A Reading List for Black History Month 2023

For Black History Month, observed annually during the month of February, we asked our member magazines and presses to share with us some of the books and literary journals they recommend reading in celebration.




let the dead in by Saida Agostini

Alan Squire Publishing | 2022

Agostini’s debut poetry collection “is an exploration of the mythologies that seek to subjugate Black bodies, and the counter-stories that reject such subjugation.”




Dervish Lions by Tiel Aisha Ansari

Fernwood Press | 2022 

According to Willa Schneberg, “These lyric poems seamlessly merge with narrative to ‘witness’ and embrace the individual and collective, the sacred, the natural and man-made disasters that affect us all.”




What We Ask of Flesh by Remica L. Bingham

Etruscan Press | 2013

A finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Poetry, this poetry collection “tells of women through time, their spirits borne through broken flesh, through wombs and memories.”




Bloodwarm by Taylor Byas

Variant Literature | 2021

According to Ashley M. Jones, “Byas illuminates Blackness and the ways in which this country is riddled with a violent colonial gaze and a thirst for Black blood.”




Can’t Stop Won’t Stop

Rain Taxi | 2020

This chapbook features poems by Black writers in the Twin Cities responding to the murder of George Floyd.




On the Imperial Highway: New and Selected Poems by Jayne Cortez

Hanging Loose Press | 2009

According to Maya Angelou, “Cortez has been and continues to be an explorer, probing the valleys and chasms of human existence.”




Summertime Fine by Jason B. Crawford

Variant Literature | 2020

According to Madeleine Corley, this debut chapbook “serves as a testament of survival through community and memory’s resurrection.”





Haint by Teri Ellen Cross Davis

Gival Press | 2016

According to Cornelius Eady, Haint “is a book of choices, and witnessing. A book of learning the bodies territories, pleasures and sorrows.”




Thresh & Hold by Marlanda Dekine

Hub City Press | 2022

This debut poetry collection explores the question, “What does it mean to be a Gullah-Geechee descendant from a rural place where a third of the nation’s founding wealth was harvested by trafficked West and Central Africans?”




Vox Humana by Adebe DeRango-Adem

Book*hug Press | 2022

This poetry collection “considers the different ways a body can assert, recount, proclaim, thus underscoring the urgency of doing so against the de-voicing effects of racism and institutional violence.”




Our Bruises Kept Singing Purple by Malcolm Friend

Inlandia Institute | 2018

Winner of the Hillary Gravendyk Prize, this poetry collection is “crafted in rhythmseasoned Latinx dialect, emerging from ancestral roots, replanted in the urban spectrum of hip-hop and rap.”




Bittering the Wound by Jacqui Germain

Autumn House Press | 2022

“A first-person retelling of the 2014 Ferguson uprising,” this poetry collection “works to share the narrative of the event with more complexity, audacity, care, and specificity than public media accounts typically allow.”




A Dead Name That Learned How to Live by Golden

Game Over Books | 2022

This debut collection “weaves poems, family photographs, and self-portraits to share a journey of survival and living in the American south.”




Black Swim by Nicholas Goodly

Copper Canyon Press | 2022

In this debut poetry collection, Goodly “casts a spell to transform darkness into perfect darkness.”




HoodWitch by Faylita Hicks

Acre Books | 2019

This debut poetry collection “is a reclamation of power for black women and nonbinary people whose bodies have become the very weapons used against them.”




MissSettl by Kamden Ishmael Hilliard

Nightboat Books | 2022

MissSettl is “a polyphonic and typographic debut collection of poems that vibrantly strategizes life and resistance under white supremacist capitalism.”





Gossypiin by Ra Malika Imhotep

Red Hen Press | 2022

This poetry collection “is inspired by the plant medicine latent in Gossypium Herbeceum, or Cotton Root Bark, which was used by enslaved Black women to induce labor, cure reproductive ailments and end unwanted pregnancies.”




Scattered Clouds: New & Selected Poems by Reuben Jackson

Alan Squire Publishing | 2019

According to Terrance Hayes, “Jackson’s marvelous poems map the poles between ode and lamentation, politics and intimacy, sagacity and audacity.”




Olio by Tyehimba Jess

Wave Books | 2016

Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, Olio “presents the sweat and story behind America’s blues, worksongs and church hymns.”




Reparations Now! by Ashley M. Jones

Hub City Press | 2021

In this poetry collection, Jones “calls for long-overdue reparations to the Black descendants of enslaved people in the United States of America.”





