Black History Month Reading Recommendations / by Candor Arts


In the spirit of Black History Month we want to share some books we found in our reading residency applications that celebrate African American culture. We hope you put one or a few of these titles that explore important histories and ideas on blackness on your reading list. 


Nobody Knows My Name by James Baldwin

Told with Baldwin's characteristically unflinching honesty, this collection of illuminating, deeply felt essays examines topics ranging from race relations in the United States to the role of the writer in society.

Belonging: A Culture of Place by Bell Hooks

What does it mean to call a place home? Who is allowed to become a member of a community? When can we say that we truly belong? These are some of the questions of place and belonging that renowned cultural critic bell hooks examines. Traversing past and present, Belonging charts a cyclical journey in which Hooks moves from place to place, from country to city and back again, only to end where she began--her old Kentucky home.

In the Wake: On Blackness and Being by Christina Sharpe

Christina Sharpe interrogates literary, visual, cinematic, and quotidian representations of Black life that comprise what she calls the "orthography of the wake." Sharpe illustrates how Black lives are swept up and animated by the afterlives of slavery, and she delineates what survives despite such insistent violence and negation. Formulating the wake and "wake work" as sites of artistic production, resistance, consciousness, and possibility for living in diaspora, In the Wake offers a way forward.

Speculative Blackness: The Future of Race in Science Fiction by André M. Carrington

André M. Carrington analyzes the highly racialized genre of speculative fiction—including science fiction, fantasy, and utopian works, along with their fan cultures—to illustrate the relationship between genre conventions in media and the meanings ascribed to blackness in the popular imagination.

Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford

This poetic, nonfiction story about a little-known piece of African American history captures a human’s capacity to find hope and joy in difficult circumstances and demonstrates how New Orleans' Congo Square was truly freedom’s heart.

Three Days Before the Shooting by Ralph Ellison

Set in the frame of a deathbed vigil, the story is a gripping saga centered on the assassination of a controversial, race-baiting U.S. senator who’s being tended to by an elderly black jazz musician turned preacher. Presented in their unexpurgated, provisional state, the narrative sequences brim with humor and tension, composed in Ellison’s magical jazz-inspired prose style. 

Private Lives, Proper Relations: Regulating Black Intimacy by Candice M. JenkinS

This book begins with the question of why contemporary African American literature, particularly that produced by black women, is continually concerned with issues of respectability and propriety. Jenkins argues that this preoccupation has its origins in recurrent ideologies about African American sexuality, and that it expresses a fundamental aspect of the racial self—an often unarticulated link between the intimate and the political in black culture.

Black Sexual Politics by Patricia Hill Collins

Drawing on vivid images of hypersexual blacks and the sociological theses of strong black women and weak black men, Collins explores an astonishing range of ideas and images through history, sociology, and popular culture. Rather than debate the dominance of race versus sex in the history of social injustice to black men and women, Collins offers a theory of "intersectionality," viewing race, gender, and sexuality together.

Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora edited by Sheree Thomas

This volume introduces black science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction writers to the generations of readers who have not had the chance to explore the scope and diversity among African-American writers.