February is Black History Month, which is a time to lift up and celebrate Black writers and thinkers of the past and present. Culture would not be the same without authors like James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou and Alice Walker inspiring today’s generation of thought. Below is a list of pivotal and prominent works by Black writers that were published within the last few years and helped further the conversation on race and diversity.
The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power by Desmond Cole
Canadian journalist and activist Desmond Cole wrote an essay for The Toronto Star in 2015 titled “The Skin I’m In.” In it, he detailed his experiences of being carded by the Toronto police more than 50 times and delved into the history of anti-Black racism in Ontario. Later, he focused on personal and nationwide events pertaining to racism and police brutality in 2017 to write his first book, The Skin We’re In, which became a bestselling Canadian book in 2020.
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho
Becoming a viral YouTube channel sensation in June 2020 with his first episode of “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man”, Emmanuel Acho bravely bridged a growing racial divide in America following the murder of George Floyd by white police officer Derek Chauvin. With openness and steadiness, Acho addresses difficult (and even taboo) questions and creates a resource for people to interrogate their own racist assumptions.
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Certainly the definitive textbook on antiracism, How to Be an Antiracist deeply and incisively examines racist and assimilative thoughts and actions while also presenting a path towards justice and equity. Ibram X. Kendi, director of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University, works through the reader’s antiracism education by walking through his own difficult journey towards becoming an antiracist.
The 1619 Project by Nikole Sheri Hannah-Jones
Having begun on the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery (when the first slave ship reached the English colony of Virginia), The 1619 Project is a continuous undertaking by The New York Times Magazine to restore Black narratives to American history and bring to light (and dismantle) the effects of slavery today. The book was spearheaded by Nikole Sheri Hannah-Jones, who received the Pulitzer Prize in the category of Commentary for her work on the project.
Out of the Sun: On Race and Storytelling by Esi Edugyan
Two-time Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Esi Edugyan examines the Black experience with a global lens, looking through art, history, and culture while touching upon her own personal experiences. Masterfully weaving together narratives in different mediums and places, Out of the Sun is, according to its own introduction, “Part memoir, part travelogue, part history, [and] meditations on identity and belonging.” In doing so, it pushes Canadian literature forward.
Rose Ho | Assistant Editor