You Should See Me in a Crown by Book Tour Post

I am so excited to get a chance to be a part of this book tour hosted by Hear Our Voices Book Tours . Make sure you check out the rest of the posts that are a part of this tour by looking at the schedule for the tour found here. 

Author Information

Leah Johnson (she/her) is an editor, educator, and author of books for young adults. Leah is a 2021 Lambda Literary Emerging Writers Fellow whose work has been published in BuzzFeed, Teen Vogue, Refinery29, and Autostraddle among others. Her bestselling debut YA novel, You Should See Me in a Crown was the inaugural Reese’s Book Club YA pick, and was named one of Cosmo‘s 15 Best Young Adult Books of 2020. Her sophomore novel, Rise to the Sun is forthcoming from Scholastic in 2021.

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Book Description

Publisher: Scholastic Inc.

Release Date: June 2, 2020

Genre: Y/A Fiction 

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?

You can find this book at:

Goodreads| Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Bookshop.org

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I read this book leading up to the election and finished it on election night instead of staying posted on those results because sometimes you just need some joy in your life. This book was such a cute, joyful story full of love and friendship. I really enjoyed how this story took me back to my high school day and a few years after as well. It let me look back on those moments as joyful moments rather than as something I no longer have. Books that make me look back on those moments of my life fondly will always get a special place in my heart because looking back on those moments usually hurts.

There were so many moments that I was laughing because of something that someone said or did. I also loved how I could be in the moments that Liz was in, I could feel the way that she was feeling through every word in this story.

Characters: I really loved all of the characters that are included throughout this whole story. How could you not root for Liz through this whole book. I loved the depiction of her anxiety throughout this book and the physical manifestations that you saw because I was able to see my anxiety on the page. There are so many times that I see anxiety presented in media but never with these physical manifestations so it was nice to see this and be able to feel like my response to anxiety wasn’t so strange.

I really liked watching Liz as she developed her relationship with Mack, re-establish a relationship with Jordon, and determine what type of friendship her and Gabi have. I really liked what each of these characters added to this story and how they each played a keep role in Liz’s character development.

I also really liked seeing Liz’s relationship with her family because that was another piece that was important to who she is. Everything that Liz does was done with her family in mind and I loved watching as the dynamic switched and they want to care for her. I liked seeing how this story points out how care goes two ways, you can’t just care about others without allowing them to care about you.

Writing Style: The story is told through the perspective of Liz and you get to see everything through her eyes. I liked not having the other’s perspectives included especially when something did not go according to plan.

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them Book Review

Summary: Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.

Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels–about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.

Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.

Thoughts and Themes: I listened to this book on audio as I followed along with it through the physical book. I have found this is a better way for me to read and be able to keep up with everything.

I love that you get a scene that is packed with emotions right from the start of the book. I thought that Audre’s feelings as she is taken from Neri and forced to move to the U.S. were raw and real. I think that each scene that is included in this book that is meant to be emotional is realistic and you feel the characters emotions along with them. There is never a moment in which I question how Audre or Mabel are feeling as the author is transparent with the reader regarding their feelings.

I think it was impactful that this book included the complexity of having a relationship with God and being queer. It wasn’t until I started picking up queer books written by people of color that I started seeing the intersection of religion and queerness come into play. I always felt that it was a large piece that was missing in things that I read and I felt that queer people couldn’t have a relationship with God. I always felt that we had to choose one or the other so seeing characters who manage to hold both a religious identity and a queer identity really speaks to me and helps me re-examine my relationship with religion.

Something else that this book touches upon is health and what it means for a high school student to have poor health. I also thought that it was important to include that the doctors didn’t have a definitive answer to what was happening to Mabel. I thought that was a good way to show the disparity in the medical community when it comes to treating Black patients and how often times they are overlooked. I thought that the questioning of this illness and Audre’s thoughts on medicine are included and her distrust of the medical system in the U.S. I thought this was another good way to show the reasoning behind why Black people and other people of color have this distrust of the medical system and where it stems from.

