Today was supposed to be my wrap up for the second half of May, but there is no way for me to feel as though I can proceed as normal given the fact that it feels like the United States is finally, maybe, hopefully on the verge of actually doing something about the fact that systemic racism is a problem in our country. Maybe I’m being too optimistic, but I know that on my own social media timelines and the people in my real life seem much more willing to acknowledge that there is a problem than they have been in years past. So I am going to be optimistic and I’m going to donate when I can until we have made real, concrete steps toward changing what’s going on in our country from the local level (for example, where is the money in your county going?) to the federal level (ask your Congress person to sign on to Congresswoman Pressley’s Resolution to Condemn Police Brutality as the bare minimum). I’ve been doing a lot of emailing and a lot of talking with people in my real life and one of the things I’m finally prioritizing learning more of the U.S.’s history in a non-white-washed manner. I’m also going to prioritize developing the skills and unlearning what society has instilled in me so that I have those skills to be a better ally. To be anti-racist, I think, requires us to have some idea of our own complicity and to actively choose to fight against those systems that oppress or privilege based on skin color. I’ve already said so much and I’m sorry about that. I’m now going to switch to providing three recommendations of nonfiction books that have helped get me to the point I’m at now and the three books I plan to read next. (This will likely be a reoccurring thing on my blog at this point.) And then I’m going to share three Black romance novelists whose books I love and three new to me Black romance authors I’m looking forward to trying.
P.S. Links to these books will take you to Loyalty Books, which is a Black owned bookstore that has also been hosting incredible Date Nights with Alyssa Cole talking to a bunch of romance authors every couple of weeks. They’re my new favorites.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
It’s probably weird that the first book I really read that confronted racism so directly was a book from a UK author focused on racism in the UK, but it was. Aside from one chapter that was extremely focused in on housing inequality in the UK though, this book is a brilliant primer on what racism is and why white people don’t get to keep asking Black people to put in a ridiculous amount of emotional labor to teach us. I went back and reread my review of this book from when I read it in 2017 and I was actually incredibly thorough, so if you don’t already think you should pick this book up, allow past me to tell you a lot of reasons why this book is great.
“The mess we are living in is a deliberate one. If it was created by people, it can be dismantled by people, and it can be rebuilt in a way that serves all, rather than a selfish, hoarding few.”Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
This book is truly a primer. I think it’s a great read no matter where you are in your journey on being anti-racist though because it’s a foundational text, in my opinion. Oluo defines and explains basic terms like racism and cultural appropriation that had 2018 me going, “ohhh” a whole bunch while driving home. In fact, I think I’m due for a re-listen because this book is profoundly impactful in a relatively short amount of space and I’m positive I’ll pick up on new things this next time through.
“If you live in this system of white supremacy, you are either fighting the system of you are complicit. There is no neutrality to be had towards systems of injustice, it is not something you can just opt out of.”So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
I’m a bit hesitant to mention this book here because I think the most important thing about this book is for you to keep in mind that this book should not be your only reading on this topic and as you strive to be a better ally. However, if you are white, I do think this is a really valuable resource because of how Dr. DiAngelo is able to articulate what happens in All-White spaces and provides clear examples of how people (especially white women) enact white fragility in “safe” spaces. It was a really powerful book for me and I think working through the topics Dr. DiAngelo brings up can really help white people do a lot of the emotional labor to unlearn and challenge their beliefs and implicit biases.
“It is white people’s responsibility to be less fragile; people of color don’t need to twist themselves into knots trying to navigate us as painlessly as possible.”White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
This is the book I am currently reading and I am learning so much. I like to consider my feminism intersectional, but this book keeps revealing to me blind spots. Like, I give money to food banks usually around the holidays or donate specifically to a fundraiser for low-income students to take home over a holiday break, but I never really thought of hunger as a feminist issue. And I think Kendall’s point is that pretty much everything is a feminist issue. This book is enraging and engaging and I want to fix all of the problems at once, but that’s obviously impossible. However, it does encourage me to keep focusing on local issues as well as larger issues because our local politics really do make such a difference.
