Books of the Month


Interested? It’s easy—we choose a new book (or two) every month. Pick one, and get your own copy (don’t buy from Amazon! Check out our Black-owned bookstores or local libraries resources to find one).

Then, find a local book club chapter, start an unofficial chapter, or join our monthly book club Zoom meetings.

Below you’ll find additional resources and questions for each book, so you can always read on your own.

Happy reading.


September


Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century

Edited by Alice Wong

Focuses:
Disability
Culture
One in five people in the United States lives with a disability. Some disabilities are visible, others less apparent—but all are underrepresented in media and popular culture.

From Harriet McBryde Johnson’s account of her debate with Peter Singer over her own personhood to original pieces by authors like Keah Brown and Haben Girma; from blog posts, manifestos, and eulogies to Congressional testimonies, and beyond: this anthology gives a glimpse into the rich complexity of the disabled experience, highlighting the passions, talents, and everyday lives of this community. It invites readers to question their own understandings. It celebrates and documents disability culture in the now. It looks to the future and the past with hope and love.



Buy it local    Join a book club

Let the homie pick: Walela Nehanda



Capitalism & Disability

Selected writings by Marta Russell

Focuses:
Disability
Capitalism
Policy
Spread out over many years and many different publications, the late author and activist Marta Russell wrote a number of groundbreaking and insightful essays on the nature of disability and oppression under capitalism. In this volume, Russell’s various essays are brought together in one place in order to provide a useful and expansive resource to those interested in better understanding the ways in which the modern phenomenon of disability is shaped by capitalist economic and social relations.



Buy it local    Join a book club



August


Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination

By Toni Morrison

Focuses:
Racism
Literature
Morrison shows how much the themes of freedom and individualism, manhood and innocence, depended on the existence of a black population that was manifestly unfree—and that came to serve white authors as embodiments of their own fears and desires. According to the Chicago Tribune, Morrison "reimagines and remaps the possibility of America." Her brilliant discussions of the "Africanist" presence in the fiction of Poe, Melville, Cather, and Hemingway leads to a dramatic reappraisal of the essential characteristics of our literary tradition.



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Let the homie pick: Brianna



The Vanishing Half

By Brit Bennett

Focuses:
Colorism
Identity
Family
Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person's decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.



Buy it local    Join a book club




Abolition Reading: Black August Booklist


A List of 14 Books Promoting Black Liberation
In the late 1970’s the observance and practice of Black August left the prisons of California and began being practiced by Black/New Afrikan revolutionaries throughout the country. Black August is a time to study history, particularly our history in the North American Empire. During the month, people wouldn’t use radios or television, would fast between sun up and sun down, and practice other measures of self-discipline.

Read along with us during Black August. 



View the list



July


Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex

By Eric Stanley & Nat Smith

Focuses:
Prison Industrial Complex
Gender
Pathologized, terrorized, and confined, trans/gender non-conforming and queer folks have always struggled against the prison industrial complex. Eric A. Stanley and Nat Smith bring together current and former prisoners, activists, and academics for a new understanding of how race, gender, ability, and sexuality are lived under the crushing weight of captivity. Through a politic of gender self-determination, this collection argues that trans/ queer liberation and prison abolition must be grown together.

Sample discussion prompt: In what ways has trying to end domestic violence hurt our communities and/or made the prison industrial complex stronger?



Buy it local    Join a book club

Let the homie pick: CheGossett



Are Prisons Obsolete?

By Angela Davis

Focuses:
Prison Industrial Complex
Racism
With her characteristic brilliance, grace and radical audacity, Angela Y. Davis has put the case for the latest abolition movement in American life: the abolition of the prison.

Sample discussion prompt: If jails and prisons are to be abolished, then what will replace them?

Watch:
Our LA chapter facilitator Michael Anderson unpacks important themes and questions



Buy it local    Join a book club




June


Race Music: Black Cultures From Bebop to Hip-Hop

Dr. Guthrie Ramsey


Focuses:
Music
American Culture
Black Identity


This powerful book covers the vast and various terrain of African American music, from bebop to hip-hop. Guthrie P. Ramsey, Jr., begins with an absorbing account of his own musical experiences with family and friends on the South Side of Chicago, evoking Sunday-morning worship services, family gatherings with food and dancing, and jam sessions at local nightclubs. This lays the foundation for a brilliant discussion of how musical meaning emerges in the private and communal realms of lived experience and how African American music has shaped and reflected identities in the black community.