Something else that I thought it was important to see was the way Mabel’s poor health affects those around her and see her perspective on this illness that is killing her. I thought it was important that Mabel asks for her space as she comes to terms with her illness and that her friends respect her boundaries in this time.

I like how you get an idea of what Trinidad is like and how you get a comparison of that country and the United States. I like how you also get commentary about how the schooling is very different. I also really enjoyed the conversation that Audre has with her friends about queer people back in Trinidad and how different it is to be queer back at her home and the U.S.

Characters: At the start of the book you get slowly introduced to Audre and the people who are important to her. I like how you see the relationships that she has with other people around her. I love that they show her close relationship with her grandmother, Queenie, and how accepting her grandmother is of her relationship with her girlfriend.

You also begin to get an idea of who Mabel is right from the start as well. I love that they include her questioning her sexuality through her relationship with a previous boyfriend. As you meet Mabel, her friends, and family you begin to understand her more and see why her thought process is the way it is.

Writing Style and Narrator: This book goes back and forth between Audre and Mabel’s perspectives. What I enjoy about this back and forth between the two characters is that it isn’t one chapter for Audre and then one for Mabel. It reads more as one moment for Audre and then one for Mabel, and sometimes those moments span over one chapter and sometimes it takes more.

Something else that I found interesting was that this book includes pieces of poetry from each of the different zodiac signs as it transitions between different portions of the book. I really enjoy all of the astrology references that are included through each of the characters.

I also liked how over halfway through the book as Mabel begins reading Afua’s book, the author included pieces of that book. I also enjoy how there’s parts of other books or poetry included as Audre does assignments in school.

You can get this book at Eso Won Books or look for it at your local library.

The Black Flamingo Book Review

This book follows Michael from his childhood up to his life in university. This is a coming of age story of a gay mixed (Jamaican and Greek-Cypriot) Black teenager who is finding who he is and does so through poetry and drag.

Thoughts: It is great that this book starts from Michael’s early childhood years and shows how even then he is trying to figure out who he is. He knows that he would rather play with dolls and kiss the boys and he understands that it makes him different than other boys. His peers then turn against him because they suspect that he is gay and this is the moment in which we first hear him say out loud that he is gay.

I love how throughout this book you get an idea of who each person introduced to the story is. I like the relationships that are shown and built in the little time that they are given. I really enjoy how Michael builds a friendship with the other outcast in his school and how she accepts him just as he is. I love hearing all the stories between Daisy and Michael and how they grow up together.

I like how this book addresses many topics from racism, homophobia, and what it is like to have an absent parent. I like how these topics are brought up throughout different parts of the story and Michael reflects on these past moments of his life. I like how we hear about each moment in which his thoughts about racism, homophobia, family, and friendship shift and why they shift in a certain direction.

I paused as he is trying to understand why his rights don’t travel with him and why “people like him” are treated differently depending on where they are in the world. I feel that that moment is such a hard part to realize growing up. It reminded me of when I first realized how much privilege I have being born and raised in Los Angles and not fearing being queer until my parents told me I should be scared.

Another part that I felt was impactful was the conversation that Michael’s uncle has with him as he is going to drop him off at college. I think it was important that he included what his uncle said about what it means to be Black and how Michael had never thought in those ways until that moment. I thought it was important that we see each moment in which his thought process surrounding race and racism change.

It was interesting to see as everyone refers to Daisy as his girlfriend and Michael constantly has to say that they are just friends. I like the complexity of their friendship and how he feels like Daisy is a part of his family. I thought it was so important that he showed how their friendship shifted when he realizes that Daisy is homophobic and how she tries to defend herself because she accepted Michael. I really enjoy that there is an instance of internalized homophobia shown through a conversation between Daisy and Michael. I think it was important that this was brought up even if it was a brief moment.

