February is African-American History Month so this month’s task for our 2021 Reading Challenge is to r Read a book by a black author or featuring a black main character. Below you’ll find a few recommendations to help meet the task, but for even more suggestions, give us a call at 708-867-7828. Your librarians are here to help.
Download a printable form and keep track of your reading tasks throughout the year to earn a free book.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
One of Oprah’s Best Books of the Year and a PEN/Hemingway award winner, Homegoing follows the parallel paths of these sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
Set in Mississippi at the height of the Depression, this is the story of one family’s struggle to maintain their integrity, pride, and independence in the face of racism and social injustice. And it is also Cassie’s story—Cassie Logan, an independent girl who discovers over the course of an important year why having land of their own is so crucial to the Logan family, even as she learns to draw strength from her own sense of dignity and self-respect.
Freedom Is a Constant Struggle by Angela Y. Davis
Reflecting on the importance of black feminism, intersectionality, and prison abolitionism, Davis discusses the legacies of previous liberation struggles, from the Black Freedom Movement to the South African anti-Apartheid movement. She highlights connections and analyzes today’s struggles against state terror, from Ferguson to Palestine.
Facing a world of outrageous injustice, Davis challenges us to imagine and build a movement for human liberation. And in doing so, she reminds us that “freedom is a constant struggle.”
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance—and the subsequent cover-up—will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt.
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin’s early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document from the iconic author of If Beale Street Could Talk and Go Tell It on the Mountain. It consists of two “letters,” written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism. Described by The New York Times Book Review as “sermon, ultimatum, confession, deposition, testament, and chronicle…all presented in searing, brilliant prose,” The Fire Next Time stands as a classic of literature.
I’m Telling the Truth but I’m Lying by Bassey Ikpi
From her early childhood in Nigeria through her adolescence in Oklahoma, Bassey Ikpi lived with a tumult of emotions, cycling between extreme euphoria and deep depression-sometimes within the course of a single day. By the time she was in her early twenties, Bassey was a spoken word artist and traveling with HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, channeling her life into art. But beneath the façade of the confident performer, Bassey’s mental health was in a precipitous decline, culminating in a breakdown that resulted in hospitalization and a diagnosis of Bipolar II.
In I’m Telling the Truth, But I’m Lying, Bassey Ikpi breaks open our understanding of mental health by giving us intimate access to her own. Exploring shame, confusion, medication, and family in the process, Bassey looks at how mental health impacts every aspect of our lives-how we appear to others, and more importantly to ourselves-and challenges our preconception about what it means to be “normal.” Viscerally raw and honest, the result is an exploration of the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of who we are-and the ways, as honest as we try to be, each of these stories can also be a lie.
They Come in All Colors by Malcolm Hansen
It’s 1969 when fifteen-year-old Huey Fairchild begins high school at Claremont Prep, one of New York City’s most prestigious boys’ schools. His mother had uprooted her family from their small hometown of Akersburg, Georgia, a few years earlier, leaving behind Huey’s white father and the racial unrest that ran deeper than the Chattahoochee River. But for our sharp-tongued protagonist, forgetting the past is easier said than done. At Claremont, where the only other nonwhite person is the janitor, Huey quickly realizes that racism can lurk beneath even the nicest school uniform. After a momentary slip of his temper, Huey finds himself on academic probation and facing legal charges. With his promising school career in limbo, he begins examining his current predicament at Claremont through the lens of his memories growing up in Akersburg during the Civil Rights Movement-and the chilling moments leading up to his and his mother’s flight north. With Huey’s head-shaking antics fueling this coming-of-age narrative, the story triumphs as a tender and honest exploration of race, identity, family, and homeland.
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
Hortensia James and Marion Agostino are neighbors. One is black, the other white. Both are successful women with impressive careers. Both have recently been widowed, and are living with questions, disappointments, and secrets that have brought them shame. And each has something that the woman next door deeply desires.
Sworn enemies, the two share a hedge and a deliberate hostility, which they maintain with a zeal that belies their age. But, one day, an unexpected event forces Hortensia and Marion together. As the physical barriers between them collapse, their bickering gradually softens into conversation, which yields a discovery of shared experiences. But are these sparks of connection enough to ignite a friendship, or is it too late to expect these women to change?