3 Lessons I Learned In My First Year of Reading Only Black Authors
Happy New Year
As the days moved closer and closer to 2017, we all expressed a sigh of relief. "Please let 2017 be better." 2016 seemed long and turbulent for so many. I've finished my #yearofblackbooks, the question is what do I do now? Where do I go from here? What will I do to improve upon my experiences? I've been thinking about this since June and over the last six months, I've talked to a lot of different people. As Shonda Rhimes concluded with her Year of Yes, why stop when it's made a positive impact in your life?
Black & Bookish will continue to be a place for black writers to shine, because I fell in love with this site and this process. I also fell in love with reading again. Here are the 21 books by black authors I read in 2016 that changed the way I look at reading, writing, and how we educate those around us:
I bought and profiled more books than I could read and those books will be featured in 2017. Besides a lot more reading material and less shelf space, here are three things I learned on this year long journey:
I was terrified over nationwide police violence and overwhelmed with what I could do for black libration. So much news coverage was dedicated to black people dying by the hands of cops, mistreatment by the medical industry, and the larger wage gap between black and non-black workers. This fear turned into anxiety and I essentially locked myself in my home for most of the summer. More than one person dismissed my thoughts as irrational, overzealous, and unjustified.
I could see the evidence with my own eyes, and eventually I was able to provide that evidence for someone else. That's when I knew I was on the right path and that my efforts was working. What started as a small protest to educate myself turned into Black & Bookish, an outlet for me to create reviews and celebrate a part of me that seems foreign to those around me. I started to get support from people I would meet at events and through comments on the blog. The isolation I felt started to melt away and I could focus on more outreach efforts as the year went on.
It gave me Clarity
I came to hate bookstores because I couldn't find what I was looking for, stories of the people who looked like me. I assumed black books are books with a different skin, like me. And in a way, it is. And not. While some of my friends wanted to tell me I was becoming obsessed with blackness and oppression, this process gave me the language to speak to my feelings. I became closer with my husband and children because I could finally express the nuance of my life. I discovered authors I had never heard of and changed my reading habits. I met with writers looking for an outlet to continue creating and learned some of the most upsetting statistics about publishing and people of color.
The places described in these books felt more like home than my apartment. Books filled with black souls felt more real than the Los Angeles street lived on. I made friends though these reading lists and see the value it brought to my life. I want my kids to know these characters and love them the way I do. Reading for fun became equal to reading for knowledge and I started to feel whole again.
I Found Humanity
I'm not any better at defining "blackness" than when I started, but I'm much better at showing you what I knew was there all along. I'm coming to see that we don't have fundamental differences so much as we live fundamentally different realities. As my year progressed, reading black authors and writing these reviews became one aspect of this larger movement. Some of us are holding back the violence, some of us are feeding the children, and some of us are spreading our history and knowledge so those coming up behind us know what we're all fighting for.
I finally could see the nuance of living with the shared history of black and brown ancestors, and what that means for so many of us now. What it means to be a black mother or sister, or a mixed daughter or son. Many of us are looking to something bigger than ourselves and Black & Bookish provided that community for me.
Unexpected changes uprooted my life at the end of 2016 and I hope I'm ready to take on this new role. I decided to take all I've learned from my first year of black books and grow this movement exponentially. I'm now in the business of black books, authors of the color, and spreading the good news. I hope that you join my community and find it's also a celebration of you.
Of your blackness, of your lives, and of your hearts.