Black Joy

By Skokie Staff Adult Services

This list is inspired by Kleaver Cruz's The Black Joy Project, "a digital and real-world effort to center Black joy." Cruz says, "When we acknowledge that we exist in an anti-Black world that is set up to ensure we do not live, to choose life and to choose to enjoy aspects of that life is a radical act. Centering on Black joy doesn't ignore the realities of our collective pain; rather, it is about holding the pain and injustices we experience as Black folks around the world in tension with the joy we experience in the pain’s midst. Black joy is healing, resistance, and regeneration."

  • Here for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America

    2020 by Thomas, R. Eric

    So many staff members adore this book, and I couldn't choose whose blurb to include. So, here's what Library Journal has to say: "Alternately hilarious, touching, reflective, and insightful, this memoir will delight readers, who may find themselves reading sections of the book aloud to anyone within earshot." The audiobook, read by the author, is particularly good. Recommended by Allyson.

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  • You Should See Me in a Crown

    2020 by Johnson, Leah

    This is one of those feel-good books that makes your heart soar. I enjoy coming-of-age novels, and this hits the mark. Liz Lighty prefers to keep to herself; but that all changes when she decides to run for prom queen in her prom-obsessed school. Don’t worry, she has a very good reason, and there is lots of engaging character development and heart. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • Black Futures


    "A dynamic mixed-media exhibition of Black creativity and culture...The work is vivid, juicy, thick—as fecund as all of Black culture—and equal parts anthology, scrapbook, and art xhibition. The editors and contributors make clear the ‘infinite’ nature of Blackness via more than 500 crammed pages of essays, art, interviews, and ephemera....A must-own compendium illustrating the richness, joy, and power of the modern Black experience.” (Kirkus) Recommended by Chris.

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  • The Black Flamingo

    2020 by Atta, Dean

    This is an uplifting coming-of-age novel in verse that the The Guardian calls "celebratory and passionate." Recommended by Lukie.

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  • Felix Ever After

    2020 by Callender, Kacen

    Brian Mill Press reviews: "Felix Ever After is an engrossing coming-of-age novel that presents queer pride in all its complicated and powerful aspects. Readers will root for Felix as he learns that the love he deserves can be found inside himself, as well as outside himself among others who truly care for and respect him.” Recommended by Mary.

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  • The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat

    2013 by Moore, Edward Kelsey

    Library Journal says, "This is a big-hearted novel, full of humor and appealing characters who make it a delightful read. While we don't ordinarily think of male authors writing women's fiction, Moore gets inside the heads of these women, and his genuine affection for his characters is compellingly evident." Recommended by Lukie.

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  • Happily Ever Afters

    2021 by Bryant, Elise

    What a delight! This is the perfect book for fans of young adult romantic comedies, with its likable characters, smart dialogue, and fresh view of the high school experience. This is Elise Bryant’s debut novel, and I can’t wait to see what she writes next. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • It's Not All Downhill from Here

    2020 by McMillan, Terry

    Read it Forward says, "Strong Black heroines, indelible friendships, and relatable characters. It’s Not All Downhill From Here contains heavy topics such as grief, depression, mental and physical health, and cancer; however, we see the main character, Loretha, finding a new route to happiness after an unexpected loss. Her triumph and connection to friends through the sometimes rocky and often wrought terrain of life in her late sixties will leave you smiling, reflective, hopeful, and maybe like you can chart your own course, too." Recommended by Mary.

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  • Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking

    2019 by Tipton-Martin, Toni

    Tejal Rao, a food writer for the New York Times, calls this “A celebration of African American cuisine right now, in all of its abundance and variety.” Recommended by Chris.

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  • The Taste of Country Cooking

    2006 by Lewis, Edna

    "Edna Lewis’ The Taste of Country Cooking was first published in 1976, and in those 40 plus years it has become an American classic. The book is a celebration of the author’s hometown of Freetown, Virginia—a farming town that was founded by previously enslaved people after the Civil War. It is a cookbook about time, place, and good ingredients—but really it’s an ode to her community and her childhood." (The Kitchn) Recommended by Chris.

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  • The Meaning of Soul: Black Music and Resilience since the 1960s

    2020 by Lordi, Emily J.

    English professor Lordi "examines the sound and artists of soul music in this brilliant history....Lordi vividly illustrates that soul artists offer models of Black resistance, joy, and community through their songs." (Publishers Weekly) Recommended by Allyson.

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  • Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good

    2019 by Brown, Adrienne M.

    Author, activist, and doula adrienne maree brown "draws from Black feminist luminaries to teach us how embracing what brings us joy is central in organizing against oppression." (Colorlines) Recommended by Allyson.

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  • The Book of Delights

    2019 by Gay, Ross

    "A collection of affirmations, noncloying and often provocative, about the things that make justice worth fighting for and life worth living....An altogether charming and, yes, delightful book." (Kirkus) Recommended by Allyson.

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  • Breathe: A Letter to My Sons

    2019 by Perry, Imani

    "Princeton University professor Imani Perry writes a love letter to her sons that addresses the state violence Black children face and encourages them to seek joy." (Colorlines) Recommended by Allyson.

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