Every publication from Vibe to Jezebel is talking about Marley Dias, the 11-year old New Jersey girl who is holding a book drive for 1000 books with Black female protagonists. No stranger to activism, Marley is clearly a DO person, not a WAIT person. And I love that.
I also love that the attention given to her heart-warming and inspirational project has brought up discussions about literature in junior high and high school that DOES have Black girls as the focus. Some concerns point out that high school staples like I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Bluest Eye, Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Color Purple, Annie John, Breath, Eyes, Memory often show Black girls and women as victims. (I haven’t seen much mention of A Raisin in the Sun, which has a variety of Black, female, extraordinary everyday heroes.) And while I’d argue that seeing the aforementioned novels as filled with victims is unfair, that’s for another post.
So, in the spirit of #1000BlackGirlBooks, I’d like to make a few reading suggestions you might not have yet read.
- Fresh Girl, by Jaira Placide
- Similar in theme to Edwidge Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory, this novel was given to me as an end-of-the-year gift by a student who was graduating. She was a relatively recent immigrant from Haiti and had taken several of my literature classes over a couple of years. We’d spent a good amount of time before school and after school working on essays and college applications and so on, but she didn’t like to talk about herself. When she gave me a copy of Fresh Girl, she told me that this was her story. That I’d know who she was after reading it. I still have it 15 years later.
- Kindred, by Octavia Butler
- If you’re into science-fiction/fantasy, this is a must-read. If you’re into historical fiction, this is a must-read. If you’re into good books, this is a must-read. Basically, just go read this book that includes elements of time travel, slave narrative, and even mystery. And the best part is that if you like it, there are loads more where that came from.
- Earth’s Waters, by Nicole Blades
- This coming-of-age novel has a protagonist you root for even as you watch her making wince-worthy decisions. With echoes of Edith Wharton and Zora Neale Hurston, this novel will entertain you you’ll think about the plot and ending long after you’ve finished turning the pages. Also, make sure to read this first novel by Ms. Blades before her next novel, The Thunder Beneath Us, comes out!
I have so many more to recommend, and there are many ways in which We Need Diverse Books, but I think I’ll save some for later. And can I ask a favor? Please leave your suggestions for #1000BlackGirlBooks in comments.