Necessary Nonfiction for Black History Month

#OnceYouGoBlackOut Vol 2: Nonfiction

This February we’re going all in on black book content. With the help of the wonderful people at The Stacks podcast for their #OnceYouGoBlackOut challenge, we’ll be sharing book recommendations all month from black writers. Here we’ve collected some of our favorite nonfiction works that explore the Black experience in America and beyond.

I Can’t Date Jesus by Michael Arceneaux
This is such a funny, charismatic memoir about what it’s like to forge self-confidence and foster compassion as a Southern, gay, black, and Catholic man. Whether he’s grappling with abuse and forgiveness, trying (and trying, and trying, and trying) to find a barber who won’t devastate his hair and psyche, or reveling in Beyonce’s power and grace, Arcenaux skillfully finds humanity and nuance at every turn. (Maritza)

Between the World and Me Ta-Nehisi Coates
An epistolary memoir written from Coates to his son which carefully outlines the historical and systemic subjugation of the Black body in the United States. Urgently delivered, rendered with precision and affection, Coates confronts the brutalities of racism with startling insight and clarity. (Shira)

My Soul Looks Back by Jessica B. Harris
In delicate, vivid prose, food historian and French language scholar Jessica B. Harris recalls her younger years, when she spent her days in the company of other black intellectuals, including James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, and wrote articles for the then-new Essence magazine. (Liv)

Feminist Theory From Margin to Center by bell hooks
hooks is as clear as she is uncompromising in this indispensable volume on feminist praxis. (Danilo)

Heavy by Kiese Laymon
Laymon’s voice is singular right now: layered, attentive, and exciting. This memoir eloquently explores what it means to responsibly love in a nation teetering on moral collapse. (Margaret)

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name Audre Lorde
A genre-bending “biomythography” which combines biography, history, and myth. It chronicles this prominent poet’s actualization as a woman while painting portraits of impactful women in her life. (Shira)

Talking Back, Talking Black by John McWhorter
With deep sincerity and accessibility, McWhorter addresses why Black English is a dialect and should be treated as a valid way of speaking in the US. This book is so smart and thoughtful. (Danni)

The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison (pubs Feb 12)
This is gonna be so good. A collection of nonfiction from one of the most revered authors of our time, Morrison confronts highly contested social issues and provides commentary for some of her most seminal fiction. (Margaret)

We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women 1965–85, A Sourcebook by Catherine Morris & Rujeko Hockley
An essential publication accompanying the groundbreaking show at the Brooklyn Museum. These radical women ask ever-relevant questions about institutions, form, and the systems that shaped their lived experiences through unforgettable and expansive expression. (Danilo)

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
A necessary and accessible discussion of the racial divide in our country from police brutality to the pervasiveness of privilege and inherent bigotry. (Heather)

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power by Zoe Whitley, Mark Godfrey, Linda Goode Bryant
The catalog to the stunning show at the Tate and Brooklyn Museum is a critical guide to an extraordinary period of art-making and political action. Across mediums and regions, these artists consider black aesthetic/s, institutions, and the activist responsibilities of artists. As questions of inclusion, representation, and radicality remain within and beyond the context of art, we can learn a lot from the artists and collectives within this volume. -Danilo

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
Jesmyn Ward says that grief insists that people matter, and by exploring her grief for the five black men she lost within five years of each other, Ward allows her grief to be political, and discusses the impact of rural racism on the lives of her friends and family. (Maritza)

Black Boy by Richard Wright
This is a canonical work from one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century. Wright deftly writes about the experiences he had growing up as a poor, black boy in Mississippi. (Danni)

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