Echo’s Errand by Keith Jones

Black Ocean | 2022

In this poetry collection, Jones “conjures the longue durée of the Middle Sea and the Middle Passage, by excavating history through its vanishing figures and the always already erasure of voice.”




Starts Spinning by Douglas Kearney

Rain Taxi | 2019

The poems in Kearney’s chapbook are “short, personal takes on pop hits, filled with humor and pathos.”




Punks: New & Selected Poems by John Keene

The Song Cave | 2021

Keene’s National Book Award–winning poetry collection “is a generous treasury in seven sections that spans decades and includes previously unpublished and brand new work.”




Cane, Corn & Gully by Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa

Out-Spoken Press | 2022

Cane, Corn & Gully is “a genealogical and autobiographical collection which unites dance and poetry to observe, question and ruminate on what it means to adopt, perform, and pass down the notion of black West Indian femininity.”




Junie by Chelene Knight

Book*hug Press | 2022

This novel is “a riveting exploration of the complexity within mother-daughter relationships and the dynamic vitality of Vancouver’s former Hogan’s Alley neighbourhood.”




The Bushman’s Medicine Show by Gary Copeland Lilley

Lost Horse Press | 2017

This poetry collection “is a southern gothic testament delivered by an archetypical denizen of the modern south, a sort of Everyman from the Carolina low-country traversing the territories of family, the spirits, society, culture, and identity, while refusing to be eradicated.”




Bird/Diz [an erased history of be-bop] by Warren C. Longmire

BUNNY/Fonograf Editions | 2022

This erasure chapbook “navigates the personal and artistic lives of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie through the author’s own roving imagination.”




Dear Hero, by Jason McCall

Marsh Hawk Press | 2013

According to Cornelius Eady, “McCall is a poet who walks around with a book full of lyrical needles, letting the air out of heroic balloons, not because he can, but to help us see the outlines of ourselves sharper, clearer.”




Pullman by JoAnne McFarland

Grid Books | 2023

This multimedia poetry collection “examines themes of labor and love, using as its backdrop the history of the treatment of the Pullman car porters of the late 19th century.”




Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry by John Murillo

Four Way Books | 2020

According to Kwame Dawes, Murillo’s second poetry collection demonstrates “a dogged Americanness, a poet determined to assert himself within an America that has sought to deny his song and the songs from the rich African American tradition.”




Already Knew You Were Coming by Sarah Nnenna Loveth Nwafor 

Game Over Books | 2022

This debut chapbook “is a tender exploration of loneliness, queer identity, and codependence.”




SorrowLand Oracle by Ayodele Nzinga

Nomadic Press | 2020

This poetry collection is “a compendium of spells, incantations, prayers, and their translations into the event of being Black in modernity.”




Daughters of Harriet by Cynthia Parker-Ohene

Center for Literary Publishing/Colorado Review | 2022

According to Taylor Johnson, this poetry collection is “an anatemporal cistern for pleasure, irreverence, and memory that invites the reader to enter into the wild lineage of those who walked on water, whose crossing meant a rupture in language.”




Erou by Maya Phillips

Four Way Books | 2019

This debut poetry collection “borrows the framework of the traditional Greek epic to interrogate the inner workings of a present-day nuclear family and the role of a patriarch whose life, marriage, and death are imagined as a sort of hero’s journey.”




I’m Always So Serious by Karisma Price

Sarabande Books | 2023

This debut poetry collection, anchored in New Orleans and New York City, “is an extended meditation on Blackness, on family, on loss.”




Mausoleum of Flowers by Daniel B. Summerhill

CavanKerry Press | 2022

Summerhill’s second poetry collection “celebrates Black culture, creativity, and memory.”




Concentrate by Courtney Faye Taylor

Graywolf Press | 2022

The poems in this collection—winner of the 2021 Cave Canem Poetry Prize—“present a profound look into the insidious points at which violence originates against—and between—women of color.”




Beg No Pardon by Lynne Thompson

Perugia Press | 2007

Thompson’s debut poetry collection “describes a vivid world of Afro-Caribbean heritage and late 20th-century life.”




Fretwork by Lynne Thompson

Marsh Hawk Press | 2019

According to Major Jackson, when reading Fretwork, “one feels spurred on by the cherished care of the American emigrant story, which is to say, the buttressing and fortifying of the dream with all of its inglorious and joyous plots and twists.”




