Welcome to the Lez Liberty Lit. If you’re buying books, shop at Black-owned independent bookstores, not Amazon. For books that are backordered or sold out in print, which many are, consider ebooks from these same bookstores, your local library, checking out the public domain works and being patient until the more recent titles can ship. This work is bigger than a shipping delay.
Self-education is a complement to, not a replacement for, concrete action. Donate to bail funds and mutual aid funds. If you can either donate to a bail fund or buy a book, donate to a bail fund. This Google drive folder of Black revolutionary texts and this one of radical Black books and other critical stuff are free, as is this Black History Month Library compiled by Charles Preston.
Please also remember, as you make your way through the texts on these lists and others, that just doing some reading right now is not enough. As Ashia Monet, author of The Black Veins, writes on Twitter, “Don’t just read Black literature in this moment. Read Black lit for the rest of your life. Read and support the work of Black essayists, novelists, poets, today and forever and always. Do NOT make your support conditional on whether or not racism is in the headlines.”
Kehinde Andrews, a Black studies professor, founder of the Harambee Organisation of Black Unity, and author of Back to Black: Retelling Black Radicalism for the 21st Century, is in conversation at the Los Angeles Review of Books about why we should all read Malcom X today, including the legitimacy of violence against oppression, the need to condemn white supremacy’s political and economic system, white psychosis and how it structures the world, and more:
“Justice can only be found in the creation of a new political and economic system. The roots of oppression are coded into the DNA of racial capitalism. The pretense that there can ever be justice within this framework is one of the biggest myths that holds back transformative change. One of the first steps for liberation is for the oppressed to define their own terms, their own perspectives, and own mechanisms for bringing about liberation.”
In When They Call You A Terrorist, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele depict the personal link between racism and police violence. (Check out Autostraddle’s When They Call You A Terrorist bookclub.)
adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy offers, in Jenna Wortham’s words, “strategies for reimagining ways to organize powerful movements for social justice and mutual aid with a humanist, collective, anticapitalist framework,” also emphasizing adaptation and care. Read a few excerpts of Emergent Strategy at Colorlines.)
At Haymarket Books, Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? edited by Joe Macaré, Maya Schenwar, et al., explores the reality of US police violence against Black, brown, and indigenous communities and is currently free as an ebook. Other books on Haymarket’s mass incarceration reading list are currently 20 to 30% off.
The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale is currently free as an ebook at Verso. It’s in good company on Jae-Yeon Yoo at Electric Literature’s list of 10 nonfiction books on why we need to defund the police, applicable to the U.S. police system.
Also at Verso, the Black radicalism reading list includes titles like If They Come in the Morning edited by Angela Y. Davis, Invisibility Blues by Michele Wallace, Set the Night on Fire: LA in the Sixties by Mike Davis and Jon Wiener, Futures of Black Radicalism edited by Gaye Theresa Johnson and Alex Lubin and Policing the Planet edited by Jordan T. Camp and Christina Heatherton.
Earlier in the pandemic, Black Women Radicals held “Black Women, Books, and Our Productions,” a Zoom event around turning to Black feminist texts and literature to fuel our quest for liberation. Its reading list includes How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness by Simone Browne, and In the Wake: On Blackness and Being by Christina Sharpe.
Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist had views 198% up last week over the week before. Lots of anti-racist books are sold out as you’re probably discovering yourself today, How to Be an Antiracist included, but you can read an excerpt at Lit Hub. Kendia also wrote this antiracist reading list last year, which includes The Condemnation of Blackness by Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Locking up Our Own by James Forman Jr., and Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
The Torture Letters: Reckoning with Police Violence by Laurence Ralph is available from the University of Chicago Press as a free ebook until June 6. (The paperback is available for 20% off with the code AD1862.) Ralph draws on ten years of interviews and archival research to trace the history of police torture in Chicago, the institutional racism that encourages it, and how it persists today.
Melanie D. Newport curated a US prison history reading list, with titles like Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Y. Davis, The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, and The Politics of Injustice: The Collateral Consequences of Mass Imprisonment. Many books have come out since she originally posted it in 2014, which is why you should also check out Black Perspectives’ prison abolition syllabus.
Want more on police and prison abolition? Autostraddle has a 101 with further reading.
Jonny Diamond at Lit Hub collects readings on racism, white supremacy, and police violence in America.
The Chicago Public Library has a list of recent titles on police brutality, including Chokehold: Policing Black Men by Paul Butler, Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color by Andrea J. Ritchie, and Policing Black Bodies: How Black Lives Are Surveilled and How to Work for Change by Angela Hattery.
The Abusable Past co-editors have compiled a reading list on policing, rebellion, and the criminalization of Blackness. The books, articles, reports, and other writing cover the function of police violence; criminalizing Blackness; histories of resistance, riots, and uprisings; and abolition, and touch on various countries with a heavy focus on the United States.
Electric Literature has compiled conversations with Black authors – including Ijeoma Oluo, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Ibram X. Kendi, Melanie S. Hatter, Darnell Moore, and Austin Channing Brown – discussing being Black in America.
Jill Watts, author of The Black Cabinet: The Untold Story of African Americans and Politics During the Age of Roosevelt, recommends a reading list of ten life stories from forgotten civil rights pioneers, including Mary McLeod Bethune, Claude Barnett, Jackie Ormes, and Hazel Scott.
For any Canadians out there looking at the States right now and feeling smug because it’s “better in Canada,” it’s not. Here are 10 Canadian books about racism, anti-Blackness, and anti-racism.
For ongoing recommendations, the Black Agenda Report Book Forum is a great source for recommendations and criticism.
Leah Johnson’s debut queer YA novel You Should See Me in a Crown came out June 2. At Electric Literature, Johnson talks about untangling anti-Blackness, making space for joy in stories about Black girls and more:
“It’s important to me that stories about black girls get to have space for that joy. Liz isn’t out here trying to win the Nobel for race relations and gay rights, you know what I mean? She just wants to be black and visibly queer in public without fear of being on the recieving end of some sort of violence. Black women, so often are held to unreasonable expectations of strength and stoicism and sexlessness, so in this book, I wanted to relieve Liz of all that. And by extension, myself.”
This year’s Desmond Elliott Prize shortlist features all Black writers. Check them out!
Afoma Umesi recommends 45 young adult novels by Black authors writing about Black teens.
Electric Literature recommends fiction by contemporary Black authors about navigating white supremacy.
The Skokie Library recommends fiction and non-fiction related to Black Lives Matter, including The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler, and Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward.
To support more new books, Essence has 24 fiction and non-fiction books by Black authors out in 2020, including Hitting a Straight Lick With a Crooked Stick by Zora Neale Hurston, Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, and We Want Our Bodies Back by jessica care moore.