Sometime recently, I discovered that I have forgotten how to read. Forgotten how to slow down and dissect language and syntax to paint a picture with my mind. At some point, my brain became a high efficiency machine designed solely for skimming through piles of words and the rapid digestion of information. Going back to school only made the machine more monstrous. Survival in an accelerated program meant reading to make it through, not for knowledge. By graduation, sitting still long enough to get through five pages of a book was unheard of.
Multi-tasking….the gift and the curse.
It was absolutely terrifying to me that I went from literally being able to get through a several hundred page book in three days to not even being able to get a chapter deep in a week. So, as I sat down a week or so ago to draw out my vision board for the year, I felt it only appropriate to incorporate my estranged love (please excuse the horribly geographically incorrect drawing of Italy). A little research and I came up with my 12 books for 2016.
This list is a collection of both fiction and non-fiction, with most authors being persons of color writing for and about persons of color. Some are based on alternative expressions of sexuality. Some of them are intersections of the aforementioned. Some are about spirituality, and others about the more concrete matters of healthcare and science.
12 Books for 2016:
Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
Baltimore born and bred author Ta-Nehisi Coates poetically provides his experience on learning what it means to be black in America, historically and presently. Styled as an open letter to his son, he uses anecdotes and current culture references to tell his personal story as a black man in a racially evolving America. Sidenote: Although this is my January read….I’m still only halfway through. I’ve enjoyed this read thus far. It may be my unpopular opinion that a good majority of the content has been written before, but I thoroughly enjoy his personal reflections of Howard University (the “Mecca”) and a pre-2000’s Prince Georges county.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X –Malcolm X with Alex Haley
Self-explanatory…and I’m a little embarrassed that it’s taken me this long to read this. I’ve attempted to start it before, but I didn’t have the intellectual maturity to really process what I was reading. So we shall try again…right on time for Black History Month.
God is for Everyone – Swami Kriyananda
I’ve been struggling with religion over the past few years, often opting to describe myself as a “spiritual” being more so than a religious one. However, I have come to understand that even the spiritual being needs to be educated on what that means exactly, and how to nurture ones spiritual health. Described as the “perfect introduction to the spiritual path”, I’m hoping that this book gives clarity on my struggles with faith.
Under the Udala Trees – Chinelo Okparanta
So….I’m super excited to read this one. This is a fiction selection that tells the coming of age story of a young Nigerian girl who finds herself in love with another young girl during civil war. Recently, my girlfriend and I began discussing applying for the Peace Corps as a couple, and I brought up the fact that our destinations may be limited due to public opinion or even legal actions against same sex couples. Shortly after this conversation, I came across this title on a recommended book list. Eagerly interested to read this perspective.
Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides
The only book on my list that I will actually be re-reading. Middlesex is like a movie that you watched when you were really young and you missed all of the innuendos. The content of this book is so rich, that reading it once again will likely be comparable to reading it for the first time.
The Wrath and the Dawn – Renee Ahdieh
So this is a young adult fiction featuring a female protagonist, Shahrzad, who volunteers to wed a young King. Only catch is, he beheads his brides. However, Shahrzad is a crafty young lady who has a plan to keep her from getting her head chopped off. She also discovers some secrets along the way. Don’t necessarily care about the secrets, I was sold at beheading.
Five Days at Memorial – Sheri Fink
So this book made the list because as a Registered Nurse, I’m always intrigued by the stories of how other health professionals have to make difficult decisions in difficult situations. Five Days tells the story of how the Medical staff of Memorial Medical Hospital in New Orleans made the difficult choice to leave dying patients behind during a rescue in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This book was actually recommended by a good friend of mine from nursing school. She’s got pretty exceptional taste, so this choice was a no brainer.
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow is Enuf – Ntozake Shange
Another book that I have long been putting off. I once read a poem by Ms. Shange in undergrad, and felt as though I were performing a one woman production. It’s quite long overdue that I read the prose poem that has served as inspiration for film and productions otherwise. It’s also the inspiration behind my blog title, so it’s only right.
Just Mercy – Bryan Stevenson
Because f*ck the police. Sike naw (sike yeah). But seriously, I added this book to the the list because I have only recently began to lose my naivete regarding the justice system. Adam Jackson would be proud (shoutout to my fellow 2007-2011 Towson University grads). Just Mercy is Stevenson’s personal reflections of his crusade to defend those slighted and discarded by the same laws and lawmakers intended to protect them.
Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
An essential member of Historically influential African American literature. Another book that I’ve been meaning to sit and read. Just can’t seem to sit still for long enough.
Sisters of the Yam – Bell Hooks
This text, which has been used as part of academia in university classrooms, was written to discuss how racism and sexism directly impacts the emotional health of the black woman as a collective. Existing as a black woman is a complicated thing. Historically, it has only become less complex. We live in a time where black women are evolving their role in society, but progression is impossible without an understanding of how herstory has created our mindset today.
The Essential Feminist Reader – Various Authors
Because…..p*ssy power. duh.
*Bonus Book (for all year studying)*
Black Saga: The African American Experience – Charles Melvin Christian
So when I was in sixth grade, I was a member of my schools Black Saga Team. We were horribly bad. All in part because we never studied. For some reason, I think we were convinced that all of the answers to the questions would be Martin Luther King Jr. or George Washington Carver (face palms). At any rate, this book is an enormous wealth of knowledge, but super dense. Which is why this shall be a year long project.
Leisure reading is a dying art that is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, spurred by new voices expressing the complexity and challenges of the millennial. Old authors and poets are being reintroduced to new minds, resulting in a beautiful re-interpretation of ideas that I witness every day in the writing of my peers. It manifests itself in the beautiful, contorted masterpieces that are my social media feeds. We live in a magical time where contouring tutorials, pro-black art, conspiracy think pieces, and community activism exist cohesively. What a time to be alive.
So to my fellow former avid readers, I encourage everyone to develop their own list, borrow someone else’s (or this list even) to push forward this literary revival. Your books miss you.
Happy Reading : )