In Monday’s blog post, I mentioned that I want to make a more conscious effort to read books written by authors of colour, LGBTQ+ authors, women, etc. because my bookshelves are definitely dominated by cis-straight-white-men. Now, that’s not to say I don’t read books by POC, LGBTQ+ writers, women, etc. because I do have books by people from all backgrounds, but I will admit I don’t read enough of these books.
I definitely started out reading books about things I know or can relate to personally – so, books from the perspective of a girl, books with white protagonists, etc. because I didn’t think I would be able to relate to or fully understand the books about people from different backgrounds. Of course, as I’ve gotten older, I know that the only way to understand things is to educate yourself. Every book I have read that doesn’t fit into the ‘white-female-protagonist’ category I have absolutely adored, and each one has given me a new perspective to understand, so I would always encourage people to step outside of their comfort zone and read the books that will expand their understanding.
I’ve spent quite a lot of time recently trying to find the best fiction and non-fiction books to read, and so I thought I’d put together a TBR of the books I personally want to read next, going forward. If I miss any which you personally think are important reads, please let me know! Most of the books I’ll be listing below are written by black authors, but I am also looking to read books by other POC and LGBTQ+ authors – these are just the books I am currently most looking forward to reading.
‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge [Non-Fiction]
Reni Eddo-Lodge is an award-winning journalist who wrote a blog post entitled: ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race‘ to share her frustration with the way that discussions of race and racism in Britain were being led by those who weren’t experiencing it, or being affected by it. This book brings attention to “eradicated black history, the political purpose of white dominance, whitewashed feminism to the inextricable link between class and race”, and I have had this book recommended to me by so many people. It has been on my TBR for a while now but I’m making it a priority to read as soon as possible.
‘Lakewood’ by Megan Giddings [Sci-Fi / Horror Fiction]
‘Lakewood’ is described as part ‘The Handmaid’s Tale‘, part ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’ and it explores the the horrible things that have been forced on black people to support science, as well as the moral dilemmas faced by working-class families.
This book is about a girl called Lena Johnson, a black millennial who has to drop out of college following the death of her Grandmother in order to support her family financially. She takes a job in the mysterious and remote town of Lakewood, Michigan which appears to be perfect: it pays well, she’ll have no out of pocket medical expenses, and she gets a free place to live. All she has to do participate in a secret programme and keep it all a secret. “The discoveries made in Lakewood…will change the world—but the consequences for the subjects involved could be devastating. As the truths of the program reveal themselves, Lena learns how much she’s willing to sacrifice for the sake of her family.”
The plot to this book sounds so gripping, and so I can’t wait to read it!
‘The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row’ by Anthony Ray Hinton, Lara Love Hardin, and with a Foreword by Bryan Stevenson [Non-Fiction / Memoir]
This memoir was written by Anthony Ray Hinton about the three decades he spent in solitary confinement on death row, after being convicted of two murders he did not commit. His case was picked up by Bryan Stevenson, an award-winning lawyer who had him exonerated – which took 15 years. Stevenson also has a book called ‘Just Mercy’ which is also on my TBR. Hinton’s book explores how he coped with the mental and emotional torture of his situation, and emerged full of compassion and forgiveness. It is described as a story of hope and the resilience of the human spirit.
Memoirs are a great way to learn from other people’s experiences and then of course educate yourself on the situation they were in, and understand what we can do to ensure things like this stop happening. Anthony Ray Hinton is just one of the many Black men who are wrongly convicted for crimes they didn’t commit and it is unacceptable that it happens again and again!
‘Clap When You Land’ by Elizabeth Acevedo [YA Contemporary Fiction]
I have seen this book all over Bookstagram, so when I get round to purchasing this one it will definitely be another case of ‘Bookstagram Made Me Buy It’. This book approaches themes of grief, love, and family bonds, and I think it will make for a touching read.
“Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives. Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash. Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.”
