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Black History Month Week Four: Seven Black Authors To Explore

This week, I will offer a list of different authors whose works I have read, and which might be of interest during Black History Month and beyond.

1) For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf. - This is a work which could be about today's world, though the play depicts the lives of seven women in the 1970s. Their stories are of pain, love, fear, strength, and so much more. There is no way to properly introduce this play and the emotion within it without losing some of the feeling of it. Tyler Perry adapted this play into a movie (For Colored Girls), and I fully admit that I have yet to watch it for concern that it might not live up to my perception of the original work by Ntozake Shange. For Colored Girls Who have Considered Suicide... may be purchased here:

2) The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6'4" African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama's Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian. - It seems to me that the title itself pretty much sums up what one might expect to read. W. Kamau Bell is a funny person, and one who has a way of finding humor in even the strangest scenarios. One of the stories he depicts in his book is about the first episode of the United Shades of America, a show in which Bell travels to different parts of the country and speaks to the people, learns about the culture, and/or teaches us a little also. The first episode of the show had been developed based on a concept that Bell had jokingly suggested as a possible theme: him spending time with members of the KKK. I don't want to spoil it for you, but let's just say it was an interesting experience, both to watch and to read about. The Awkward Thoughts... may be found on Amazon:

3) The Broken Earth Trilogy - N.K. Jemison is a fantasy writer whose works have captivated me. Her trilogy is funny and heartbreaking, revealing, and insane. The journey had some traditional fantasy elements, such as a journey, magic, different types of intelligent beings and a threat to the population of the earth. But it is also written often through the lens of a dark-skinned heroine, who therefore sees others in her world in relation to her. This is a twist which makes sense, given that Jemison is African American. However, it still catches the reader a bit, as so much of the available literature is written from a Eurocentric perspective. Oh, and the author is also cousin to W. Kamau Bell; talented family. The trilogy and other works may be found here:

4) Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood - As a person of mixed heritage, reading Trevor Noah's book outlining his upbringing gives me a sense of sameness I don't always feel. I was not born a crime, as he had been. But I was, and still am, considered by some to be an abomination. But as Noah navigated the different communities, languages, and cultures in South Africa during and after Apartheid, I was also in the position to move through different groups and understand different processes, without really feeling like I fully fit in anywhere. Trevor Noah makes one laugh and smile considering some of his happier memories, and causes one to cry and shake a head at some difficult moments. Take the journey to South Africa with Trevor Noah and you might find that it's not as far away as you thought. Born a Crime may be purchased here:

5) I'm Just a DJ But... It Makes Sense to Me. - Tom Joyner is a disc jockey whose autobiography was fun and interesting, and it gave a glimpse into the life of someone whose morning show I had listened to growing up. The book also offered something new for me: an illustration of Tuskegee, Alabama as more than just that place where the racist syphilis study occurred and where the famous Tuskegee Airmen were based. Tom Joyner knew the likes of Lionel Ritchie growing up; music was a way of life for him and those in his circle, so to become a DJ was not so far from his roots. Joyner uses this book in part to offer some words of wisdom, many of which parroted what I had heard growing up. I'm Just a DJ But... may be found here:

6) A Raisin in the Sun. - This play, written by Lorraine Hansberry, is another of many from Black authors which depict life decades in the past, but which could have been written today. The story offers a glimpse into the lives of the members of a family whose fortunes might be about to change, and their struggles and concerns about how and whether the change would really be a good one. If you're ever able to see the play in action, I highly recommend it. In the meantime, the book may be found here:

7) The Shooting: A Memoir - I bought this book at a discount book store during an event in which I could spend $30 and take home all books which fit into a box. I have never regretted the purchase. I was intrigued by the title. I was also drawn to it because Kemp Powers, the author, was a New Yorker who grew up in Brooklyn right around the time when I was growing up in Queens. And then I read it. Kemp Powers speaks of his Brooklyn with a love and an honesty which brought me home. And he spoke of the titular event, the shooting, with a pain and a sincerity that I will not soon forget. The Shooting: A Memoir may be found here:

BONUS: Okay, here's an eighth one. Why are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race. - I was introduced to Dr. Beverly Tatum's work when I was in undergrad. So much of what was incorporated into this book rang true for me, though in my high school the title would have been Why are All the City Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? The reasons, though, were quite similar. This book helped me to feel like I wasn't alone in my musings about the world, and that so many of us experience prejudice and must find ways to protect ourselves from the effects of same. Why Are All the Black Kids... may be purchased here:


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