NPR releases Best Books of 2017 app, here are some picks by Black writers
If you’re a book lover, a literature lover, or a writer of any sort who needs recommendations on what to read, you’re in luck because NPR has released a “best of” list of over three hundred books in several different genres. I have gone through the trouble of looking through the list for work by Black writers, and here are a few books I found interesting.
Autopsy: Poems by Donte Collins
This chapbook of poetry does do the work that one would expect from its title, but instead of telling the reader why death occurs, the poems explores the effects of death. One poem translates “I love you” as “we can’t afford another funeral” and another poem searches for an answer to the question of how is a young, Black, queer person allowed to mourn. Collins was named the Most Promising Young Poet by the American Academy of Poetry, and this collection is a breathtaking example of why.
Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor
This novel by the acclaimed Nigerian-American science fiction writer focuses on the discovery of magical powers by a teenage girl who also happens to be an American-born Nigerian named Sunny Nwazue. Fittingly, instead of imbuing her character with Norse or Greek or Germanic mythos, Okorafor turns her gaze to the rich yet specific mythology of West Africa, adding beautiful layers to the science fiction genre as she does so.
Chester B. Himes: An Autobiography by Lawrence P. Jackson
Distinguished Professor of English and History at Johns Hopkins University, Lawrence P. Jackson has uncovered an account of a Harlem Renaissance era writer that is every bit as compelling as any Easy Rollins mystery or crime novel. In 1920’s Ohio, Chester B. Himes apparently surrounded himself with a rough crowd and wound up robbing a white couple’s home. While in prison, he eventually wrote essays that would be featured in Esquire magazine. Jackson was granted full access to Himes’ work and, much like his subject, Jackson did not pull punches in reconstructing the life and times of the writer, who would go on to influence generations of Black novelists, including Richard Wright.
Electric Arches by Eve L. Ewing
I’ve been telling everyone who asks for books to read about this book, and I’ve been lobbying for it to be included in the National Book Awards since it came out. Sociologist Eve Ewing’s debut poetry collection is unlike anything I’ve ever read and it is at once a love letter to Chicago, little Black girls with dreams, and Blackness itself. This writer is brilliant, and this book is one of the most compelling reads of the year. You need this book on your shelf as soon as possible, especially if you’re a fan of magical realism and a fan of being shown what it looks like to dream of a world without limit.
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
Roxane Gay’s anticipated memoir will make you uncomfortable, and it is supposed to as she details how her life and her body often become sites of discomfort in a society that demand both of them become easier for society to deal with. Gay also deals with a rape that happened to her which affected her for decades, and lends the world her powerful and beautiful writing to express how traumatic events never truly leave us or our bodies, they tend to linger like uninvited guests.
Dig through the list, and tell us what you’re most excited to read or have read this year below!