I love the ending of this book. Its just so beautiful and I cried. Just the permission to be yourself and whatever that means to you got to me. The permission to define your sexuality on your own terms and that it’s never too late to come out was great.

You can get this book at Eso Won Books or look for it at your local library.

This is my America Book Review

GoodReads Summary:Every week, seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking the organization to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. After seven years, Tracy is running out of time—her dad has only 267 days left. Then the unthinkable happens. The police arrive in the night, and Tracy’s older brother, Jamal, goes from being a bright, promising track star to a “thug” on the run, accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother, Tracy investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela down at the Pike. But will Tracy and her family survive the uncovering of the skeletons of their Texas town’s racist history that still haunt the present?

Thoughts: Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for my review.

The reality for Black people is that the America that they live in is not the same America that others know. The reality is that their America looks completely different and at a young age they learn what it means to be Black and live in America. This is the story that Tracy Beaumont wants you to know, she wants you to recognize the difference in the America that her and her family is being forced to grow up in.

What I like about this book is that it is real and the author isn’t afraid to bring up topics that are important. You get to see the real time feelings of not only Tracy but her younger sister, Corinne who was born after her dad was in jail and is watching her brother be chased by the police. You get to see as Tracy’s friend, Dean, struggles with his mother’s racism and his own thoughts surrounding what is happening. This is one of my favorite scenes as Dean struggles with his privilege and his inherent bias towards Black people, while Tracy doesn’t comfort him and allows him to sit in his feelings.

You not only see Tracy’s father doing jail time on death row for something he didn’t do but you also see her brother trying to prove his innocence. You see how easy it is for the police to pin these crimes on Tracy’s family with no proof and how it cost the life of one Black man as he tries to claim he’s innocent. You watch as Tracy tries to continue on with her life and everyone around her tries to keep her from getting in trouble. You watch her struggle with not being able to just be silent about the injustice that her family and community has been and is being put through.

Something else that I found important was that this book shows the race relations between Black people and white people. We saw these relations through Tracy’s friendship with Dean, and his mother’s reactions towards Tracy after her father was sent to jail. I really enjoy reading as Tracy and Dean’s relationship develops and Tracy struggles with what it would mean for her to date Dean. We also saw these relations through Jamal’s relationship with Angela and how that relationship ultimately causes Jamal to be in trouble while Angela’s boyfriend doesn’t get questioned at all.

I recommend this book to those of you who enjoy Nic Stone’s Dear Martin or Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give. This is a must read book for all and is a great way to show young adults the reality of what being Black in America means. I would highly recommend this book to white people who are looking for something to help them understand what Black people go through on a regular basis.

You can pre-order this book at Eso Won Books, or look for it at your local library coming out July 28.

Panorama by Ross Victory Book Review

Goodreads Summary: After enduring a severe panic attack which left the author attached to breathing machines around foreign doctors in South Korea, Panorama–the bonus chapter for the memoir, Views from the Cockpit: The Journey of a Son, expands on the author’s experiences working and living abroad in Seoul, South Korea.

After a friendship ignites and morphs into an awe-struck, curious tale of parallel souls with a Brazilian-American soldier serving in the military at the North Korean border protecting South Korea from Kim Jong-il, Panorama reflects on the author’s contemplations to return to a crumbling family life in Los Angeles or to endure his life in Seoul for an end-of-contract cash payout.

In Panorama, the author broadens his stance on the importance of moments spotlighting loneliness and exposing the perks and ailments of escapism. With precise prose and a thought-provoking connected storyline that covers eating living octopus, philosophical debates about the gender of God, and a surprise pregnancy, Panorama, stands tall as a connected yet separate, compelling story. The author reminds us again, that as daunting as the vicissitudes of life, and no matter the view from the cockpit of life, the human spirit cannot be restrained in loss, or love, and strives to be unbroken–and free

Thoughts: Thank you to the author for a copy of the book in exchange for my review.

