February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate Black voices, stories and lives. Oftentimes, the stories written by white authors take the frontlines and dominate the charts and classroom discussions, forcing BIPOC novels to be forgotten about. To be honest, a lot of the books I have read by Black authors were only brought up in classes that specialized in that subject. With that being said, I wanted to discuss some of the Black authors that I have loved or have heard high remarks about in this edition.
To start things off, I wanted to talk about the Black author who I have read the most works by, which is Natasha Tretheway. Her name is probably very familiar to Lawrentians reading this, since many have read her book Native Guard for a First-Year Studies class, though some poetry students may have also read Thrall by her. Tretheway specializes in writing poems where she interweaves Black history, her mother’s murder and the hardships of growing up Black. She is able to pack so much history and raw emotion into only a few lines, making every poem heartbreaking, yet intriguing. If poetry isn’t of interest to you, she also recently wrote a memoir that digs into her traumatic childhood and explains how it shaped her into the renowned author she is today. Though many of us may have been forced to read some of her books for class, I would still encourage you all to read some of her other works, especially since she packs a lot of beautiful lines and imagery into rather short poem collections.
Now, as for the authors I personally haven’t read, I decided to consult “BookTok” again, along with Barnes and Noble for some suggestions. The first book that popped up was Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, which was on a few of the “BookTok” lists I found. The book follows Alix, a white woman, and Emira, the Black babysitter Alix hired to watch her child, Briar. One night a scandal erupts as a security guard observes Emira and Briar in a store, thinking that she kidnapped the child solely because they have different skin colors. A crowd forms around the two and bystanders record the whole interaction, leaving Emira publicly humiliated. As Alix tries to clear Emira’s name and fix everything, more problems soon come to light, making the situation even more complicated. Reid’s debut novel tackles race, privilege and white saviorism, creating a social commentary that depicts the reality that we live in today. Though I haven’t read it myself, many have found it to be perfect for those that want a book that illuminates the truth of today’s culture regarding Black lives in an easy-to-read format.
Another book that has been dominating the charts is The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet, which focuses on the lives of a pair of twin Black sisters in the 1960s. After they both run away at the young age of 16, they grow up leading two very different lives. One finds herself stuck with her child in the Southern town she tried to run away from so long ago, while the other passes as white and marries a man who knows nothing of her past. The story follows these two women and their families through the generations to see how they intersect with one another despite the miles of separation and the countless lies. The book is intricately designed and explores how race and identity overlap with motherhood, and is overall just a perfect choice for fans of historical fiction.
That’s all for this week’s recommendations! If none of these titles quite caught your interest, doing research on Black authors and finding a book you were intrigued by would be the perfect way to gain a new perspective for Black History Month. Until next edition, happy reading!