February marks the celebration of Black History Month. Last year, we shared our list of notable books that we love – some of which I use in the classroom every semester. We still love those books, and believe that they are worth reading – and not just in February. This year, instead of reworking that list, or talking about them again, I’d like to share three books that were published last year that I loved.
Celebrating black history and black culture extends beyond the books that we’ve shared before, black history isn’t just the study or celebration of the past – it’s still happening, still evolving, and these three books represent that. Don’t be daunted by heavy subject matter, or indifferent to the history. These books represent so much in black history and culture – each for different reasons.
Between the World and Me – I read this book last year and was completely changed by the experience. It challenged every idea I had about race, and what being an American means – not just to me, but to anyone who grows up in this country. Ta-Nehisi Coates gives a legitimate voice to the Black Lives Matter movement, having lived through the experience of having a friend, a Howard University classmate, shot down by police for no good reason. This experience has shaped him as a writer, a father, and as an activist.
I had heard many good things about this book, and had even heard Coates interviewed. I was still stunned by this book’s message. It was real, raw, and heartfelt. I was deeply touched, and after reading it I wanted to make everyone I know read it. Unfortunately those who need to hear this message won’t be reading the book. It’s an important one nonetheless.
Bastards From the Reagan Era – I am not a poetry fan, but I am excited about this collection. Betts was interviewed on NPR – on All Things Considered, and Fresh Air, and had to pick it up. Betts went to prison as a teenager for an attempted carjacking. Taking full responsibility for his actions, he served his time – 8 years, despite the fact that he was a high school honor student with no prior record. After prison, he went back to school – and is currently a Yale Law School student.
Wild Hundreds – Poet Nate Marshall is from south side Chicago, and has witnessed violence, discrimination, and that has shaped his work. He talks about pain, violence, tragedy, but also of hope and healing. It’s beautiful. It’s powerful.
These three books aren’t the only noteworthy … to be published this past year. I’m currently reading Negroland, and am loving it so far. These collective voices represent despair and disappointment. But they also represent hope, and the promises that tomorrow can bring.