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Let the homie pick: Shakira



Blood In My Eye

George Jackson


Focuses:
Prison Industrial Complex
Racism


Blood In My Eye was completed only days before its author was killed. George Jackson died on August 21, 1971 at the hands of San Quentin prison guards during an alleged escape attempt. At eighteen, George Jackson was convicted of stealing seventy dollars from a gas station and was sentenced from one year to life. He was to spent the rest of his life -- eleven years-- in the California prison system, seven in solidary confinement. In prison he read widely and transformed himself into an activist and political theoretician who defined himself as a revolutionary.



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May


Assata: An Autobiography

Assata Shakur

Focuses:
Police Brutality
Judicial System
Racism
This intensely personal and political autobiography belies the fearsome image of JoAnne Chesimard long projected by the media and the state. With wit and candor, Assata Shakur recounts the experiences that led her to a life of activism and portrays the strengths, weaknesses, and eventual demise of Black and White revolutionary groups at the hand of government officials



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Let the homie pick: Blake and Hella Black Podcast




April


War Against All Puerto Ricans

Nelson Antonio Denis

Focuses:
Puerto Rico
Colonization
Revolution
Through oral histories, personal interviews, eyewitness accounts, congressional testimony, and recently declassified FBI files, War Against All Puerto Ricans tells the story of a forgotten revolution and its context in Puerto Rico’s history, from the US invasion in 1898 to the modern-day struggle for self-determination. Denis provides an unflinching account of the gunfights, prison riots, political intrigue, FBI and CIA covert activity, and mass hysteria that accompanied this tumultuous period in Puerto Rican history.



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Let the homie pick: Yahdon Israel (founder of Literaryswag book club)



Mean

Myriam Gurba

Focuses:
Sexual assault
Racism
Coming-of-age
True crime, memoir, and ghost story, Mean is the bold and hilarious tale of Myriam Gurba’s coming of age as a queer, mixed-race Chicana. Blending radical formal fluidity and caustic humor, Gurba takes on sexual violence, small towns, and race, turning what might be tragic into piercing, revealing comedy. This is a confident, intoxicating, brassy book that takes the cost of sexual assault, racism, misogyny, and homophobia deadly seriously.



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March


Love WITH Accountability

Aishah Shahidah Simmons

Focuses:
Child Sexual Abuse
Healing
Community
Love WITH Accountability features compelling writings by child sexual abuse survivors, advocates, and Simmons’s mother, who underscores the detrimental impact of parents/caregivers not believing their children when they disclose their sexual abuse. This collection explores disrupting the inhumane epidemic of child sexual abuse, humanely.



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Let the homie pick: Dawud, facilitator for SCI Coal Township prison chapter




As Black As Resistance

Zoé Samudzi & William C. Anderson

Focuses:
Black liberation
Politics
Anarchism
Anticapitalism
Over the course of United States history, resistance against oppression and the gains made from various struggles for everyone's equality have often been Black led. However, liberal politics and the lack of strong leftist political power are two problems impeding the continued progress of Black America. Expanding on their original essay The Anarchism Of Blackness, Samudzi and Anderson make the case for a new program of transformative politics for Black Americans, one rooted in an anarchistic framework likened to the Black experience itself. This is not a compromising book that negotiates with intolerance. As Black as Resistance is a declaration for everyone who is ready to continue progressing towards liberation for all people.



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February


Sister Outsider

Audre Lorde

Focuses:
Intersectional feminism
Racism
US imperialism
In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change. Her prose is incisive, unflinching, and lyrical, reflecting struggle but ultimately offering messages of hope.

