Here at Frolic, we’re mega romance fans! And thriller fans! And YA fans!
But sometimes, in between the stories that make our hearts soar, I find myself in need of a bit of nonfiction enrichment. It’s good for my brain and heart to engage with stories and ideas outside of my own experiences. In the last couple of months, I’ve taken in a surprising amount of nonfiction, much of it featuring BIPOC authors.
If you’re looking for some memoirs and essay collections to shake up your TBR list, here are recommendations of some that I’ve recently enjoyed. In all three cases, I used my audiobook app to listen to these nonfiction books, but I bet curling up with a physical copy to read would be a joy, too!
Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
If you recognize these two author names, it may be from their awesome podcast, Call Your Girlfriend. Aminatou and Ann are two famous friends whose podcast centers around their friendship, careers, and the concept known as “Shine Theory,” that seeks to help women uplift one another.
Though Aminatou and Ann are incredibly close, they don’t characterize their relationship as a best friendship. Instead, as the title suggests, it’s a Big Friendship. Big Friendships are the ones that shape you and become an intrinsically interwoven part of your social self. They may not be “best,” or perfect or even lifelong. But they’re absolutely important just like any other defining relationship in a person’s life!
Aminatou and Ann tell the story of their friendship, which includes the high points of meeting someone who can appreciate your jokes and the lows of disappointment when your friend messes up! Through personal narratives and snapshots of research from social scientists, Big Friendship makes the case that our society should give important friendships the recognition they truly deserve.
One of my favorite parts of Big Friendship is the segment in which Aminatou and Ann get really honest about what it’s like to let each other down and come back from that hurt. They even went to therapy to improve their friendship by addressing racism, conflict resolution differences, and so much more. Honestly, this idea strikes me as super important. When romantic partners go to therapy, society tends to see this as normal…why not use those same tools for the other deeply significant relationships in our lives?
Sound like this is for you? Maybe you can buy a copy or two and have a mini book club with the Big Friends in your own life!
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity In A World Made For Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
At this point in this fraught summer, I think a lot of us have learned the limitations of an anti-racist reading list. Books about the Black experience won’t do much good if they just sit on the bookshelf, or if the privileged people who read them don’t take their new knowledge and turn it into action. That said, I think it’s still really important to amplify black voices and to share books that open minds and hearts to take the next steps of change.
Austin Channing Brown’s memoir, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity In A World Made For Whiteness, is an excellent book to inspire those next steps toward change.
Throughout the book, she shares her stories of life as a Black girl and woman. From the way her parents gave her a family name that was more masculine and white-sounding for help in future job interviews to the frustrations with organizations that only value diversity as an idea rather than an avenue to systemic change, Austin Channing Brown’s story opens up all kinds of truths about the struggles that exist in a world built to uphold whiteness and white privilege.
One reason I think this book is such a success for readers at all stages of the anti-racist journey is that her stories are both deeply personal because they happened to her and deeply communal because they speak to greater systems of racism. At the same time, there are marvelous entries about the absolute joys of being a Black person, a Black woman, a member of the greater Black community.
At turns upsetting and uplifting, I’m Still Here is one of my favorite books I’ve read in the last couple months!
Here For It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America by R. Eric Thomas
R. Eric Thomas has a career as a humorist who covers politics and culture on websites like Elle.com. In Here For It, he tells the story of his life as it intersects with cultural moments and iconography. From the high art and drama of a Mr. Rogers Neighborhood puppet opera to a climactic medley of Whitney Houston songs belted out at his wedding, R. Eric Thomas tells his stories the way I love to tell my own: with deep emotion and meaningful pop culture comparisons!
Though popular culture plays a major role, this isn’t just a reference-heavy tour down memory lane. R. Eric Thomas shares about serious things, too. He covers topics like the pains of racism, the discomfort of not fitting in during younger years, the struggles of early adulthood, and the challenges of finding a comfortable spiritual home as a gay man. All of these stories helped me understand the author more, and they made his consistent humor shine through even brighter!
I’m definitely glad that I chose to listen to the audio version of this book! Though R. Eric Thomas’s written words are carefully chosen to create a special relationship and perspective-sharing, I think there’s something magical about listening to his voice as he reads his own work! Many of his anecdotes end with a fun rhetorical question like, “can you even imagine?” Thanks to his warm yet sarcastic tone as he reads the audiobook, it feels like sharing a joke with a close friend.
I hope some of my nonfiction picks from the last couple months might resonate with you, Frolic readers! Are there any unique essay collections, memoirs, or other noteworthy nonfiction that you’re enjoying? Share them with us! We’re always happy to add to our TBR list!