I haven’t posted in a while for many reasons, the main one being that reviewing books seems so useless given the recent public response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Manuel Ellis, and so many others at the hands of police. And to be honest, my reading patterns have shifted lately. I’ve been reading more nonfiction from Black authors to better understand their experiences and to learn about anti-racism. These books are listed here, but they don’t quite fit into the theme of sapphic fiction.
It’s also important to read other Black books. As @athenakugblenu tweeted, “Please read happy Black books too. We don’t just write about slavery and colonialism. Consume Black history and art about anything. It all helps to decenter whiteness.”
I know that reading is not enough, so this post is split into two parts. First up is a list of resources and actions you can take to support anti-racism efforts and uplift Black voices. After that is a list of sapphic books by Black authors and about Black characters. Anything I should add? Email me or comment on this post to let me know.
AN INCOMPLETE LIST OF ANTI-RACIST WORK YOU CAN DO
1. Attend a protest. Please do research beforehand to ensure the safety of yourself and others protesting (i.e. wear a mask, do not post photos with faces visible, etc.)
2. Support protests from afar!
a. Donate medical supplies to people working as medics
b. Provide food and/or water for protestors
c. Pick up or drop off people who need rides to hot-spots
d. Watch peoples’ kids
e. Share links and information
f. Listen to police scanners and watch social media to keep your people safe
g. Write articles, blog posts, etc.
h. Fact-check information you see on social media
i. Provide jail support for your people, get their personal information and things like conditions,
medications, and emergency contacts
j. Make signs and/or shields
k. Keep track of your people! Make sure they get home safe.
l. Provide emotional support
m. Make your bathroom available to protestors
n. Help your friends blackout/blur the faces of protestors in photos/video they take
3. Donate!!! A few options:
a. National Bail Fund Network
b. Black Lives Matter
c. Black Visions Collective
4. Sign a petition! A few options:
a. Justice for Breonna Taylor
b. Tell Minneapolis City Council to Defund the Police
c. Black Lives Matter: Defund the Police
5. Educate yourself and others! White people, confront racism when you see it.
Click here for a document of scaffolded anti-racist resources.
NONFICTION BOOKS ABOUT ANTI-RACISM
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
June 26, 2018
“The New York Times best-selling book exploring the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged, and how these reactions maintain racial inequality.
Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, anti-racist educator Robin DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what can be done to engage more constructively.”
So You Want to Talk About Race
January 18, 2018
“In this breakout book, Ijeoma Oluo explores the complex reality of today’s racial landscape–from white privilege and police brutality to systemic discrimination and the Black Lives Matter movement–offering straightforward clarity that readers need to contribute to the dismantling of the racial divide.
In So You Want to Talk About Race, Editor at Large of The Establishment Ijeoma Oluo offers a contemporary, accessible take on the racial landscape in America, addressing head-on such issues as privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the “N” word. Perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between people of color and white Americans struggling with race complexities, Oluo answers the questions readers don’t dare ask, and explains the concepts that continue to elude everyday Americans.
Oluo is an exceptional writer with a rare ability to be straightforward, funny, and effective in her coverage of sensitive, hyper-charged issues in America. Her messages are passionate but finely tuned, and crystalize ideas that would otherwise be vague by empowering them with aha-moment clarity. Her writing brings to mind voices like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay, and Jessica Valenti in Full Frontal Feminism, and a young Gloria Naylor, particularly in Naylor’s seminal essay ‘The Meaning of a Word.'”
How to Be an Antiracist
Ibram X. Kendi
August 13, 2019
““Ibram X. Kendi’s concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America–but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. In How to be an Antiracist, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it.
In this book, Kendi weaves together an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science, bringing it all together with an engaging personal narrative of his own awakening to antiracism. How to Be an Antiracist is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society.”
SAPPHIC FICTION WRITTEN BY BLACK AUTHORS ABOUT BLACK CHARACTERS: Also an Incomplete List of Mostly YA
Titles with asterisks are books I plan to read this month.
Obviously, this is not an extensive list. I encourage you to check out the Black Lesbian Literary Collective to find more!
You Should See Me in a Crown*
June 2, 2020
“Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.
But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.
The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?”
This is What it Feels Like
November 6, 2018
“It doesn’t matter what the prize for the Sun City Originals contest is this year.
Who cares that it’s fifteen grand? Who cares about a gig opening for one of the greatest bands to ever play this town?
Not Dia, that’s for sure. Because Dia knows that without a band, she hasn’t got a shot at winning Sun City. Because ever since Hanna’s drinking took over her life, Dia and Jules haven’t been in it. And ever since Hanna left — well, there hasn’t been a band.
It used to be the three of them, Dia, Jules, and Hanna, messing around and making music and planning for the future. But that was then, and this is now — and now means a baby, a failed relationship, a stint in rehab, all kinds of off beats that have interrupted the rhythm of their friendship. No contest can change that. Right?
