Books I’m Reading to Educate Myself & to Help Support the Black Community

*100% of the monetization made on affiliate links in this blog post will be donated to BLM-Toronto*

For today’s post, I want to share book recommendations I found from various social media platforms that may help us to understand the harsh realities black people face and what we can do as a community to help. There are tons of resources available online on what we can do to help in both monetary and non-monetary ways – whether that is reading books or articles to educate oneself, supporting local black owned businesses, donating, watching BLM activist videos to signing petitions – every bit counts! I am not an expert and am definitely not educated enough to be “teaching” about this topic but I want to do what I can in the ways that I think are helpful and supportive to the black community. I also want to remind everyone that we are all different and “support” can come in many different forms and avenues, so lets all please be kind to each other as we’re a community achieving the same goal.

Just as many of you are, I’m currently listening and learning everyday and I want to continue to learn beyond today, this week and year. I have included a list of fiction and non-fiction books by black authors that I will be reading this year and beyond. I will be sure to update this page with more resources and book recommendations I see floating online.

Books Suggestions from various social media platforms: If you know any of black owned book stores in Toronto, please consider purchasing books from them and let me know about them so I can share it in this blog post. Thanks!

Non-Fiction

1// How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

Synopsis: Ibram X. Kendi’s concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America–but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. In How to be an Antiracist, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it. In this book, Kendi weaves together an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science, bringing it all together with an engaging personal narrative of his own awakening to antiracism. How to Be an Antiracist is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society.

2// When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir

Synopsis: A poetic and powerful memoir about what it means to be a Black woman in America—and the co-founding of a movement that demands justice for all in the land of the free. Raised by a single mother in an impoverished neighborhood in Los Angeles, Patrisse Khan-Cullors experienced firsthand the prejudice and persecution Black Americans endure at the hands of law enforcement. For Patrisse, the most vulnerable people in the country are Black people. Deliberately and ruthlessly targeted by a criminal justice system serving a white privilege agenda, Black people are subjected to unjustifiable racial profiling and police brutality. In 2013, when Trayvon Martin’s killer went free, Patrisse’s outrage led her to co-found Black Lives Matter with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi. Condemned as terrorists and as a threat to America, these loving women founded a hashtag that birthed the movement to demand accountability from the authorities who continually turn a blind eye to the injustices inflicted upon people of Black and Brown skin. Championing human rights in the face of violent racism, Patrisse is a survivor. She transformed her personal pain into political power, giving voice to a people suffering in equality and a movement fueled by her strength and love to tell the country—and the world—that Black Lives Matter.When They Call You a Terrorist is Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele’s reflection on humanity. It is an empowering account of survival, strength and resilience and a call to action to change the culture that declares innocent Black life expendable. 

3// What Doesn’t Kill you Makes You Blacker by Damon Young

Synopsis: For Damon Young, existing while Black is an extreme sport. The act of possessing black skin while searching for space to breathe in Americais enough to induce a ceaseless state of angst where questions such as “How should I react here, as a professional black person?” and “Will this white person’s potato salad kill me?” are forever relevant. What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker chronicles Young’s efforts to survive while battling and making sense of the various neuroses his country has given him. It’s a condition that’s sometimes stretched to absurd limits, provoking the angst that made him question if he was any good at the “being straight” thing, as if his sexual orientation was something he could practice and get better at, like a crossover dribble move or knitting; creating the farce where, as a teen, he wished for a white person to call him a racial slur just so he could fight him and have a great story about it; and generating the surreality of watching gentrification transform his Pittsburgh neighborhood from predominantly Black to “Portlandia . . . but with Pierogies.”  And, at its most devastating, it provides him reason to believe that his mother would be alive today if she were white. From one of our most respected cultural observers, What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker is a hilarious and honest debut that is both a celebration of the idiosyncrasies and distinctions of Blackness and a critique of white supremacy and how we define masculinity.

4// The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration the Age of Colorblindness

Synopsis: “Jarvious Cotton’s great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Klu Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation; his father was barred by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole.” As the United States celebrates the nation’s “triumph over race” with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status–much like their grandparents before them. In this incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander provocatively argues that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community–and all of us–to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America. 

