Black History Month: What We’re Reading

From expanding our policy fight to becoming a more inclusive and belonging organization, Food Bankers always seem to have our noses in books, blogs, and articles that help us be more effective in our work. Below is a list of recommendations that some Food Bankers have found helpful (or just really liked). We hope you find them helpful, too.

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Bandung Books

Moe’s Books

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Berkeley & Oakland

What we’re reading for Black History Month – February 2021

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism
Edward E. Baptist

A groundbreaking history demonstrating that America’s economic supremacy was built on the backs of slaves.

Thick: and Other Essays
Tressie McMillan Cottom

In eight highly praised treatises on beauty, media, money, and more, Tressie McMillan Cottom—award-winning professor and acclaimed author of Lower Ed—is unapologetically “thick”: deemed “thick where I should have been thin, more where I should have been less,” McMillan Cottom refuses to shy away from blending the personal with the political, from bringing her full self and voice to the fore of her analytical work. 

Racism: Science & Tools for the Public Health Professional 
Edited by Chandra L. Ford, PhD, Derek M. Griffith, PhD, Marino A. Bruce, PhD, and Keon L. Gilbert, DrPH

This important publication builds on the racial health equity work that public health advocates and others have been doing for decades. They have documented the existence of health inequities and have combatted health inequities stemming from racism. This book, which targets racism directly and includes the word squarely in its title, marks an important shift in the field’s antiracism struggle for racial health equity. 

Kiese Laymon

A personal narrative that illuminates national failures, “Heavy” is defiant yet vulnerable, an insightful, often comical exploration of weight, identity, art, friendship, and family that begins with a confusing childhood—and continues through twenty-five years of haunting implosions and long reverberations. 

Recipes from two centuries of African American Cooking: A Cookbook
Toni Tipton-Martin

Throughout her career, Toni Tipton-Martin has shed new light on the history, breadth, and depth of African American cuisine. She’s introduced us to black cooks, some long forgotten, who established much of what’s considered to be our national cuisine. After all, if Thomas Jefferson introduced French haute cuisine to this country, who do you think actually cooked it? In Jubilee, Tipton-Martin brings these masters into our kitchens. Through recipes and stories, we cook along with these pioneering figures, from enslaved chefs to middle- and upper-class writers and entrepreneurs. 

From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century
Andrea Kirsten Mullen and William A. Darity Jr.

“William Darity Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen confront racial injustices head-on and make the most comprehensive case to date for economic reparations for U.S. descendants of slavery. After opening the book with a stark assessment of the intergenerational effects of white supremacy on black economic well-being, Darity and Mullen look to both the past and the present to measure the inequalities borne of slavery.” 

Are Prisons Obsolete?
Angela Davis

Oakland native, feminist, and Black Panther, Angela Davis, argues for the abolition of our prison system.

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches
Audre Lorde

“Presenting the essential writings of black lesbian poet and feminist writer Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider celebrates an influential voice in twentieth-century literature. In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change.”

Envisioning Emancipation
Audre Lorde

“Renowned photographic historian Deborah Willis and historian of slavery Barbara Krauthamer have amassed 150 photographs—some never before published—from the antebellum days of the 1850s through the New Deal era of the 1930s. The authors vividly display the seismic impact of emancipation on African Americans born before and after the Proclamation, providing a perspective on freedom and slavery.”

Stamped from the Beginning
Ibram X. Kendi

“Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Stamped from the Beginning uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and antiracists.” Winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction.”

Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party
Ibram X. Kendi

“Black Against Empire is the first comprehensive overview and analysis of the history and politics of the Black Panther Party. The authors analyze key political questions, such as why so many young black people across the country risked their lives for the revolution, why the Party grew most rapidly during the height of repression, and why allies abandoned the Party at its peak of influence.”

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy
Ta-Nehisi Coates

“We were eight years in power” was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. In this sweeping collection of new and selected essays, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America’s “first white president.”

The Bluest Eye
Toni Morrison

“A powerful examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity, Toni Morrison’s virtuosic first novel asks powerful questions about race, class, and gender with the subtlety and grace that have always characterized her writing.”

