One of my goals for this year is to read more books by people of color. I’m almost finished with my first Toni Morrison book and cannot believe how long it’s taken me to read her work! I was reflecting on books I read last year, and it seems this goal started before I cognitively made it official. I thought I’d share some books I read last year that had a powerful impact.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
What struck me most about this novel is Hurston’s poetic language. She creates a powerful story through incredible description and dialect. The story of black and white relations is still (sadly) relevant today and it brought the question of now what? to my mind again and again as I realized how far we still have to come as a society.
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
This was probably the most difficult book I read last year. The premise includes kidnapping, rape, and betrayal. Yet, Gay presents the material in such a way that I couldn’t stop reading. Partially, for the fact that I knew something similar was happening to a woman somewhere and I had to read it for her. Partially, because Gay brings such a cross-cultural awareness that even through reading a tense storyline, I felt that I was learning something new about the world.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Adichie brings another unique cross-cultural view to her characters as we follow Ifemelu, a Nigerian living in America who decides to return to Nigeria. Adichie deals with racial prejudices in America as well as the obstacles of assimilating to one culture and then trying to return to one’s native culture. It’s an engaging story and, again, made me think about intellectual racism that can be prevalent in America, especially among people who view themselves as open and accepting.
Disunity in Christ by Christena Cleveland
I’ve written about this book before and it’s one that really challenged the way I view relationships and “the other” in my daily life. Cleveland breaks down how we view others – whether by socioeconomic class or race or social interests – and brings practical ways to help break down those lines. If you’re not following her blog, I’d highly recommend – she brings powerful insight to current topics.
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
I’m almost finished with this novel and am struck by how important it is to read right now. Though it’s nearly 40 years old, so many of the discussions, viewpoints, and struggles on race are still being reported today. It’s been good for me to read these conversations and struggles from a black point of view, especially as the Civil Rights movement unfolds. Morrison weaves those historic themes into the background of her character’s daily lives.
Up next on my to-read list is Half of a Yellow Sun by Adichie, but I’d appreciate any recommendations for books by authors of color. (I’m noticing a trend in black women – perhaps some other cultures would be good, too!)
What about you? How do you diversify your reading list?