Black History Month 2012: Reading Recommendations

Posted February 1, 2012 by in Miscellaneous / 4 Comments

February is Black History Month (or African American History Month) in the United States and Canada. This is the month in which we highlight and celebrate the contributions made to our society by African Americans throughout history. It is a month for paying tribute to the generations of black people who fought so hard against slavery, racism, segregation, and other adversities in order to gain their independence and to be lawfully treated as full citizens in this country. I don’t limit my reading of authors of color to any particular month, but I wanted to write a post about what I’m reading this month in honor of this celebration, as well as provide some recommendations for further reading.

I’m reading:

The Color PurpleThe Color Purple, by Alice Walker

This is a re-read for me, and I’m reading it for our #TuesBookTalk discussion that takes place on Twitter and Goodreads. Published in 1982, The Color Purple takes place in the 1930s in the south and tells the story of Celie–a poor, uneducated black woman–through letters that she writes over 20 years of her life. The book addresses the lives of black women in the south during that time, showing the numerous issues they had to face and how they dealt with their low position in American society. The Color Purple won both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction in 1983.

Ninth WardNinth Ward, by Jewell Parker Rhodes

I’m reading this book for the 2012 National African American Read-In sponsored by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers. The reading and discussion of this particular book is being hosted by Vasilly of 1330v, Doret of The Happy Nappy Bookseller, and Edi of Crazy QuiltEdi. Here’s a description of the story from Goodreads:

Twelve-year-old Lanesha lives in a tight-knit community in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. She doesn’t have a fancy house like her uptown family or lots of friends like the other kids on her street. But what she does have is Mama Ya-Ya, her fiercely loving caretaker, wise in the ways of the world and able to predict the future. So when Mama Ya-Ya’s visions show a powerful hurricane—Katrina—fast approaching, it’s up to Lanesha to call upon the hope and strength Mama Ya-Ya has given her to help them both survive the storm.

Ninth Ward is a deeply emotional story about transformation and a celebration of resilience, friendship, and family—as only love can define it.

HomeHome, by Toni Morrison

This is Toni Morrison’s new book, and while it doesn’t come out until May, I was lucky enough to receive an electronic galley from the publisher. Toni Morrison has long been one of my favorite authors, and I’m so excited to be able to read this book early and review it here on Between the Covers. This is the synopsis of the book from the Random House, Inc. website:

An angry and self-loathing veteran of the Korean War, Frank Money finds himself back in racist America after enduring trauma on the front lines that left him with more than just physical scars. His home—and himself in it—may no longer be as he remembers it, but Frank is shocked out of his crippling apathy by the need to rescue his medically abused younger sister and take her back to the small Georgia town they come from, which he’s hated all his life. As Frank revisits the memories from childhood and the war that leave him questioning his sense of self, he discovers a profound courage he thought he could never possess again. A deeply moving novel about an apparently defeated man finding his manhood—and his home.

I cannot wait to dive into this one.

The following are books that I have read and highly recommend for further reading in celebration of Black History Month (clicking on a highlighted title will take you to my review of that book):

  • Autobiography of Malcolm X — Malcolm X, Alex Haley
  • The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Black Boy and Native Son — Richard Wright
  • Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance — Barack Obama
  • The Huey P. Newton Reader — Huey P. Newton
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (and the rest of the series) — Maya Angelou
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks — Rebecca Skloot
  • Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl — Harriet Jacobs
  • Invisible Man — Ralph Ellison
  • Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention — Manning Marable
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass — Frederick Douglass
  • Right to Ride: Streetcar Boycotts and African American Citizenship in the Era of Plessy v. Ferguson — Blair L. M. Kelley
  • Roots — Alex Haley
  • Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America — Melissa Harris-Perry
  • A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom — David W. Blight
  • Song of Solomon — Toni Morrison (or any of her books, honestly)
  • The Souls of Black Folk — W.E.B. DuBois
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God — Zora Neale Hurston
  • The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration — Isabel Wilkerson
  • Worse Than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice — David M. Oshinsky

The list of books I could recommend is nearly inexhaustible, but the books listed above are those that I’ve read over the past few years or those that came to mind easily. I enjoyed every one of them and I highly recommend them.

What books would you recommend reading for Black History Month?


  • OMG, Heather! I can’t wait to read your thoughts on the new Toni Morrison book! Thanks for spreading the word about the read-in!

    • You’re welcome! I can’t wait to post my review of Home–it was so good.

  • sue

    Thank you for reviewing Ninth Ward, as finding books on the subject for older children proved a little difficult, I also found Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice on The book review.

    • Thanks for the tip! That looks like a good book.