Checking In: Antiracism Work & Celebrating Black Joy

I said I was going to do this check in monthly and then I ghosted y’all in the month of July even though I thought about writing it a million times. July was a weird month with a lot of fun things and a lot of stress from still being in a pandemic. But setting all of that aside, let me link you to this incredible keynote that Alyssa Cole gave. And now, let’s get started.

Black Lives Matter

3 Books I’ve Found Helpful to Me in Unlearning or Challenging Racism

Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall

I was in the middle of this book when I wrote my June post and was already raving about how much I learned from it. But I’m really going to try and hammer home that this book is a hugely beneficial experience for me. Kendall does a remarkable job of making you think about things in a way that I just haven’t, all throughout my women and gender studies minor in undergrad through law school to real life. I can’t recall a time where the point was so clearly drawn that poverty and hunger are feminist issues in the way that Kendall does. I know that we were taught that statistically, single mother households are most likely to be under the poverty line, but there was no class, no article I read, that did a better job of hammering home the incredible importance of paying attention to all poverty issues and treating them as feminist issues as this book. And the educational piece? A similar thing. When we talk about feminism and education, I think about STEM rather than basic access to schooling in America (because I have the luxury of turning a blind eye to unequal access because I always had good academic choices) or the complexities of the school to prison pipeline. I know about the school to prison pipeline, of course, but again, I never really thought of it as a feminist issue. And that’s just wrong. So, in case it wasn’t clear, I loved this book. I learned so much.

How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones

This memoir is about Saeed Jones growing up as a gay Black man in the South and it’s really powerful. I think, like in Hood Feminism, the emphasis on the intersectionality is so important because you cannot separate the racism and homophobia that a Black queer man experiences. And so it’s really important to not just read from white queer people or straight Black people, but to try and really learn about people’s experiences and how different marginalizations might impact them. I read this back in January, and I still remember walking around the lake crying over this book. It’s very emotional and kind of eye-opening. And then there’s this quote: “Just as some cultures have a hundred words for ‘snow,’ there should be a hundred words in our language for all the ways a black boy can lie awake at night.” So, I definitely recommend!

Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom

I love this essay collection so much. It was one of my favorite nonfiction reads of last year and I think McMillan Cottom is brilliant. I finally listened to the episode of The Stacks podcast where she was featured and I am really sad I don’t listen to podcasts enough to justify the cost of the subscription to listen to the one she hosts with Roxane Gay. (Although, really, how many subscriptions do I have where I don’t use them enough to justify it?) Anyway, these essays are really awesome and bring up a lot of things I have honestly never thought about. McMillan Cottom grew up in North Carolina (and has moved back to teach at UNC! Go heels!!) and these essays touch on various aspects of her life and growing up. She talks about family and pop culture and hair and also the difference between being an African American and an African immigrant. It was all so interesting and witty and just all around great. I really enjoyed this one!

3 Books on My TBR to Assist in the Antiracism Journey

The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole

Hopefully I’ve already started or finished this one, by the time you see this post. I’m planning to read The Skin We’re In for the ReadEhThon, created by booksandlala and hosted by a bunch of people. The readEhthon is designed for people to read books by Canadian authors and one of the prompts is to antiracist literature and started on August 3rd. This particular book is one that was recommended and so I picked up the audiobook and I’m looking forward to learning more about racism in Canada. Here is the first paragraph of the Goodreads blurb: In his 2015 cover story for Toronto Life magazine, Desmond Cole exposed the racist actions of the Toronto police force, detailing the dozens of times he had been stopped and interrogated under the controversial practice of carding. The story quickly came to national prominence, shaking the country to its core and catapulting its author into the public sphere. Cole used his newfound profile to draw insistent, unyielding attention to the injustices faced by Black Canadians on a daily basis.

How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

I’m hoping to read this one this month too, but we’ll have to see how it goes. Dr. Kendi says really smart stuff on Twitter and I’m sure his books are about to blow me away. Here’s the second paragraph of the Goodreads blurb: In this book, Kendi weaves together an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science, bringing it all together with an engaging personal narrative of his own awakening to antiracism. How to Be an Antiracist is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society.

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi

Okay, so this one I won’t be starting until I finish The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, which will be a bit because I’m moving through it so slowly. But I will read this book by the end of the year, I’m determined. I’m nervous about this one since I’ve heard it’s a little dry, but I have the audiobook so hopefully I can handle it. Here’s the second paragraph of the Goodreads blurb: In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti–Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Stamped from the Beginning uses the lives of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and anti-racists. From Puritan minister Cotton Mather to Thomas Jefferson, from fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to brilliant scholar W. E. B. Du Bois to legendary anti–prison activist Angela Davis, Kendi shows how and why some of our leading pro-slavery and pro–civil rights thinkers have challenged or helped cement racist ideas in America.

