Himmelfarb Headlines - February / March 2022

Book Recommendations - Black History Month

Book Recommendations - Black History MonthFebruary's Black History Month may be over, but it's still a fine time to learn more about U.S. culture, history, and politics via the perspectives of African American authors.

African-American authors have contributed to the body of American literature for centuries. From memoir to poetry and contemporary literature, African-American writers captured the history of the time from the Black perspective, commented on the current political and social conflicts and created fictional narratives that readers could escape to when the world was too daunting. The following list of recommendations scratches the surface of novels, memoirs, non-fiction books and other works penned by African-American authors:

•   The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: Debuting at number one on the New York Times bestsellers list, where it remained for fifty weeks, The Hate U Give is Angie Thomas’ debut young adult novel that deals with the Black Lives Matter movement. The novel follows Starr who witnesses the death of her friend, Khalil, during a traffic stop. For the rest of the story, Starr mourns Khalil’s death while building the courage to use her voice for good as the fragile social ties in her school and community shatter after the incident.
•   Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick: Stories from the Harlem Renaissance by Zora Neale Hurston: A writer, anthropologist and filmmaker, Hurston is most often remembered for her novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God published in 1937. In recent years there has been a renewed interest in Hurston’s work and some of her writing has been published posthumously, including this story collection published in 2020. This is a perfect collection for anyone interested in the Harlem Renaissance and the artists who still influence their respective creative fields to this day.
•   Just As I Am: A Memoir by Cicely Tyson: Actress, activist, and national icon, Cicely Tyson’s career lasted for seven decades and included films such as The Trip to Bountiful, Sounder, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and tv shows How to Get Away With Murder, Roots and King. Her 2021 memoir, published just two days before her death, is a stunning recollection of her childhood, her time as a stage and screen actress and the relationships that shaped her identity. Cicely Tyson’s memoir not only shares the life and legacy of a prolific actress, but also offers advice on how to live a meaningful life.
•   All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto by George M. Johnson: According to the author, this collection of personal essays was inspired by Toni Morrison’s quote “If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” Petra Mayer from NPR says about the book “Johnson draws readers into his own experiences with clear, confiding essays–from childhood encounters with bullies to sexual experiences good and bad, to finding unexpected brotherhood in a college fraternity, all of it grounded in the love and support of his family.”
•   Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain: This history of Black America starts in 1619 and ends in the present day. This historical collection includes essays, poems, short stories and other texts from different writers who all reflect on the formation of the African-American community and how their presence influenced American society. This title gives a different perspective of American history and introduces readersto a number of Black historians, essayists and authors.
•   Black Man in a White Coat by Damon Tweedy: This memoir provides insight into how race impacts African-Americans’ access to quality healthcare in America. “In this powerful, moving, and deeply empathetic book, Tweedy explores the challenges confronting black doctors, and the disproportionate health burdens faced by black patients, ultimately seeking a way forward to better treatment and more compassionate care.” (Macmillian.com) While the subject matter may be difficult to read, it sparks a necessary conversation about how race and other factors profoundly impact people’s connection to our healthcare system.
•   Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler:  Octavia E. Butler was a science-fiction and fantasy author whose novels and short stories influenced many aspiring writers, particularly African-American speculative fiction authors. Parable of the Sower is the first novel in a planned series that unfortunately remains unfinished. The novel is set in the 2020s and deals with climate change, social inequality and political unrest. Parable of the Sower is an excellent novel for readers who want to begin to explore Butler’s body of work.
•   Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson: Winner of the 2014 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, Brown Girl Dreaming is a blend of poetry and memoir as it follows Woodson’s childhood years in rural South Carolina and New York. Speaking to NPR after the book’s publication, Loriene Roy the former head of the American Library Association, said “Once you dip into the pages you realize it’s a story for more than the brown girls…It’s for people who want to celebrate with them or anyone who wants to find that voice for themselves.”

Many of these titles are available for checkout through Himmelfarb’s Consortium Loan Service. If you need assistance requesting a title through the Consortium Loan Service, please watch this tutorial.

We hope this list will inspire you to search for other African-American writers and works that impacted both the African-American community and the wider American literary landscape. If you have a favorite author or book written by a Black author, share them with others in your community.


Stay Connected: