Uplifting Voices for Black History Month | Mechanics' Institute

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Uplifting Voices for Black History Month

As we enter Black History Month 2021, there is much to celebrate in terms of representation. In the White House, Kamala Harris became the first Black woman and first Indian-American to be elected vice president. In the House of Representatives, Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones became the first openly gay Black men to be elected to Congress. Cori Bush became the first Black woman elected to Congress from Missouri in 2020. Khaleel Anderson’s victory in his race for a seat in the New York State Assembly makes the 24-year-old Queens native the youngest Black person in state history to win public office.

While shattering barriers may have seemed to happen quickly during this most recent election, the road to victory has been a long and mostly arduous one. In terms of race relations, the country has made strides, but the journey is far from over. In celebration of Black History Month 2021, MI Library offers a list of more recent titles from Black authors. Please join us in celebrating their eloquent and uplifting voices. All titles are available for check out through the library's To Go service. 


An American Marriage by Tayari Jones - An Oprah's Book Club 2018 selection, Jones' story of Celestial and Roy, two newlyweds on the brink of exciting careers and poised for what appears to be happily ever after. Then Roy is arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison for a crime his wife is sure he didn't commit. As time passes, Roy's wife finds herself depending more heavily on Andre, the best man at their wedding and her childhood friend. A compelling novel that pulls the reader's sympathies in different directions. 

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James - Also available as an eBook. A surreal fantasy from a Man Booker Prize author (A Brief History of Seven Killings, 2014). Set in an ancient and mythical Africa, Tracker is engaged to find a mysterious boy who went missing three years earlier. What appears to be a simple detective story, however, fractures into a novel about belief, truth and destiny. A finalist for the 2019 National Book Award. 

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi - Seventeen-year-old Zélie, her older brother Tzain, and rogue princess Amari fight to restore magic to the land and activate a new generation of magi, but they are ruthlessly pursued by the crown prince, who believes the return of magic will mean the end of the monarchy. An instant bestseller and best book of the year everywhere from Buzzfeed to NPR when it was published in 2018, Adeyemi's novel is being adapted into a film by Lucasfilm. 

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas -  Thomas' third book tells the backstory of Maverick Carter, father and former King Lord gang member, who appeared in her first novel, The Hate U Give, 2017. Seventeen years before, Maverick Carter was a young teen who, upon learning he is to become a father, now questions whether his dangerous lifestyle will be conducive to finishing school, having a wife and raising a child. Thomas, a former teen rapper, wrote her first book at age 29. The Hate U Give became an instant bestseller and was adapted into a film the following year. 

Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat - Short stories by widely acclaimed, prize-winning author Danticat, some of which have appeared in the New Yorker. Vividly set in places from Miami to Port-au-Prince to a small unnamed country in the Caribbean and beyond, these beautiful and moving stories showcase one of the world's most renowned voices at her best. Also available as an eBook and as an eAudiobook 

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi - A debut novel about a young Nigerian woman named Ada, whose splintered personalities vie for control over her. Narrated from the various selves inside Ada, this dark story explores the metaphysics of identities and mental health. Beautifully written, this 2018 title was named best book of the year by The New Yorker, Buzzfeed, NPR, and the Chicago Public Library, among others.  

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi - A delightful tale of a surprising family in which the inheritance is a recipe. An unconventional take on the Hansel and Gretel in folklore with enough twists and turns to keep readers enchanted and engaged. Oyeyemi, a British author wrote her first novel, The Icarus Girl while still in high school. In 2016, her book What is Not Yours is Not Yours won a PEN Open Book Award, a prize given to writers under 30.

Grand Union by Zadie Smith - Also available as an eBook. - In her first short story collection, Smith combines her power of observation and inimitable voice to mine the fraught and complex experience of life in the modern world. She explores a wide range of subjects, from first loves to cultural despair, as well as the desire to be the subject of your own experience. 

It's Not All Downhill From Here by Terry McMillan - A close-knit group of 60-something black women deals with loss, illness, addicted family members and the never-ending challenges of diet and exercise. In her 10th novel, McMillan (I Almost Forgot About You, 2016) joins veteran novelists such as Philip Roth and Anne Tyler as she sails her protagonists with her into older age.

Memorial by Bryan Washington - Benson and Mike, a mixed-race couple in Houston, search for the truth about themselves, each other and their families. This debut novel from Washington—author of the award-winning story collection Lot (2019)—is being adapted into a TV series. 

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson - National Book Award winner Woodson returns to her cherished Brooklyn setting to tell the story of an unexpected teenage pregnancy and its effect on two families from different social classes. Also available as an eBook and as an eAudiobook.

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn West - This 2011 National Book Award winner follows the story of four siblings from a coastal Mississippi town as they prepare their meager stores for the arrival of Hurricane Katrina while struggling with such challenges as a teen pregnancy and a dying litter of prize pups. Also available as an eAudiobook

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid - Also available as an eBook. - Privileged white mother Alix Chamberlin hires 25-year old Elmira Tucker to care for her 2-year-old while she writes a book. After Elmira is harassed for kidnapping a white child by a security guard during a late-night errand at an upscale food store, things go sideways. Reid's debut novel about modern-day racism was a 2019 Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick. A film adaptation is in the early stages. 

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi - A young doctoral student in neuroscience struggles with a suicidal mother and the death of her brother as she searches for a scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her. This poignant story is a sequel to Gyasi's 2016 novel, Homegoing, a multigenerational story about a Ghanian family that migrates to America.

Unraveling by Karen Lord - Dr. Miranda Ecouvo, a forensic therapist, just helped put a serial killer behind bars. But she soon discovers that her investigation into seven unusual murders is not yet complete. A standalone fantasy novel by an award-winning author, the dark truth behind a string of unusual murders leads to an otherworldly exploration of spirits, myth and memory, steeped in Caribbean storytelling.

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates - Set in pre-Civil War Virginia, a young slave discovers he has mysterious powers. He joins the Underground Railroad as a "conductor" but first he must learn to harness his magical gift. Coates is also writing the screenplay for an Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt-produced film by the same name. This title is available as an eBook and as a book on CD.


The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett - One of The New York Times' Best Books of 2020, Bennett's second novel explores sisterhood, black identity and parenthood with compassion and conviction. Also available as an eBook and as an eAudiobook.


Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and its urgent lessons for our own by Eddie Glaude Jr.

Black is the Body: stories from my grandmother's time, my mother's time and mine by Emily Bernard

Dapper Dan: made in Harlem: a memoir by Daniel R. Day - Also available as an eBook.

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi - Also available as an eBook

How We Fight for Our Lives: a memoir by Saeed Jones

Looking for Lorraine: the radiant and radical life of Lorraine Hansberry by Imani Perry

The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson - Also available as an eBook.

Well-Read Black Girl: finding our stories, discovering ourselves: an anthology edited by Gloria Edim

The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom


Posted on Feb. 4, 2021 by Celeste Steward