It’s Black History Month, and I thought I’d share the women, books and stories from that should be devoured during the month of February.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Jacqueline Woodson, one of today’s finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become. Winner of the Newberry Honor Award
Zami: A New Spelling of My Name – A Biomythography by Audre Lorde
Zami: A New Spelling of My Name is a 1982 autobiography by African-American poet Audre Lorde. It started a new genre that the author calls biomythography. Zami is a fast-moving chronicle. From the author’s vivid childhood memories in Harlem to her coming of age in the late 1950s, the nature of Audre Lorde’s work is cyclical. It especially relates the linkage of women who have shaped her . . . Lorde brings into play her craft of lush description and characterization. It keeps unfolding page after page.
Afrekete: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Writing edited by Catherine E. McKinley
Elegant, timely, provocative, and inspiring, the fiction, poetry, and nonfiction in Afrekete — written in a range of styles — engage a variety of highly topical themes, placing them at the center of literary and social discourse. Beginning with “Tar Beach,” an excerpt from Audre Lorde’s celebrated memoir Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, which introduces the character Afrekete, the collection also includes such prominent writers as Michelle Cliff, Carolivia Herron, Jewelle Gomez, and Alexis De Veaux. Other pieces are by Jacqueline Woodson, Sapphire, Essence editor Linda Villarosa, and filmmaker Michelle Parkerson, with other contributions by exciting new writers Cynthia Bond, Jocelyn Taylor, Jamika Ajalon, and Sharee Nash.
Black Like Us: A Century of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual African American Fiction
edited by Devon W. Carbado and Dwight McBride
Showcasing the work of literary giants like Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, and writers whom readers may be surprised to learn were “in the life,” Black Like Us is the most comprehensive collection of fiction by African-American lesbian, gay, and bisexual writers ever published. From the Harlem Renaissance to the Great Migration of the Depression era, from the postwar civil rights, feminist, and gay liberation movements, to the unabashedly complex sexual explorations of the present day, Black Like Us accomplishes a sweeping survey of 20th century literature. Winner of the 2003 Lambda Literary Award for Fiction Anthology
Does Your Mama Know?: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Coming Out Stories edited by Lisa C. Moore
This is a collection of short stories, poems, interviews and essays by black lesbians. The complexity of emotions that accompany a black lesbian’s coming out are reflected in these original writings.
G.R.I.T.S. – Girls Raised In the South: An Anthology of Southern Queer Womyns’ Voices and Their Allies edited by Poet On Watch and Amber N. Williams (with introduction by Cheryl Clarke)
This cutting-edge anthology G.R.I.T.S : Girls Raised In The South – An Anthology of Southern Queer Womyns’ Voices and Their Allies, edited by Poet On Watch & Amber N. Williams, can be compared to the pioneering anthology Home Girls, which featured writings by Black feminist and lesbian activists on topics both provocative and profound. G.R.I.T.S. is a critical self-analysis and celebration with multicultural queer women voices and their allies through essays, short stories, poetry, photo stories and healing comfort recipes. The perspectives are of womyn who live in the Southern region of the United States and/or have a strong affinity for this locale. The theme of the publication surrounds the subject matter of erotica while enjoying food, our connection to the South, the bonds created between lovers, and in sisterhood, personal growth, be it spiritual or otherwise and our best G.R.I.T.S. recipes.
Home Girls edited by Barbara Smith
The pioneering anthology Home Girls features writings by Black feminists and lesbian activists on topics both provocative and profound. Since its initial publication in 1983, it has become an essential text on Black women’s lives and writings. This edition features an updated list of contributor biographies and an all-new preface that provides a fresh assessment of how Black women’s lives have changed – or not – since the book was first published.
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde (with foreword by Cheryl Clarke)
Presenting the essential writings of black lesbian poet and feminist writer Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider celebrates an influential voice in twentieth-century literature. In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change.
Women, Race, & Class by Angela Y. Davis
A powerful study of the women’s movement in the U.S. from abolitionist days to the present that demonstrates how it has always been hampered by the racist and classist biases of its leaders.
Queen Latifah stars as legendary blues singer Bessie Smith in this HBO Films presentation, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Dee Rees (named one of 20 filmmakers to watch by The New York Times). The film focuses on Smith’s transformation from a struggling young singer into “The Empress of the Blues,” who became one of the most successful recording artists of the 1920s and is an enduring icon today.
The Watermelon Woman
Cheryl Dunye’s debut feature is as controversial as it is sexy and funny. Cheryl is a twenty-something black lesbian working as a clerk in a video store while struggling to make a documentary about Fae Richards, an obscure black actress from the 1930’s. Cheryl is surprised to discover that Richards (known popularly as “the Watermelon Woman”) had a white lesbian lover. At the same time, Cheryl falls in love with a very cute white customer at the video store (Guinevere Turner from Go Fish).