5// Becoming By Michelle Obama – This was one of my book recommendations and can’t express enough how inspiring this book is. This is a very raw memoir where Michele shares her story of growing up in the South Side of Chicago and watching all the white families move away from the neighbourhood, being one of the very few black students in college, the 8 years living in the White House and the pressure of trying to do everything perfectly. I can’t recommend this book enough!

Synopsis: In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare. In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same. 

6// The Chiffon Trenches by Andre Leon Talley

Synopsis: During André Leon Talley’s first magazine job, alongside Andy Warhol at Interview, a fateful meeting with Karl Lagerfeld began a decades-long friendship with the enigmatic, often caustic designer. Propelled into the upper echelons by his knowledge and adoration of fashion, André moved to Paris as bureau chief of John Fairchild’s Women’s Wear Daily, befriending fashion’s most important designers (Halston, Yves Saint Laurent, Oscar de la Renta). But as André made friends, he also made enemies. A racially tinged encounter with a member of the house of Yves Saint Laurent sent him back to New York and into the offices of Vogue under Grace Mirabella. There, he eventually became creative director, developing an unlikely but intimate friendship with Anna Wintour. As she rose to the top of Vogue’s masthead, André also ascended, and soon became the most influential man in fashion. The Chiffon Trenches offers a candid look at the who’s who of the last fifty years of fashion. At once ruthless and empathetic, this engaging memoir tells with raw honesty the story of how André not only survived the brutal style landscape but thrived–despite racism, illicit rumors, and all the other challenges of this notoriously cutthroat industry–to become one of the most renowned voices and faces in fashion. Woven throughout the book are also André’s own personal struggles that have impacted him over the decades, along with intimate stories of those he has turned to for inspiration (Diana Vreeland, Diane von Férstenberg, Lee Radziwill, to name a few), and of course his Southern roots and ongoing faith, which have guided him since childhood.

Other Books by Black Authors

Fiction Books

I genuinely love reading fiction books just as much as non–fiction and there were a lot of great fictions recommendations that I thought I’d share here as well.

1// Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid – I’m choosing to start with ‘Such a Fun Age’ as my starting point for fiction. I picked this book because there’s been a lot of great feedback and reviews. The story goes deep into covering topics of race and privilege. I ordered it quite recently and will be starting to read this book tonight.

Synposis: In the midst of a family crisis one late evening, white blogger Alix Chamberlain calls her African American babysitter, Emira, asking her to take toddler Briar to the local market for distraction. There, the security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, and Alix’s efforts to right the situation turn out to be good intentions selfishly mismanaged.

2// An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Synopsis: Newlyweds, Celestial and Roy, are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive and she is artist on the brink of an exciting career. They are settling into the routine of their life together, when they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together. This stirring love story is a deeply insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward- with hope and pain- into the future.

3// The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare

Synopsis: A powerful, emotional debut novel told in the unforgettable voice of a young Nigerian woman who is trapped in a life of servitude but determined to fight for her dreams and choose her own future.
Adunni is a fourteen-year-old Nigerian girl who knows what she wants: an education. This, her mother has told her, is the only way to get a “louding voice”—the ability to speak for herself and decide her own future. But instead, Adunni’s father sells her to be the third wife of a local man who is eager for her to bear him a son and heir.
When Adunni runs away to the city, hoping to make a better life, she finds that the only other option before her is servitude to a wealthy family. As a yielding daughter, a subservient wife, and a powerless slave, Adunni is told, by words and deeds, that she is nothing.
But while misfortunes might muffle her voice for a time, they cannot mute it. And when she realizes that she must stand up not only for herself, but for other girls, for the ones who came before her and were lost, and for the next girls, who will inevitably follow; she finds the resolve to speak, however she can—in a whisper, in song, in broken English—until she is heard. 

4// Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Synopsis: Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth. As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”—all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her. With “fresh and honest” (Jojo Moyes) prose, Queenie is a remarkably relatable exploration of what it means to be a modern woman searching for meaning in today’s world.

5// The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

6// With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Synopsis: With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.

Other Books by Black Authors

Hope you guys found this blog post helpful! Feel free to leave any additional resources and book recommendations in the comments below and I will be sure to share it.

Written by Grace Yeung
Edited by Eden Yeung

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: