The best books for growing up and finding your voice

The Books I Picked & Why

Sonic Memories and other essays

By Cija Jefferson

Sonic Memories and other essays

Why this book?

Sonic Memories makes the best use of a compact space without losing any of the narrative depth and emotional impact. This small collection of essays uses sound and music as its top note all the while using the silence in between to showcase a rich memoir-like exploration of Black girlhood growing into Black womanhood.


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They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us

By Hanif Abdurraqib

They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us

Why this book?

An amazing example of how music can solidify personal experience and growth, this essay collection is fueled by stunning writing and a nuanced dissection of culture and our places within it. Never heavy-handed, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us invites readers to revisit the cultural touchstones of their lives and find new entryways into memory and how it shapes our lives. 


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Their Eyes Were Watching God

By Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Why this book?

A book that forces you to engage both intellectually and emotionally is a gift. This novel is beautiful in its unflinching pride in its Black Florida roots and dialect. It forces readers to lay down their expectations of language and step into something new. Hurston’s careful crafting of Janie’s discovery of self in relation to both external expectation and her internal desires is one that is world-altering.


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Men We Reaped: A Memoir

By Jesmyn Ward

Men We Reaped: A Memoir

Why this book?

Home is personal. It can vary greatly even among people in the same family. Men We Reaped is not just the story of one community and family, it also serves as a bridge to readers seeking to place their own legacy into perspective while trying to determine what they may bring to the ongoing story.


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How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: Essays

By Kiese Laymon

How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: Essays

Why this book?

Finding your voice and using it to champion those in the world who mean the most to you is at the heart of this collection of essays. It is steadfast in its commentary on the world just as it questions the self and how to move beyond from what weighs you down in order to rise up.


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