Diversify your bookshelf: 5 new books written by Black and Indigenous authors
By Karina Zapata, Publishing Editor
Last year, I wrote an article listing books to read by women of colour in an attempt to support visible minority women. Since then, I have been working hard at my goal of being more intentional about the books I’m reading and the authors I’m supporting.
I have always loved reading because, as a curious child, I have always been interested in understanding different perspectives. Books are an accessible way — for most, which is a conversation for another day — to gain empathy and understand various lived experiences.
With racism being a prevalent topic throughout Canada at the moment, I thought I would share five books published this year that were written by Black and Indigenous artists to add to your COVID-19 summer reading list.
The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power by Desmond Cole
Desmond Cole, a Canadian journalist known for his cover story about racism within the Toronto Police force for Toronto Life, had his first-ever book published this year. The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power tells stories of racism in Canada in just one year — 2017.
“It was a year that saw calls for tighter borders when Black refugees braved frigid temperatures to cross into Manitoba from the States, Indigenous land and water protectors resisting the celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, police across the country rallying around an officer accused of murder, and more,” says the description of the book.
In the book, Cole also writes about the struggle of activism in the journalism industry — he was once told by the Toronto Star that his activism against racism violated company policies. Further, at a police board meeting, Cole was arrested after refusing to leave until the department publicly addressed accusations of a police cover-up in the brutal beating of Dafonte Miller.
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich
It is 1953 and the United States Congress is in the works of passing a bill that threatens the rights of Native Americans to their own land. Award-winning author, Louise Erdrich, based The Night Watchman on the extraordinary life of her grandfather, who worked as a night watchman and fought for Indigenous rights across the United States.
Learn more about life among the Chippewa Native Americans in the ‘50s through Erdrich’s beautifully-crafted novel, featuring riveting characters and true traditions of the Chippewa tribe.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
For her second novel, Brit Bennett tells the story of the Vignes twin sisters and their process of navigating two very different worlds — one Black and one white. After growing up together in a small, southern Black community, the sisters run away together at the age of sixteen. Ten years later, one sister is living back in the same town with her Black daughter and the other sister is living elsewhere, secretly passing for white.
This book explores the complexity of racial identity, belonging and choices. Plus, Bennett just signed a seven figure deal with HBO to adapt this novel into a television series, so you know this is a good read.
A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
In A Song Below Water, Bethany C. Morrow goes beyond the human realm and tells the story of Tavia, who definitely has magical powers and is definitely trying to hide it. Tavia is one of the few Black people in Portland, and one of the even fewer Black people with magical powers.
Secrets start coming out when the girls’ fashion icon on Instagram reveals she also is a “siren” and has magical powers. In a GoodReads review, a user described the novel by saying, “Fantasy dances with racism, social justice, current politics.”
The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
Akwaeke Emezi’s long-awaited third novel is finally being released next week. In The Death of Vivek Oji, a mother in southeastern Nigeria opens her door to find her dead son, with his body wrapped in colourful fabric, at her feet. The novel goes over Vivek’s life and the intricacies of the people in it, before experiencing a heart-stopping act of violence.
The Death of Vivek Oji was named one of the year’s most anticipated books by Elle, The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar and more. Make sure to grab it, hot off the press, on shelves next week!