, and I will put a section later on fiction by Black authors for you to peruse. But as I believe nonfiction is the most important, that’s where we’re starting.
An * symbolises a book I’ve not read, but is on my TBR.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge. I haven’t read the whole book, but I have read extracts. This one is pretty accessible from what I’ve read of it, so a good place to start if you aren’t used to reading a lot of nonfiction. Reni Eddo-Lodge has requested that if you buy a copy of her book that you also donate the amount you paid to a Black Lives Matter fundraiser, or donate what you would have paid if you get it from a friend or get a cheap second hand copy if you are able. She specified the Minnesota Freedom Fund, but they have received many donations and have asked people donate to different charities. You can find links at the bottom of this post to resources with places to donate to, petitions, information and more.
So You Want to Talk About Race – Ijeoma Oluo*. Again, from what I know, this is another very accessible text!
Black Skin, White Masks – Frantz Fanon. This is another one I’ve read extracts from, and it was really useful. It’s an older text, but still shockingly relevant today. This one is more academic, so it’s a bit denser than the first two.
New Ethnicities – Stuart Hall. This is an essay rather than a whole book, but again, it’s more academic, so a bit denser. If you have JSTOR access, say via your university, you can access this free.
In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens – Alice Walker*. This is also available on JSTOR if you have access! Walker is best known for The Color Purple, but she also pioneered Womanism. Womanism was, in a sense, Walker’s response to white feminism. Feeling ostracised by the feminist movement, she started her own movement for Black women.
Sister Outsider – Audre Lorde*. I put an asterisk because I have read some Lorde, but I’m not sure whether it was an extract from Sister Outsider or if it was from a different work. This one is also a bit more academic, and another one that focuses on the intersection of gender and race.
White Rage – Carole Anderson*. This one was suggested by SabiSaysRead on Instagram as a book included in the Black Out Buddy Read! Thank you Sabi!
We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This one is more about gender than race, but I still found this a really important text, and as it was originally a TEDtalk, you can watch the TEDtalk if money is a concern and you can’t purchase the book.
Finally, I wanted to mention two essay collections by people of colour that have Black contributors. This Bridge Called My Back (ed. Cherríe L. Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa)* and The Good Immigrant (ed. Nikesh Shukla)*.
You can also find some free-to-access recommending reading here, via JSTOR Daily. https://daily.jstor.org/institutionalized-racism-a-syllabus/.
I haven’t read YA for a while, so I am a bit uninformed on what’s being published, so as such, these will mostly be adult books. Again, an asterisk symbolises a book on my TBR.
The Color Purple – Alice Walker. TW: abuse, including sexual. This is an epistolary novel following Celie through the majority of her life, from a young girl in the southern USA right through to her adulthood and later life. Very famous book, and I really do highly recommend it.
The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas. For all you YA fans out there! This one is more contemporary, addressing police brutality in modern-day America.
On Beauty – Zadie Smith*. This is one I hope to read very soon. I put it on my June TBR and I’m very excited to read it.
Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe. Achebe is also an essayist, though I’ve only read his essays about Things Fall Apart. Set in south-eastern Nigeria, this book covers the years prior to European colonisation, and the colonisation itself.
A Question of Power – Bessie Head. TW: mental health, sexual abuse. One of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. It’s a challenging text, but incredibly rewarding. Based on Bessie Head’s real experiences, this follows Elizabeth, a Black South African woman who flees to Botswana and experiences severe mental health issues.
An Autobiography of my Mother – Jamaica Kincaid. TW: abuse (including sexual), scenes of imagined violence towards infants. Another one influenced by Kincaid’s experiences. Xuela’s mother dies in childbirth, and this text is one of loss and absence.
Girl, Woman, Other – Bernadine Evaristo*. I think everyone’s heard of this by now, but in case you haven’t, it won the Booker Prize, and is shortlisted for the Women’s Prize! If that isn’t enough to persuade you it’s worth a read I’m not sure anything can.
Queenie – Candice Carty-Williams*. This one was longlisted for the Women’s Prize, and it’s another I’m really looking forward to reading soon.
Edit 15/6: Honourable mention to another of the Women’s Prize nominees on my TBR: Dominicana – Angie Cruz*. Dominicana is on the shortlist, and it’s another that I already have sat on my shelf waiting to be picked up soon. It’s inspired by the story of Angie’s mother and her migration to New York from the Dominican Republic, so although Cruz is Latina not Black, I still think this can be valuable for understanding non-white experiences.
Additional Black Writers to Look Up:
Maya Angelou (poet, activist)
bell hooks (author, activist)
Kwame Anthony-Appiah (philosopher, novelist)
Toni Morrison (novelist, essayist)
I really hope this list has introduced you to something new you might want to pick up. As I said earlier, please do leave additional recommendations in the comments if you like! What I’ve learnt from making this list is that I need to prioritise reading more nonfiction, and as I’m lucky enough to have JSTOR access there’s no excuses for me not to start doing that straight away.
Before you go, please check out this link:
Here, you will find petitions to sign (please sign — they’re free to sign and genuinely only take a minute of your time! Just remember to verify your email), places to donate to if you’re able to, and more resources and information.
And lastly, please remember that supporting Black authors and reading texts like the ones I’ve suggested is not just for today. It’s for tomorrow and next week, and next month, and next year and all the years after that. Keep reading, and keep learning.
Update: 6/6/20. White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo has been removed from this list as Robin is white. This is entirely my fault, I’d added it to my TBR as I’ve seen it recommended on Twitter and when I was going through my TBR I just added it to this list without double checking. Apologies for any confusion.
Update 7/6/20. To add to the above note about White Fragility, I have since been made aware it contains instances of the n-word. I absolutely do not condone the use of this word by non-Black people and deeply apologise for ever having included it on this list.
Update 9/6/20. Again, on White Fragility. I have been reading different opinions on the topic, and have seen arguments that the book is still useful for white people to read, so do some research on it before reading and make up your own mind. And of course, whatever you read, be thinking about what is said, and why it is said.