It is Black History Month. This past year, I had the pleasure of being introduced to some great authors and stories that really hit home and I enjoyed immensely. If you are looking for something to read this month, I recommend these books.
I was introduced to Jesmyn Ward’s work a few years ago when “Salvage the Bones” came out. It was so beautifully written, it was such a breath of fresh air to know there are still writers out there that value well written words and character development. She masterfully tells stories of people from the South, where she immerses you in the unique dialects of the characters, while describing conditions of extreme poverty in America. Her stories are haunting, which means they will stick with you. You will never forget her protagonists, because she makes you feel deeply for them.
Ward is essentially a modern day Great American Writer, telling the stories of the forgotten people of America by giving them life on the pages of her books. She has won many awards for her works.
Three reasons why it is important to read Ward’s works now: 1) to understand the human conditions of those left forgotten in America, the ones who have no voice, 2) you are witnessing brilliance in real time of a living Great American Author, and 3) her works will one day be the classics people will be reading centuries from now.
One of my favorite YA authors right now is Jason Reynolds. When I saw him at the Book Expo, he looked like this super cool dude everyone wants to be friends with. When he spoke about his childhood sitting under the pecan tree, we got a glimpse into the man behind the stories and why they exist.
You see, Reynolds is writing the stories he wished he had when he was growing up. When I read “Miles Morales,” I was blown away by the life lessons he was teaching. While Miles is a story about a superhero, Reynolds teaches that you can be a hero in your own neighborhood. You don’t need super powers to be a hero. [Read the PW review]
Long Way Down moved me with Reynolds’s elegance and power of words. So few words were used, but so many things were being said. It was so well done.
Even if you do not read YA, consider picking up Reynolds’s books. He will blow your mind.
Moonless, Starless Sky
While this book is about extremism in Africa, it is written by a staff writer from the New Yorker. The reporting and writing of this story was done so well, I closed the book when I finished and said, “That’s the way journalism should be.”
Alexis Okeowo is a first generation American that covered the stories of people in Africa fighting extremism. The irony though is that these stories are very reminiscent of what we are seeing in America. In a way, it will inspire you to fight against the extremism that is rising in America today.
I want you to pick up this book because I want to make sure you read Alexis’s work. In this day and age of mediocrity and fake media, it is a breath of fresh air to encounter a journalist that steps up their game and rises above it all. This is journalism at its best.
Stay With Me
Stay With Me is considered to be one of the most important books you need to read this year. While there’s nothing quite American about this book, there is something to be said about a 30 year old that can write such a powerful novel like this.
Ayobami Adebayo is Nigerian. In her debut novel, she brings us into the world of Nigeria and the struggles women and couples go through. In this story, we follow a couple with fertility issues. When Yejide fails to produce a child, her in-laws and the village forces her husband to take a second wife.
The way outsiders can come in and dictate to a couple how their marriage should be shows not only the error in judging, but also the error of not acknowledging that what happens between a married couple is sacred. For Yejide and Akin, they hold a much deeper secret that no one outside of their marriage should know. Letting someone know their secret can destroy their marriage.
I recommend this book because it helps us look outside of ourselves and the American life to see a different world when it comes to marriage and motherhood. A powerful, remarkable book from a fresh, new voice.
For the Kids
Every MLK, Jr. Day, the sales for Brad Meltzer’s book “I Am Martin Luther King, Jr.” skyrockets. His series for children, “Ordinary People Change the World,” is such an amazing take on the lives of the most influential people in human history.
I started off with “I Am Rosa Parks” and it shook my heart and soul. To see her story from the aspect of a child, it made me see just how real these icons are. They are just like you. They are just like me. They are ordinary people that decided one day to make a stand (or stay seated in this case), and it changed the course of history.
There is nothing remarkable about any of these people. There was nothing that made them stand out from anyone else. Then one day, when they were faced with adversity, they made a decision, and made the world into a better place because of that decision.
These books are designed for children to understand that people like Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and Martin Luther King, Jr. were just like them. They were kids once. They faced hardships and adversity. Then one day, they decided to change the way their story was being told. They decided to make a stand.
Meltzer designed these stories to inspire the next generation of heroes. Get your hands on these books. Every single one of them. Your kids will benefit from them, so will you. It doesn’t matter what your age is, you can learn something from these books. It will touch your soul and inspire you to be greater than you already are.