Now, despite my massively out of control TBR pile, my head can get easily turned by the idea of reading books set by a challenge, or to a particular theme, so when I noticed a number of articles about Black History month early this year, I’d every intention of reading at least a couple with the idea of following up with a blog post. But then Life got in the way of my doing much of any sort of reading, so it never happened. But that delay allowed me to take cognisance of the fact that while February is Black History month in the USA, here – in the UK – it takes place in October.
Having already picked a few potentials from those aforementioned lists, I had the time to stop for a moment to consider. Those lists were very USA-centric and whilst authors such as Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, James Baldwin and Maya Angelou should be read (and indeed either have already been read by myself or appear on my TBR list), I wondered what might make a truly balanced Black History reading list. I decided any black history reading list I compile will – obviously – include books by black American authors, but that it should also include black British authors, black Carribbean authors and black African authors.
Only one further question remained – should I consider the work of non-black authors, especially when such a luminary as President Obama included on his recommended reading list ahead of his first post-office visit to Africa two Nigerians, one Kenyan, one (black) South African, one Libyan and one (white) American – Ben Rhodes. Now Rhodes was an Obama staffer, but it still made me think that if Barack Obama felt a white man had written something worth reading about Africa, then other white authors may have something to contribute. For the moment though, that thought has been parked for – frankly – there are more than enough excellent black authors to make a humdinger of a black history list.
Currently pencilled in to that list are …
The Fire Next Time / If Beale Street Could Talk – James Baldwin
Meridian / The Color Purple- Alice Walker
The Letter from Birmingham Jail – Martin Luther King Jr
The Souls of Black Folk / Black Reconstruction in America – W E B DuBois
The Hate U Give / On the Come Up – Angie Thomas
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
A Grain of Wheat – Ngugi wa Thiong’o
The Return – Hisham Matar
I’ve kicked off this project by listening to Michelle Obama’s Becoming on Audible. Audible and I have an uneasy relationship for I read books by preference, only listening when I’m recovering from a back injury (which I currently am) and therefore don’t feel as connected with the words as when reading. But I’m enjoying the process and Michelle Obama certainly is an excellent narrator. Alongside that, I’m reading My Sister, the Serial Killer from Oyinkan Braithwaite from this year’s Women’s Prize which is proving a fun read.
I know there are absolutely oodles more, so do let me have your recommendations – please! That said, having previously put together a list of Nigerian authors I wished to read, I am not really looking to add more from that country (although don’t let that stop you), but am very keen to receive recommendations of Caribbean authors (other than Marlon James and Andrea Levy), and those from African countries other than Nigeria.
© Debra Carey, 2019