3 Romances by Black Authors I’ve Loved

Go Deep by Rilzy Adams

So, Twitter was talking about this book so much. Sil, Jazmen, and Joce were ultimately responsible for me picking this book up (even though Sil also convinced me to pick up When Love Ignites by the same author and I still haven’t read it yet). Probably this book is best characterized as erotic contemporary romance with a friends to lovers trope and it is HOT. Okay? Hot. Anyway, essentially, Navaya is an erotic romance author and she’s lost her ability to write a real good sex scene and her readers are noticing. Her friend convinces her that she should ask her best friend since childhood for assistance and she eventually agrees. This results in these two totally platonic friends realizing their chemistry is FIRE and shenanigans ensue. It’s fast and fun and did I mention hot?

The Love Sisters trilogy by Christina C. Jones

So I will admit, I don’t love the first book in this trilogy but the second two are really great! And I’m an outlier on the first one so just ignore me and try it out. The first is I Think I Might Love You and it’s about Jaclyn Love who beats up this guy who is subletting her sister’s apartment because she thinks he broke in, essentially. That’s their meet cute. It’s real fun, even though I don’t love it. Moving on, book two is called I Think I Might Need You and this is an accidental pregnancy book and when I tell y’all I loved it, I need you to understand that is WEIRD. But part of it is that the pregnancy is discovered very early on and then we essentially follow Joia throughout the pregnancy and as she allows her ex-boyfriend back into her life. (Accidental pregnancy AND second chance, but I still love it. Wild.) Finally, there is I Think I Might Want You, which follows Jemma Love, who is an author and travel blogger. Her book recently dropped and one chapter is about this incredible sexy times experience she had somewhere and then it turns out the mysterious man is her cousin’s neighbor! Wild. Amazing. Also a super unconventional HEA if you’re looking for that.

A Reunion of Rivals by Reese Ryan

I really loved this Harlequin Desire and I want more people to read it. It’s a second chance love story between Max and Quinn, who are unexpectedly reunited when Quinn becomes the PR lead on a joint project between their two family’s companies. It was an incredibly abrupt ending between the two of them in the past and there’s a lot of tension because Quinn is none too pleased to be around Max again, but she’s also determined to excel at her job. Something about Max and Quinn together just really worked for me. I loved the way they came back together and Quinn’s hesitance about it. It was a really great category and a fantastic quick read!

3 Black Romance Authors (and Books) I Want to Try

Alexandra Warren and Love Unsolicited

This book specifically has been on my list since Funmi raved about it around its release. She even got her now fiancé to recreate the cover with her! Here is the main part of the Goodreads blurb: Joella Mason knows the difference between what she needs and what she wants. But when the line between the two becomes especially thin, she finds herself on a quest for something missing, not expecting that to come in the package of a sexy stranger with an even sexier proposition.

Chencia C. Higgins and Janine, but also No Strings Allowed

Basically, both Ms. Bev and Alyssa Cole have raved about Janine so I put it on my list. I also always need more paranormal romances because I usually love them when I pick them up. Janine was raised to be obedient to the pack alpha and was fine with that until they told her to marry a man she didn’t love. So then she ghosts them and goes to Texas and then forms her own pack, maybe? Or she winds up falling for the alpha of this other pack? Idk. I gotta read it and then I’ll let you know. No Strings Allowed is a novella that stems from a one-night stand, which makes it perfect for one of my romanceopoly rolls!

Nicole Falls’ The Changeup and Sugar, Butter, Flour, Love

Tbh, I picked up The Changeup because it gave me Pitch vibes and I’m still salty they cancelled the show. This is about Geffri who is great at baseball (even though she’s a girl, yes) and a sports blogger who challenges her to a competition. Noah sounds like a tool, but I’m sure they’ll fall in love and I’ll love it. My one issue with Sugar, Butter, Flour, Love is that the hero has the exact name as my brother-in-law. Here’s hoping I can set that aside to enjoy this story that otherwise sounds like great fun! It’s about a baking competition that pairs actual baker, Isobel, with former professional football player, Travis. I’m really excited to read this because that sounds perfect for me!

I hope these posts are helpful for someone out there. I know they’re helpful in terms of keeping me actually reading nonfiction, which is definitely something I struggle with sometimes. Have you read any of these? If so, what did you think?


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