I am preaching to myself when I say black is beautiful—that black is brilliant and bold, and that books written by black men and black women matter.
In May, after reading Playing in the Dark by Toni Morrison, I realized how much of what she writes about—the white gaze—is exactly what formed and reinforced my own literary collection. As I surveyed my shelves full of poetry and plays; nonfiction and fiction; Christian and non-Christian, I realized the bindings on all my books, save one, were bare of titles by black men and women. To look at my stacks would be to conclude the superiority of Shakespeare, Didion as the dream, and Voskamp as a voice esteemed with highest value.
Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie describes reading Chinua Achebe and Camara Laye and experiencing a transformation in which she went from writing stories about “white girls with blue eyes to writing about girls with skin the color of chocolate, whose kinky hair could not form ponytails.” I, too, found myself thick in the midst of transformation, ordering Listening for God by Renita J. Weems and In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens by Alice Walker, and saving to my to-be-bought wish list The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates , Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim, and Native by Kaitlin B. Curtice, just to name a few.
When books like How To Be An Antiracist and So You Want To Talk About Race recently rose to the top of The New York Times Best Seller List as a consequence of riots and protests in many cities, part of me celebrated the amplification and elevation of important and informed black voices. Yet, black men and women offer immeasurably more than stories of suffering and struggle, more than ...1
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