I think its always great to read memoirs written by people you know and not just famous people you admire. I love how you get to know the person on a deeper level and learn intimate parts of their lives. This was a book that I couldn’t put down once I started reading it.

You know how writing can be a form of therapy for people, this book feels like thats exactly what it was for the author. That was something that I really liked about this book as you can see as the author processes each scene and different events of his life. I like that you can feel a sense of relief at the close of each chapter and there’s a transition to a new event or moment in his life.

Something else I really enjoy about this book is how each chapter gives me a different scene. Each chapter slowly brings me through Ross’s time in Korea as if you are watching this play out in real time. I love the banter between the people who are in the story and the humor that is included throughout the book.

I love the love story that it opens with where its as if nothing can go wrong. I really enjoyed reading the relationship that Ross has with Alvi and seeing how that develops and changes. I love the vulnerability that you get from both of these men in the text messages that they exchange with each other.

I feel that society has not allowed Black men to show a range of emotions much less fear and sadness. Even more so feelings that they have towards each other that are complex and have so much history to their actions towards each other. Because of this I found that the scenes in which these two Black men are real and vulnerable with each other are powerful.

I think it was interesting to read the perspective of someone who is Black, bisexual male. I thought it was interesting to read what Ross’s thought about his sexuality were when he first realized he was bisexual and how he felt being in the middle.

Something that i found unique about this book was the explanation of the author’s views at the end. This book transitions from being a snipit of the author’s life into a series of essays on gender, sexuality, race and the intersections between them. If you aren’t interested in those portions though you can skip them and still get a good experience from the book.

I thought that was a great and interesting way to close as it leaves you thinking about sexuality and the intersection of sexuality, gender and race. While I did like the way that it closed I do think that it is something that you have to sit with and maybe read more than once to really understand what he is saying.

As I read the end I thought about how when I identified as female and came out as bisexual at 13 it was fine not just for me but also for others who I came out to. Then when I came to the realization that I’m a trans boy and non binary, I felt that the label was no longer okay for me. I shuffled through trying to find other terms or shift my sexuality somehow because I knew a bisexual boy was not something society was okay with. It wasn’t until this year when I really decided that I’m bisexual and was okay with that label again.

You can get this book on Amazon starting June 21st, you can also get his first book Views from the Cockpit: The Journey of a Son from Eso Won Books.

A Song Below Water Book Review

Goodreads Summary: Tavia is already at odds with the world, forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. Never mind she’s also stuck in Portland, Oregon, a city with only a handful of black folk and even fewer of those with magical powers. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets, and unrequited crushes.

But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she’s also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop. No secret seems safe anymore—soon Portland won’t be either.

I thought about how I want to discuss the books I’m reading and how I really want to speak about what the book is saying. Books can be so much more than a story if you take the time to listen to them. I’m aware everyone reads the same book a different way but these are my thoughts and opinions of this book.

Thank you to Tor Teen for the advanced copy of the book in exchange for my review.

Overall: I really enjoyed all aspects of this book from the themes, characters, writing style, etc. I love fantasy books that mix aspects of our world into their world. Its a great escape while still taking time to reflect on what is brought up in the book. I really enjoy getting a chance to look into the mythology of this book and hearing from the author to learn more.

The ending of this book is a shock and such a twist. I love the way this book reveals Effie and Tavia’s secrets to others and to the reader.

Themes: I like how this book is a fantasy book yet it still connects to the way that Black people are marginalized and silenced. I like how they discuss the way that sirens are not welcome in their world and how they have been pushed to the side. I also thought it was important to note the way sirens were always Black girls and the silencing of the sirens using silencing collars or other methods.

There’s a portion in the book where Tavia comes into contact with a police officer. She references a photo and talks about how what is going to heal the world is Black people offering unlimited love. This reminded me of the way that Black people are portrayed in the media or by others and how those images perpetuate racism. It reminded me of how Black people are expected to not show anger or a range of emotions yet others are free to express themselves in any matter they see fit.

