Black Joy

By Skokie Staff Advisory 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."

  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • Black Girl in Love (with Herself): A Guide to Self-Love, Healing, and Creating the Life You Truly Deserve

    2021 by Anthony, Trey

    The hope for this book, as the author says, is to “give Black girls around the world a personalized and practical “keeping it real” to-do list to become a Black girl in love (with herself).” Recommended by Leslie.

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  • Dear Black Girl: Letters from Your Sisters on Stepping into Your Power

    2021 by Winfrey Harris, Tamara

    Tarana Burke, founder of the Me Too movement, says of this book: “Dear Black Girl is the empowering, affirming love letter our girls need in order to thrive in a world that does not always protect, nurture, or celebrate us. a must-read, not only for Black girls, but for everyone who cares about Black girls, and for Black women whose inner-Black girl could use some healing,” Recommended by Leslie.

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  • Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry

    2021 by Goffney, Joya

    Readers will love high school senior Quinn, who is trying to find her place in the world and navigate being a Black girl in a predominantly white space. It's impossible not to fall in love with her budding relationship with Carter, but readers will also take away the important messages of family and friendship as Quinn prepares for the next stage of her life. Recommended by Amber.

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  • Seven Days in June

    2021 by Williams, Tia

    We loved the complexity of the characters and could feel their chemistry. Williams' writing is funny and fresh. Recommended by Brooke and Michelle.

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  • Black Love Matters: Real Talk on Romance, Being Seen, and Happily Ever Afters

    2022 by Pryde, Jessica P.

    This moving, intersectional, and thoughtful anthology offers a wide variety of perspectives on Black love. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • Chicago Protests: A Joyful Revolution

    2020 by Jordan, Vashon

    During the summer of 2020, Vashon Jordan decided to document the joyful moments that are too often ignored in news about protests. This book is not just a collection of powerful photos, it's also a crucial part of seeing the full picture of the people, the neighborhoods, and the spirit behind the Chicago protests of 2020. Recommended by Paul.

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  • Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband?

    2022 by Blackburn, Lizzie Damilola

    Because of the pressure from her mom and aunties to finally get married, Yinka secretly starts "Operation Wedding Date: My Plan to Win Alex and Have a Date for Rachel's Wedding in July!!!" But, of course, if finding a partner was that easy, she would have one already. A funny and poignant story of self-discovery and acceptance. Recommended by Becca.

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  • Will

    2021 by Smith, Will

    If I were to sum up Will Smith in a word, it would be joy. So when I read that this memoir would “trace his learning curve to a place where outer success, inner happiness, and human connection are aligned” (Goodreads), I immediately placed a hold for the audiobook–because really, is there any other way to read this? Recommended by Leslie.

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