Troy, Michigan by Wendy S. Walters

Futurepoem | 2014

According to Dawn Lundy Martin, this poetry collection “approximates a psyche flattened by middle class desires, racist anxieties, and inexplicably horrifying violence.”




Our Scarlet Blue Wounds by Emmett Wheatfall

Fernwood Press | 2019

In this poetry collection, Wheatfall “shows us how the roots of love grow deep in the soil of sacrifice” and “illustrates the intensely complex relationship between idealism and realism.”




American Sycamore by Lisbeth White 

Perugia Press | 2022

American Sycamore is “an exploration of racial identity and the natural world, rooted in the mythopoetics of wilderness and ancestry as sources of trauma, grief, wonder, and tremendous resource.”




Of Being Dispersed by Simone White

Futurepoem | 2016

This poetry collection is, according to Erica Hunt, “a poetic lens on the specificities of the diaspora and the ‘dispersed,’ written with baroque skepticism, feminist vision and attention to the complications of a Black yet to be storyed any/where.”




Detroit as Barn by Crystal Williams

Lost Horse Press | 2014

In this collection, Williams’s “desperate and ecstatic poetry takes us beyond Simulacrum Detroit, the stage-set of crisis capitalism, to the human landscape of absolute potential and contingency.”




Monk Eats an Afro by Yolanda Wisher

Hanging Loose Press | 2014

Wisher’s poetry collection “cracks open a blueswoman’s purse of poem and songs, bursting folk poetry for the millennium.”






Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic 

Lookout Books | 2022

Edited by Valerie Boyd, this anthology collects “the voices of those most harshly affected by the intersecting pandemics of Covid-19 and systemic racism.”




Crave: Sojourn of a Hungry Soul by Laurie Jean Cannady

Etruscan Press | 2015

Cannady’s memoir is “a narrative about a victim who becomes a survivor” that “renders a continuing search for sustenance that simply will not die.”




Ladybug by Nikia Chaney

Inlandia Institute | 2022

Ladybug is “an experimental memoir of extreme poverty and schizophrenia, mothering and love.”





Black and Female by Tsitsi Dangarembga

Graywolf Press | 2023

In this essay collection, Dangarembga “examines the legacy of imperialism on her own life and on every aspect of black embodied African life.”




The Incredible Shrinking Woman by Athena Dixon 

Split/Lip Press | 2020

Dixon’s essay collection is “a gentle unpacking of the roles she learned to inhabit, growing up as a Black woman in a small Midwestern town, to avoid disruption.”




Blackspace: On the Poetics of an Afrofuture by Anaïs Duplan

Black Ocean | 2020

Through this series of researched lyric essays, interviews, and ekphrastic poetry, Duplan explores “the aesthetic strategies used by experimental artists of color since the 1960s to pursue liberatory possibility.”




To Float in the Space Between: A Life and Work in Conversation with the Life and Work of Etheridge Knight by Terrance Hayes

Wave Books | 2018

Hayes’s multi-genre collection of work about Knight “enacts one poet’s search for another and in doing so constellates a powerful vision of black literature and art in America.”




Far Away from Close to Home: A Black Millennial Woman in Progress by Vanessa Baden Kelly

Three Rooms Press | 2021

In these essays, Baden Kelly “examines what the idea of ‘home’ means to a Black millennial woman.”




Talking Back, Talking Black: Truths About America’s Lingua Franca by John McWhorter

Bellevue Literary Press | 2017

McWhorter explores the fundamentals and history of Black English and “takes us on a fascinating tour of a nuanced and complex language that has moved beyond America’s borders to become a dynamic force for today’s youth culture around the world.”




Bright by Kiki Petrosino

Sarabande Books | 2022

In this essay collection, Petrosino “contemplates the enduring, deeply personal legacies of enslavement and racial discrimination in America.”




You May Have the Suitcase Now by Beaudelaine Pierre

New Rivers Press | 2021

According to Joëlle Vitiello, in these essays “​​Pierre offers a complex gaze on immigration in the Youwés (US) through the experience of a Haitian woman coming to grips with her history, with the unforgiving world of her new surroundings in the Twin Cities, with her hopes, despairs, and children’s future.”




Sister Love: The Letters of Audre Lorde and Pat Parker

Sinister Wisdom | 2018

In these collected letters, Audre Lorde and Pat Parker “discuss their work as writers as well as intimate details of their lives, including periods when each lived with cancer.”





