“Beasts of No Nation” is a 2015 Netflix film based on Uzodinma Iweala’s 2005 novel about a boy who becomes a child soldier. Set in an unnamed West African country, a violent civil war is being fought between the military and rebel groups. Agu (Abraham Atta) is a small boy from a loving tight-knit family living in a village that is in the path of the approaching armies. When the fighting spreads to his village it is destroyed and his family torn apart, Agu flees in search of safety but instead finds himself drafted to fight in a rebel group under the Commandant (Idris Elba).
Published in 1970, “The Bluest Eye” was Toni Morrison’s debut novel and earned her a Nobel Prize. A deceptively short book that packs quite a punch, the story follows eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove, a Black girl growing up in Lorain, Ohio shortly after the Great Depression. Growing up in a family plagued by generational dysfunction and a community plagued with self-hate, Pecola comes to believe that having blue eyes will make her beautiful in the eyes of others and solve all of her problems.
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead tells the story of Elwood Curtis, a Black young man growing up in Tallahassee during the 1950s and 60s. Elwood is surrounded by the injustice of segregation but inspired by the early Civil Rights Movement. Raised with the love of his strict and religious grandmother, Elwood is a serious hard-working boy who is unable to turn a blind eye to injustice. It sets him apart from the other boys in his neighborhood but puts him in danger when he’s sent to a corrupt reform school.
A profile of the Scottsboro Boys, nine Black teens who were falsely accused and convicted of rape resulting in Supreme Court rulings that set precedence for future civil rights cases.
“Moonlight” is a great study in the facade of machismo and hyper-masculinity. It explores the development and suppression of Black boys’ and men’s identities and sexuality. On a basic level, it’s a coming of age story about a gay Black male. Yet, because it’s about that it’s also about so much more.