‘Don’t Call Us Dead’ by Danez Smith (They/Them) [Poetry]
“‘Don’t Call Us Dead’ opens with a heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police, a place where suspicion, violence, and grief are forgotten and replaced with the safety, love, and longevity they deserved here on earth.” When I read this description, I thought this would be an eye-opening collection of poems, especially with the topic of police brutality and the murder of Black men and women being raised and voiced right now (though of course, this conversation should be ongoing – not just when there is a story in the news). Smith’s poetry is said to “confront, praise, and rebuke America…where every day is too often a funeral and not often enough a miracle”.
Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds [YA Contemporary, Romance, Fiction]
This debut book follows two characters, Jack and Kate, who meet at a party and bond over their shared interests. They fall in love, meet each other’s friends, but then, Kate dies. Kate’s death sends Jack back to the the moment they first met, and Kate’s there again – and Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind, but he knows if he can prevent Kate’s death, he will; even if that means believing in time travel. Then, Jack learns that there are consequences for his actions, and when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do to save the people he loves.
This book seems like it will be such a rollercoaster of happy times, new love, loss, and difficult choices, and I think it’s one I will really enjoy. I’m also making this one a priority read for that reason! A few people from Bookstagram have recommended it to me, too.
‘Black Klansman’ by Ron Stallworth [Non-Fiction / Memoir]
I’ve actually just started reading this one as I bought it after watching the movie (which I loved). This memoir by Ron Stallworth is about his time working as an officer in the Colorado Springs Police Department. During his time as an officer, he went undercover and actually gained membership to the Ku Klux Klan, served as a body guard for David Duke, and was even asked to be the leader of the Colorado Springs chapter. But, ironically, Ron Stallworth is a black man, and was the first black officer and detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department.
The movie adaptation is one of my favourite movies, but I really wanted to read the book and get all the information from Ron himself, and I’d recommend both the book and the movie!
‘Everything I Never Told You’ by Celeste Ng (pronounced ‘ing’) [Fiction]
“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” This novel is set in 1970s small-town Ohio and follows a Chinese-American family. Lydia is the “favourite” child, her parents Marilyn and James are sure she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue, but when her body is found in the local lake, their hopes and dreams are ripped to shreds, and their family togetherness along with it. ‘Everything I Never Told You’ is described as a “gripping page-turner which uncovers the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another”.
The plot to this book sounds right up my street in terms of other books similar to this which I have read in the past – so this is one I’m looking forward to reading. It’s been recommended over and over again on Bookstagram, too!
Becoming by Michelle Obama [Non-Fiction / Memoir]
I would have picked this book up much sooner if I could get it in Paperback, because I’m not really a fan of hardbacks. In this case, I’m just going to have to deal with it and pick up the hardback copy next time I see it, because I’ve wanted to read this book since it came out! She is a powerful advocate for women and girls, and believes in equality and inclusivity, and I’ve always admired the work she put in before, during, and after her time in The White House.
In her memoir, Michelle Obama shares the experiences which have shaped her – growing up on the South Side of Chicago, her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, and of course being First Lady to the USA’s 44th President and first black president, Barack Obama, making her the first black American First Lady, too. Her memoir is described as honest and witty as she shared her disappointments and her triumphs in a deeply personal account.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
This is another book I’ve seen a lot of on Bookstagram, about newlyweds, Celestial and Roy who are described as “the embodiment of The American Dream and the New South”. Roy, a young executive, and Celestial, an artist, are settling into the routine of married life together until 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, which leaves Celestial seeking comfort in Andre, a childhood friend and Best Man at their wedding. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together, but Celestial had been unable to hold onto the hope and love she had for him.
Though fictional, this time, this is another book which explores wrongful convictions, whilst also exploring themes of love, hope, and pain; another book I can’t wait to read.
Like I said, there are plenty more books on my TBR List, these are just some of the ones I’m prioritising! As always, I’d love any recommendations you may have, and my Instagram, & Twitter DMs continue to be open for bookish or non-bookish chats.
Please continue to stay safe during this Pandemic and the Protests, and take care of those around you, check in with friends and family, and take care of yourself, too.