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With the holiday season upon us, books are perhaps the most timeless of gifts. In the following JARO reading list, these non-fiction works penned by inspirational Black women make wonderful presents for the wisdom-seekers, artists, and entrepreneurs in one’s life.
Memoirs can be a source of healing and immeasurable insight as we’re offered a thorough examination into the trajectory of a life’s work, challenges that inevitably arose, and how they were overcome. Poetry, too, gifts us with its restorative power, especially when it is penned by those who we can deeply relate and connect with. Meditations on love, darkness and light, the soul’s nourishment, leadership, and courage from prominent authors such as bell hooks and Toni Morrison can be discovered in the curated list below.
All About Love, bell hooks
“Here, at her most provocative and intensely personal, renowned scholar, cultural critic and feminist bell hooks offers a proactive new ethic for a society bereft with lovelessness–not the lack of romance, but the lack of care, compassion, and unity. People are divided, she declares, by society’s failure to provide a model for learning to love.
As bell hooks uses her incisive mind to explore the question “What is love?” her answers strike at both the mind and heart. Razing the cultural paradigm that the ideal love is infused with sex and desire, she provides a new path to love that is sacred, redemptive, and healing for individuals and for a nation. All About Love is a powerful, timely affirmation of just how profoundly her revelations can change hearts and minds for the better.”
Art on My Mind: Visual Politics, bell hooks
“In Art on My Mind, bell hooks, a leading cultural critic, responds to the ongoing dialogues about producing, exhibiting, and criticizing art and aesthetics in an art world increasingly concerned with identity politics. Always concerned with the liberatory black struggle, hooks positions her writings on visual politics within the ever-present question of how art can be an empowering and revolutionary force within the black community.”
“For the first time, the edited journals of Alice Walker are gathered together to reflect the complex, passionate, talented, and acclaimed Pulitzer Prize winner of The Color Purple. She intimately explores her thoughts and feelings as a woman, a writer, an African American, a wife, a daughter, a mother, a lover, a sister, a friend, a citizen of the world.
In an unvarnished and singular voice, she explores an astonishing array of events: marching in Mississippi with other foot soldiers of the civil rights movement, led by Martin Luther King, Jr.; her marriage to a Jewish lawyer, defying laws that barred interracial marriage in the 1960s South; an early miscarriage; writing her first novel; the trials and triumphs of the women’s movement; erotic encounters and enduring relationships; the ancestral visits that led her to write The Color Purple; winning the Pulitzer Prize; being admired and maligned, sometimes in equal measure, for her work and her activism; and burying her mother. A powerful blend of Walker’s personal life with political events, this revealing collection offers rare insight into a literary legend.”
The Heart of a Woman, Maya Angelou
“In her fourth volume, The Heart of a Woman, Maya Angelou’s turbulent life breaks wide open with joy as the singer-dancer enters the razzle-dazzle of fabulous New York City. There, at the Harlem Writers Guild, her love for writing blazes anew.
Filled with unforgettable vignettes of famous characters, from Billie Holiday to Malcolm X, The Heart of a Woman sings with Maya Angelou’s eloquent prose — her fondest dreams, deepest disappointments, and her dramatically tender relationship with her rebellious teenage son. Vulnerable, humorous, tough, Maya speaks with an intimate awareness of the heart within all of us.”
Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes
“This poignant, intimate, and hilarious memoir explores Shonda’s life before her Year of Yes—from her nerdy, book-loving childhood to her devotion to creating television characters who reflected the world she saw around her. The book chronicles her life after her Year of Yes had begun—when Shonda forced herself out of the house and onto the stage; when she learned to explore, empower, applaud, and love her truest self. Yes.
“Honest, raw, and revelatory” (The Washington Post), this wildly candid and compulsively readable book reveals how the mega talented Shonda Rhimes finally achieved badassery worthy of a Shondaland character. Best of all, she “can help motivate even the most determined homebody to get out and try something new” (Chicago Tribune).”
The Measure of our Lives, Toni Morrison
“This inspirational book juxtaposes quotations, one to a page, drawn from Toni Morrison’s entire body of work, both fiction and nonfiction—from The Bluest Eye to God Help the Child, from Playing in the Dark to The Source of Self-Regard—to tell a story of self-actualization. It aims to evoke the totality of Toni Morrison’s literary vision.
Its compelling sequence of flashes of revelation—stunning for their linguistic originality, keenness of psychological observation, and philosophical profundity—addresses issues of abiding interest in Morrison’s work: the reach of language for the ineffable; transcendence through imagination; the self and its discontents; the vicissitudes of love; the whirligig of memory; the singular power of women; the original American sin of slavery; the bankruptcy of racial oppression; the complex humanity and art of black people. The Measure of Our Lives brims with elegance of style and mind and moral authority.”
The Light We Carry, Michelle Obama
“Michelle Obama offers readers a series of fresh stories and insightful reflections on change, challenge, and power, including her belief that when we light up for others, we can illuminate the richness and potential of the world around us, discovering deeper truths and new pathways for progress. Drawing from her experiences as a mother, daughter, spouse, friend, and First Lady, she shares the habits and principles she has developed to successfully adapt to change and overcome various obstacles—the earned wisdom that helps her continue to “become.” She details her most valuable practices, like “starting kind,” “going high,” and assembling a “kitchen table” of trusted friends and mentors. With trademark humor, candor, and compassion, she also explores issues connected to race, gender, and visibility, encouraging readers to work through fear, find strength in community, and live with boldness.”
The Black Unicorn, Audre Lorde
“The Black Unicorn is a collection of poems by a woman who, Adrienne Rich writes, “for the complexity of her vision, for her moral courage and the catalytic passion of her language, has already become, for many, an indispensable poet.”
Rich continues: “Refusing to be circumscribed by any simple identity, Audre Lorde writes as a Black woman, a mother, a daughter, a Lesbian, a feminist, a visionary; poems of elemental wildness and healing, nightmare and lucidity. Her rhythms and accents have the timelessness of a poetry which extends beyond white Western politics, beyond the anger and wisdom of Black America, beyond the North American earth, to Abomey and the Dahomeyan Amazons. These are poems nourished in an oral tradition, which also blaze and pulse on the page, beneath the reader’s eye.”
Feeding the Soul (Because It’s My Business): Finding Our Way to Joy, Love, and Freedom, Tabitha Brown
“Before Tabitha Brown was one of the most popular personalities in the world, sharing her delicious vegan home cooking and compassionate wisdom with millions of followers across social media, she was an aspiring actress who in 2016 began struggling with undiagnosed chronic autoimmune pain. Her condition made her believe she wouldn’t live to see forty–until she started listening to what her soul and her body truly needed. Now, in this life-changing book, Tabitha shares the wisdom she gained from her own journey, showing readers how to make a life for themselves that is rooted in nonjudgmental kindness and love, both for themselves and for others.
Rich with personal stories and inspirational quotes, and sprinkled with a few easy vegan recipes, Feeding the Soul is a book to share–and to return to when you want to feel seen, loved, and heard.”