The Ann Arbor District Library is a magical place. In fact, any local library, bookstore or streetside lending library is likely to have the best, most authentic book recommendations. The Daily’s Book Review writers certainly think so — so, in the same spirit of small city book recommendations, we offer our small list of books by Black writers that might have slipped past the New York Times Best Sellers list. Some of these books are non-fiction, others are literary fiction and some are poetry collections and fantasy. Please peruse our small list for your next spring read. — Elizabeth Yoon, TMD Book Review Editor
“Sag Harbor” by Colson Whitehead Recommended by Daily Arts Writer Trina Pal
“Sag Harbor” isn’t Colson Whitehead’s most well-known novel. “The Underground Railroad” or “The Nickel Boys” would take those titles. Yet, the light charm of “Sag Harbor” makes it my favorite among all of Whitehead’s books. “Sag Harbor” follows a group of Black teenagers at their summer retreat in Sag Harbor, Long Island, adjacent to the wealthy, predominantly-white East Hamptons. The plot is lighthearted and airy, but Whitehead’s writing is razor-sharp. Most of all, the novel is just plain funny. Read “Sag Harbor” this spring for a glimpse of Whitehead’s more comedic but no less adept work.
“For Black Girls Like Me” by Mariama J. Lockington Recommended by Daily Arts Writer Lilly Pearce
Mariama J. Lockington’s debut novel is a heartbreaking novel told from the perspective of Makeda, a young, adopted, Black girl who struggles with her identity. It’s an important story that tackles racism and mental illness, while also exploring the complex and powerful relationships between families and friends. Lockington incorporates several styles of writing — prose, poetry and letters — that create layered dynamics between the characters and helps demonstrate the complexity of discovering who you are. While targeted toward young readers, people of all ages will be captivated by this coming-of-age story — it’s a poetic rendition of an essential tale.
“Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories from the Transformative Justice Movement” Recommended by Daily Arts Contributor Brenna Goss
“Beyond Survival” is a collection of essays by a variety of organizers, activists and authors of color that lays out the steps we must take to replace punitive mass incarceration with community-based transformative and restorative justice practices. It’s an incredibly important read for anyone interested in racial justice, criminal justice, public health and safety.
“Homie” by Danez Smith Recommended by Daily Arts Writer Lilly Pearce
“Homie” is Danez Smith’s latest collection of poems, a radiant array of themes that involve remarkable explorations of friendship and grief to thunderous examinations of the violence and xenophobia that infect our nation. Within these themes lie other corporeal narratives that touch on race, queerness and illness. Smith crafts beautiful intersects between their poems that result in a perfect constellation of poetry. It’s the kind of book meant to be read again and again, shared among friends and held close. “Homie” is a profound work of love that Smith easily achieves with their unparalleled language and craft.
“Dread Nation” by Justina Ireland Recommended by Daily Book Review Beat Editor Elizabeth Yoon
“Dread Nation,” by Justina Ireland seamlessly incorporates zombies into U.S. history, spinning a believably complex, exciting and honest story of two girls caught in an absurd reality. While the U.S. is divided fighting the Civil War, the zombie apocalypse begins. To address the growing number of deaths, the U.S. drafts the “Native and Negro Reeducation Act” to train children as bodyguards for the wealthy. Beyond being a fantastically addictive read, Ireland tackles complex identity issues with great asexual and bisexual representation.
“A Song of Wraiths and Ruin” by Roseanne A. Brown Recommended by Daily Arts Contributor Brenna Goss
Roseanne A. Brown’s novel is a wonderful YA book filled with magic, myth, tragedy and redemption. Both of the main characters are captivating in their own right and even more so together — even though they’re both trying to kill each other. Brown created a beautifully written narrative filled with West African folklore, adventure and a thrilling battle of wits. It will keep you glued to the page until the very end.