There are so many moments in this book that reflect the current climate towards Black people. Tavia talks about how sirens are viewed, how sirens are all Black and the complexity behind holding both those identities at the same time. I really enjoy how she mentions how this isn’t an individual problem but its institutional.

There are also many moments in which you see Tavia and Effie attend protest or outraged at the instances of police brutality that are included in this book. I think Tavia’s thoughts at the protest and her thoughts surrounding how one person gets people outraged yet the other is dismissed because she may be a siren. I love Tavia’s comments about the police not being around to protect and how her community of Black people can’t be “exterminated.”

I really enjoy how the way that Tavia gets through her world is by building a network. I like all references to this network and how this network gets her through a lot. I like the importance of community and how community builds you up instead of tearing you down.

Characters: I really like all the characters that are introduced throughout this book. I like that each person is well developed and you get to see them change throughout the story.

Tavia is so thoughtful about all that she does and everyone that she comes into contact with. She spends a lot of time reflecting on her identity as a siren and a Black girl.

Effie/Euphemia is a secretive person who doesn’t want to harm anyone else. She has two separate lives, one from her time at the ren fair and the rest in her regular world. She keeps to herself and doesn’t let anyone in. I love her excitement about everything and how much she loves everything she does.

Tavia’s parents only want to keep her and Effie safe. Effie’s guardians have tried to keep her safe by keeping secrets from her. I really love seeing the parents and guardians in this book as YA books tend to not have them be a large portion of the story. I like that this book shows growth and development not just for the two girls but also for the adults.

Writing style: I enjoy how the book goes back and forth between Tavia and Effie’s perspectives. It allows you to see the story unfold from two different girls who are telling two different stories. Not only are you getting both of these perspectives but each of them is written in a different style. I really like how each of the girls sounds different from the other.

I also listened to this one on audio because reading this way has been easier on me. I really like how there are two narrators to read each chapter differently depending on if the chapter belongs to Tavia or Effie. I also like that both narrators have a difference voice for additional characters.

You can purchase this book at Barnes and Noble, Eso Won Books, or look for it at your local library.

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett Book Review

Goodreads Description: Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.

Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on…

Thoughts

I decided to listen to this on audio since it was available immediately and I needed something new to read for Pride month. I’m really glad that I decided to pick this one up as I loved it from the first 5 minutes of the story. This book tackles a range of important subjects and the intersection of those topics. It discusses racism, queer identity, and HIV status.

Overall Opinion

I like how this book handles the topic of HIV and how this book doesn’t dismiss this topic. While this is a lighthearted book it doesn’t dismiss the reality of being HIV positive which is something that I enjoyed. This is a story that shows that HIV+ teenagers can lead happy lives and fulfilling lives without worrying about being treated in a poor matter due to their status. I think that it is important to show these types of stories and show that there is more than one narrative for HIV+ people.

I really enjoy the way this book shows Simone struggling with her queer identity and everything that she feels the need to hide from others. I thought that the way that this was portrayed was done quite well. I like how she thinks about her sexuality and how she doesn’t like not knowing how to define herself. I like how you see her support her friends and being so happy that they have a place that they belong in but wishes that she had the same thing for herself.

I love the complexity they show behind Simone deciding that she is bisexual. I kept having to stop the book and cry because so many of her thoughts around sexuality are thoughts I’ve had recently. I really enjoyed her wondering what it meant to be bisexual and being upset that she even had to decide how she identifies. I connected with her so much around the thoughts on her sexuality and figuring out how to define your sexual

I like the way this book openly talks about sex and sexuality, it doesn’t skirt around the topic or make it something that is taboo to talk about. I love how much is in here that can educate teenagers about safe sex and more. There is so much that isn’t taught in a high school health class and it includes things about queer sex.

Something else this book touches on is racism with Miles having an all white friend group as those are his team mates. I like how Simone reacts about their comments and how she is holding Miles accountable for not calling out his friends. I like the conversation that happens between Miles and Simone about their Black identity and what that means for the both of them. Its important how the discussion points out how they view their Blackness differently and how that contributes to the way they interact with others.