Uncle: Race, Nostalgia, and the Cultural Politics of Loyalty by Cheryl Thompson

Coach House Books | 2021

In Uncle, Thompson “makes the case for why understanding the production of racial stereotypes matters more than ever before.”




Flee by Calvin Walds

Split/Lip Press | 2021

According to Sarah Minor, Flee “moves deftly between the personal and the critical, the pop and the academic, to explore how types of captivity replicate themselves across time and space.”




Survivor’s Guilt: Essays on Race and American Identity by Artress Bethany White

New Rivers Press | 2020

In these essays, Bridgett M. Davis says, White “interrogates and informs, startles and prods, and implicates us all—forcing us to see ourselves through multi-faceted prisms of American identity.”




Primary Lessons by Sarah Bracey White

CavanKerry Press | 2013

In this memoir, White “refuses to accept the segregation that tries to confine her—a system her mother accepts as the southern way of life.”






Aquarian Dawn by Ebele Chizea

Three Rooms Press | 2022

In this debut novel, “teenager Ada and her mother flee the civil war of their West African home and come to America in 1966.”




The Color of My Soul by Melanie S. Hatter

Washington Writers’ Publishing House | 2011

In this novel, “a black newspaper reporter in Southwest Virginia in 1993” learns “that her father is alive and very different from the person Kira had imagined.”




All Shades of Iberibe by Kasimma

Sandorf Passage | 2021

According to Chika Unigwe, this short fiction collection “pulses with wit and wisdom. In stories that often surprise, that often blur the line between the living and the dead.”




The Sleeping Car Porter by Suzette Mayr

Coach House Books | 2022

The Sleeping Car Porter “brings to life an important part of Black history in North America, from the perspective of a queer man living in a culture that renders him invisible in two ways.”




Now Lila Knows by Elizabeth Nunez

Akashic Books | 2022

In this novel, “Caribbean professor Lila Bonnard arrives in Vermont for a short-term teaching position and is forced to confront the terrible legacy of American (in)justice.”




The Strangers of Braamfontein by Onyeka Nwelue

Sandorf Passage | 2022

In this novel, Nwelue “pits the aspirations of those always striving for more against the harsh realities of the immigrant experience.”




The Day Rider and Other Stories by J. E. Robinson

Gival Press | 2013

Winner of the San Francisco Book Festival Award for Gay Literature, this short fiction collection “presents characters nominally situated in one world who seek to join another, while being themselves.”




Some of Them Will Carry Me by Giada Scodellaro

Dorothy, a publishing project | 2022

Scodellaro’s stories “deconstruct contemporary life while building a surprising new reality of language, intimacy, and loss.”




Strivers and Other Stories by Robert J. Williams

Washington Writers’ Publishing House | 2016

This short fiction collection “explores a range of African-American and Southern voices reflecting characters striving towards their versions of the American dream.”




Virgil Kills by Ronaldo V. Wilson

Nightboat Books | 2022

The linked stories in this collection alight “from a US, Black and Filipino imaginary through a central character, Virgil, and his accounts of race, sex, and desire.”




Heroes of an Unknown World by Ayize Jama-Everett

Small Beer Press | 2023

In this final novel in the Liminals series, “a found family of Black superheroes has one last chance to save the world.”




Malambo by Lucía Charún-Illescas

Translated from the Spanish by Emmanuel Harris II 

Swan Isle Press | 2004

This historical novel “probes the brutal clash of ethnicity, religion, and class in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Peru.”




Over the Waves and Other Stories / Sobre las olas y otros cuentos by Inés María Martiatu

Translated from the Spanish by Emmanuel Harris II

Swan Isle Press | 2009

This short fiction collection “provides an intimate and critical view of Afro-Cuba” and “confronts conflicts about identity, race, marginalization, and discrimination.”




Literary Magazines


Two Poems by Cortney Lamar Charleston

Another Chicago Magazine | 2020

“Over Everything—” begins, “an expression my friends from the area affix to the rear of Chicago / like a train car Pullman porters worked way back when…”




Four Poems by Eve L. Ewing

Another Chicago Magazine | 2019

“City in a Garden” begins, “o my ugly homestead, / blood-sodden prairie.”





Awake | Issue 4

This issue “illustrates the power of Blackness through sci-fi. Included works transport readers to a reality in which a Black captain receives clearance for their own expedition to the Outer Ring.”




