A couple of years ago, I decided to turn my attention to the voices of women of color. Here are some of the awesome books I’ve read. There’s a mix of fiction and non-fiction. It’s actually a challenge to find the books that I want to read. The publishing industry frequently wants only to hear women of color speaking about and through oppression. I don’t want to hear that. Sure, our lives come with conflict, as is only human, but I am bored beyond belief of centering oppression, and thus obscuring the richness of the lives, thoughts and ideas of women from around the globe.
Subject matter among these books varies. Some are breezy beach reads. Others are delightful autobiographies, one is a brilliant call-to-action by Stacey Abrams. Gathering insights and thoughts from women of color has been an absolute delight for me lately, so I thought I’d share some of the titles for anyone who’s looking for fresh perspectives.
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
A fantastic look at the Great Migration of African Americans from the Jim Crow south to the north and west of the U.S. The historical, economic, social, political and cultural significance of the great migration is illustrated through the stories of 3 individuals having fled during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. The Great Migration is as compelling a movement as any, and particularly significant given the current political discussion regarding migration and immigration. We are all the children of refugees. For non-southern African Americans, this really puts our histories into broader context, aligning our stories with those of so many from around the globe who leave everything they’ve ever known in search of something greater for themselves and their families.
Sign My Name to Freedom by Betty Reid Soskin
Betty Reid Soskin is the oldest park ranger in the United States National Park Service. Well into her nineties, this woman has lived many lives. Her story is incredible, touching, powerful and inspirational. It is a tale of a woman finding herself over, and over, and over again. Life can last a long time, with many chapters. Hers are simply amazing.
Becoming Maria by Sonia Manzano
Best known as Maria from Sesame Street, Sonia Manzano was a staple in so many of our childhoods. This is the fascinating tale of her life growing up in the South Bronx and finding her way to Sesame Street.
The Vegetarian by Han Kang
This one is a beautiful novel about a young woman in Korea who takes control of her life the only way she knows how, by becoming vegetarian. This book is a lovely take on the ripple effects of a single woman’s attempt to regain power and agency for herself. I highly recommend it.
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
I found this book by happenstance. I was perusing a local bookstore and was hooked from the first line. It reads: “The first time our mother came for us we screamed. We were three and she was a snake, coiled up on the tile in the bathroom, waiting.” What? I needed to know more. So do you.
What’s Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
This delightful short story collection contains some of the most imaginative fiction I’ve read in a long time. So much fun. One of my favorites is a tale of students at a school for ventrilloquists. Oyeyemi’s brain is an enchanting rabbit hole. Jump in with both feet and have a ball!
Minaret by Leila Aboulela
Her privileged world was shattered in the Second Sudanese Civil War. Having fled her home in search of safety, a young, muslim woman struggles to build a life and identity for herself in London. The person she had been raised to become no longer exists. Now she has to conjure an identity for herself from nothingness. She takes a job as a nanny for a wealthy Sudanese family in London. And from there, she must begin again. This is a lovely novel of a woman struggling to find herself. Enjoy!
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Need I say more?
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie
Set during the Nigeria/Biafra war, this novel tells the story of two sisters whose lives are radically changed by war. I really love books that transport me to historical events that I, shamefully, know little about. Adichie is a masterful storyteller and weaves social and political context into her characters’ lives and stories with such brilliance and aplomb. I highly recommend this book.
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
A chance meeting in an elevator leads to a weekend to remember. Is there more? This is pure beach reading. Easy, breezy, and fun. Enjoy!
The Ensemble by Aja Gabel
Admittedly, I haven’t gotten too far in this novel yet, but I remain intrigued. It’s about members of a string ensemble and the interpersonal, professional and musical drama that ensues between them. I love that it takes place in the classical music world. I’m looking forward to reading it.
King Peggy by Peggielene Bartels
All hail the King! This is one of the most incredible stories I have ever read. Peggy, an American citizen, had spent 30 years as a secretary at the Ghanain Embassy in Washington DC when she received a phone call. A distant relative has called to inform her that she has just been named King of a small, coastal village in Ghana. Just. Wow. This is an amazing autobiography of an ordinary woman who became an extraordinary King. Just read it.
Minority Leader by Stacey Abrams
A blueprint for anyone seeking to level up in professional, political, or social endeavors. It’s clear, simple and to-the-point. If you want to lead, shake off the self doubt and get to it. I read it, simply, because Stacey Abrams’ campaign for Governor of Georgia impressed me and made me want to know more. Minority Leader is a very nice introduction to the inner workings of someone who will remain a fixture in national politics for a long time, I’m certain of it.
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
If you saw the movie, it barely scratches the surface. The book really explores the career trajectories and lives of three pioneers in mathematics, computing and aerospace. It is a fascinating history. Warning: if you’re like me, these women’s incredible stories will leave you frustrated and wondering how many other historical contributors have been withheld from us as citizens and students of American history and culture. That these women and their contributions have been hidden from us for so long is just…outrageous. Don’t allow it to continue. Pick up this book and learn more. Today.