Hunger (Roxane Gay)

"I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.”

"I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.”

U.S.A. / 2017

I know I say I want to read a lot of different books, but I'm being 100% sincere when I say I really, really want to read Roxane Gay's memoir. I just need to gather my coins right quick. Maybe I should get a library card? But that could be dangerous, too...

I Write What I Like: Selected Writings (Steve Biko)

"My premise has always been that black people should not at any one stage be surprised at some of the atrocities committed by the government."

"My premise has always been that black people should not at any one stage be surprised at some of the atrocities committed by the government."

South Africa / 1971

When it comes to revolutionary icons, I think Steve Biko just might be my favorite. This quote comes from Biko's essay: "Fear—An Important Determinant in South African Politics." This essay is featured in the Summer 2017 issue of Lapham's Quarterly

The Star Side of Bird Hill (Naomi Jackson)

"Learn to see past the face people show you."

"Learn to see past the face people show you."

U.S.A. / 2015

"Two sisters, age 10 and 16, are exiled from Brooklyn to Bird Hill in Barbados after their mother can no longer care for them. The young Phaedra and her older sister Dionne live for the summer of 1989 with their grandmother, Hyacinth. Dionne spends the summer in search of love, testing her grandmother’s limits, and wanting to go home. Phaedra explores Bird Hill, where her family has lived for generations, accompanies her grandmother in her role as a midwife, and investigates their mother’s mysterious life..." — Bio via the author's website. I learned that Naomi Jackson also did the Fulbright in South Africa, like me! She also got her M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town, very unlike me.

Counting Descent (Clint Smith)

"they call me blue because they don’t understand how the sky work they call you black because they don’t understand how god work"

"they call me blue because
they don’t understand how the sky work
they call you black because
they don’t understand how god work"

U.S.A. / 2016

"Clint Smith is a writer, teacher, and Ph.D. Candidate at Harvard University. He is a 2014 National Poetry Slam champion, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, a Cave Canem Fellow, and his writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Guardian, the New Republic, and American Poetry Review." —Bio via the author's website. This poem, "what the ocean said to the black boy," comes from Smith's debut poetry collection, Counting Descent.

"The African who Awakens and Sings" ( Luz Argentina Chiriboga)

"The African who awakens and sings is the one that inhabits my body is the one that runs through mestiza America loading coconuts, seeds and times we have broken the imposed boundaries"

"The African who awakens and sings
is the one that inhabits my body
is the one that runs through mestiza America
loading coconuts, seeds and times
we have broken the imposed boundaries"

Ecuador / ?

Luz Argentina Chiriboga is one of the first Afro-Ecuadorian writers to recognize and discuss the intersections between African and Hispanic cultures. Pictured is her 2009 novel, En la Noche del Viernes (On Friday Night).

Bastards of the Reagan Era (Reginald Dwayne Betts)

U.S.A. / 2015

Photograph via Gesi Schilling, Poetry Foundation "& still, I want to stop & embrace my brother, to hold him close & pause to inhale the scent of prison, to tell him what I smell, what I inhale, is still the body of a man.& still, I want to stop & embrace my brother, to hold him close & pause to inhale the scent of prison, to tell him what I smell, what I inhale, is still the body of a man." — "What We Know Of Horses" 

Photograph via Gesi Schilling, Poetry Foundation

"& still, I want to stop & embrace
my brother, to hold him close
& pause to inhale the scent of prison,
to tell him what I smell, what I inhale,
is still the body of a man.& still, I want to stop & embrace
my brother, to hold him close
& pause to inhale the scent of prison,
to tell him what I smell, what I inhale,
is still the body of a man." — "
What We Know Of Horses" 

I love Reginald Dwayne Betts' poetry. I've previously featured his beautiful and devastating poem, "When I Think of Tamir Rice While Driving." I didn't know much about Betts as a poet, but I just came across a stunning profile of him on NPR. What a life this man has lived. At 16, he was charged as an adult and sent to prison for eight years for a carjacking. He even spent a whole year in solitary confinement. While in prison, he used books to escape and grew into a poet. He was released in 2005, and is currently studying at Yale Law School. He's a fabulous poet, and people are really enjoying this collection, which was nominated for the PEN/Open Book Award. Publisher's Weekly called it "a devastatingly beautiful collection that calls out to young black men lost to the pitfalls of urban America." Betts says Bastards of the Reagan Era was inspired by "This notion that whole sort of generation of young people were bastards of an era, of the Reagan era. I think about my own life, I think about the life of people that's close to me, and I just recognize that we were ... we were just lost — lost in time, we were lost in space, and we were struggling to find, I think, a sense of who we were."

Blackass (A. Igoni Barrett)

"It was easier to be than to become."

"It was easier to be than to become."

Nigeria / 2015

"Furo Wariboko, a young Nigerian, awakes the morning before a job interview to find that he’s been transformed into a white man. In this condition he plunges into the bustle of Lagos to make his fortune. With his red hair, green eyes, and pale skin, it seems he’s been completely changed. Well, almost. There is the matter of his family, his accent, his name. Oh, and his black ass. Furo must quickly learn to navigate a world made unfamiliar, and deal with those who would use him for their own purposes. Taken in by a young woman called Syreeta and pursued by a writer named Igoni, Furo lands his first-ever job, adopts a new name, and soon finds himself evolving in unanticipated ways."— Graywolf Press

Love Is Power, or Something Like That (A. Igoni Barrett)

"Love means you make me happy until you don’t."

"Love means you make me happy until you don’t."

Nigeria / 2013

This collection of nine short stories explores the inner-lives of contemporary Nigerians who grapple with desire, conflict, love, and power. A. Igoni Barrett is the author of Blackass, a novel about a Nigerian man who turns white, which I read back in April. The story itself didn't enthrall me as much as I had anticipated, but I was very impressed by the writing on a technical level. I've heard that Barrett's strongest writing is actually found in his short stories. So, I really want to check out this collection.