Reading List: Black History and Heritage Month

The Common | 2023

This reading list includes poetry by Vievee Francis, fiction by LaShonda Katrice Barnett, nonfiction by Madison Davis, and art by Rico Gatson.




Georgia in Line and Color: W. E. B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits

The Georgia Review | 2021

This feature, edited by Gerald Maa, includes work inspired by Du Bois’s data portraits, by Janeria Easley, Keith S. Wilson, Vanessa Angélica Villarreal.




Othello the Moor” and “Aaron the Moor” by A. Van Jordan

Greensboro Review | 2022

“Othello the Moor” begins, “Only a Black face throwing light could cast so many shadows.”





“Broken Showerhead” by Dom Witten

Greensboro Review | 2022

This poem begins, “Water pleas mercy before landing at the bottom of my shower.”





“China and the Outside World: Reflections and Foresight upon a Century of Poetry, 2016” and “Twentieth-Century Examination” by Terrance Hayes

The Hopkins Review | 2022

This two-part essay begins, “All the highlights of my first day in Shanghai my first time in China featured Guan Guan, an 88-year-old Taiwanese poet who said he ‘did not write poems.’”




Three Poems by Afaa M. Weaver

The Hopkins Review | 2022

“An Elegy for Lucille Clifton” begins, “It’s the old Shirley Highway, the road / a woman inspired, flat in the curves, / the way for farmers to go home.”




Portfolio on Black Resiliency

The Iowa Review | 2022

The poems in this portfolio edited by Tracie Morris “present an eclectic community of thoughtful, personal, visceral, and meditative commentaries on pressing issues of the day and eternal questions for individual Black people, Black communities and, by metaphorical extension, the expanse of humankind.”




Essential Reading

Narrative Magazine 

This roundup of work that “informs, inspires, entertains, and illuminates the way forward” includes writing by David Bradley, Jericho Brown, Lucille Clifton, and Kwame Dawes.




Black Lesbians—We Are the Revolution!

Sinister Wisdom | 2018

Sinister Wisdom 107 “gathers together new writing by an array of emerging and established black lesbian and queer women writers.”





Two Poems by Karisma Price

Southeast Review | 2022

“I’m Always So Serious” begins, “I was spoiled by lavish thoughts, / I admit it. History almost unchained itself // from my weaker clavicle.”




“The College Guide for Secret Diabetics” by Spencer Wilkins

Southeast Review | 2022

This essay begins, “Diabetes will bankrupt you and it will kill you.”




Music, Drama & Visual Arts


bull-jean & dem/dey back by Sharon Bridgforth

53rd State Press | 2022

bull-jean & dem/dey back “collects two performance/novels centering Sharon Bridgforth’s southern-Black-butch-sheroe, bull-jean.”




Improvise in the Amen Corner by Larnell Custis Butler

Passager Books | 2007

This book is “a stunning collection of 48 portraits and poems that testify to African American lives of deep vexation and amazing grace.”




Fodder by Douglas Kearney and Val Jeanty

Fonograf Editions | 2021

Recorded live in Portland in 2019, this album featuring words by Douglas Kearney “touches on Charlottesville, Louis Armstrong, and Afro-futurism.”




Particle and Wave: A Conversation by Daniel Alexander Jones and Alexis Pauline Gumbs

53rd State Press | 2021

In this conversation, Jones and Gumbs “discuss love as a foundational principle of artistic practice and societal change.”




Rock of Eye by Troy Montes-Michie

Siglio Press | 2021

Rock of Eye is “a tactile and sensuous artist’s book, recalling the forms of both magazines and swatch books” and featuring contributions by Tina Campt, Brent Hayes Edwards, and Andrea Andersson.




penny candy by Jonathan Norton

Deep Vellum | December 7, 2021

This play “follows one family as they seek to balance their responsibilities to their community and to one another.”





Children’s Books


ABC That Could Be Me! by Little Coleman

La Reunion Publishing | 2022

This alphabet picture book, illustrated by Lindsay Scott, “champions Black excellence by showing kids they can be doctors, lawyers, the president, and so much more.”




Music Is in Everything by Ziggy Marley

Akashic Books | 2022

This picture book is “based on Ziggy Marley’s popular song celebrating music’s many forms, from the sounds of ocean waves to laughter in the family kitchen.”




From Cotton to Silk: The Magic of Black Hair by Crystal C. Mercer

Et Alia Press | 2021

This illustrated children’s book “encourages girls everywhere to appreciate their hair in its natural state and love themselves just the way they are.”