The Center for Black Literature Monthly Book Club

Reading and Discussing the Works of Black Authors Throughout the African Diaspora

In March 2020, at the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, Dr. Brenda M. Greene shared a note of hope to the cultural arts community-at-large. In an open letter to the community, Dr. Greene, the founder and executive director of the Center for Black Literature referenced a cross-section of Black artists and public figures to remind us all that: “In this time of despair, we can look to our musicians, artists and writers for sustenance. Our musical and literary artists bring us together and often act as agents for social change. Through their music and lyrics, they highlight critical issues and suggest ways that we can overcome. They are gifted visionaries, who through their insight, give us words and rhythms that feed our spirit and souls.”

That same month, Greene announced the newest program of the Center, the monthly book club. The online book discussion featured Edwidge Danticat’s powerful work, Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist At Work. Through the best-selling collection of essays, Danticat “tells stories of artists who create despite (or because of) the horrors that drove them from their homelands. The essence of the work focuses on artists who create during crisis."

The inaugural gathering on April 29, 2020, was a tremendous success. Danticat made a guest phone appearance to dozens of people who called in from all over the country: New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Florida, Iowa, Texas, and Massachusetts.

📚 NOTE: Monthly book club members gather every last Wednesday. To RSVP for the monthly sessions (which are all via Zoom), send an email to writers@mec.cuny.edu.

books

Upcoming 2022 Books of the Month

Jan 2022 The Ones Who Don't Say They Love You - Maurice Carlos Ruffin

January 2022 - The Ones Who Don't Say They Love You: Stories by Maurice Carlos Ruffin
The New York Times Editors' Choice • A collection of raucous stories that offer a “vibrant and true mosaic” (The New York Times) of New Orleans, from the critically acclaimed author of We Cast a Shadow. SHORTLISTED FOR THE ERNEST J. GAINES AWARD • “Every sentence is both something that makes you want to laugh in a gut-wrenching way and threatens to break your heart in a way that you did not anticipate.”—Robert Jones, Jr., author of The Prophets, in The Wall Street Journal.

Feb 2022 Read Until You Understand - The Profound Wisdom of Black Life And Literature - Farah Jasmine Griffin

February 2022 - Read Until You Understand: The Profound Wisdom of Black Life and Literature by Farah Jasmine Griffin
Farah Jasmine Griffin has taken to her heart the phrase "read until you understand," a line her father, who died when she was nine, wrote in a note to her.  She has made it central to this book about love of the majestic power of words and love of the magnificence of Black life. Here, she shares a lifetime of discoveries: the ideas that inspired the stunning oratory of Frederick Douglass and Malcolm X, the soulful music of Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, the daring literature of Phillis Wheatley and Toni Morrison, the inventive artistry of Romare Bearden, and many more. Exploring these works through such themes as justice, rage, self-determination, beauty, joy, and mercy allows her to move from her aunt’s love of yellow roses to Gil Scott-Heron’s "Winter in America."

March 2022 There's a Revolution Outside, My Love Letters from a Crisis Tracy K Smith, John Freeman

March 2022 – There's a Revolution Outside, My Love: Letters from a Crisis by Tracy K. Smith
This kaleidoscopic portrait of an unprecedented time brings together some of our most treasured writers today—Edwidge Danticat, Layli Long Soldier, Monica Youn, Julia Alvarez, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor—to give voice to the unthinkable grief and hopeful possibilities born in an era of revolution and change. “A maelstrom of grief, anger, fear and confusion, with glimmers of gratitude and hope: a comprehensive emotional document of a moment.”— The New York Times Book Review

April 2022 Another Brooklyn Jacqueline Woodson

April 2022 - Another Brooklyn: A Novel by Jacqueline Woodson
Running into a long-ago friend sets memory from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant—a part of a future that belonged to them.

May 2022 Harlem Shuffle Colson Whitehead

May 2022Harlem Shuffle  by Colson Whitehead
GOOD READS REVIEW: In his rollicking and heartrending novel, “Harlem Shuffle,” the Pulitzer Prize award-winning author brilliantly weaves crime fiction, family drama, and political history. In the embodiment of hustle, Colson Whitehead brilliantly weaves crime fiction, family drama and political history in one rollicking and heartrending novel with Harlem Shuffle.