These landmark writings are, in Lorde’s own words, a call to “never close our eyes to the terror, to the chaos which is Black which is creative which is female which is dark which is rejected which is messy which is . . . ”



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Magical Negro

Morgan Parker

Focuses:
Black experience Womanhood
Magical Negro is an archive of black everydayness, a catalog of contemporary folk heroes, an ethnography of ancestral grief, and an inventory of figureheads, idioms, and customs. These American poems are both elegy and jive, joke and declaration, songs of congregation and self-conception. They connect themes of loneliness, displacement, grief, ancestral trauma, and objectification, while exploring and troubling tropes and stereotypes of Black Americans. Focused primarily on depictions of black womanhood alongside personal narratives, the collection tackles interior and exterior politics―of both the body and society, of both the individual and the collective experience. In Magical Negro, Parker creates a space of witness, of airing grievances, of pointing out patterns. In these poems are living documents, pleas, latent traumas, inside jokes, and unspoken anxieties situated as firmly in the past as in the present―timeless black melancholies and triumphs.



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January


Die Nigger Die!

Jamil Al-Amin

Focuses:
Revolution
Militarism
60s Civil Rights movement
More than any other black leader, H. Rap Brown, chairman of the radical Black Power organization Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), came to symbolize the ideology of black revolution. This autobiography—which was first published in 1969, went through seven printings and has long been unavailable—chronicles the making of a revolutionary. It is much more than a personal history, however; it is a call to arms, an urgent message to the black community to be the vanguard force in the struggle of oppressed people. Forthright, sardonic, and shocking, this book is not only illuminating and dynamic but also a vitally important document that is essential to understanding the upheavals of the late 1960s.



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Let the homie pick:
Najma Sharif





Sabrina & Corina

Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Focuses:
Family
Latina experience
Trauma
Coming-of-age
Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s magnetic story collection breathes life into her Latina characters of indigenous ancestry and the land they inhabit in the American West. Against the remarkable backdrop of Denver, Colorado—a place that is as fierce as it is exquisite—these women navigate the land the way they navigate their lives: with caution, grace, and quiet force.

In “Sugar Babies,” ancestry and heritage are hidden inside the earth but tend to rise during land disputes. “Any Further West” follows a sex worker and her daughter as they leave their ancestral home in southern Colorado only to find a foreign and hostile land in California. In “Tomi,” a woman leaves prison and finds herself in a gentrified city that is a shadow of the one she remembers from her childhood. And in the title story, “Sabrina & Corina,” a Denver family falls into a cycle of violence against women, coming together only through ritual.



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December 2019


The Wretched of the Earth

Frantz Fanon

Focuses:
Colonization
Marxism
Oppression
The Wretched of the Earth is a brilliant analysis of the psychology of the colonized and their path to liberation. Bearing singular insight into the rage and frustration of colonized peoples, and the role of violence in effecting historical change, the book incisively attacks the twin perils of postindependence colonial politics: the disenfranchisement of the masses by the elites on the one hand, and intertribal and interfaith animosities on the other. Fanon’s analysis, a veritable handbook of social reorganization for leaders of emerging nations, has been reflected all too clearly in the corruption and violence that has plagued present-day Africa.



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Let the homie pick: Sam Cruz




Persepolis
(The Story of a Childhood)

Marjane Satrapi

Focuses:
Islamic Revolution

Coming-of-age
Family
In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.



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November 2019


Parable of the Sower

Octavia E. Butler

Focuses:
Dystopian fiction
American society
Survival
When global climate change and economic crises lead to social chaos in the early 2020s, California becomes full of dangers, from pervasive water shortage to masses of vagabonds who will do anything to live to see another day. Fifteen-year-old Lauren Olamina lives inside a gated community with her preacher father, family, and neighbors, sheltered from the surrounding anarchy. In a society where any vulnerability is a risk, she suffers from hyperempathy, a debilitating sensitivity to others' emotions.

Precocious and clear-eyed, Lauren must make her voice heard in order to protect her loved ones from the imminent disasters her small community stubbornly ignores. But what begins as a fight for survival soon leads to something much more: the birth of a new faith... and a startling vision of human destiny.



