Happy Black History Month!

In honor of Black History Month, I wanted to do a brief post talking about black authors and media that I’ve been consuming recently. One of the things that I’ve realized as an adult is how separated black and white media and stories can be. My parents made the effort to read me lots of bedtime stories from lots of different cultures, but honestly I grew up in a pretty racially homogenous, white, southern county for most of my youth. There wasn’t a whole lot of education or exposure to any other culture in the broader society I lived in, much less black culture. I figure if I can do a little bit with this blog to make you aware of some really great black creators and histories, then I am hopefully helping to break down some of that cultural isolation. So enough about me. Let’s get to the content.

Fiction

I’m going to guess that most readers of this blog are going to be looking for fiction. I can’t say that the names in this list are not well-known, so if you have any other recommendations, please add them below!

N. K. Jemisin

Jemisin writes the Broken Earth Trilogy, which has made my best-of list two years in a row. She’s also the author of the Dreamblood series and the Inheritance Trilogy. She is one of the major names in science fiction and fantasy right now, having won the Hugo for Best Novel in 2016. She was the first black person to win that award.

Victor LaValle

You may remember my blogpost on The Ballad of Black Tom, which also showed up on my best-of list for this year. That was the first work I had read by this author, but he has a few books out apparently, including one that won the American Book Award in 2010. The Devil in Silver looks particularly interesting.

Octavia Butler

This is an old standby honestly and I almost didn’t put her on here because she’s so well known. But if you’re trying to get into black sff, this is a good place to start.

History

Switching gears a bit, I’ve recently been reading March by Rep. John Lewis and two white dudes who should nonetheless be credited for their artistic prowess, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. It chronicles John Lewis’ experiences during the Civil Rights Movement. It’s a great series of graphic novels, well-paced and only a little cheesy at points. It’s taught me a lot about the different movements going on at the time, and works as a good introductory point for those less familiar or younger.

If you are looking for movies, there are two great ones that I can recommend. Hidden Figures is a family-friendly must-see. As a plus, it also has rockets! And Selma, which was released in 2014, parallels some of the events in March, so watching that movie was very interesting as it gave more depth into other conversations that were going on at the time. There are a lot of things about the Civil Rights Movement and the years since which have been fundamentally white-washed in our broader social narrative. If you’re looking for an entryway into that, these three works are my recommendation.

If you are also interested in older history, do I have the resource for you! Medieval-POC is one of my favorite Tumblogs, and is run by an art historian who makes a point of seeking out and showcasing a lot of beautiful old art that features people of color. Seriously, check it out.

Poetry

I could not finish this post without mentioning Warsan Shire. Most people know her for collaborating with Beyoncé on the visual album Lemonade (pictured). She has been making poetry for a while, though. She published her first collection of poems in 2011, and was named the Young Poet Laureate for London in 2014. All that, and she is only 28.

I hope you’ve enjoyed! Please support black artists and creators this month, and leave recommendations for other black creators, histories, and stories below.

Writing as activism: The Ballad of Black Tom

I thought long and hard before writing this post.

This is for a couple of reasons, the principal of these being that I am white. Because of this, I want to take a moment to acknowledge that my reflections on the novella The Ballad of Black Tom are my own, and come from my whiteness, at least in part. We cannot extricate the parts of our identities, after all. That said, I am also a writer and a writer keenly interested in diverse representation and stories which get to the heart of oppression. The Ballad of Black Tom did both of these things baldly and without pulling any punches. I want to unpack that. And I want to lend my platform to this book, because it is a valuable read, perhaps most especially for white people.

black-tom

All of that said, there will be spoilers. Stop here if you don’t want those, and scroll to the end for further reading recommendations if you must. You are warned.

If you want to read this book first and come back, I encourage it. It’s a novella, so it took me about three or four hours to chomp through at most. I read fast, but it’s not a terribly serious time commitment if you want to bookmark this page for later.

No, the time commitment is in how much you’ll find yourself thinking about it afterwards.

With no further ado… Continue reading “Writing as activism: The Ballad of Black Tom”

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