Ain’t I a Woman by Bell Hooks explores the impact of racism and sexism on Black women. Not as separate factors but through the lens of intersectionality. The book charts the history of how “sexism operates both independently of and simultaneously with racism to oppress us” (Black women).
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Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody is the story of a young Black woman coming of age in rural Mississippi during the 40’s and 50’s. The book begins with Anne Moody’s early life as the eldest child of sharecroppers on a large plantation. Her father, Daddy, is a womanizer and gambler. While her mother, Mama, struggles to maintain stable committed relationships with her husbands/lovers.
The Book of Negroes (aka Someone Knows My Name) is a great work of historical fiction. The story weaves together the Revolutionary War, the Book of Negroes, migration of Black people to Nova Scotia and Liberia, and the abolitionist movement in London. It’s clear that the author did a lot of research and the historical events provide a rich backdrop for the story.
In some ways Manchild in the Promised Land is a book about a rambunctious boy and his group of friends coming of age in the 1940s-1950s. In a different place and if Claude Brown were a different race, this could have been an innocent and heart-warming story. But, on the gritty streets of Harlem, Claude’s life is rife with violence, crime, and despair from a young age.
Homegoing is a work of historical fiction but it’s a good jumping off point for venturing into the history of the Black diaspora. If you’re a fan of Roots, you’d also enjoy Homegoing. I’d especially recommend the book for young adults and adults who are trying to get into reading. The book and chapters are quite short which makes it very easy to pick up the book, read a chapter, and put it down. It’s not the kind of book that requires a lot of focused time.