The Books

The most exciting thing and the hardest thing about preparing for the literary circle every year is narrowing down the selection of books. There are so many powerful stories and wonderful voices for 2021!

It is March, the calendar has officially declared it spring. There are more and more vaccines available for adults and in some states, some for teens. Restaurants are opening back up, and the promise of an almost-summer looms, even with the variants out there, I feel an energy in the air that wasn’t all there last year. In the middle of combatting antiBlack and antiAsian racism, we are still holding on to the possible world for our teens, we will still be virtual – and they can choose their living room, backyard, beach, or safe space at a coffee shop to gather with peers across the country to read:

  1. I am the Rage by Dr. Martina McGowan – this poetry collection seems a fitting voice to start the year off with all that has happened. We will begin with poetry and try our hand at putting emotions into words, the Pandemic year. Also, The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person by Frederick Joseph. These conversations feature artists and activists talking about their experiences – think like “Dear White People” but in print by a young, under 30 activist, philanthropist, and marketing professional.
  2. Mothers by Brit Bennett – who gets to choose a life and a future? This is a debut novel by a MFA graduate, her writing is lyrical. Her new book, The Vanishing Half, is also intriguing, however, we are not reading it this year (but we invite you to do so!)
  3. Every Body Looking by Candace Iloh – this book-in-verse is as much visual art as it is written art, about a first generation Nigerian teen choosing her own path
  4. Wings of Ebony by J. Elle – who gets to be human? This is a first novel by a journalist, teacher, and creative writing mentor. She is slated to be one of our featured visitors this summer.
  5. Angel of Greenwood by Randi Park – who remembers what happened? Set in Tulsa, 1921, this dual protagonist novel is a lyrical imagining of this community through the teens contemplating life
  6. The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert – whose vote matters? Another dual protagonist book written in alternating voices about the 2020 election that changed the world. This is her imagining and it debuted before the pandemic changed everything.
  7. The Fisherman by Chigozie Obioma – who hears the brothers? This is a debut novel by an older millennial Nigerian writer, also an MFA in creative writing, from Nigeria writing a re-imagining of Cain and Abel, Joseph and his brothers in this love story to his homeland. It is lyrical and was another one shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Alternative title is The rEsidue Years by Mitchell S. Jackson, he teaches writing at NYU and writes from the perspective of a Black male growing up in a predominately White town, part doing of age, part memoir to the 1990s, this is an important read.
  8. This is My America by Kim Johnson – whose life matters? This is too-much-like-now that we work to change in the quest for justice in an America that does not see the humanity in Black andBrown bodies. She will be one of our featured author visits.
  9. The Water Dancer by Ta’Nehesi Coates – whose voice tells the story? This is set during the time when Africans were enslaved in this country but though the often missed voice of a young man whose essence was used for someone else, or was it?
  10. The Tradition by Jericho Brown, Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds, Just Us by Claudia Rankin, and Four Hundred Souls edited by Ibram X. Kendi – all bring us back to where we started – making sense of our world through poetry and verse. There will be selected readings with the literary circle members choosing which one they want to read. Of this set of books, I highly recommend purchasing Four Hundred Souls.

We have an alternative list for younger (7th grade) middle schoolers, however, that depends on enrollment. Last season, we had more high schoolers. If there are more 8th graders, they will read in one group.

As always, we have a growing list of Black Bookstores we support who are better-than-amazon. We use www.bookshop.org for our collections we have curated from Mahogany Books, Semicolon Bookstore, Uncle Bobbie’s, Cafe Con Libros, Harrietts, and The Key Bookstore.

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