NAACP Image Award: Overlooked Books

If you’re into books, then you’re already aware of the recent NAACP Image Award literary winners. Congratulations to them. But if you’re like me, you saw a few books on the literary lists that you may have overlooked last year. It’s for that reason that I salute those books. Check out a couple of potentially worthy reads from a few notable categories:

Literary Work -Non-Fiction

Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts of Women in SNCC Edited by Faith S. Holsaert, et al.

In Hands on the Freedom Plow, fifty-two women—northern and southern, young and old, urban and rural, black, white, and Latina—share their courageous personal stories of working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement [. . .] Each story reveals how the struggle for social change was formed, supported, and maintained by the women who kept their “hands on the freedom plow.” As the editors write in the introduction, “Though the voices are different, they all tell the same story—of women bursting out of constraints, leaving school, leaving their hometowns, meeting new people, talking into the night, laughing, going to jail, being afraid, teaching in Freedom Schools, working in the field, dancing at the Elks Hall, working the WATS line to relay horror story after horror story, telling the press, telling the story, telling the word. And making a difference in this world.”

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

“As the United States celebrates the nation’s “triumph over race” with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status – much like their grandparents before them.” In this incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander provocatively argues that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community – and all of us – to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.

Literary Work – Debut Author

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow
Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I., is the sole survivor of a tragic family incident. With her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring a constant stream of mixed attention her way. As she attempts to come to terms with an unfathomable past, she confronts her own identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white.

Literary Work – Biography/Auto-Biography

You Don’t Know Me: Reflections of My Father, Ray Charles by Ray Charles Robinson, Jr.
From the eldest son, who lived through Charles’s success, adultery, and addictions, comes this candid yet compassionate memoir. At age six, Robinson, now 54, found his father twitching and bloody from shooting heroin. He was nearly 50 before meeting many of his half-siblings from his father’s affairs. In between, his parents successfully created a normal life in Southern California—strict rules, curfew times, a sense of community. Ultimately, Robinson knew his father through his father’s affections, not his fame. He knew a remarkable man with an acute mind who would ride on a Vespa and play chess—a father whose attentions he craved but never thought he had captured. So despite earning a business and economics degree, working with and for his father, and starting a family, Robinson felt rejected. “I had nursed resentment against my father for most of my adult life, “ he writes, “always assuming that someday we would be together and everything would be made right.” Instead, things got worse, and Robinson abused cocaine. Beyond new insider details, this book is a cathartic tale of a son confronting his father’s legacy.

Happy reading, y’all.


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