Characters

I love each of the characters that you get to meet throughout this book. There is an abundance of LGBTQ+ representation which is something that I look for in everything that I read. As the main character you get a bisexual MC, and Simone is surrounded by plenty of queer people. She has two dads, a asexual lesbian as a best friend and her other best friend is also bisexual. It is due to her being surrounded by all of these queer people that Simone feels that she can’t call herself bisexual if she’s only crushed on female celebrities and one girl.

There are so many layers to Simone beyond her being HIV+ and that is something that I love. While her HIV status plays a large role in the way she lives her life and interacts with others it isn’t all that we know about her. I love that they include her love for musicals and her involvement with that group alongside her involvement with the support group for HIV+ teens.

Writing Style and Narrator

Simone is written in the voice of a teenager which is great, the tension of her figuring out her identity is intermixed with the lightness of her living her life. I like how you get to hear all of Simone’s inner thoughts as she processes so many different things.

When listening to an audiobook the narrator is very important to me as they can make listening to something great or bad. The narrator of this book is great and helps to tell Simon’s story and immerse you into the book.

You can get this book at Barnes and Noble, The Lit Bar, or look for it at your local library.

Non-Fiction Books about Racism to Read

I don’t know how to put my thoughts into words about the injustice that occurs on a regular basis towards Black people. There is just so much to say and I find it better to in these cases to listen to the voices of Black people. What I do know is that things have to change. I had to do something though and creating this list for you all is one of the things that I could do. Pick up one of these books or more to learn more, and to work towards understanding.

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi 

Kendi’s concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America–but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. In How to be an Antiracist, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it.

In this book, Kendi weaves together an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science, bringing it all together with an engaging personal narrative of his own awakening to antiracism. How to Be an Antiracist is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander 

Jarvious Cotton’s great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Klu Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation; his father was barred by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole.”

As the United States celebrates the nation’s “triumph over race” with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status–much like their grandparents before them.

In this incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander provocatively argues that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community–and all of us–to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.

They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement by Wesley Lowery

Conducting hundreds of interviews during the course of over one year reporting on the ground, Washington Post writer Wesley Lowery traveled from Ferguson, Missouri, to Cleveland, Ohio; Charleston, South Carolina; and Baltimore, Maryland; and then back to Ferguson to uncover life inside the most heavily policed, if otherwise neglected, corners of America today.

In an effort to grasp the magnitude of the repose to Michael Brown’s death and understand the scale of the problem police violence represents, Lowery speaks to Brown’s family and the families of other victims other victims’ families as well as local activists. By posing the question, “What does the loss of any one life mean to the rest of the nation?” Lowery examines the cumulative effect of decades of racially biased policing in segregated neighborhoods with failing schools, crumbling infrastructure and too few jobs.

Studded with moments of joy, and tragedy, They Can’t Kill Us All offers a historically informed look at the standoff between the police and those they are sworn to protect, showing that civil unrest is just one tool of resistance in the broader struggle for justice. As Lowery brings vividly to life, the protests against police killings are also about the black community’s long history on the receiving end of perceived and actual acts of injustice and discrimination. They Can’t Kill Us All grapples with a persistent if also largely unexamined aspect of the otherwise transformative presidency of Barack Obama: the failure to deliver tangible security and opportunity to those Americans most in need of both.

Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad 

Based on the viral Instagram challenge that captivated participants worldwide, Me and White Supremacy takes readers on a 28-day journey of how to dismantle the privilege within themselves so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on people of color, and in turn, help other white people do better, too.

When Layla Saad began an Instagram challenge called #meandwhitesupremacy, she never predicted it would spread as widely as it did. She encouraged people to own up and share their racist behaviors, big and small. She was looking for truth, and she got it. Thousands of people participated in the challenge, and nearly 100,000 people downloaded the Me and White Supremacy Workbook.

