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Black little girl on a library full of books

LTHJ Global’s BIPOC Book Recommendations

Welcome to the (unofficial) LTHJ Global book club! Our team has a monthly tradition of sharing book recommendations in our virtual workspace, and we wanted to share a small sample of those extensive recommendations with you.  After all, you can only reread Michelle Obama’s Becoming so many times.

For Fiction and Escapism

Below, we’ve listed some of our favorite fictional reads, ones that celebrate Black joy and share Black narratives that don’t focus on oppression. 

Thriller

My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

No need to give a synopsis — the title says it all. Our main character, Korede, is simply trying to live her life, excel at work, flirt with the handsome doctor she works with, and …  protect her murder-happy younger sister from getting caught. 

Our lawyer has encouraged us to say that LTHJ Global does not condone murder, despite our love for this book. We especially loved how Korede’s loyalty to her sister — her instinct to take care of and cover up for her sister — relates to the obligation she feels as the eldest sibling. This familial theme resonated with many of our team members. We also loved how the book touches on themes of colorism, particularly how the sister’s lighter complexion makes her more attractive to men and influences how other people see her.

Contemporary Romance

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

For a delightful story about romance, blossoming independence, and familial ties, you should pick up Get a Life, Chloe Brown. After a near-death experience, our protagonist Chloe, a young, British, 20-something, realizes that she has lived her life too passively — and she wants to change that, starting now. 

Chloe Brown’s narrative is about more than just romantic love. It integrates her experience of living with fibromyalgia, which has limited her ability to have these life experiences sooner. The romance, an enemies-to-lovers story with Chloe’s cute, red-headed superintendent, is also quite endearing and full of witty banter. 

Get a Life, Chloe Brown is the first of a three-part series. The second and third books follow her sisters, Dani and Eve, who also navigate their own versions of a real-life rom-com.

Africanfuturism

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

We could write a whole blog post recommending only Afro-futuristic and Africianfuturistic books — and we might someday! For now, we recommend Lagoon, a story of an alien species landing off the coast of Lagos and changing the world as we know it. 

That is the abridged version of the plot, one that hopefully piqued your interest. Who are these extra-terrestrials? What do they want? And how will Lagos, and the world adjust to this new reality? The one in which aliens are real, and changing the Earth as we know it.

The challenge of recommending this book is describing it to you, the potential reader, in a concise manner. There is nothing concise about this story. Lagoon focuses on Lagos, and three main characters we’re introduced to, but expands outward. Each chapter shifts between an array of perspectives (priests, world leaders, even animals), showing the true global impact of this alien arrival.

For Middle-School Readers

My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi Zoboi

For young music lovers, this book is absolutely delightful. The story follows Ebony-Grace, a middle-schooler who has a fish-out-of-water experience when she visits her father in Harlem for the summer. 

The year is 1984, a golden age of rap and hip-hop. Ebony-Grace — whether she knows it or not — has arrived during a culturally historic moment. For this reason, My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich resonates with readers who grew up during this golden age of music, not just the youth of today. Ebony-Grace herself is also an endearing character, with her love for science fiction, particularly Star Trek, and her vivid imagination.

Here’s what our team members think:

“I came to hip hop just a few years after [Ebony-Grace] did, so I found it nostalgic for that reason, but good on a gazillion other levels!”

For Anti-Racism Self-Education

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made For Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

When author Austin Channing Brown was born, her parents decided to give her a name that was typically associated with a white man. They hoped that Austin’s name would give her a small advantage in a white-dominated environment, that the perceived whiteness of her name would get her “foot in the door” so to speak. Using this backstory as a framework, Austin describes her experiences of navigating predominately white workplaces as a Black woman.

Why do we love this book? Considering that our work at LTHJ Global involves fostering more inclusive and safe work environments for BIPOC individuals, I’m Still Here is basically like required reading. It’s also a great self-education resource for readers who are in the “Personal Acceptance” stage of their anti-racism journey, as it prompts readers to examine past interactions with their BIPOC co-workers and wonder if they may have perpetuated the same behaviors that Austin describes.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

When the word caste is referenced, it is usually in the context of India’s social hierarchy. Isabel Wilkerson shows how the traits of a caste system “show up” in the oppression and discrimination of Black Americans. She describes a caste as “the granting or withholding of respect, status, honor, attention, privileges, resources, benefit of the doubt, and human kindness to someone on the basis of their perceived rank or standing in the hierarchy.” With this definition in mind, Wilkerson pushes further, asking the reader to confront parallels between America’s treatment of Black Americans, India’s treatment of its “untouchables,” and, most uncomfortably, the Nazi’s treatment of Jews. 

Here’s what our fellow team members think:

“Amazed at how Wilkerson doles out history and race theory I’ve digested for years, but in a new way.  Now I understand why a few Fortune 500 CEOs have been distributing this book to all their employees — [I’m] hopeful this lens will allow folks to see current events within the context of our country’s beginnings — its economic foundation and the systems put in place to secure those in power.”

Intersectional Stories

Black and LGBTQIA+

Guru by RuPaul

Here is a passionate and deeply personal recommendation from one of our LTHJ Global team members:

“Guru by RuPaul is a collection of philosophies and gorgeous (some never before printed) photographs of RuPaul. For those who haven’t done a lot of work around identity, ego, and performative gender – this is a great entry point. It’s an eclectic mix of sage advice and invitations to become more self-aware. Truly what you would expect from a guru – a spiritual teacher, leader, or mentor.

As a current professional creative and former drag performer – I found a lot to love in this book. It’s a survival manual for those of us who bear parts of our hearts and souls in our daily work. There are lessons in learning and self-care that I will return to repeatedly. As a (now retired) drag performer and student of gender theory, there are (as with everything Ru does) great discussions about being one’s truest self, seeing everything in the world that is a construct – especially some of the things that we hold as immutable facts. Ru does a masterful job making those theoretical concepts not just accessible but ordinary – which is a true gift. Drag is a device to deconstruct the identity-based ego and allow space for the unlimited – it’s a pathway to a freer and fuller understanding of self.

I listened to the audiobook and read the physical book – and they’re each a singularly wonderful experience – and I would heartily recommend both.”

Black and Ability

Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

This book is a collection of essays that dive deep into the disability justice movement, focusing on the experiences of sick and disabled BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ identifying individuals. Through personal essays, Leah opens up their world as a non-binary, disabled, autistic individual, who navigates a world that is not entirely accessible to them. This book is a valuable resource for readers who are very early in their anti-ableism-journey, as it asks them to confront their lack of awareness of the struggles of differently-abled folx.