In January my mom asked me to recommend African American authors for her to read. She wanted to read black authors in February for Black History Month. I thought that was a great idea, so I’m doing the same.
I am also making it a point to get a female perspective. Last week I read this article about why we should read more women. It’s especially true for the Christian community, because often books by Christian women are marketed as only for women. Books by men are for everyone: T.D. Jakes, N.T Wright, Andy Crouch. But Shauna Niequist, Beth Moore, and Juanita Bynum are for women. Ann Voskamp writes about thanksgiving. Is this not a message for all? But there is an unfortunate disconnect where female voices are not part of a wider dialogue. It’s not because there voices are not out there, but readers and listeners are not attune to them.
Add race to that, and then there’s the phenomenon of having a book relegated to the “African American” section of the library/bookstore. How often does the general public encounter these voices? We need all voices to be heard in the cultural dialogue. This especially hits home because I am a black woman aspiring to be an author.
So this February I am reading black female authors. In my free time (and when waiting for my car to defrost) I’ve been reading Reluctant Pilgrim: A Moody, Somewhat Self-Indulgent Introvert’s Search for Spiritual Community by Enuma Okoro. There is so much in the title that resonated with me. A reluctant wanderer and self-indulgent introvert in need of community, especially spiritual community? That describes me so well, I knew I would love it.
Besides the title I am loving the experience of reading about someone’s spiritual and personal journey. Okoro is one of the authors of Common Prayer: A Liturgy of Ordinary Radicals. She went to seminary. And still, she struggles with community, prayer, and the idea of grace. It’s freeing to be reminded that life and a spiritual walk is a journey. I tell myself everyone else has things figured out and I’m the strange one, but that’s not true. Journeys mean growth, change, and movement, but they also bring a lot of confusion. Even the great father of faith Abraham went without knowing where he was going.
So I like stories that are very plain about a person in progress learning to trust God. This month along with reading Reluctant Pilgrim, I would like to reread a book by Amena Brown called Breaking Old Rhythms: Answering the Call of a Creative God. Brown imagines God as the ultimate DJ. While we all have our rhythms we becomes stuck in, and God changes the tune and calls us into new patterns, new legs on the journey of life. I loved this book. There’s a beautiful section about learning to dance, literally, and how it relates to learning to trust. I recommend this book wholeheartedly. Did I mention Brown is a spoken word artist? You can watch one of her talks here.
If I have enough time, I’d like to throw some fiction into the month of February: reread Beloved by Toni Morrison or Kindred by Octavia Butler. Those are favorites of mine. Both are by African American women and deal with the lives of black women. Beloved has tons of magical realism and Kindred has inexplicable time travel, and both give them that something different that my fantasy fiction loving self adores. Oh, and they’re just really good books overall.
So these are my February reads during my downtime.
What are you reading this month?
How are you celebrating Black History Month?