Remember that feeling of being so deeply enthralled in a book that you just could not remove your eyes from its pages, or reading an article that absolutely blew your mind? Well I am truly happy for you if you do, but unfortunately as a college student forced to read unnecessarily long and mundane textbooks and overly pretentious journal articles on a daily basis, I don’t. Though I understand the educational value of these types of readings (kind of), I miss the days when I read novels and articles that actually sparked my interest, books that I had to force myself to put down so that I could get some sleep, not ones that put me to sleep. I’d much rather be reading about the Harlem Renaissance, about stories that paint vivid pictures about the black experience in America or books about life in West Africa and Ancient Egypt; books about Hip Hop, Rock and Jazz; memoirs, biographies and autobiographies of legends and leaders; novels about love or the lack thereof; articles about art or cultures that I may have never explored before; or coffee table books about fashion and traveling. Basically anything and everything other than these damn textbooks (throws textbook across the room!). Alright, I’ll calm down now, but seriously I really want to get back to reading “Just because’ not “just because I have to so I can pass this test”-get what I mean? I want to get lost in the thrill of an amazing book again!
By Damola Durosomo, AFROPUNK Contributor
So, I’ve decided that I am going to embark on my own little renaissance and revive my love for literature and leisure reading, and I’d really love for you all to take part in it too, even if you already read for fun all the time! I’ll let you know about anything cool or thought provoking that I’m reading and offer recommendations and reviews on different books and articles, and if you stumble upon anything that you find captivating you can share them with me as well!
Let’s start this off with some material that I believe everybody, black or white, should be exposed to. You’ve probably already read some of these, but if you haven’t they’re definitely worth your time. Many are considered classics in black literature, and they’re a great foundation for us to start our journey off with. Most of these can be found on Amazon, on iBooks, or at the good ol’ public library. Leave a comment below if you’d like to share some of your favorites!
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe:
You may have read this one before, since it is one of the few African books that is widely read in schools throughout the country and for good reason: it’s a raw and honest tale that criticizes the Western world’s ethnocentric views and challenges misconceptions about African culture. This book is a milestone for African literature and the late, great Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe’s most noteworthy work.
Jazz by Toni Morrison:
I read this book for the first time when I was in 10th grade, and it’s been one of my favorites ever since. It’s not necessarily one of Toni Morrison’s most popular works, but it’s amazing nonetheless, the book takes place in 1920s Harlem and is a colorful yet solemn historical account of African American life in the late 19th and early 20th century.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X:
I don’t think this one needs much of an explanation; you should read it because it’s the autobiography of Malcolm X.
Assata: An Autobiography
Assata is such an icon for black empowerment, and her story is truly one of a kind. It’s a gut-wrenching story of both freedom and entrapment. If this does not get you asking questions about the system, then I don’t know what will! Definitely a must read!
Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin:
My favorite teacher in high school gave me the essay Notes of a Native Son to read and I’m forever thankful to him for doing so. It’s one of the most profound literary works that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading; James Baldwin is so honest and this book is an insightful account of the events in his life that shaped him. There’s an overload of wisdom in Baldwin’s words, and though the events that shaped him are very singular and unique, they’re very relatable as well.
The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes
Langston is just good for the soul! He writes with such deep emotion and conviction, that you cannot help but be marveled by his work. All of his writings are monumental and his contribution to black literature is paramount. The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes is a great selection of the late poet’s greatest work. If you’re into poetry then you should definitely check out the collections of other great black writers such as Nikki Giovanni, Gwendolyn Brooks and Yusef Komunyakaa.