Happy Black History Month friends! I wanted to share with you some of my favorite reads by black authors in case you’re in need of a recommendation to read this month.
Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins
I recommend Beverly Jenkins a lot and it’s for a reason; she is a wonderful storyteller and sheds lights on pieces of African American history that get passed over. Forbidden was my first romance by her and I think it is a great place to start for a couple of reasons. Before reading Forbidden I had no idea the old west was full of so much African American history (a few years later I would take an American West class, and felt like everything we learned, I already knew, thanks to Queen Bev!) and in this romance our heroine Eddy makes her way to the old west and meets this gentleman, Rhine. Rhine is an African American man, passing for white. Obviously, Eddy is unaware that he is in fact a black man. As feelings begin to stir between Eddy and Rhine, her seeing him as a white man, she knows this is illegal and terribly dangerous grounds to cross. I love this romance because through Rhine, Beverly Jenkins explores different reasons why some African Americans chose to pass if they were able. It is a beautiful story showing the lengths some have gone to help make change and that regardless of the dangers within the time, people still fell in love
Negroland by Margo Jefferson
Negroland is one of my all-time favorite memoirs and one I don’t hear many people talk about. Margo Jefferson grew up amongst the black, Chicago elites. Her father was the head of Pediatrics at Provident Hospital which at the time was America’s oldest black hospital. This is a fascinating look into the world of Negroland, a space inhabited by African Americans who are able to live sheltered by privilege and having plenty, but Margo Jefferson also describes situations where the family is reminded that they were still black. She shares a story about a trip to the east coast and how her father using his title of Doctor secured them a hotel reservation, but things were totally different upon their arrival and the hotel personnel seeing that this Doctor was also a black man.
An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
This was my first romance by Alyssa Cole and let me tell you; this was one of the toughest romances I’ve ever read but in such a good way! I was hooked on every single word despite my blood boiling and physically shaking out of anger at times! Read An Extraordinary Union because Elle Burns is one of the strongest, most intelligent heroines you’ll ever meet and her interracial romance with Malcolm, during the civil war is so dangerous but you’ll be obsessed with seeing how they reach their happy ever after. Elle is a free woman of color living in Massachusetts with an eidetic memory who goes undercover as a spy back into slavery to assist the Union Army. Her love interest Malcolm? Another spy, undercover as a Confederate Soldier and the apple of the eye of Elle’s master. These two are fighting for the same cause but Elle points out to Malcolm that he’s undercover in the south as a confederate soldier while she’s there as a slave; although fighting for the same cause, how they are fighting is different. Seriously friends, if you haven’t read this book, I can’t recommend it enough! Go snag yourself a copy.
Passing by Nella Larson
Passing is a Harlem Renaissance classic and an amazing story. In Passing, we follow Irene Redfield, a woman of color who could pass for white but chooses not to. She lives with her husband and sons in Harlem and works arranging charity balls which brings together Harlem’s elites. One day she comes across two childhood friends; one who lives with a white husband who knows his wife is passing and another, Clare, who lives with a very racist husband who has no idea he is married to a black woman. This meeting sparks something in Clare, she realizes she misses the life she left behind as a woman of color; which puts both her in danger and Irene. Passing is a very powerful novella that in a short amount of time gives so much history on the choices people made to live comfortable and have more. It also does a wonderful job at exploring what you leave behind because of those choices. This is another read that physically impacted me due to scenes throughout that will have you infuriated, but in the end put into light for me what some were willing to endure, to have a better chance. It puts into question though, how much it was worth.
A Good Cry by Nikki Giovanni
I fell in love with poetry as a kid because I discovered a poetry collection by Nikki Giovanni. I remember not being old enough to understand all of her poems, but I loved how she made everyday things like raindrops and making breakfast sound so beautiful. A few years ago, she released a little gem called A Good Cry and I devoured it. I highly recommend this as a place to start even if you are unfamiliar with her work because it gives amazing insight into her life and what inspired a lot of her writing. This beautiful gem can be read in one sitting and it will just fill your whole heart. I remember getting to the section towards the end where she talks about her relationship with Maya Angelou and having to set the book down for just a moment to get myself together; it’s a wonderful read friends, I can’t recommend it enough.
Well-Read Black Girl by Gloria Edim
Well-Read Black Girl is another amazing gem, short on the length but packs an amazing punch. I could have easily read another 200 pages of these essays which are written by different black female writers and focus on those moments they first saw themselves reflected in a story or the moment they first felt like a story was written for them. This is one of those reads I think I read at the right time. I was coming to terms with having always loved to read, but never having had that ah-ha moment of seeing myself; partially because I never really sought myself out, due to being so used to not seeing myself. As a black girl who loves to read, and now the mother of a black girl who loves to read, this book helped put into perspective for me how much representation matters.
Letter to my Daughter by Maya Angelou
My last recommendation is a letter to all of us. Maya Angelou never had a daughter, so she wrote this book to all of us, the daughters she never had. It is full of insightful life lessons; some you can use now; some you can put in your back pocket for later and it’s delivered from a woman who wants the best for all women. Quotes like, “One does not have to tell all that one knows, but we should be careful what we do say is the truth,” and , “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them,” have stuck with me and are words mantras I say over and over again to myself quite a bit when I need to be reminded. This is an amazing read friends, treat yourself to a copy and enjoy!
I hope one of these recommendations stands out to you! Happy Black History Month friends, we will chat again soon.