But like the lyrics of a song you used to play on repeat, there’s no forgetting a best friend. And for Dia, Jules, and Hanna, this impossible challenge — to ignore the past, in order to jumpstart the future — will only become possible if they finally make peace with the girls they once were, and the girls they are finally letting themselves be.
Rebecca Barrow’s tender story of friendship, music, and ferocious love asks — what will you fight for, if not yourself?”
Once Ghosted, Twice Shy
(Reluctant Royals #2.5)
January 8, 2019
“Alyssa Cole returns with a fun, sexy romance novella in the Reluctant Royals series!
While her boss the prince was busy wooing his betrothed, Likotsi had her own love affair after swiping right on a dating app. But her romance had ended in heartbreak, and now, back in NYC again, she’s determined to rediscover her joy–so of course she runs into the woman who broke her heart.
When Likotsi and Fabiola meet again on a stalled subway train months later, Fab asks for just one cup of tea. Likotsi, hoping to know why she was unceremoniously dumped, agrees. Tea and food soon leads to them exploring the city together, and their past, with Fab slowly revealing why she let Likotsi go, and both of them wondering if they can turn this second chance into a happily ever after.”
Note: I’ve seen this on rec lists everywhere, and it sounds like it’s possible for this title to stand alone. I have not read this or the series it’s part of, so I make no guarantees.
Little & Lion*
August 8, 2017
“When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.
But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.”
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them
Dutton Books for Young Readers
September 17, 2019
“Told in two distinct and irresistible voices, Junauda Petrus’s bold and lyrical debut is the story of two black girls from very different backgrounds finding love and happiness in a world that seems determined to deny them both.
Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.
Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels–about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.
Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.
Junauda Petrus’s debut brilliantly captures the distinctly lush and lyrical voices of Mabel and Audre as they conjure a love that is stronger than hatred, prison, and death and as vast as the blackness between the stars.”
Better Off Red*
(Vampire Sorority Sisters #1)
Bold Strokes Books
November 15, 2011
“Every sorority has its secrets…
And college freshman Ginger Carmichael couldn’t care less. She has more important things on her mind, like maintaining her perfect GPA. No matter how much she can’t stand the idea of the cliques and the matching colors, there’s something about the girls of Alpha Beta Omega—their beauty, confidence, and unapologetic sexuality—that draws Ginger in. But once initiation begins, Ginger finds that her pledge is more than a bond of sisterhood, it’s a lifelong pact to serve six bloodthirsty demons with a lot more than nutritional needs.
Despite her fears, Ginger falls hard for the immortal queen of this nest, and as the semester draws to a close, she sees that protecting her family from the secret of her forbidden love is much harder than studying for finals.”
Cinderella is Dead
July 7, 2020
“It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.
Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .
This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.”
Note: This title isn’t available until a month after posting this, however I wanted to include it here because I’ve been excited for this since I first heard about it and it’s available for pre-order! The author has a list of pre-order links here.
The Weight of the Stars
YA Science Fiction
March 19, 2019
“Ryann Bird dreams of traveling across the stars. But a career in space isn’t an option for a girl who lives in a trailer park on the wrong side of town. So Ryann becomes her circumstances and settles for acting out and skipping school to hang out with her delinquent friends.
One day she meets Alexandria: a furious loner who spurns Ryann’s offer of friendship. After a horrific accident leaves Alexandria with a broken arm, the two misfits are brought together despite themselves—and Ryann learns her secret: Alexandria’s mother is an astronaut who volunteered for a one-way trip to the edge of the solar system.
Every night without fail, Alexandria waits to catch radio signals from her mother. And its up to Ryann to lift her onto the roof day after day until the silence between them grows into friendship, and eventually something more . . .
In K. Ancrum’s signature poetic style, this slow-burn romance will have you savoring every page.”
The Black Veins*
(Dead Magic #1)
July 17, 2019
“In a world where magic thrives in secret city corners, a group of magicians embark on a road trip—and it’s the “no-love-interest”, found family adventure you’ve been searching for.
Sixteen-year-old Blythe is one of seven Guardians: magicians powerful enough to cause worldwide panic with a snap of their fingers. But Blythe spends her days pouring latte art at her family’s coffee shop, so why should she care about having apocalyptic abilities
She’s given a reason when magician anarchists crash into said coffee shop and kidnap her family.
Heartbroken but determined, Blythe knows she can’t save them alone. A war is brewing between two magician governments and tensions are too high. So, she packs up her family’s bright yellow Volkswagen, puts on a playlist, and embarks on a road trip across the United States to enlist the help of six strangers whose abilities are unparalleled—the other Guardians.”
If you have any suggestions to be added to any of these lists, please reach out to me either via email, social media, or a comment! I want this to be as thorough and inclusive as possible.