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Honoring Herstory During Women's History Month: Books Celebrating Black Women

This year is flying by, but the good thing is that we’re already in March, which means two things. It’s my birthday month (Aries Season!) and Women’s History Month. On the heels of Black History Month, this provides the ideal opportunity to celebrate my fellow Black women. As much as I love and support Black men and boys, I’m a “girls-girl” at heart. I am energized by the beauty we share as a collective, an unapologetic radiance of feminity, and bold creativity. 

The talent, skill, intelligence, wisdom, and style that the women in my life exude are unmatched. Black women authors have also significantly influenced how I see myself as a woman and a human living in a double duality. So, to celebrate the contributions and experiences of Black women who have played pivotal roles in shaping history, I’m recommending these books that offer insights into the rich tapestry of the intersectionality of our reality. 

“Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston

This timeless masterpiece delves into the life of Janie Crawford, a Black woman in the early 20th century South, as she embarks on a quest for self-discovery and independence. Janie’s story is one of resilience, longing, and empowerment. Hurston masterfully explores themes of race, gender, and identity, challenging societal norms, celebrating the strength and agency of Black women, and capturing Janie’s defiance in the face of societal expectations. With vivid imagery, rich dialect, and lyrical prose, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” is a testament to Hurston’s literary genius and continues to resonate with readers across generations.

"Assata: An Autobiography" by Assata Shakur

Through vivid reflection, Shakur traces her journey from childhood to activism, detailing her involvement in the civil rights movement and her subsequent persecution by law enforcement. From her upbringing in a racially segregated society to her participation in the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army, Shakur provides invaluable insights into the political and social upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, much of which is still true today. This must-read is a poignant reminder of the ongoing fight against racial oppression.

“All About Love: New Visions” by bell hooks

Hooks challenges conventional notions of love as merely a romantic or sentimental feeling. She argues that love is a radical act of care, compassion, and connection that can transform individuals and communities. Through a series of insightful essays, hooks examines how love intersects with race, class, gender, and sexuality, highlighting the importance of love in fostering social justice and healing. She critiques the pervasive culture of domination and exploitation that undermines genuine love, advocating for a more inclusive and equitable understanding that transcends boundaries and embraces diversity. “All About Love” is not only a meditation on the nature of love but also a call to action to cultivate love as a force for positive change in the world.

“Finding Me” by Viola Davis

In this candid memoir, Davis reflects on her humble beginnings growing up in poverty, navigating the challenges of racism, colorism, family instability, violence, and self-doubt. On her path from a shy and insecure young girl to an Oscar-winning powerhouse performer, Davis shares the triumphs and tribulations that shaped her identity and fueled her determination to succeed. She opens up about her struggles with self-esteem and the pressures of conforming to Hollywood’s standards of beauty and success. Yet, amidst adversity, Davis maintained an unwavering commitment to her craft and an unyielding belief in the power of storytelling to illuminate the human experience.

“Mama” by Terry McMillan

Mama” is a heartwarming and moving novel that explores the complex dynamics of motherhood and family. At its core is the story of Mildred Peacock, affectionately known as “Mama,” a strong-willed and fiercely independent woman who navigates the challenges and joys of raising her five children in Detroit during the 1960s and 1970s. As a single mother, she does her best to provide for her family and instill in her children the values of hard work, integrity, and self-respect. Readers are drawn into Mama’s world, witnessing the victories and setbacks, laughter and tears that define her journey. “Mama” is a tender tribute to the unsung heroines of everyday life, celebrating the sacrifice and unwavering devotion of mothers everywhere.

“Family” by J. California Cooper

This captivating collection of short stories intricately weaves together the lives of various characters, some bound by blood and others by community, spanning generations in the rural South. The stories in “Family” delve into familial relationships, from the unbreakable bonds between siblings to the enduring legacy of ancestors. Cooper breathes life into a diverse cast, each grappling with their struggles, dreams, and aspirations. From the wise matriarchs who hold their families together to the rebellious youth yearning for freedom and self-discovery, Cooper’s characters leap off the page, leaving an indelible impression on readers. “Family” celebrates the endurance of the human spirit and a kinship love that transcends even the most formidable obstacles.

"Passing" by Nella Larsen

Set in 1920s New York City, the story follows the lives of two childhood friends, Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry, both light-skinned Black women. While Irene embraces her racial identity and lives as a Black woman, Clare “passes” as white, concealing her true heritage to access the privileges and opportunities afforded to white people. When the two women reunite, and their lives become increasingly intertwined, tensions arise as Clare’s decision to pass threatens to unravel the carefully constructed facades they both inhabit. Larsen takes us inside her character’s head, revealing their psychological and moral dilemmas as they navigate the fluid boundaries of race and identity. She sheds light on the pervasive influence of racism and the racial hierarchies and social injustices that continue to dictate American society.

In Her Footsteps: Commemorating Women's History Month with these Essential Reads

These books are indispensable resources, validating Black women’s multifaceted experiences and contributions throughout space and time. From transparent accounts of resilience to creative literary masterpieces, these works challenge stereotypes, inspire change, and honor Black women’s grace, vision, and vibrancy. As we continue to reflect on and commemorate Black women’s legacies, let us recognize their past struggles and successes while committing to amplifying their voices, stories, achievements, and joys.

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