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Let the homie pick: Kehlani




How to Cure a Ghost

Fariha Róisín

Focuses:
Relationships
Self-love
Identity
Following in the footsteps of such category killers as Milk and Honey and Whiskey Words & a Shovel I, Fariha Róisín’s poetry book is a collection of her thoughts as a young, queer, Muslim femme navigating the difficulties of her intersectionality. Simultaneously, this compilation unpacks the contentious relationship that exists between Róisín and her mother, her platonic and romantic heartbreaks, and the cognitive dissonance felt as a result of being so divided among her broad spectrum of identities.



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October 2019


Faces & Masks (Memory of Fire, Vol. 2)

Eduardo Galeano

Focuses:
History of the Americas
Colonization
The second volume of Eduardo Galeano's Memory of Fire trilogy, Faces and Masks is an astonishing Latin American-eye view of the New World in the making. Here is the tangled, cataclysmic history of our hemisphere from the 1700s up to the dawn of our present century, told through characters as resonant and compelling as Simon Bolívar, Toussaint L'Ouverture, and Billy the Kid. With its brilliant and imaginative blend of journalism, scholarship, and political passion, Faces and Masks is a panoramic interpretation of the Americas no work of history has previously imagined.



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Let the homie pick: Earl Sweatshirt




Faces in the Crowd

Valeria Luiselli

Focuses:
Nonlinear storytelling
Mexican experience
In Mexico City, a young mother is writing a novel of her days as a translator living in New York. In Harlem, a translator is desperate to publish the works of Gilberto Owen, an obscure Mexican poet. And in Philadelphia, Gilberto Owen recalls his friendship with Lorca, and the young woman he saw in the windows of passing trains. Valeria Luiselli's debut signals the arrival of a major international writer and an unexpected and necessary voice in contemporary fiction.



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September 2019


Don’t Call Us Dead

Danez Smith

Focuses:
Sexuality
Police Brutality
Racism
Award-winning poet Danez Smith is a groundbreaking force, celebrated for deft lyrics, urgent subjects, and performative power. Don’t Call Us Dead opens with a heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police, a place where suspicion, violence, and grief are forgotten and replaced with the safety, love, and longevity they deserved here on earth. Smith turns then to desire, mortality―the dangers experienced in skin and body and blood―and a diagnosis of HIV positive. “Some of us are killed / in pieces,” Smith writes, “some of us all at once.” Don’t Call Us Dead is an astonishing and ambitious collection, one that confronts, praises, and rebukes America―“Dear White America”―where every day is too often a funeral and not often enough a miracle.



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The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South

Michael W. Twitty

Focuses:
Southern cuisine
Slavery
Memory
A renowned culinary historian offers a fresh perspective on our most divisive cultural issue, race, in this illuminating memoir of Southern cuisine and food culture that traces his ancestry—both black and white—through food, from Africa to America and slavery to freedom.

Southern food is integral to the American culinary tradition, yet the question of who “owns” it is one of the most provocative touch points in our ongoing struggles over race. In this unique memoir, culinary historian Michael W. Twitty takes readers to the white-hot center of this fight, tracing the roots of his own family and the charged politics surrounding the origins of soul food, barbecue, and all Southern cuisine.



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August 2019


Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Paulo Freire

Focuses:
Education
Poverty
Liberation
Pedagogy of the Oppressed is one of the foundational texts in the field of critical pedagogy, which attempts to help students question and challenge domination, and the beliefs and practices that dominate.

The methodology of the late Paulo Freire has helped to empower countless impoverished and illiterate people throughout the world. Freire's work has taken on especial urgency in the United States and Western Europe, where the creation of a permanent underclass among the underprivileged and minorities in cities and urban centers is increasingly accepted as the norm.



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We Are Never Meeting in Real Life

Samantha Irby

Focuses:
Memoir
Relationships
Comedy
Whether Samantha Irby is talking about how her difficult childhood has led to a problem in making “adult” budgets; explaining why she should be the new Bachelorette (she’s “35-ish, but could easily pass for 60-something”); detailing a disastrous pilgrimage-slash-romantic-vacation to Nashville to scatter her estranged father’s ashes; sharing awkward sexual encounters; or dispensing advice on how to navigate friendships with former drinking buddies who are now suburban moms (hang in there for the Costco loot!); she’s as deft at poking fun at the ghosts of her past self as she is at capturing powerful emotional truths.



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