In honour of Black history month, Team Turnaround have compiled a list of our current favourite books by people of colour. From poignant speeches to rousing satire to touching novels, we’ve got you covered!
New People by Danzy Senna (Riverhead, 9780735219410)
As the 20th century draws to a close, Maria is at the start of a life she never thought possible. She and Khalil are planning their wedding. They are the perfect couple, living together in a black bohemian enclave in Brooklyn. They’ve even landed a starring role in a documentary about ‘new people’ like them, who are blurring boundaries as a new era dawns. Everything Maria knows she should want lies before her – yet she can’t stop daydreaming about another man. As fantasy escalates to fixation, it dredges up secrets from the past and threatens to unravel Maria’s life…
Read our write-up of New People here!
Since I Laid My Burden Down by Brontez Burnell (Feminist Press, 9781558614314)
DeShawn lives a high, creative, and promiscuous life in San Francisco. But when he’s called back to his cramped Alabama hometown for his uncle’s funeral, he’s hit by flashbacks of handsome, doomed neighbours and sweltering Sunday services. Amidst prickly reminders of his childhood, DeShawn ponders family, church, and the men in his life, prompting the question: Who deserves love?
A raw, funny, and uninhibited stumble down memory lane, Brontez Purnell’s debut novel explores how one man’s early sexual and artistic escapades grow into a life.
“Since I Laid My Burden Down has a fearless (sometimes reckless) humor as Brontez Purnell interrogates what it means to be black, male, queer; a son, an uncle, a lover; Southern, punk, and human. An emotional tightrope walk of a book and an important American story rarely, if ever, told.”
– Michelle Tea, author of Black Wave
You Can’t Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson (Plume, 9780143129202)
Phoebe Robinson is a stand-up comic, which means that, often, her everyday experiences become points of comedic fodder. And as a black woman in America, she maintains, sometimes you need to have a sense of humour to deal with the absurdity you are handed on the daily. Robinson has experienced her fair share over the years: she’s been unceremoniously relegated to the role of ‘the black friend,’ as if she is somehow the authority on all things racial; she’s been questioned about her love of U2 and Billy Joel (‘isn’t that… white people music?’); she’s been called ‘uppity’ for having an opinion in the workplace; she’s been followed around stores by security guards; and yes, people do ask her whether they can touch her hair all. the. time. Now, she’s ready to take these topics to the page and she’s going to make you laugh as she’s doing it.
The Mothers by Brit Bennett (Riverhead, 9780399184529)
It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance – and the subsequent cover-up – will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth.
In entrancing, lyrical prose, The Mothers asks whether a ‘what if’ can be more powerful than an experience itself. If, as time passes, we must always live in servitude to the decisions of our younger selves, to the communities that have parented us, and to the decisions we make that shape our lives forever.
Read our write up of The Mothers here!
Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Text, 9781925240702)
In the 150 years since the end of the Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment (the abolition of slavery), the story of race and America has remained a brutally simple one, written on flesh: it is the story of the black body, exploited to create the country’s foundational wealth, violently segregated to unite a nation after a civil war and, today, still disproportionately threatened, locked up and killed in the streets. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can America reckon with its fraught racial history?
An attempt to answer questions about race in America, in the form of a letter to the author’s 14-year-old son.
Frederick Douglass in Brooklyn edited by Theodore Hamm (Akashic, 9781617754852)
This volume compiles original source material that illustrates the relationship between the abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, and Brooklyn. The volume provides a healthy sampling of clippings from newspapers, including the New York Tribune, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and the Brooklyn Daily Times, which published Walt Whitman’s account of Douglass’s 1859 speech in Williamsburg. An introductory essay examines the intricate ties between Douglass and Brooklyn abolitionists, while brief chapter introductions and annotations fill in the historical blanks.
Farewell Speeches by Barack and Michelle Obama (Melville House, 9781612196886)
President Barack Obama went back to his adopted hometown of Chicago to give his farewell speech, addressing a massive, cheering crowd and becoming emotional when discussing his family, and the need to press ahead on the goals he was unable to achieve.
Michelle Obama took the occasion of her final speech as First Lady – a White House ceremony honouring a group of public school guidance counsellors – to give an emotional farewell, thanking her supporters and those of her husband and addressing the accomplishments she was proudest of, the ones she hoped would last.
“My fellow citizens, it has been the honour of my life to serve you. I won’t stop.” – President Barack Obama
The Castle Cross The Magnet Carter by Kia Corthron (Seven Stories, 9781609806576)
The Castle Cross The Magnet Carter sweeps American history from 1941 to the twenty-first century through the lives of four men – two white brothers from rural Alabama and two black brothers from small-town Maryland – whose journey culminates in an explosive and devastating encounter between the two families.
The hotly anticipated first novel by The Wire writer Kia Corthorn. Sharing a cultural and literary heritage with the work of Toni Morrison, The Castle Cross The Magnet Carter is a monumental epic deftly bridging the political and the poetic.
Passage by Khary Lazarre-White (Seven Stories, 9781609807832)
Warrior is surrounded by deep family love and a sustaining connection to his history, bonds that arm him as he confronts the urban forces that surround him – both supernatural and human – including some that seek his very destruction. Warrior isn’t even safe in his own mind. He’s haunted by the spirits of ancestors and of the demons of the system of oppression. Every memory in the novel is the memory of thousands of black families. Every conversation is a message both to those still in their youth and those who left their youth behind long ago. Passage is a novel for then and now.
To Love and Betray by Shelly Ellis (Dafina, 9781496708816)
Evan, Terrence and Paulette Murdoch try to protect their family from the personal demons they are battling. Will the help of savvy family matriarch, Ella, be enough to keep things in balance? With their vengeful half-brother, Dante Turner, closing in on the family he despises, the Marvellous Murdochs could pay a price that could finish them once and for all…
If you have already read any of these books, drop us a comment – we’d love to know your thoughts. Happy reading!
Post by Clare