All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom
Angela Johnson (Author), E.B. Lewis (Illustrator)

“Told in Angela Johnson’s signature melodic style and brought to life by E.B. Lewis’s striking paintings, All Different Now is a joyous portrait of the dawn breaking on the darkest time in our nation’s history.”

How Beautiful We Were
Imbolo Mbue

“A fearless young woman from a small African village starts a revolution against an American oil company in this sweeping, inspiring novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Behold the Dreamers.”

The Memo
Minda Harts

“From microaggressions to the wage gap, The Memo empowers women of color with actionable advice on challenges and offers a clear path to success.
With wit and candor, Minda Harts acknowledges “ugly truths” that keep women of color from having a seat at the table in corporate America. Providing straight talk on how to navigate networking, office politics, and money, while showing how to make real change to the system, The Memo offers support and long-overdue advice on how women of color can succeed in their careers.”

Right Within
Minda Harts

“In workplaces nationwide, women of color need frank talk and honest advice on how to deal with microaggressions, heal from racialized trauma, and find relief from invisible workplace burdens. Filled with Minda Harts’s signature wit and warmth, Right Within offers strategies for women of color to speak up during racialized moments with managers and clients, work through past triggers they may not even know still cause pain, and reframe past career disappointments as opportunities to grow into a new path.”

Too-Tall Foyle Finds His Game
Adonal Foyle & Shiyana Valentine-Williams

“Too-Tall Foyle is a young boy who grows up on a tiny island in the Caribbean and overcomes various hardships and learns important life lessons while on a quest for an education and NBA career. The Too-Tall Foyle series is perfect for children aged from 3 to 8 years.”

Be Boy Buzz
Bell Hooks & Chris Raschka

“Exuberantly capturing “all things boy”, comes Be Boy Buzz from famed author Bell Hooks. Her bold, poetic writing plunges into the essence and energy of what it means to be a boy – particularly an African-American boy. Soulful illustrations from Chris Raschka perfectly complement Hooks’ trademarked brevity and eloquence.”

Rocket Says Look Up!
Nathan Bryon

“Meet Rocket–a plucky aspiring astronaut intent on getting her community to LOOK UP! from what they’re doing and reach for the stars in this auspicious debut picture book. Honored as a Chicago Public Library 2019 Best of the Best Book!”

Their Eyes Were Watching God
Zora Neale Hurston

“To call Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God an “African American feminist classic” may be an accurate statement—it is certainly a frequent statement—but it is a misleadingly narrow and rather dull way to introduce a vibrant and achingly human novel. The syncopated beauty of Hurston’s prose, her remarkable gift for comedy, the sheer visceral terror of the book’s climax, all transcend any label that critics have tried to put on this remarkable work.”

A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance
Hanif Abdurraqib

“MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellow and bestselling author Hanif Abdurraqib has written a profound and lasting reflection on how Black performance is inextricably woven into the fabric of American culture. Each moment in every performance he examines has layers of resonance in Black and white cultures, the politics of American empire, and Abdurraqib’s own personal history of love, grief, and performance.”

Yaa Gyasi

“Homegoing follows the parallel paths of these sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation.”

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé
Morgan Parker

“Unrelentingly feminist, tender, ruthless, and sequined, these poems are an altar to the complexities of black American womanhood in an age of non-indictments and deja vu, and a time of wars over bodies and power.”

The Fifth Season
N.K. Jemisin

“This is the way the world ends . . . for the last time.
It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.
This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.”

John Lewis

“March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.”

The Fire Next Time
John Lewis

“With clarity, conviction, and passion, James Baldwin delivers a dire warning of the effects of racism that remains urgent nearly sixty years after its original publication. “

Miseducated: A Memoir
Brandon P. Fleming

“An inspiring memoir of one man’s transformation from a delinquent, drug-dealing dropout to an award-winning Harvard educator through literature and debate—all by the age of twenty-seven.”

Butterflies & Bubblebees: Beauty that Hurts
George K.L Smith

“Through this beautifully written book of spoken word and poetry, the author invites the reader to take a remarkable heartfelt journey of a child behind bars reflecting on his life and surroundings, growing into an older man and finding himself through his writing. George K. L. Smith earned himself release after 25 years.”