BunnyChow Card #15: 2 February 2019

Most people in the northern hemisphere despise February. It’s dreary, cold, confused—28 or 29 days? and it’s generally a very unsexy month. 

But I like it. 

It’s my birth month. Yes, I’m Aquarius. So according to the powers that be I can be summed up by these words— intelligent, creative, spontaneous, obstinate, unemotional and sarcastic. Sounds about right. 

I like February because it’s the month we celebrate love. I know Valentine’s Day is a con engineered by Hallmark and rose growers across the planet, but still… Let’s face it, we need every reason to celebrate love. 

I also like Feb (we’re on nickname terms now) because it’s Black History Month. That is the month when non-Black people purchase that one item of Black culture for the year. 

We know we should be celebrating Black culture throughout the year people. Just like we should be celebrating Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and National Glaucoma Day every day of the year. 

But I think Black History Month is special. We should read more great books written by badass Black authors, and this is one month we should commit to doing that. It’s a bit like the argument for watching Black Panther and Wonder Woman—movies that celebrate Black and female superheroes. Unless we spend our dollars on these movies, they don’t make money at the box office and producers (mainly white men) have a good reason not to fund such movies. 

Same with books. Each dollar you spend on a book is a vote for that author. And the overwhelmingly white publishing industry is skewed toward white authors, as is the reviewing industry. Author Roxanne Gay broke down the stats for reviews published in the New York Times in 2011.

New York Times book reviews (2011) by race and gender

So without further ado, here’s my list of Black authors I plan to read this month/ year. I’m sure there are many more I’ve left out but hey… there’s still Mar-Dec. 

Some of these books I’ve already read but have included here because I think they’re wonderful and everyone should read them. 

And because I prefer first-hand stories, some of these, especially the memoirs about slavery, are available from Gutenberg Project for free. I’ve tried to vary it up between fiction and nonfiction and also men and women. 

Narrative of Sojourner Truth (1850)
Written by Olive Gilbert, based on information provided by Sojourner Truth.
http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/1674/pg1674-images.html
Sojourner Truth was one badass abolitionist who was born a slave but then escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son in 1828, she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man. She then spent the rest of her life fighting to abolish slavery.  
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (Produced as a play in 1959)
 
The story tells of a black family’s experiences in the Washington Park Subdivision of Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood as they attempt to “better” themselves with an insurance payout following the death of the father.
If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin (1974)
 
A love story about a couple whose relationship is stressed to breaking point with a false accusation.
How to Be Black by comedian Baratunde Thurston (2012)
 
A comedic autobiography of being black in America today. 
Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay (2014)
 
A collection of essays on pop culture and personal experiences on movies like Django Unchained, and Gay’s own upbringing as a Haitian-American. 
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015)
 
A moving letter from a father to his teenage son about being Black in America today. It’s a memoir, a history lesson, and an emotional cry about the “racist violence that has been woven into American culture.” 
My Sister, the Serial Killer: A Novel (2018)
by Oyinkan Braithwaite 
 
A dark, funny novel about two Nigerian sisters, one of whom has a habit of killing her boyfriends and the other who reluctantly enables her. 
Say You’re One of Them by Nigerian writer Uwem Akpan (2008)
  
A collection of short stories, each set in a different African country. Won the 2009 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Africa region) and the 2009 Beyond Margins Award.
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler (1979)
 
A time travel story into the antebellum South by the amazing fantasy author Octavia E. Butler
Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup (1853)
 
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/45631/45631-h/45631-h.htm
 
The firsthand memoir of a free Black man who was captured and enslaved and then rescued after twelve years. 
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson (2010)
 
A historical telling of the migration of six million African Americans out of the Southern US to the Midwest, Northeast and West from approximately 1915 to 1970. The book is beautifully told through the true stories of three individuals interspersed with chapters of factual narrative. 
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (2016)
 
Autobiography of the South African comedian who hosts The Daily Show
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander (2010)
 
A civil rights litigator and legal scholar, Alexander discusses issues related to African-American males and mass incarceration in the United States.

Happy reading and let’s Make February Great Again!

XOXO

Manju