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Here’s my take: books that are about history—fiction or nonfiction—guide us in the decisions we make about setting and breaking boundaries. Reading fictional works that feature an inspiring hero or heroine doing something extreme or overcoming a major obstacle can be very influential when it comes to making difficult decisions of our own. Reading a memoir or anthology that centers around empowerment––and particularly female empowerment––can be a guiding force in understanding where we stand in society and how to navigate that.
As it is Women’s History Month, it’s important to honor the stories of women who paved the way for different career paths like Roz Stevenson. Her memoir, Look at God! My Hollywood Walk of Faith explores not only the extra steps she had to take as a Black woman in the film industry, but how she got her start in the 1960s during the country’s “Anti-Poverty” programs that were implemented in Black communities. Award-winning historians and Drs. Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross examine how Black women have shaped and paved the way for communities despite the oppression, sexism and racism they have always faced.
There are the fictional characters who we hold dear to us because their heroic acts allow us to imagine ourselves in those worlds and fighting the same battles. Morowa Yejidé’s Creatures of Passage gives readers a chance to experience grief and intergenerational trauma in a unique way while Brenda Sparks Prescott takes us back in time to the Cuban Missile Crisis and the effects it had on motherhood in Home Front Lines.
But I would be remiss to not include James Beard award-winner Rodney Scott on the list as he pens the history of his family, their trials and triumphs alongside a plethora of recipes for all the smoked barbecue dishes your heart could ever desire.
A Black Women’s History of the United States – Daina Ramey Berry, Kali Nicole Gross (Nonfiction
Award-winning historians Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross seek to empower African American women and tell the stories of Black women and to show their allies the unique ability Black women hold to make their own communities while fighting centuries of oppression. Berry and Gross offer an exploration and celebration of Black womanhood from the first African women who arrived on U.S. shores to the African American women of today.
Berry and Gross prioritize the voices of a diverse group of Black women from enslaved women, freedwomen, religious leaders, artists, queer women, activists and women who lived outside the law. Now available in paperback, A Black Women’s History of the United States is a testament to the beauty, richness, tragedy, heartbreak and enduring love that surrounds the spirit of Black women and communities throughout the nation.
March 16, 2021, Beacon Press
Creatures of Passage – Morowa Yejidé (Fiction)
Nephthys Kinwell manages her grief over her late twin brother, Osiris, by driving around Washington, DC, with the ghost of her brother in the trunk of a 1967 Plymouth Belvedere, shepherding passengers and drinking endlessly. Separately, Nephthys’s estranged great-nephew, ten-year-old Dash had a newfound fascination with the very river Osiris died in. Reeling from his own trauma, Dash takes to having charmed conversations with a mysterious figure called the “River Man.” When the ten-year-old unexpectedly turns up at Nephthys’s door telling her the stories of his conversation with the River Man, Nephthys knows she must face the thing that frightens her most.
March 16, 2021, Akashic Books
Home Front Lines – Brenda Sparks Prescott (Fiction)
It’s 1962, and Betty Ann Johnson is living on an Air Force base outside Washington, DC. A couple hundred miles away, three sisters, Lola, Chita and Rosita Montero, love proudly in Matanzas, Cuba. Tensions begin to rise as Betty Ann hears of military preparations for something bigger than practice drills. As the fear of Soviet presence in Cuba becomes a tangible threat, Betty Ann, along with other military mothers, craft an evacuation plan for their children. At the same time in Cuba, Lola accidentally witnesses highly illegal Soviet activity and she and her sisters devise a plan to send their children to Florida by boat.
Home Front Lines is a story of strong and highly determined women. Betty Ann Johnson and the Montero sisters might be on opposite sides of a raging war, but their love for their children and desire to protect them by any means necessary runs parallel.
March 16, 2021, Bedazzled Ink Publishing Company
Look at God! My Hollywood Walk of Faith – Roz Stevenson (Memoir)
Roz Stevenson, trailblazing motion picture publicist (Cicely Tyson, Jamie Foxx, Halle Berry, Spike Lee, Eddie Murphy, Regina King), made her mark promoting films at top movie studios for over twenty years. Her career shifted, marking a new phase in her life––becoming President/CEO of her own firm, Roz Stevenson Public Relations, dedicated to marketing to the Black audience. Look at God! explores Stevenson’s highs and lows and her journey in becoming a publicist. In an inspirational and hilarious account of how her life has come together, Stevenson is––quite literally––an open book. Guided by determination, good intentions and words from God, Roz shares the hilarity and humility that shaped her life.
March 16, 2021, RS Publishing
Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ, Every Day Is a Good Day – Rodney Scott, Lolis Eric Elie (Cooking)
James Beard Award-winning chef and barbecue pitmaster Rodney Scott celebrates an incredible culinary journey and legacy through recipes and essays about family traditions, his life story and unmatched dedication to his craft. Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ teaches us about his pit-smoked turkey, hush puppies, barbecued spare ribs and more. From the ins and outs of building and setting up your own pit to poignant and personal essays, Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ is an uplifting and mouth-watering tale of family, history and culinary mastery.
March 16, 2021, Random House
Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself – Nedra Glover Tawwab (Nonfiction)
Healthy boundaries—what are they? The idea is something we’re all familiar with, but likely don’t know how to implement in our daily lives. Licensed counselor and relationship expert Nedra Glover Tawwab unpacks the complex idea of healthy boundaries in a digestible and readable fashion. Set Boundaries, Find Peace provides simple-yet-powerful approaches to establishing healthy boundaries in all aspects of life. Rooted in the latest research and best practices used in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), Tawwab utilizes her knowledge of this method to help people create those healthy boundaries and identify and express needs clearly.
March 16, 2021, TarcherPerigee
The Jigsaw Man: A Novel (An Inspector Anjelica Henly Thriller) – Nadine Matheson (Mystery)
Nadine Matheson’s debut novel The Jigsaw Man follows Detective Inspector Anjelica Henly as she tries to apprehend a copycat killer who is following in the footsteps of the notorious Jigsaw Killer. At first glance, the first victim bears a striking resemblance to the modus operandi of the original Jigsaw Killer, Peter Oliver––who’s spent the last two years behind bars. As the body count rises, Anjelica is faced with an unthinkable new threat, an opportunity to catch both killers or become one of many on a long list of victims.
The Jigsaw Man draws from Matheson’s experience as a criminal attorney and delivers a page-turning, jaw-dropping, mind-boggling crime novel that will have you hanging on to every word.
March 16, 2021, Hanover Square Press