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Ten must-reads for Black History Month

by | Feb 9, 2021 | Blogs, Corporate, Diversity and Inclusion

Black History Month is an opportunity to celebrate and honor the contributions made by the Black community. Over the years, many books have been written that explore unknown stories and marvels of black heritage.

Our colleagues from the U.S. and Canada curated a list of top ten books that speak to Black history in North America that we recommend adding to your reading list:  

1. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (2020)

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of the Vignes family, from the Deep South to California, from the ‘50s to the ‘90s, this is a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing as white.

2. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (2019)

A page-turning and big-hearted story about race and privilege, set around a young Black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both.

3. How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi (2019)

An electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science with Kendi’s own personal story of awakening to antiracism. This is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond the awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a just and equitable society.

4. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2016) 

Cora is a young African American woman who journeys to freedom from the antebellum South on a fantastically imagined physical—rather than metaphorical—railroad. Told in episodes, the places and people Cora encounters provide her and the reader with profound revelations of the impact of enslavement.

5. The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1953)

The book’s nameless narrator describes growing up in a Black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of “the Brotherhood”, before retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be.  

6. The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole (2020)

A bracing, provocative, and perspective-shifting book on racism and anti-Black racism from one of Canada’s most celebrated and uncompromising writers. The Skin We’re In will spark a national conversation, influence policy, and inspire activists.

7. Policing Black Lives by Robyn Maynard (2017)

Delving behind Canada’s veneer of multiculturalism and tolerance, Policing Black Lives traces the violent realities of anti-Blackness from the slave ships to prisons, classrooms and beyond.

8. Angry Queer Somali Boy: A Complicated Memoir by Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali (2019)

Kidnapped by his father on the eve of Somalia’s societal implosion, Mohamed Ali was taken first to the Netherlands by his stepmother, and then later to Canada. Unmoored from his birth family and caught between twin alienating forces of Somali tradition and Western culture, Mohamed must forge his own queer coming of age.

9. Any Known Blood by Lawrence Hill (1997)

Rich in historical detail and gracefully flowing from the slave trade of nineteenth-century Virginia to the present, Any Known Blood gives life to a story never before told, a story of five generations of a Black Canadian family whose tragedies and victories merge with the American experience

10. In the Black: My Life by B. Denham Jolly (2017)

The founder of FLOW 93.5FM, Toronto’s first Black-owned radio station, Jolly chronicles not only his own journey; he tells the story of a generation of activists who worked to reshape the country into a more open and just society. While celebrating these successes, In the Black also measures the distance Canada still has to travel before we reach our stated ideals of equality.