*Friday’s Five Books is a bi-weekly post on Between the Covers that highlights book recommendations from the reading community.
Who is @Anti_Intellect? He’s Black. He’s gay. He’s an atheist. He’s a feminist. And he is deeply committed to educating for critical consciousness. He is a graduate of Florida A&M University, and may be best known on Twitter as the guy who floods timelines with quotes by Toni Morrison and bell hooks. In his real life he is a professional educator, but he also makes sure to share his love of learning with people on social media who may not otherwise come into contact with the work of visionary intellectuals. His journey to feminism and atheism has been illuminated by the works of Black woman writers, and he intends to share their vision with as many people as possible. @Anti_Intellect can be reached on Twitter or his blog http://antiintellect.wordpress.com.
I jumped at the opportunity to recommend books that have been integral to me developing my critical voice, and the books that I will be recommending below have all challenged me to imagine new possibilities. It is because of these books that I am deeply committed to moving us all towards greater love and greater understanding.
Jonah’s Gourd Vine — Initially I wanted to put Their Eyes Were Watching God on the list, but I see that someone already recommended it, and it is the more popular of the novels written by Hurston. Jonah’s Gourd Vine sort of leapt out to me one day when I was browsing through my university’s book store. I really didn’t know what to expect from the book, but I trusted Hurston, and I was rewarded greatly for daring to go inside her imagination. The novel is set in Florida, and follows the life of John Pearson. All of Hurston’s gifts for language are present in this book, and what makes the book so rewarding is the insight that she offers on race, gender, and religion in the Black community. The book turns many traditional narratives on the head, and challenges us to truly think about the diversity of the Black community. What happens when voodoo meets organized religion? What happens when hypocrisy comes home to rest in the Black community? How can one be of faith, and of the world? These are all questions beautifully posed by Zora Neale Hurston in this beautifully written novel.
The Bluest Eye — I regard this book the way many people regard The Bible. This is the most important book that I have ever read, and words cannot express how much it means to me, and how much it has shaped my critical voice. Toni Morrison blasts through race, gender, class, and sexual violence in her first novel about a Black girl who becomes a casualty of a White Supremacist culture, one where both White and Black are complicit in its maintenance. I truly do not know where my life would be if I had never met Pecola Breedlove, and if I had never rescued the Pecola Breedlove in myself. Anyone can identify with this book, but it will hold a special place in the hearts and minds of those who are marginalized by society. The characters in this novel are truly memorable, and I don’t think anyone has ever written prostitutes in a more honest light. What does it mean to lose ourselves in the process of becoming what the dominant society considers normal? This is the question that Toni Morrison asks readers to grapple with as they enter into the world that has driven one of the most vulnerable amongst, mad.
The Will to Change — It is important for us to recognize oppression as not only individual acts, but as a social and political system as well. bell hooks commands readers to name and recognize patriarchy, the social and political system of male dominance that poisons all of our lives. This is a book that challenges us to resist sexism and sexist domination, and it makes a great case for doing just that. Throughout the book bell hooks illustrates the way that patriarchy infects all of our lives, and spares none. It is important that we understand the way patriarchy informs the way we look at sex, parenting, work, family, and almost everything else in our lives. In a time when race is no longer taken for granted, many people still take gender for granted, but this book will certainly put an end to that. I doubt that anyone will walk away from this book taking gender for granted.
Letters to a Young Poet — Fans of the film Sister Act II will remember this title as the book Sister Mary gives to young Rita. The title of the book always resonated with me as a young boy, but it wouldn’t be until my 20’s that I actually gave the book a read. The book is comprised of letters that Rainer Maria Rilke wrote to a young poet. This is an excellent book for anyone with a creative mind, and a vivid imagination. This book is filled with page after page of wisdom to those who create, and one can really feel the warmth of Rainer Maria Rilke emanating from the pages. While the book is directed towards young poets, I strongly recommend it for anyone that works in a creative nature.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince — J. K. Rowling is one of my favorite contemporary writers, and I think her work doesn’t get enough credit for being the groundbreaking project that it is. Here is a series that extends over seven books, and gets progressively better with each title. Half-Blood Prince is the 6th book in the series, and it remains my favorite. This book takes us into the antagonist’s past like none of the books before it, and it is a truly beautiful journey.
Thank you so much for contributing to Friday’s Five Books and giving us these great recommendations, @Anti-Intellect.
**If you choose to purchase any of these titles using the links below, I will receive a small percentage of the sale (to be used toward site maintenance and buying more books).