As we mark the anniversary of Juneteenth, it provides an opportunity to reflect on how far we have come and how far we still need to go in terms of true freedom and equality for all. But more than just thinking about big-picture topics, this is a moment where individual acts can make a difference–specifically, in the form of reading books that explore various aspects of Black life, history, culture, and experiences.
So join us as we look into some must-read books honoring this important annual holiday. Whether you’re new to reading nonfiction or an experienced reader looking to expand your literary horizon, there’s something for everyone on our list. ❤️💚💛
Black Candle Women by Diane Marie Brown
A warm and wry family drama with a magical twist about four generations of Black women, a family love curse, and the secrets they keep for and from each other over one very complicated year
Generations of Montrose women—Augusta, Victoria, Willow—have always lived together in their quaint California bungalow. They keep to themselves, never venture far from home, and their collection of tinctures and spells is an unspoken bond between them. But when young Nickie Montrose brings home a boy for the first time, their quiet lives are thrown into disarray.
For the family has withheld a crucial secret from Nickie all these years: any person a Montrose woman falls in love with will die. Their surprise guest forces each woman to reckon with her own past choices and mistakes. And as new truths about the curse emerge, they’re set on a collision course dating back to 1950s New Orleans’s French Quarter—where a hidden story in a mysterious book may just hold the answers they seek in life and in love…
The Two Lives of Sara by Catherine Adel West
In 1960s Memphis, a young mother finds refuge in a boardinghouse where family encompasses more than just blood and hidden truths can bury you or set you free.
Sara King has nothing, save for her secrets and the baby in her belly, as she boards the bus to Memphis, hoping to outrun her past in Chicago. She is welcomed with open arms by Mama Sugar, a kindly matriarch and owner of the popular boardinghouse The Scarlet Poplar.
Like many cities in early 1960s America, Memphis is still segregated, but change is in the air. News spreads of the Freedom Riders. Across the country, people like Martin Luther King Jr. are leading the fight for equal rights. Black literature and music provide the stories and soundtrack for these turbulent and hopeful times, and Sara finds herself drawn in by conversations of education, politics and a brighter tomorrow with Jonas, a local schoolteacher. Romance blooms between them, but secrets from Mama Sugar’s past threaten their newfound happiness and lead Sara to make decisions that will reshape the rest of their lives.
One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite
A shockingly powerful exploration of the lasting impact of prejudice and the indomitable spirit of sisterhood that will have readers questioning what it truly means to be an ally, from sister-writer duo Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite, authors of Dear Haiti, Love Alaine.
ISN’T BEING HUMAN ENOUGH?
When teen social activist and history buff Kezi Smith is killed under mysterious circumstances after attending a social justice rally, her devastated sister Happi and their family are left reeling in the aftermath. As Kezi becomes another immortalized victim in the fight against police brutality, Happi begins to question the idealized way her sister is remembered. Perfect. Angelic.
One of the good ones.
Even as the phrase rings wrong in her mind—why are only certain people deemed worthy to be missed?—Happi and her sister Genny embark on a journey to honor Kezi in their own way, using an heirloom copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book as their guide. But there’s a twist to Kezi’s story that no one could’ve ever expected—one that will change everything all over again.
Black on Black by Daniel Black
A piercing collection of essays on racial tension in America and the ongoing fight for visibility, change, and lasting hope
“There are stories that must be told.”
Acclaimed novelist and scholar Daniel Black has spent a career writing into the unspoken, fleshing out, through storytelling, pain that can’t be described.
Now, in his debut essay collection, Black gives voice to the experiences of those who often find themselves on the margins. Tackling topics ranging from police brutality to the AIDS crisis to the role of HBCUs to queer representation in the black church, Black on Black celebrates the resilience, fortitude, and survival of black people in a land where their body is always on display.
As Daniel Black reminds us, while hope may be slow in coming, it always arrives, and when it does, it delivers beyond the imagination. Propulsive, intimate, and achingly relevant, Black on Black is cultural criticism at its openhearted best.
Kneel by Candace Buford
This fearless debut novel explores racism, injustice, and self-expression through the story of a promising Black football star in Louisiana.
The system is rigged.
For guys like Russell Boudreaux, football is the only way out of their small town. As the team’s varsity tight end, Rus has a singular goal: to get a scholarship and play on the national stage. But when his best friend is unfairly arrested and kicked off the team, Rus faces an impossible choice: speak up or live in fear.
“Please rise for the national anthem.”
Desperate for change, Rus kneels during the national anthem. In one instant, he falls from local stardom and becomes a target for hatred. But he’s not alone. With the help of his best friend and an unlikely ally, Rus will fight for his dreams, and for justice.
Alabama v. King by Dan Abrams and Fred D. Gray
The defense lawyer for Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, the Selma marchers and other civil rights heroes reveals the true story of the historic trial that made Dr. King a national hero.
Fred D. Gray was one of only two Black lawyers in Montgomery, Alabama, when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus. The ensuing Montgomery bus boycott led Gray to become Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s defense lawyer and later, chief counsel for the protest movement. This trial—with eighty-nine indictments for violating the state’s anti-boycott statute—was not going to be just any trial. It would be an attempt to launch a movement in a city fighting to preserve segregation.
With Gray’s memories of the extraordinary events, as well as the transcribed words of King’s vivid courtroom testimony, this book transports readers to the trial that sparked the Civil Rights Movement and introduced Martin Luther King Jr. to the world.
The Love You Save by Goldie Taylor
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings meets Educated in this harrowing, deeply hopeful memoir of family, faith and the power of books—from acclaimed journalist and human rights activist Goldie Taylor
Aunt Gerald takes in anyone who asks, but the conditions are harsh. For her young niece Goldie Taylor, abandoned by her mother and coping with trauma of her own, life in Gerald’s East St. Louis comes with nothing but a threadbare blanket on the living room floor.
But amid the pain and anguish, Goldie discovers a secret. She can find kinship among writers like James Baldwin and Toni Morrison. She can find hope in a nurturing teacher who helps her find her voice. And books, she realizes, can save her life.
Goldie Taylor’s debut memoir shines a light on the strictures of race, class and gender in a post–Jim Crow America while offering a nuanced, empathetic portrait of a family in a pitched battle for its very soul.
You Truly Assumed by Leila Sabreen
In this compelling and thought-provoking debut novel, after a terrorist attack rocks the country and anti-Islamic sentiment stirs, three Black Muslim girls create a space where they can shatter assumptions and share truths.
Sabriya has her whole summer planned out in color-coded glory, but those plans go out the window after a terrorist attack near her home. When the terrorist is assumed to be Muslim and Islamophobia grows, Sabriya turns to her online journal for comfort. You Truly Assumed was never meant to be anything more than an outlet, but the blog goes viral as fellow Muslim teens around the country flock to it and find solace and a sense of community.
Soon two more teens, Zakat and Farah, join Bri to run You Truly Assumed and the three quickly form a strong friendship. But as the blog’s popularity grows, so do the pushback and hateful comments. When one of them is threatened, the search to find out who is behind it all begins, and their friendship is put to the test when all three must decide whether to shut down the blog and lose what they’ve worked for…or take a stand and risk everything to make their voices heard.