The Women of Brewster Place
Based on the novel by Gloria Naylor, a group of strong-willed women live in the same rundown housing project and struggle against racism, poverty and troublesome men through three decades. Starring Oprah Winfrey, Jackee Harry, Robin Givens, this miniseries features a black lesbian couple dealing with the joys and pains of being whom they are.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Color Purple is a 1982 epistolary novel by American author Alice Walker that won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction. It was later adapted into a film and musical of the same name. The story focuses on the life of Celie and her struggles as a black woman in 1930s rural Georgia, and the relationship between her and provocative blues singer Shug Avery. Moving, painful and full of life.
Descendants of Hagar by Nik Nicholson
It’s 1914 in Zion, Georgia, during the Black Codes, when Negroes were lynched for one wrong glance. A time when marriage was an agreement between a woman’s father and the man he chose for her. Most women had no romantic interest in their future husbands. In the worst case, they were promised to complete strangers. Madelyn “Linny” Remington is the great-great granddaughter of strong-spirited ex-slave, Miemay, who oversees her rearing. While other women were raised to be broken, Linny was reared to build and repair. When other women were expected to be seen and not heard, Linny was expected to vote beside men. As other women prayed they would be chosen for marriage before they were too old, Linny cleaned her rifle to hunt. While her sister hoped to honor her husband by bearing a son, Linny wondered how a single woman could provide for herself, when only male children could expect an inheritance. A secret has Linny slated as her father’s favorite son. Until Linny makes a promise that frees her from a conventional woman’s role, but the promise also brings shame on her family. Will Linny, threatened with alienation, honor her promise? Or bow to her father’s will an
d go back on her word? Read the Sistahs on the Shelf review of Descendants of Hagar.
Loving Her: A Novel by Ann Allen Shockley
Considered to be the first black lesbian novel. A groundbreaking novel of two very different women, one black and one white, and a remarkable love threatened by prejudice, rage, and violence
A struggling African-American musician, Renay married Jerome Lee when she discovered she was pregnant with his child. Yet even before their daughter, Denise, was born, Renay realized what a terrible mistake she had made, tying herself to a violent, abusive alcoholic. Then, while performing at an upscale supper club, Renay met Terry Bluvard. Beautiful, wealthy, and white, Terry awakened feelings that the talented black pianist had never realized she possessed—and before long, Renay was leaving the nightmare of Jerome Lee behind and moving with little Denise into Terry’s world of luxury and privilege.
Now, in this strange and exciting new place, Renay can experience for the first time what it is to have everything she needs for herself and her little girl. The rules here are different—often confusing and sometimes troubling—but in Terry’s home, and in Terry’s arms, Renay can be who she truly is . . . and be loved with caring tenderness and respect. Yet the storm clouds of her previous life still threaten, and Terry’s love alone may not be enough to protect Renay and her little girl from the tragedy that looms on the horizon. Read the Sistahs on the Shelf review of Loving Her.
Passing by Nella Larsen
Clare Kendry leads a dangerous life. Fair, elegant, and ambitious, she is married to a white man unaware of her African-American heritage, and has severed all ties to her past. Clare’s childhood friend, Irene Redfield, just as light-skinned, has chosen to remain within the African-American community, but refuses to acknowledge the racism that continues to constrict her family’s happiness. A chance encounter forces both women to confront the lies they have told others—and the secret fears they have buried within themselves.
Jonestown and Other Madness: Poetry by Pat Parker
Straightforward, no-nonsense poetry about being Black, female and gay.
Living as a Lesbian by Cheryl Clarke
Living as a Lesbian is Cheryl Clarke’s paean to lesbian life. Filled with sounds from her childhood in Washington, DC, the riffs of jazz musicians, and bluesy incantations, Living as a Lesbian sings like a marimba, whispering “i am, i am in love with you.” Living as a Lesbian chronicles Clarke’s years of literary and political activism with anger, passion, and determination. Clarke mourns the death of Kimako Baraka, “sister of famous artist brother”; celebrates the life of Indira Gandhi; and chronicles all kinds of disasters natural and human-made. The world is large in Living as a Lesbian but also personal and intimate. These poems are closely observed and finely wrought with Clarke’s characteristic charm and wit shining throughout. In 1986, Living as a Lesbian captured the vitality and volatility of the lesbian world; today, in a world both changed and unchanged, Clarke’s poems continue to illuminate our lives and make new meanings for Living as a Lesbian. Read the Sistahs on the Shelf review of Living as a Lesbian.
Information compiled from amazon.com