This month’s reading challenge is to read a book that features a person of color as the main character. One of the great blessings of reading is to be able to view a different perspective than our own, to become immersed in a character’s thoughts, struggles, and personal journey. It’s so important that we seize the chance to step outside of our own world and into another’s.
There were SO many great suggestions this month, thank you to all who wrote in! I decided to break things down by genre this month to make it a little easier to find a book you’ll love. I also tried to not include as many memoirs this time around (even though there are so many great ones) since last month’s challenge was a memoir and next month’s challenge is to read a book written by a POC woman. First up, here’s what’s on my reading list:
On My List
- The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell – “The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell is a humorous, well-informed take on the world today, tackling a wide range of evergreen issues, such as race relations; fatherhood; the state of law enforcement today; comedians and superheroes; right-wing politics; failure; his interracial marriage; his upbringing by very strong-willed, race-conscious, yet ideologically opposite parents; his early days struggling to find his comedic voice, then his later days struggling to find his comedic voice; why he never seemed to fit in with the Black comedy scene . . . or the white comedy scene; how he was a Black nerd way before that became a thing; how it took his wife and an East Bay lesbian to teach him that racism and sexism often walk hand in hand; and much, much more.”
- The Hate You Give By Angie Thomas – “Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
- Push by Sapphire – “Precious Jones, an illiterate sixteen-year-old, has up until now been invisible: invisible to the father who rapes her and the mother who batters her and to the authorities who dismiss her as just one more of Harlem’s casualties. But when Precious, pregnant with a second child by her father, meets a determined and highly radical teacher, we follow her on a journey of education and enlightenment as Precious learns not only how to write about her life, but how to make it her own for the first time.”
- Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo – “Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage–after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures–Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time–until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin’s second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant. Which, finally, she does–but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine. “
- The Wide Circumference Of Love by Marita Golden – “Diane Tate never expected to slowly lose her talented husband to the debilitating effects of early-onset dementia. As a respected family court judge, she’s spent her life making tough calls, but when her sixty-eight-year-old husband’s health worsens and Diane is forced to move him into an assisted living facility, it seems her world is spinning out of control. Diane remains resolute in her goal to keep her family together—until her husband finds love with another resident of the facility. Suddenly faced with an uncertain future, Diane must choose a new path and discover her own capacity for love. Will she choose renewal or regret?”
- Sing, Unburied Sing, by Jesmyn Ward – “The heart of Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing is story—the yearning for a narrative to help us understand ourselves, the pain of the gaps we’ll never fill, the truths that are failed by words and must be translated through ritual and song…Ward’s writing throbs with life, grief, and love, and this book is the kind that makes you ache to return to it.” —Buzzfeed
- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – “Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.” Suggested by @peachiikeen.
- Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – “This is a book about the promise of freedom; about the blurred lines between childhood and adulthood; between love and hatred, between the old gods and the new.”
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett – “Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who’s always taken orders quietly, but lately, she’s unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She’s full of ambition, but without a husband, she’s considered a failure. Together, these seemingly different women join together to write a tell-all book about work as a black maid in the South, that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town.” Suggested by Carly.
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – “Homegoing follows the parallel paths of these sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation.” Suggested by @lucijn_ and Lisa.
- A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi – “The story of an unlikely sisterhood—an emotionally powerful and haunting tale of friendship that illuminates the plight of women in a traditional culture—from the author of the bestselling The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and When the Moon Is Low. A moving look at the lives of modern Afghan women, A House Without Windows is astonishing, frightening, and triumphant.” Suggested by @happysoulphotography.
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison – “Set in the author’s girlhood hometown of Lorain, Ohio, it tells the story of black, eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove. Pecola prays for her eyes to turn blue so that she will be as beautiful and beloved as all the blond, blue-eyed children in America. In the autumn of 1941, the year the marigolds in the Breedloves’ garden do not bloom. Pecola’s life does change- in painful, devastating ways. What its vivid evocation of the fear and loneliness at the heart of a child’s yearning, and the tragedy of its fulfillment.” Suggested by @tomusphere.
- Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult – “Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?” Suggested by @momskitchen499.
- Exit West by Mohsin Hamid – “In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. Exit West follows these characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.”
- The Leavers by Lisa Ko – “One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, Polly, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, goes to her job at a nail salon—and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her. With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left mystified and bereft. Eventually adopted by a pair of well-meaning white professors, Deming is moved from the Bronx to a small town upstate and renamed Daniel Wilkinson. But far from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his adoptive parents’ desire that he assimilate with his memories of his mother and the community he left behind.”
- The Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFadden – “The Book of Harlan opens with the courtship of Harlan’s parents and his 1917 birth in Macon, Georgia. After his prominent minister grandfather dies, Harlan and his parents move to Harlem, where he eventually becomes a professional musician. When Harlan and his best friend, trumpeter Lizard Robbins, are invited to perform at a popular cabaret in the Parisian enclave of Montmartre–affectionately referred to as “The Harlem of Paris” by black American musicians–Harlan jumps at the opportunity, convincing Lizard to join him. But after the City of Light falls under Nazi occupation, Harlan and Lizard are thrown into Buchenwald–the notorious concentration camp in Weimar, Germany–irreparably changing the course of Harlan’s life. Based on exhaustive research and told in McFadden’s mesmeric prose, The Book of Harlan skillfully blends the stories of McFadden’s familial ancestors with those of real and imagined characters.”
- The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – “Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.” Suggested by Kalani.
- I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez – “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian meets Jane the Virgin in this poignant but often laugh-out-loud funny contemporary YA about losing a sister and finding yourself amid the pressures, expectations, and stereotypes of growing up in a Mexican-American home. ” Suggested by Swabreen.
- When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon – “The rom-com everyone’s talking about! Eleanor & Park meets Bollywood in this hilarious and heartfelt novel about two Indian-American teens whose parents conspire to arrange their marriage.” Suggested by @bitchbookblog
- To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han – “Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.” Suggested by @bitchbookblog
- You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie – “Family relationships are never simple. But Sherman Alexie’s bond with his mother Lillian was more complex than most. She plunged her family into chaos with a drinking habit but shed her addiction when it was on the brink of costing her everything. She survived a violent past but created an elaborate facade to hide the truth. She selflessly cared for strangers but was often incapable of showering her children with the affection that they so desperately craved. She wanted a better life for her son, but it was only by leaving her behind that he could hope to achieve it. It’s these contradictions that made Lillian Alexie a beautiful, mercurial, abusive, intelligent, complicated and very human woman.”
- The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea by Brandi and Deborah Smith – “Written with deep emotion and writing talent, The Accusation is a vivid depiction of life in a closed-off one-party state, and also a hopeful testament to the humanity and rich internal life that persists even in such inhumane conditions.”
More Really Great Recommendations
- Anticipated Literary Reads for Readers of Color 2017 – So this list was made last year but includes some incredible selections.