November Book Finds (Except, Really Ferguson)

Ferguson NewsWell folks, I’m going to be honest with you, because of NaNoWriMo, I did not in fact identify any new books this month that I want to pick up to read. But the good news is, I’m still plugging away on my novel draft. (Very slowly, and somewhat surely).

What I have been thinking a lot about lately, instead of books and outside of NaNoWriMo, is Ferguson — both the grand jury and the greater epidemic of black youth being killed by cops in the U.S. I watched the coverage of the press conference of the county prosecuting attorney, McCulloch, and could tell almost as soon as he started speaking that the decision of the grand jury was not to indict.

What really happened that day with Michael Brown and Darren Wilson I may never know, but I’m truly at a loss of what to do with my emotions of frustration and sadness at the reality itself that these deaths keep happening. I’m angry at the focus on the fact that Brown stole cigarillos from a store before he died. It’s not about whether he was a perfect person — none of us are — it’s about the fact that he didn’t get the same chance to even stay alive as a white kid has in the U.S. To even continue breathing on this earth. Everyone deserves that chance.

It’s going to take me more time to process all the events. I do feel glad to have been able to march for a little while with Oakland protesters early in the evening to express some solidarity with others similarly digesting their emotions. I was happy to see several familiar faces in the crowd. And I know there are people out there doing good work to change policing practices and criminalization laws. It just feels like the need is so immediate and progress is so slow. How many other black boys and men do we have to lose before then?

If there is to be a connection back to books in this post, it’s that I’m finding myself wanting to read more of the foundational writers on black identity because of racial rifts we’re seeing today — James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, etc. So much of what I read is contemporary, but I want to go back too and remember the roots of black literature and nonfiction. I also want to find more of their female contemporaries to read. They might not have been writing about Ferguson, but they sure would have understood how to talk about it if they were still around.


  1. Have you read “How to Kill Yourself and Others Slowly in America “t by Kiese Laymon? He is speaking to these issues. He does in his novel, “Long Division”, as well. There are a few of today’s authors that “get it.” And they’re writing about it. I’ll have to look back through my reads to come up with a list but Kiese’s name was the first one that came to me. But it’s true, the authors you list are irreplaceable, and it’s unfortunate that their writing is still relevant.

    1. Thank you! I feel like that’s exactly the kind of author I need to pick up right now (or in the near future). Both look great, and I also noticed you’re reading Fire Shut Up In My Bones, which is another one I’m excited about. I still feel like I have a hard time finding as many women to read on this topic, but maybe that’s because it’s an epidemic affecting most intensely black men.

      1. I went to a play recently. It was sort of the brother play to “For Colored Girls.” It was for black men, written by a black men. I found it refreshing that a black man was telling a black men’s stories. I’m a little tired of black women telling black men’s stories. But, the New Jim Crow is supposed to be an excellent read, even though it’s about mass incarceration, which I’m not sure is what you’re looking for.

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