Preserving Culture and the Power of Inspiration

By Skokie Staff Adult Services

This curated list of nonfiction titles for Black History Month 2021 likely contains one or more books that will feed your soul.

  • The Cooking Gene: A Journey through African American Culinary History in the Old South

    2017 by Twitty, Michael

    “Slavery made the world of our ancestors incredibly remote to us. Thankfully, the work of Michael W. Twitty helps restore our awareness of their struggles and successes bite by bite, giving us a true taste of the past.” (Henry Louis Gates) Recommended by Chris

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  • Soul: A Chef's Culinary Evolution in 150 Recipes

    2018 by Richards, Todd

    This book is just excellent! Author and James Beard Award-nominated chef Todd Richards highlights Black American chefs across multiple cuisines and pays homage to his family and ancestors. Recommended by Mary

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  • Twisted: The Tangled History of Black Hair Culture

    2020 by Dabiri, Emma

    Says Bitch Media, "Twisted is just as much a comprehensive historical account of Black hair as it is a contemporary look at the way that Black hair has been continually demonized in the West. What binds the narrative is Dabiri’s thoughtful critique and consistent voice. Whether she’s discussing Black hairstyles during the Harlem Renaissance, covering the natural hair movement in Europe and the United States, or questioning Kim Kardashian’s own foray into braids, Dabiri remains honest, charmingly self-deprecating, and forward thinking." Recommended by Allyson

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  • Just as I Am: A Memoir

    2021 by Tyson, Cicely

    The memoir of Cicely Tyson, "the stage, screen, and television actress who refused to fit the mold that American entertainment tried to box her into," was published just days before her death. The New York Times says, "In her remarkable career spanning seven decades, Ms. Tyson broke ground for serious Black actors by refusing to take parts that demeaned Black people, and urged her colleagues to do the same, propelling her to stardom and fame as an exemplar for civil rights." Recommended by Allyson

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  • Glory: Magical Visions of Black Beauty

    2020 by Bethencourt, Kahran

    "Seeing our beauty reflected in our children and having our children see their natural beauty be fully embraced is a gift to the race and a gift to the world. This transcendent work acknowledges the grace, and brilliance held in our black bodies." (Michael Eric Dyson) Recommended by Allyson

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  • Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl's Love Letter to the Power of Fashion

    2019 by Ford, Tanisha C.

    "Drawing on the immortal words in the late Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls, Ford set out to 'sing a black girl’s song'; to remind her of 'her infinite beauty.' Dressed in Dreams may be billed as 'a love letter to fashion,' but it’s equally a love letter to Black women, girls, and culture—and how we do it as no others can." (The Root) Recommended by Allyson

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  • A Black Women's History of the United States

    2020 by Berry, Daina Ramey

    Charlene A. Carruthers, author of Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements, says, “By starting the history about Black women on this land with us as free people and as people agitating for our freedom, by prioritizing all Black women’s voices and coming up to the present day, Dr. Gross and Dr. Berry illuminate greater possibilities for our collective freedom dreams and struggles for collective liberation.” Recommended by Allyson

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  • God Save the Queens: The Essential History of Women in Hip-Hop

    2019 by Iandoli, Kathy

    "Without God Save the Queens, it is possible that the contributions of dozens of important female hip-hop artists who have sold tens of millions of albums, starred in monumental films, and influenced the direction of the culture would continue to go unrecognized." ( Recommended by Allyson

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  • Damn

    2017 by Lamar, Kendrick

    The Pulitzer committee calls this, the winner for distinguished musical composition by an American, "a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life." Recommended by Allyson

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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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  • Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval

    2019 by Hartman, Saidiya V.

    "In this lyrical and novelistic speculative history, Hartman (Lose Your Mother), a Columbia University professor of English and comparative literature, reconstructs the lives of unknown Black female urban rebels from the early 20th century, everyday women whose existences are hinted at by court records, social workers’ notes, and photographs and who she heralds as 'radical thinkers who tirelessly imagined other ways to live.'” (Publishers Weekly) Recommended by Chris

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  • Encyclopedia of Black Comics

    2017 by Howard, Sheena C.

    "In this book, Howard celebrates the firsts, the bests, the noteworthies, and the historic." (North Dallas Gazette) Recommended by Chris

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  • This Is Major: Notes on Diana Ross, Dark Girls, and Being Dope

    2020 by Lawson, Shayla

    “A hilarious, heartbreaking, and endlessly entertaining homage to Black women’s resilience and excellence.” (Kirkus) Recommended by Allyson

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  • Home Run: My Life in Pictures

    1999 by Aaron, Hank

    No one captured the imagination and heart of our country like Hank! He faced down racism to become one of baseball’s greatest players and its home run king. He brought joy and inspiration to many generations and his recent passing is mourned by many. Recommended by Mary

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  • More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say)

    2019 by Welteroth, Elaine

    “Compelling . . . More Than Enough discusses race, identity, love, friendship, taking up space as a Black woman in a predominantly white workplace, and the meaning of success. As a change maker and young boss, Welteroth reminds young Black girls and women that they are, indeed, more than enough.” (Women's Health) Recommended by Allyson

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  • The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together when We Fall Apart

    2020 by Garza, Alicia

    "‘Black lives matter’ was Alicia Garza’s love letter read around the world. The Purpose of Power is another love letter that should be read around the world. It speaks to all that molded Garza, all that molds organizers, all that molds movements.” (Ibram X. Kendi) Recommended by Allyson

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