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A Very Black Summer Reading List

June 24, 2018

For those of you who have been asking, I've finally created a summer reading list! The first one is very black with authors ranging from Maya Angelou to Ousmane Sembène. Autobiographies, black love, travel experiences, polygamy, colorism! These books entail a range of topics that will keep you enticed and engaged as you turn each page. The first of many and not the last! I hope you find at least one gem out the bunch.


Aluta by Adwoa Badoe

Charlotte is 18 and a newly enrolled college student with a voice for freedom. Her university life is something she's never imagined - a kind and sophisticated roommate, a great dorm life, parties, boyfriends. She is exposed to new political ideologies and is entranced with male attention from her charismatic professor, a student activist and a wealthy man who overbears her with gifts. In the midst of her freshman year, the government is suddenly overthrown and Charlotte is drawn into a new world of student politics. A loving and suspenseful story told with blunt realities about what happens when dreaming idealism meets the dangers of power.


Xala by Ousmane Sembène


Xala is a riveting film and novel written by Senegal's most famous Ousmane Sembène. A story of post-colonial Senegal with mixtures of tradition, culture, Francophone Africa, assimilation and religion, Sembène satirically tells a story of the protagonst (El Hadji) who is stricken with xala - the inability to deliver sexual needs to his new young wife. The novel showcases El Hadji, his three wives and children and his determination to overcome his xala.


This book is one of my favorite reads and the film is amazing as well. It really gave me a different perspective on modernity, polygamy (in regards to rankings and house dynamics), feminism and the mixture of tradition with post-colonialism in Senegal.


All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes by Maya Angelou

I strongly recommend African-Americans who want to travel to Africa (short term or long term) to read All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes. Maya Angelou offers a thorough account of her experiences when she moved to Ghana in 1962. Her vivid depictions and honest encounters give a perspective on what it means to be an African-American in Africa. Her autobiography is beautifully painted with her stories: sanguine encounters, loss, faith, and hope.   


The Darkest Child by Delores Phillips

As the cover states, this book truly does bring up conversations that are timely for the black community. Even though it was very depressing and left me in a state of confusion, anger and emotional at many moments, this book is one of the best I have ever read. Topics of suicide, colorism, depression, rape, education, prostitution, child abuse, segregation, integration, racism, civil rights and many others flowed throughout this book. At times, I had to take a break (even though I wanted to keep reading) because it was almost too much to handle. I smiled when I read this book. I cried. I laughed. I was upset. Delores Phillips paints a story of a young black girl who is the darkest child in her family in 1950s Jim Crow Georgia. For those of you who are interested in colorism, this book is a must read.


Head Above Water: An Autobiography by Buchi Emecheta 

It's funny that I added this to the list because I'm currently reading Head Above Water, but nonetheless Buchi Emecheta grabs the reader's attention off the first few pages as she shares her story from Lagos, Nigeria all the way to London, England. Her transition was nothing short of courage, faith, and hope as she brought four children, pregnant with a fifth, to England. Her story is truly a miracle and Emecheta paints it vividly in her story of Head Above Water.


Reclaiming Home: Diary of a Journey through Post-Apartheid South Africa by Lesego Malepe

I had the opportunity to meet Lesego Malepe this year at my university's Center for African Studies outreach department. Her story is particularly interesting as she journeys back to her home in South Africa. From Pietermaritzburg to Mabopane, Malepe encounters many friends, new people and has different experiences as she reclaims home. 


The books compiled on this list I have already read and/or currently reading them. A few that I haven't read but will before the end of this year are listed below:


1. The Door of No Return by Sarah Mussi

2. Elmina, the Castles and the Slave Trade by Ato Ashun (he was my tour guide at the Elmina Slave Dungeons)

3. Distant View of a Minaret by Alifa Rifaat

4. Africa United: How Football Explains Africa by Steve Bloomfield

5. After Mandela: The Battle for the Soul of South Africa by Alec Russell


Words have strong meanings and the pages that they run on have a more powerful place in my heart. I hope that you enjoy this very black summer reading list and try to read at least once a day.

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