“One of the biggest issues with mainstream feminist writing has been the way the idea of what constitutes a feminist issue is framed. We rarely talk about basic needs as a feminist issue. Food insecurity and access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, a living wage, and medical care are all feminist issues. Instead of a framework that focuses on helping women get basic needs met, all too often the focus is not on survival but on increasing privilege. For a movement that is meant to represent all women, it often centers on those who already have most of their needs met.”Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
This is a 28 day workbook, essentially, to help you tackle your own privilege and be more equipped to really be an ally. I plan to start this Monday with one of my friends and I’m really looking forward to this journey. I think it will be hard, but necessary. I did read the Foreward by Dr. DiAngelo and thought this quote says a lot about why this work is so important:
Building the racial stamina required to challenge the racist status quo is thus a critical part of our work as white people. Rushing ahead to solutions—especially when we have barely begun to think critically about the problem—bypasses the necessary personal work and reflection and distances us from understanding our own complicity. In fact, racial discomfort is inherent to an authentic examination of white supremacy.“Foreward” written by Robin DiAngelo of Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
And, in the Dear Reader section, Saad says:
The system of white supremacy was not created by anyone who is alive today. But it is maintained and upheld by everyone who holds white privilege—whether or not you want it or agree with it. It is my desire that this book will help you to question, challenge, and dismantle this system that has hurt and killed so many Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
My goal is to check back in somewhere each week as I read through this book with updates about what I’ve learned. I’m considering making that place here and each time providing y’all with another three romances by Black authors that I’ve loved and three more new to me authors I want to try. If you think that sounds like something you would like to see, let me know. And if you would like to read this book alongside me, let me know that too! The more accountability the better. 🙂
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
I’ve realized I don’t think I know as much of the United States’ history as I thought that I did and thus, I’m starting to fix that with The Warmth of Other Suns (hopefully while I read Me and White Supremacy). My audiobook breaks down into three parts so I’m hoping I’ll at least finish the first one in June. Here is part of the synopsis: With stunning historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida for Harlem, where he endangered his job fighting for civil rights, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties.
“They did what human beings looking for freedom, throughout history, have often done. They left.”The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
Grip by Kennedy Ryan
This book is not Black romance (aka a book with two or more Black leads in a romantic relationship), but it does seem so incredibly apropos to recommend right now. In all honesty, I just straight up recommend Kennedy. This trilogy follows Grip, a Black rapper from LA, and Bristol, a white wealthy manager/agent person. Grip and Bristol meet when she comes to LA to see her brother and they have an intense connection where they talk about everything. There’s a really beautiful song in this book called “Bruise” that just feels so on the nose for what’s going on in the world today. I cannot recommend this trilogy highly enough. If you would like to start with a Black romance from her though, Queen Move and Hook Shot both qualify!
A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
Y’all already know Alyssa Cole is one of my favorite authors of all time so her inclusion on this initial list should come as no surprise. A Princess in Theory is about Thabiso, Crown Prince of an African country, who has found out that his missing childhood betrothed, Naledi, is in NYC and also ALIVE. So he has his assistant email Naledi and demand all of this information from her, which makes her think that his emails are spam. It’s a delightful premise and an even better book. The whole series is wonderful and, Once Ghosted, Twice Shy is the novella following this book about Thabiso’s assistant, Likotsi, having a second chance romance with a woman she met when she was in NYC in A Princess in Theory. It’s also wonderful and an excellent choice to pick up for Pride Month.
American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera
It’s June so I can’t pass up the perfect opportunity to make sure y’all know about and have picked up the Dreamers series by Adriana Herrera! American Dreamer follows Jude, a librarian, and Nesto, a chef/food truck owner. They both have big dreams and big plans and falling in love is not exactly on either of their to-do lists. But… They’re both cute and so engaged and passionate so they’re obviously attracted to one another. And the cast of secondary characters are everything. This series is really, really great and I would definitely recommend you pick it up. I will note though that I think on the last book, American Sweethearts, is a Black romance. The others are interracial relationships.
Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon
I feel like so many people have been reading and loving this lately! This is an interracial couple who both work for a local bookstore. One of them, Jordan, hosts a romance book club and he would really appreciate it if his new co-worker, Rex, would stop mocking him for his reading tastes. But when Rex waltzes in asking to join Meet Cute Club, Jordan knows the club needs new members. And then they fall in love! I’m really excited for this and actually had preordered it. Let’s not talk about how my reading is all over the place right now.
A Taste of Her Own Medicine by Tasha L. Harrison
This book has been on my radar for quite some time and I actually had it checked out on Kindle Unlimited for months before just buying it and cancelling KU. Harrison has been on the Fated Mates podcast too since I picked up her book and I really just need to actually read it. It is about a recently divorced woman, Sonja, who is reentering the work force after her divorce. She signs up for a class for entrepreneurs and finds herself entirely too attracted to her younger instructor, Atlas James. I’m really looking forward to this book because I’ve heard nothing but good things.
Pharaoh’s Bed by Mukami Ngari
Can we talk real quick about this gorgeous cover? I’m in love. Anyway, I’m like 99% sure I picked this book up at Funmi’s recommendation. It’s about a woman, Maa, who is all set to marry a prince of Aksum when the Pharaoh’s army invades and the Pharaoh takes Maa as his concubine. I am so intrigued by this concept and am looking forward to finally picking it up. Soon. I hope.
As always, if you have recommendations for me or if you’ve read any of these books, let’s chat about them in the comments!