When I started the MFA Creative Writing program, I re-committed to reading more black authors, especially after taking African American Women Literature my first year. That semester I read more books by black women than ever before. This black history month I am revisiting and reading more black authors. Obviously I believe that we should read and support black writers all year round, but if you notice that you’re lacking in this area, what better time then right now to add some amazing black writers to your reading list?
As a graduate student you will read tons of books during your courses, but it’s still important to take the initiative to read books that are not assigned. Being a gradate student means being a conscious reader and supporting communities that are marginalized in the systems that you are apart of. As a black woman, even I have to be mindful of inclusion and discovering spaces to support other P.O.C. Doing the work to support writers that aren’t like you, that come from different backgrounds, is what being an artist is all about. It’s finding connections and learning from differences.
To get you started, here are a few writers that I’m reading this month to support black authors:
A friend of mine suggested that I read Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith. I have since read this book three times and have used pieces to teach in my own classroom. Smith’s compelling collection of poems explores his blackness, his queerness, and his experience living with HIV in a way that is as complex and as layered as his identities.
I’ve already read Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, but her craftsmanship is always worth coming back to study. The novel is described as an “intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle.” Ward is as poised a writer as the likes of Toni Morrison and she world-builds her tiny fictional town in Mississippi with the care of the great Zora Neale Hurston. Ward is at the beginning of what will be a very long career. I’ll be reading all her future work to come.
I haven’t finished the book yet, but I’ve seen Britteney Black Rose Kapri read her poetry at the Poetry Foundation and she is dynamite! I gifted her book Black Queer Hoe to my roommate for Christmas, but not before reading most of it myself. Once she’s done with the collection you can bet I’ll be reading this celebratory piece of intersecting identities—an ode to sexual freedom in the 21st century.