If you’ve been around these parts for awhile, you know that I commit to only reading black authors during Black History Month. While this began with a desire to honor and learn from my black brothers and sisters, this particular way of reading with intention has grown into something so much bigger and deeper – really, it’s grown into something that extends far beyond the scope of, well, me.
After all, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “We know and we are changed by the stories we hear, by the accounts we read, by the tales we absorb.”* I am changed when I enter into stories that sometimes make me feel uncomfortable. I am changed when I enter into stories that tell a different side of history. And I am changed when I open my eyes and heart to learn from the voices that I haven’t always chosen to listen to in the first place.
I am changed. I am changed. I am changed.
In a way, this is where the “I” then morphs into the “we,” where reading with intention then extends beyond the individual and morphs into the greater reaches of society. We begin to see life differently, just as we begin to feel and experience and sense a different type of pain. We begin to realize that maybe – just maybe – this story isn’t so much about us as we believed it was for too long a time.
And this is then something that extends far beyond a single month, because when we begin to read with intention, we can’t help but continue to read with intention in the months that follow.
What good is it, dear reader, when we’re only reading (and then learning from and celebrating) voices that look like us and sound like us and believe like us, too?
In that way, I want to share with you the books I’ve already read and am reading so far this month. I’ve still got another five that I’ve yet to start (most of which you can see in the picture above), which only means that I’ll be able to continue reading with intention as soon as March arrives.
She Came to Slay (Erica Armstrong Dunbar): Oh friends, I could not put this biographical account of Black Moses, aka: Harriet Tubman, down. Dunbar does such a great job of making it accessible to her readers, complete with phenomenal graphics and illustrations.
New Kid (Jerry Craft): My boys and I read this graphic novel (which just won the esteemed Newberry Award) together, and even though some of the content went over their heads, they got it. They get it. To have a book that then speaks to some of the issues they’ve already started experiencing as young brown boys, well, this matters.O’s Little Guide to Finding Your Purpose (O, the Oprah Magazine): I wasn’t actually overjoyed with this one, mostly because I thought I was going to bask in the glory of Oprah wisdom …and instead basked in less-than glory of a wide range of contributors.
The Wedding Party (Jasmine Guillory): If you’re looking for a fun, “beachy” read, you’ve got to give Guillory a try. Personally, it was really fun living in the exact place where a fictional story takes place.
Wade in the Water (Tracy K. Smith): I am such a fan of this former Poet Laureate and loved her memoir, Ordinary Light. At the recommendation of Black Coffee with White Friends, this is my first foray into her poetry …and it’s not disappointing me.
The People Could Fly (Virginia Hamilton): This is another one I’ve been reading with the boys, and it’s been rather magical to watch them curl up with a blanket and imagine the folktales in their minds. Bonus: It’s equally magical for them to then see themselves in the occasional illustrations.
Homegoing (Yaa Gyasi): I’ve had this on my list for awhile and am slowly chewing through it now, mostly because I find that I can’t read it any faster. I’ll be super curious to see how it all comes together in the end.
Healing Racial Trauma (Sheila Wise Rowe): Psychotherapist Sheila Wise Rowe knows racial trauma intimately, and getting to partake of her wisdom – even if I’m not the intended first audience – has truly been a gift.
The Water Dancer (Ta-Nehisi Coates): I mean, does Coates ever disappoint? While I’m enjoying listening to it on Audible, because his words are so poetic, I wonder if it’d be even more powerful in print.
So, there you have it: this is a list of the books that have changed me over the last twenty days. I’m always looking for books to read, so drop me a line and tell me what you’re reading that I should add to my list!
Question: How has reading with intention changed you over the course of time? Also, what have you read lately that’s brought change to your life?
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