Updated and expanded from the original workbook, Me and White Supremacy,takes the work deeper by adding more historical and cultural contexts, sharing moving stories and anecdotes, and including expanded definitions, examples, and further resources.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

In 2014, award-winning journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote about her frustration with the way that discussions of race and racism in Britain were being led by those who weren’t affected by it. She posted a piece on her blog, entitled: ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ that led to this book.

Exploring issues from eradicated black history to the political purpose of white dominance, whitewashed feminism to the inextricable link between class and race, Reni Eddo-Lodge offers a timely and essential new framework for how to see, acknowledge and counter racism. It is a searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary exploration of what it is to be a person of colour in Britain today.

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo 

Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, anti-racist educator Robin DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what can be done to engage more constructively.

“Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”: A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity by Beverly Daniel Tatum 

Walk into any racially mixed high school and you will see Black, White, and Latino youth clustered in their own groups. Is this self-segregation a problem to address or a coping strategy? Beverly Daniel Tatum, a renowned authority on the psychology of racism, argues that straight talk about our racial identities is essential if we are serious about enabling communication across racial and ethnic divides. These topics have only become more urgent as the national conversation about race is increasingly acrimonious. This fully revised edition is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the dynamics of race in America.

2020 Books to read for Black History Month

I felt like every time I read a book that starred a black characters the premise was the same, it was always about police brutality. I want to read books that show another story for black people since I know they dont just have one narrative so I went and looked for them. Here are a few that I’ve enjoyed or plan on reading this month and throughout the year. Click the titles for my full review of the books. You can check out my instagram this month for more books written by black authors.

Red at The Bone by Jaqueline Woodson

Moving forward and backward in time, Jacqueline Woodson’s taut and powerful new novel uncovers the role that history and community have played in the experiences, decisions, and relationships of these families, and in the life of the new child.

As the book opens in 2001, it is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody’s coming of age ceremony in her grandparents’ Brooklyn brownstone. Watched lovingly by her relatives and friends, making her entrance to the music of Prince, she wears a special custom-made dress. But the event is not without poignancy. Sixteen years earlier, that very dress was measured and sewn for a different wearer: Melody’s mother, for her own ceremony– a celebration that ultimately never took place.

Unfurling the history of Melody’s parents and grandparents to show how they all arrived at this moment, Woodson considers not just their ambitions and successes but also the costs, the tolls they’ve paid for striving to overcome expectations and escape the pull of history. As it explores sexual desire and identity, ambition, gentrification, education, class and status, and the life-altering facts of parenthood, Red at the Bone most strikingly looks at the ways in which young people must so often make long-lasting decisions about their lives–even before they have begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be.

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert

Dove “Birdie” Randolph works hard to be the perfect daughter and follow the path her parents have laid out for her: She quit playing her beloved soccer, she keeps her nose buried in textbooks, and she’s on track to finish high school at the top of her class. But then Birdie falls hard for Booker, a sweet boy with a troubled past…whom she knows her parents will never approve of.

When her estranged aunt Carlene returns to Chicago and moves into the family’s apartment above their hair salon, Birdie notices the tension building at home. Carlene is sweet, friendly, and open-minded–she’s also spent decades in and out of treatment facilities for addiction. As Birdie becomes closer to both Booker and Carlene, she yearns to spread her wings. But when long-buried secrets rise to the surface, everything she’s known to be true is turned upside down.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithewaite

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

Tavia is already at odds with the world, forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. Never mind she’s also stuck in Portland, Oregon, a city with only a handful of black folk and even fewer of those with magical powers. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets, and unrequited crushes.

But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she’s also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop. No secret seems safe anymore—soon Portland won’t be either.

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus

Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.

Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels–about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.

Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.

The Water Dancerby Ta-Nehisi Coates

Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her—but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known.

So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the deep South to dangerously utopic movements in the North. Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram’s resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.