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  • Writer's pictureNora Curry

Black History Month: A Reading List

Each February, we celebrate Black History Month to recognize historical moments and to celebrate the identities and achievements of Black Americans. The month long acknowledgement and celebration has been officially recognized since 1976 and provides a space for examining history and listening to the words and experiences of Black people. As the words Black Lives Matter emphasize, in the last year more prominently than ever before, February is not and can not be the only time for these moments of pause and listening and for this celebration of achievement and identity. Certainly, though, we can take this month of February to pay particular attention to the Black voices that speak strongly through varying forms of literature, sociocultural work, and historical narrative. Here, then, is a reading list of fiction, memoirs, biographies, plays, poetry, history, essays, and social commentary written by Black authors. Follow the links to request books reach out to your librarians at the Camden Public Library to find more.

If you'd like to share an impactful read or learn about more books related to the Black experience, check out State Rep Vicki Doudera's interactive book discussion on Feb 21st at 5 pm! Sign up for the Zoom event here for the opportunity to share or to listen about impactful reads related to the Black experience.

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett

Kindred, Octavia Butler

Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison

Lakewood, Megan Giddings

An American Marriage, Tayari Jones

Beloved, Toni Morrison

Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid

Real Life, Brandon Taylor

The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas

The Color Purple, Alice Walker

The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead

Remembrance, Rita Woods

Another Brooklyn, Jacqueline Woodson

Debut Novel Spotlight

(summaries courtesy of NoveList Plus)

Black Buck, Mateo Askaripour

An unambitious college graduate accepts a job at Sumwun, the hottest NYC startup, and reimagines himself as "Buck" a ruthless salesman and begins to hatch a plan to help young people of color infiltrate America's sales force.

Conjure Women, Afia Atakora

A midwife and conjurer of curses reflects on her life before and after the Civil War, her relationships with the families she serves and the secrets she has learned about a plantation owner's daughter.

Adunni, a 14-year-old Nigerian girl who longs for an education, must find a way for her voice to be heard loud and clear in a world where she and other girls like her are taught to believe, through words and deeds, that they are nothing.

The Kindest Lie, Nancy Johnson

Needing to reconnect with the baby she gave up for adoption years earlier, an Ivy League-educated Black engineer uncovers devastating family secrets before her bond with a young white misfit scandalizes her racially torn community.

The Prophets, Robert Jones Jr.

Two enslaved young men on a Deep South plantation find refuge in each other while transforming a quiet shed into a haven for their fellow slaves, before an enslaved preacher declares their bond sinful.

Luster, Raven Leilani

A young black artist falls into an affair with a man in an open marriage before gradually befriending his wife and adopted daughter against a backdrop of dynamic racial politics.

The Tradition, Jericho Brown

A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry

A Strange Loop: a musical, Michael R. Jackson

Sweat, Lynn Nottage

Fires in the Mirror, Anna Deavere Smith

Fences, August Wilson

The Yellow House, Sarah M. Broom

Think Black: a memoir, Clyde W. Ford

The Last Black Unicorn, Tiffany Haddish

March, John Lewis

A Promised Land, Barack Obama

Becoming, Michelle Obama

Notes from a Young Black Chef: a memoir, Kwame Onwuachi with Joshua David Stein

Ordinary Light: a memoir, Tracy K. Smith

Biography Spotlight

Winner of the 2020 National Book Award

The Dead Are Arising isn't only a biography of Malcom X, it is a book that contextualizes race in America prior to Malcolm's birth, takes an in-depth, nuanced, unflinching look at Malcolm's life, and then explores his death and its aftermath, all backed by 28 years of research. (NPR)

The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin

Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates

How to be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi

New Nonfiction Spotlight

Black Futures, ed. Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham

A dynamic mixed-media exhibition of Black creativity and culture.“What does it mean to be Black and alive right now?” Born of a social media exchange between curator and activist Drew and New York Times Magazine staff writer Wortham, this unique collaboration seeks to answer that question. The work is vivid, juicy, thick—as fecund as all of Black culture—and equal parts anthology, scrapbook, and art exhibition. (Kirkus)

Georgetown University sociology professor Dyson (What Truth Sounds Like) offers heartfelt letters to victims of racial injustice in America... Rich with feeling and insight, this elegiac account hits home. (Publishers Weekly)

ed. Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain

Noting that most histories of Black America are written by men, award-winning editors Kendi (Ctr. for Antiracist Research Boston Univ.; Stamped from the Beginning) and Blain (history, Univ. of Pittsburgh; Set the World on Fire) compile a community history of Black America, with contributions from a range of writers, poets, activists, and more. The gem of this work is how it brings lesser-known historical events to the forefront. (Library Journal)

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