One could argue that any day is a good day to pick up a book and learn more about the Black experience in America. In fact, I spent all last year diving deeper into texts and resources to un-whitewash the history I’ve been taught. The road to anti-racism is long, and FULL of powerful literature. Today I’d like to share a few of my favorite reads, encourage you to do some deep diving of your own, and share how I’ve kept track of what I’m taking away from each book in my reading journal.
What I’m Reading
After the very public murder of George Floyd in 2020, book shops across the country and online were blown away at the number of folks trying to read White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. And while the book does have some merit, and white folk tend to take information from white folk with less apprehension, I’d argue that a book about the Black experience, written by a White lady is missing the bar a bit. Instead here are three reads that expanded my understanding of what it means to be Black in America, written by Black folk, who experience it.
How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi is a great place to start as you expand your ideas of what racism actually looks like. Written more like an autobiography than an educational text, Kendi offers swaths of examples of racism he’s experienced in his lifetime. Pointing out that racism goes far beyond what it is traditionally defined as, Kendi also offers a view of what antiracism could and should look like. It’s a great starting point, and I recommend reading it with these Book Club discussion questions by your side. They will allow you to dive deeper on some of the topics discussed in the book and really provided extra context for me.
Next up is for the self-proclaimed feminists out there. Mikki Kendall’s Hood Feminism is a call for solidarity in a time when it is needed most. Far too frequently mainstream feminism misses the mark when it comes to addressing issues of women who aren’t white. Kendall challenges feminism by highlighting some of the overlooked problems that the movement fails to address and offering solutions and guidance on how we can do better. And while I wouldn’t call this an easy read, it definitely had a lasting impact on me.
Lastly, I think it’s great to read educational texts, but if you stay in that lane for too long you’re not going to get a full picture of the lived Black experience, so for my final book recommendation I’m sharing Saeed Jones’ powerful memoir, How We Fight for Our Lives. A recollection of memories from a young, Black, gay man, struggling to find a place for himself in a world built for somebody else. This heartfelt memoir is equal parts grit and fear, highlighting the dichotomy of living while holding back who you really are. It’s poetic, powerful and a must read for anyone looking for hope among the darkness.
Bonus Book: I just started reading Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson and it’s a powerful look at the embedded ranking of human value that sets the supremacy of one group against the inferiority of all other groups. Oprah recommends it, so I’m going to assume it’s going to live up to its hype. I’m only about 15% into it and I’m already having lots of reflections on how the caste system has been present in my life.
How I Keep Track of my Reading
Here’s a fun fact, growing up as an only child, I read ALL. THE. TIME. But in my adulthood, I’m surrounded by people more than ever and so I don’t need to escape in books as much. Or so I thought! Diving back into a daily reading practice has really been profound on my life. Not only opening my eyes to stories that are unlike my own, but also giving me a place to escape to. As part of my practice, I’ve become very diligent in using my Reading Journal as a tool to record when I’m reading, what I’m learning, and any unanswered questions I am left with.
The book review pages are my favorite, as they allow me to record what I’m thinking while I read. I’ll often make multiple notes in pencil as I read each book and come back when the book is finished to synthesize it all into one fluid thought process. It’s a great place to highlight quotes and mark space for future reads.
The visual library (pictured at the top of this blog post) is a great place to make a list of all the books you want to read. I like to go back and color the book spines in once I’ve read them, but I’ve also seen folks use a color-coding system to highlight what genre each book falls into!
Lastly the reading log itself! I am SO PROUD of myself for committing to reading 30 minutes a day. Going from reading almost nothing to crushing through book after book over the last year has been a real achievement for me and these pages prove it!
How to Start
Easy: just start! Go buy one of the books I mentioned above, preferably at a small bookstore! And start reading. You can grab the LPA Reading Journal in two formats: old and new. They basically contain the same content, the new version is just in a fun doodle font and includes a place for tracking audio books as well! And start by setting yourself a timer and reading for 30 minutes before bed. I find this to be the best time to read as it quiets my mind from the everyday dribble, and gets me off my phone which experts state is the best thing you can do before going to bed!
I hope this blog helps to encourage you to pick up a new book today. All of the books mentioned here are available online at major retailers, but if you can, your local bookshops need you now more than ever. Many are offering contactless book pick up and free shipping/delivery. I’d highly recommend contacting your local bookstore before reaching out to Amazon. In fact, lets skip Amazon all together – if you can’t get these books at a local shop, try checking out https://bookshop.org/ which works WITH local bookshops to assist in the online retail space.
Do you have a book recommendation? Drop it in the comments!