February 1 marks the beginning of Black History Month in the United States, an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of black writers, creators, entertainers, inventors, politicians, activists, and other luminaries in U.S. history. While there are countless ways to celebrate black history this month (and every month!) one of the best is definitely through reading their stories. And lucky for us, there are so many incredible new nonfiction books to read for Black History Month this year — and many of them are written by women. These books range from memoirs to essays covering everything from pop culture and history to personal triumphs and struggles.
No matter what you're in the mood for, all of these nonfiction books are waiting to be grabbed off your closest bookstore or library shelves throughout this month. Because whether you do it during February or not, it is so important to make sure that your reading is inclusive of stories like these, that shed a light on what it means to be a black woman today, and the intersections of race, gender feminism, activism and allyship that has come to define our current resistance movement.
'This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America' by Morgan Jerkins
In This Will Be My Undoing, Morgan Jerkins tackles this question: What does it mean to “be” —to live as, to exist as— a black woman today? Setting herself up as both the narrator and the subject, Jerkins exposes the social, cultural, and historical story of black female oppression that influences the black community, as well as the white, male-dominated world at large.
'When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir' by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele
Written by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele, this memoir is both proof of the power of the Black Lives Matter movement, and a reflection on humanity. The leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement have been called terrorists, a threat to America. But in this account of survival, strength, and resilience Cullors and Bandele share the life experiences have led them to seek justice for those victimized by the powerful.
'So You Want to Talk About Race' by Ijeoma Oluo
In So You Want to Talk About Race, Editor at Large of The Establishment Ijeoma Oluo offers a contemporary, accessible take on the racial landscape in America, addressing issues like privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, and micro-aggressions.
'March Forward, Girl: From Young Warrior to Little Rock Nine' by Melba Pattillo Beals
Long before she was one of the Little Rock Nine, Melba Pattillo Beals was a warrior. Frustrated by the laws that kept African-Americans separate but very much unequal to whites, she had questions. Adults all told her: Hold your tongue. Be patient. Know your place. But Beals had the heart of a fighter — and the knowledge that her true place was a free one. This memoir paints a vivid picture of Beals’ powerful early journey on the road to becoming a champion for equal rights, and the recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal.
'The Mother of Black Hollywood: A Memoir' by Jenifer Lewis
The legendary star Jennifer Lewis looks back on her memorable journey to fame and the unforgettable life lessons she learned along the way. Told in the audacious voice her fans adore, Lewis describes a road to fame made treacherous by dysfunction and undiagnosed mental illness, including a sex addiction. Yet, supported by loving friends and strengthened by "inner soldiers," Jenifer has never stopped entertaining and creating.
'Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You!' by Marley Dias
At just 13 years old, Marley Dias has not only been the voice behind the #1000blackgirls book campaign, she has also become an activist icon for teens (and, well, everyone) everywhere. In this accessible guide, with an introduction by Ava DuVernay, Marley Dias explores activism, social justice, volunteerism, equity and inclusion, and using social media for good.
'Black Ink: Literary Legends on the Peril, Power, and Pleasure of Reading and Writing' by Stephanie Stokes Oliver
Spanning over 250 years of history, Black Ink traces black literature in America from Frederick Douglass to Ta-Nehisi Coates in a collection of 25 moving essays on the power of the written word. With an array of contributors both classic and contemporary — including Zora Neale Hurston and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — Black Ink presents the brilliant diversity of black thought in America while solidifying the importance of these writers within the greater context of the American literary tradition.
'Feel Free' by Zadie Smith (Feb. 6)
Zadie Smith's latest essay collection poses questions on topics readers can immediately recognize. What is The Social Network —and Facebook itself — really about? Why do we love libraries? What will we tell our granddaughters about our collective failure to address global warming?" Feel Free offers a survey of important recent events in culture and politics, as well as Smith's own life.
'Sign My Name to Freedom: A Memoir of a Pioneering Life' by Betty Reid-Soskin (Feb. 6)
At age 96, Betty Reid Soskin is the oldest National Park Ranger serving the United States. Here she shares her story, from growing up hearing stories of slavery from her great-grandmother, to her landmark career as a park ranger. Blending together selections from Betty’s blog entries, interviews, letters, and speeches collected throughout her long life, Sign My Name to Freedom invites readers into an American life through a woman who has never stopped looking at the nation with fresh eyes.
'Love’s Long Line' by Sophfronia Scott (Feb. 11)
In Love’s Long Line, Sophfronia Scott contemplates what her son taught her about grief after the shootings at his school, Sandy Hook Elementary; the unexpected heartache of being a substitute school bus driver; and the satisfying fantasy of paying off a mortgage. Scott turns an unflinching eye on her life to deliver a collection of essays ruminating on faith, motherhood, race, and the search for meaningful connection in an increasingly disconnected world.
'Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower' by Brittney Cooper (Feb. 20)
Eloquent Rage offers a way forward, one that encourages us all not to be cowed or silenced by fear. It looks to the lives of black women — one of the nation's most maligned subjects — for direction. And it raises up black women as the model critical dissent as a practice of prophetic love not for who America is, but for who she can be.