June 2002 Moon And The Mars Kia Corthron

June 2022 – Moon and the Mars: A Novel by Kia Corthron
An exploration of NYC and America in the burgeoning moments before the start of the Civil War through the eyes of a young, biracial girl—the highly anticipated new novel from the winner of the Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize. "Corthron, a true heir to James Baldwin, presents a startlingly original exposure of the complex roots of American racism." —Naomi Wallace, MacArthur "Genius" Playwriting Fellow and author of One Flea Spare

July 2022 A Brief HIstory of Seven Killings Marlon James

July 2022 – A Brief History of Seven Killings: A Novel by Marlon James
Winner of the Man Booker Prize. A “thrilling, ambitious . . . intense” (Los Angeles Times) novel that explores the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in the late 1970s, from the author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf. In A Brief History of Seven Killings, Marlon James combines masterful storytelling with his unrivaled skill at characterization and his meticulous eye for detail to forge a novel of dazzling ambition and scope.

August 2022 Eloquent Rage, A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower Brittney Cooper

August 2022 – Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower  by Brittney Cooper
NOW A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • An Emma Watson "Our Shared Shelf" Selection for November/December 2018 • NAMED A BEST BOOK OF 2018/ MENTIONED BY: The New York Public Library • Mashable • The Atlantic • Bustle • The Root • Politico Magazine ("What the 2020 Candidates Are Reading This Summer")  NPR • Fast Company ("10 Best Books for Battling Your Sexist Workplace") • The Guardian ("Top 10 Books About Angry Women")
So what if it’s true that Black women are mad as hell? They have the right to be. In the Black feminist tradition of Audre Lorde, Brittney Cooper reminds us that anger is a powerful source of energy that can give us the strength to keep on fighting.

2021 Books of the Month

girl-woman

June 2021 - Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo (Celebrating Caribbean Month).
From a nonbinary social media influencer to a 93-year-old woman living on a farm in Northern England, these unforgettable characters also intersect in shared aspects of their identities, from age to race to sexuality to class. Read more about the book HERE.

freedom

May 2021 - The Freedom Artist by Ben Okri
The Freedom Artist is an impassioned plea for justice and a penetrating examination of how freedom is threatened in a post-truth society. In Ben Okri's most significant novel since the Booker Prize-winning The Famished Road, he delivers a powerful and haunting call to arms. Read more about the book HERE.

dragon

April 2021 - The Dragons, the Giant, the Women: A Memoir by Wayétu Moore
Moore was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Club Critics Circle Awards. “This memoir adds an essential voice to the genre of migrant literature, challenging false popular narratives that migration is optional, permanent and always results in a better life.”The New York Times Book Review

nickel-boys

March 2021 - The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday, 2019)
Inspired by a real story, The Nickel Boys tells of two young boys unjustly sentenced to the Dozier School, a horrendous reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida. President Barack Obama selected the book for his 2019 Summer Reading List and described the book as “difficult to swallow” and “a necessary read.”

the-man

February 2021 - The Man Who Cried I Am by John A. Williams (Harry N. Abrams, 2004)
“Generally recognized as one of the most important novels of the tumultuous 1960s, The Man Who Cried I Am vividly evokes the harsh era of segregation that presaged the expatriation of African-American intellectuals. … John A Williams reveals the hope, courage, and bitter disappointment of the civil-rights era.” — Goodreads

confessions

January 2021 – Confessions in B-Flat by Donna Hill (Sideways Books, 2020)
In her latest novel, author Donna Hill offers a powerful romance story between passionate, young activists during the American Civil Rights Movement. Historical photos, famous speeches, news articles, and real-life heroes from the day are woven throughout the book, including the late John Lewis, to whom the book is dedicated.

2020 Books of the Month

praisesong

December 2020 – Praisesong for the Widow by Paule Marshall (Penguin, 1983)
From the acclaimed author of Daughters and Brown Girl, Brownstones comes a “work of exceptional wisdom, maturity, and generosity, one in which the palpable humanity of its characters transcends any considerations of race or sex.” —Washington Post Book World. More information on the book and review HERE.

vanishing

November 2020The Vanishing Half  by Brit Bennett (Penguin Press, 2020)
From The New York Times best-selling author of The Mothers, a stunning new novel about twin sisters, inseparable as children, who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds, one Black and one White. Read more reviews and testimonials HERE.

truths

October 2020 – The Truths We Hold: An American Journey by Kamala Harris (Penguin Press, 2019)
New York Times bestseller from Kamala Harris, one of America’s most inspiring political leaders and Vice President-elect this is a book about the core truths that unite us, and the long struggle to discern what those truths are and how best to act upon them, in her own life and across the life of our country.

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