Diversity is one of my efforts as a reader. It builds empathy when I’m reading about characters unlike myself, and it’s always refreshing to learn and explore something different from the usual white, middle class narratives and heterosexual love stories. I noticed, however, that I tend to focus mostly on LGBTQ lit and books dealing with mental health topics (which I gravitate to because of personal experiences) and have not read nearly as many books by POC authors.
As such, I really want to focus on reading African-American literature this year. I will make an effort to read from other POC perspectives as well, but I want to make African-Americans a priority because I really want to listen to their perspectives. This is not only because of the current, tense climate in America, but also because I grew up in a rather white, middle-class area and was rather segregated in honors classes and at a charter school that was diverse, but mostly in regard to religion, Asian-Americans, and LGBTQ-identifying students. So, I have picked out some books on my TBR written by and about African-Americans that I want to read by the end of this year.
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker: I’ve had this on my Kindle for several months now so it’s at the top of the list. After I read it, I also want to listen to the musical’s soundtrack! (I loved the revival’s performance at last year’s Tony’s, and I love LaChanze in If/Then.)
- Beloved by Toni Morrison: I bought this in paperback last year because I loved reading The Bluest Eye last school year, so I’m very much looking forward to diving into more of her backlist.
- Between the World in Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: One of the biggest nonfiction books in the last couple of years and definitely relevant.
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: This made a big splash with publication last year because Oprah got it to release even earlier than expected AND it was really good. Plus, historical magical realism? Yes please!
- The Sellout by Paul Beatty: The most recent Man Booker winner, and first American (well, born in America) winner to boot.
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: This is one of the most lauded books for last year.
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: Released in February, this is going to be a huge YA book and I’m interested (especially as a future teacher!) in reading this perspective on the Black Lives Matter movement.
I can’t speak for the fall semester yet, but this spring semester I am taking two literature classes (which are taking up a lot of my reading time!), one of which focuses heavily on the history and literature of the 20th and 21st centuries and is rather diverse. The books I’m reading by and about African Americans this semester are:
- Native Son by Richard Wright
- Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin (I’ve wanted to read this for a couple of years now, very excited!)
- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
- Quicksand by Nella Larsen
- Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat
Does anyone have any recommendations? This is rather heavily literary, mostly because of recent releases, but I feel a little strange not having more middle grade and YA on the list.