Ranking these books is pretty much impossible so here are my choices in no particular order.
I think it’s fair to say that 2021 has proved a remarkable year for literary releases. And while my favourite books stem from educational, spiritual, and even speculative fiction, all the books have something in common they provided much-needed respite in 2021.
Ranking these books is pretty much impossible so here are my choices in no particular order. In another year of additional uncertainty, books provided comfort, a way to travel without any fear of viruses or vaccinations. And while so many books still sit on my TBR pile I’m proud that I read so many dope-ass books in 2021. Here are my favs…
*Sankofa* is a mythical West African bird that signifies that we must go back to our roots in order to move forward.
This is exactly what happens to Anna Bain. After losing her mother, her marriage and her only daughter growing up and leaving home, she realizes that she is stuck with a life she doesn’t truly love. With that she decides to look back and unpack her past and the father and family she never truly knew, traveling to West Africa in search of herself.
This book is packed with history, family, our capacity to change, and most of all the need to belong. Beautifully written and easy to read.
“Black women’s greatest strength is that we are always more than what everyone says we are, and we’ve never been afraid to put people on notice about it…”
Many thanks to Libro FM and Harper Audio for my ALC of this one. I loved it so much that when it finally hit shelves I ran out and bought a copy.
This book is a gem and combines memoir and feminist cultural analysis seamlessly. Bowen centers her own fat Black queer experience making her writing accessible to people not familiar with Black culture, and more specifically, trap culture.
This book is unlike anything I’ve ever read. Magical realism at its finest. Zoraida Cordova’s fantastically wondrous, dream-like, and imaginative novel follows in the footsteps of the South American magical realism tradition, set in Ecuador and the U.S., it is a multi-generational family drama that overflows with the inexplicable, and the author’s outstanding gifts with her fascinating and stellar characterizations. I loved this book so much and turns out it was exactly what I needed to read.
Through poverty, adolescence, and a fraught relationship with her mother, Ashley C. Ford wishes she could turn to her father for hope and encouragement. There are just a few problems: he’s in prison, and she doesn’t know what he did to end up there. She doesn’t know how to deal with the incessant worries that keep her up at night, or how to handle the changes in her body that draw unwanted attention from men. Somebody’s Daughter explores growing up a poor Black girl in Indiana with a family fragmented by incarceration.
This isn’t only one of the best books I’ve read for in 2021, this is one of the best books I’ve ever read. The book looks at Tyson’s 96 years and a career spanning over 7 decades. I expected to learn about her life and career but there was so much more within these pages. Ms. Tyson gives us so much within these pages. She highlights the resiliency of Black women, by sharing the story and accomplishments of not only her own dreams, but the lives of her mother, and sister, aunts, peers, and friends. I love her stories and how she highlighted the progress in the world and within her life.
BLACK GIRL, CALL HOME is a beautiful poetry collection that tackles a variety of subjects including racism, sexism, mental health, sexuality, rape, music, and cultural icons. It speaks to the author’s own story as a young, queer Black woman in America. Mans voice is distinct and refreshing as she uses a variety of formats to convey her message of strength and cultural criticism.
The only good poem I’ve ever written is you. A daughter is a poem. A daughter is a kind of psalm. You, in the world, responding to me, is a song I made. I cannot make another.
Libertie is a historical fiction set in the late 1800s. Our titular character is named for her dying father’s wish for her to know true freedom. But Libertie, although intelligent, well-spoken, and beautiful will struggle to be released from society’s strongholds. In the book, her mother’s character is loosely based on Susan McKinney Steward, the first black doctor in New York state. Although this bit of history is interesting, Libertie is not focused so much on the mother’s accomplishments but on the relationship between mother and daughter. Throughout the book we are asked to consider what freedom is in all its nuances and to examine the chains that hold us captive.
‘The Love Songs of W.E.B Du Bois’, is so beautifully written and moving. It is like reading something so intimate and special you cannot stop reading although you feel as though you are looking at private words that aren’t meant for you.
The great scholar, W. E. B. Du Bois once wrote about the Problem of race in America, and what he called “Double Consciousness,” a sensitivity that every African American possesses in order to survive. Since childhood, Ailey Pearl Garfield has understood Du Bois’s words all too well. Bearing the names of two formidable Black Americans—the revered choreographer Alvin Ailey and her great grandmother Pearl, the descendant of enslaved Georgians and tenant farmers—Ailey carries Du Bois’s Problem on her shoulders. We follow her journey as a child, teenager, and adult and we learn her history and that of her family. Truly moving. While it was by far the longest book I read in 2021 it was so well worth it.
From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, a gloriously entertaining novel of heists, shakedowns, and rip-offs set in Harlem in the 1960s. Need I say more. Whitehead tells a story like no one else can and transports you to another world.
This story, set in Harlem, begins in 1959 with Ray Carney, a man who owns a furniture and appliance store on 125th Street, the ‘main street’ of Harlem, a street that will also come to be known as Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard years later. But that is twenty-five years in the future as this begins.
It almost doesn’t matter what takes place in the story, this is more of a love letter to this place and this time, an ode to the good and the bad of the time.
I loved this book before I even read it because of course we need more stories of Black love in the world and this collection did not disappoint. I was completely enthralled from the first page to the last. Reading the 12 stories was the kind of immersive experience that one can only hope to experience while reading. The book was written to be read and savoured and I did just that.