It’s no secret that there is a disparity between the Black and white experiences in America. While the protests of 2020 were supported by a large number of white individuals, there is still constant pressure on Black people to educate the rest of the world on the struggles and obstacles we face daily. While that unrelenting pressure can be incredibly difficult and tiring to bear, authors, activists and whole communities continue to come together, educating, speaking on and empowering those around them.
This literature can be fiction, nonfiction, memoirs, essays or any form of writing that describes the lesser-acknowledged truths. Elisabeth Thomas released Catherine House, a novel exploring the expectations of higher education placed on some Black students and the oppression that can result. Readers get an exclusive look into Exonerated Five survivor Yusef Salaam’s life and his time before, during and after his incarceration. Remi Adeleke, once Nigerian royalty turned impoverished kid in the Bronx turned Navy Seal pens his memoir, which is both a testament to his life and an offering and guide to readers.
The releases this week are literary forms of protest, expressions of love and educational offerings detailing personal, global and national experiences.
America on Fire: The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960s – Elizabeth Hinton (Nonfiction)
The spring of 2020 was an explosion of protests in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Millions of people—young and old—took to the streets and demanded reform of the justice system and the systematic racism ingrained in the structure of police forces. Though many see the progress around racial justice made in 2020 parallel to the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s, Elizabeth Hinton uncovers a lesser-known narrative—one that stems from Detroit in 1967, Miami in 1980, Los Angeles in 1992 and beyond.
America on Fire shows the truth and power behind Black rebellion, illustrating the lackluster response to poverty and exclusion and most recently, the overarching reaction to police brutality and violence. Hinton outlines the natural evolution of protest and rebellion so long as the country tolerates and turns a blind eye to police brutality, oppression and lack of justice against Black individuals and communities.
May 18, 2021, Liveright
Better, Not Bitter: Living on Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice – Yusef Salaam (Memoir)
For the first time since being vindicated, Yusef Salaam, one of the now Exonerated Five, is telling his story—from his point of view. Better, Not Bitter charts Salaam’s life from his childhood in Harlem in the ‘80s and being raised by a fierce, strong mother and grandmother to his time in prison to his reentry and beyond. Connecting the stories of his upbringing to lessons learned while incarcerated, Salaam inspires readers to follow their own path and channel their fury into action. Better Not Bitter not only unpacks the systems built around bringing down and oppressing Black and Brown people but acts as a “galvanizing call to action” with the power to “soothe, inspire and transform.”
May 18, 2021, Grand Central Publishing
Catherine House – Elisabeth Thomas (Fiction)
If you want to become one of the world’s well-known artists, prize-winning authors, Supreme Court justices or politicians, you have to go to Catherine House. The House, as it is called, is a school for higher learning that doesn’t exist anywhere else. Found in deep rural Pennsylvania, the House follows a rigorous yet experimental curriculum and those lucky enough to be accepted must give up three years of life in the outside world in order to succeed.
Ines Murillo embraces this change and the promise of rigorous intellectual discipline. Though it is the closest thing to a home she’s ever had, the House’s strange protocols turn what was a sanctuary from her troubled life before the walls close in around her. The school’s hallowed history comes tumbling out when a tragedy strikes, and the lavish cage the students have been living in continues to crumble around them.
May 18, 2021, HarperCollins
My Vanishing Country: A Memoir – Bakari Sellers (Memoir)
Bakari Sellers’ hometown, Denmark, South Carolina, is revered as one of the poorest cities in the country, yet still held a sense of pride and pain within its community. Sellers’ father rose, befriending Stokely Carmichael and Martin Luther King. He became a pivotal figure in the South’s rural, Black working class.
Sellers outlines his personal history through a poetic voice as he recognizes the men and women seldom acknowledged by the media. By humanizing their struggles, he outlines the ways in which access to healthcare and rural hospitals disappear. Additionally, My Vanishing Country is a love letter to his father and the path he paved for Sellers to express these injustices and how important it is for the nation to address them.
May 18, 2021, HarperCollins
Off the Record – Camryn Garrett (Young Adult)
What would you do if you had the opportunity to send your career into the stratosphere? 17-year-old Josie Wright has used writing as an anchor to keep her grounded when everything around her is ablaze. Out of the blue, she is tapped by the fictional Deep Focus magazine to write a profile on Marius Canet, an up-and-coming celebrity with a dark secret Josie is about to walk headfirst into. Her free-fall through the glitz and glam of Hollywood lands her in hot water as she is forced to decide how to proceed: honor the women who have come forward with harrowing stories about Marius or protect her career in an attempt to save herself?
May 18, 2021, Penguin Random House
Punch Me Up to the Gods: A Memoir – Brian Broome (Memoir)
Brian Broome’s raw and honest debut details his younger years as he grapples with addiction, Blackness and masculinity. Framed around the famed Gwendolyn Brooks poem, We Real Cool, Broome’s memoir is both playful and painful. As a young, dark-skinned Black boy growing up in Ohio, he had no idea how to act upon and understand his attraction to other boys, pushing him into the role of “perpetual outsider.” Punch Me Up to the Gods follows the coming-of-age story of a young Black boy, bringing an “exquisite and fresh voice to ongoing cultural conversations about Blackness in America.”
May 18, 2021, HMH Books
The Window Seat: Notes from a Life in Motion – Aminatta Forna (Essays)
The Window Seat follows one of literature’s most important emerging voices, Aminatta Forna, through a collection of new and previously published essays about displacement, trauma, memory, love and the ways we fight to coexist and approach the human and non-human world. Her essays catalog a series of experiences such as the little joys that come with flying on a plane, the experiences her father went through as a young African man living in the United States and an examination of race in America from an African’s perspective.
May 18, 2021, Grove Press
Transformed: A Navy Seal’s Unlikely Journey from the Throne of Africa, to the Streets of the Bronx to Defying All Odds – Remi Adeleke (Memoir)
Remi Adeleke takes readers on a journey through his life in Transformed. His story begins with his childhood as Nigerian royalty and the consequences he faced at the hand of the Nigerian government after his father’s death. Readers move to his life in the Bronx being raised by his single mother who never shied away from myriad illegal activities that also awaited Adeleke. But the question readers are left asking is “how?” How was he able to pull himself out of a predetermined path set for him by his circumstances to end up with the success he has now?
Through his up close and personal experience with intense struggle, failure and pressure, Adeleke walks readers through his life and the obstacles he has overcome to chart his own path and create his own destiny.
May 18, 2021, Thomas Nelson