BOOKS TO READ FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH (AND WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’VE FINISHED THEM ALL)

riverheadbooks:

Here at Riverhead, we’ve come up with an incredible list of
5 books to read during Black History Month. But February is only one day
shorter than most months, and we know that many of you, voracious readers that
you are, may have already read some of these titles, or are just absolute
beasts that devour books in a matter of hours. In any case, don’t worry—we’ve
got you covered. In order to ensure that you do not reach the middle of
February with no books left on your TBR list (and suddenly, with a sinking
feeling that you have no real purpose in life), we’ve included suggestions for
what to do AFTER you’re done reading this list of awesome books.

1) BEFORE YOU SUFFOCATE
YOUR OWN FOOL SELF BY DANIELLE EVANS
Here is a beautiful collection of short stories that explores what it means to grapple with fitting in and growing
up in a variety of social contexts. With erudition and reflection, Evans
tackles just about everything to do with adolescence – gender, sexuality, race,
class, and ultimately, the quest to make an identity for oneself in an
ever-changing society.

When you’re finished reading….

Make the personal political. Evans’ title borrows from poem
“The Bridge” by Donna Kate Rushin, first published in the anthology THIS BRIDGE CALLED MY BACK edited by Cherríe
Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa, and first read by Evans while still in college.
This collection of writings from women of color activists and feminists first
published in 1981 was just reissued this past year, and is striking for how
relevant it remains.

2) WHAT IS NOT YOURS
IS NOT YOURS BY HELEN OYEYEMI
From one of Granta’s best young
British novelists, comes this mesmerizing and enchanting collection of short
stories that all revolve around the theme of keys. At age 25, this is Oyeyemi’s
sixth book, but first ever collection of stories. The book will be on sale on
March 8, but in the meantime, check out what
others are saying
and add it to your TBR list, along with Oyeyemi’s novels
BOY SNOW BIRD and MR. FOX.

When you’re finished reading….

Dabble in the performing arts with Ntozake Shange. For such a prolific writer,
Oyeyemi has remained almost as mysterious and beguiling as her writing. Through
her writing, we do get oblique clues as to some of the literature Oyeyemi
admires – when one of her characters in her new collection of stories reads the
acclaimed play-turned-movie FOR COLORED
GIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE/when the rainbow is enuf
, he says to his
female peer: “It’s great, isn’t it?”

3) A BRIEF HISTORY OF
SEVEN KILLINGS BY MARLON JAMES
From Man Booker prize winner Marlon James, this book that takes place in
Jamaica in the 1970s and ‘80s is one that you won’t want to miss.  James was rejected over 80 times when pitching
his first novel to agents, and it is unimaginable that the book that is
considered by many to become a classic of our time came from a writer that
almost gave up the craft entirely.

When you’re finished reading….

Stay inspired like James did by reading Toni Morrison’s SULA. Along with James Joyce, Cormac
McCarthy, and Salman Rushdie, James’ literary influences fall along a vast
spectrum of literary excellence. But Morrison is the writer that James claimed
taught him how to write women, and we have a feeling there are many other
lessons awaiting in Morrison’s pages.

4) LAND OF LOVE AND
DROWNING BY TIPHANIE YANIQUE

LAND OF LOVE AND DROWNING is a rich book that spans multiple generations across
continents and time. The novel took Yanique eleven years to write because of
the care with which Yanique draws her character’s histories and experiences – here
is a groundbreaking writer whose attention to the importance of story makes for
a genuinely moving and emotionally authentic debut.

When you’re finished reading….

Get lost in the literature of the West Indies with THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MY MOTHER by Jamaica Kincaid. Like Yanique,
Kincaid is a writer who focuses on history and identity, and this newest novel
from the much-admired author will take you far into the psyches and experiences
of its characters, and will stay with you long after reading.

5) THE WIND IN THE
REEDS BY WENDELL PIERCE
The story of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina is told in this tale of
art’s transformative impact on a community, and its ability to bring about
restoration and revival in the face of disaster. Pierce details his own family
history and what he did to rebuild his hometown in New Orleans in this deeply
personal and compelling memoir.

When you’re finished reading….

Celebrate the long history of black culture and jazz with Albert Murray’s THE OMNI-AMERICANS. A “militant
integrationist” according to Henry Louis Gates, and a friend of Ralph Ellison
and artist Romare Bearden, Pierce claims that Murray taught him art’s potential
to transcend boundaries between eras and societies: “Murray taught me to see
myself and my future as an artist in both particular and universal terms.”

Keep your eyes out for…

THE MOTHERS BY BRIT
BENNETT
“All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we’d taken
a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the
sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before
its season.”  So begins this much
anticipated first novel from writer Brit Bennett that will keep you riveted from
start to finish when it comes out this fall.

While you wait…

See what the buzz is all about. Read Bennett’s New
Yorker
and New
York Times
articles, which have sparked important discussions in the media and
have cemented Bennett as one of the most important young voices today.

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