In celebration of Black History Month, we asked our Guidance Center staff to reflect on the work of the Black Authors, writers, & philosophers who have left a lasting impact on them. The powerful books they selected below touch on everything from the legacy of the civil rights movement to spirituality & self-care. These essential reads get to the heart of many of these issues, so if you’re looking for a way to learn more this month – and beyond- check out their recommendations.
All About Love: New Visions – bell hooks
“The practice of love offers no place of safety. We risk loss, hurt, pain. We risk being acted upon by forces outside our control.”
Celebrated Black feminist writer and professor bell hooks frequently writes on the intersection of race, gender and society. But in All About Love: New Visions, hooks examines the foundation of love and the ways in which cultural norms have shaped how we love one another. In less than 200 pages, hooks lays out her framework for understanding love and becoming more open to giving and receiving love, and in doing so advancing justice and humanity.
Peace From Broken Pieces – Iyanla Vanzant
“Lives fall apart when they need to be rebuilt.”
The New York Times best-selling author Iyanla Vanzant recounts the last decade of her life and the spiritual lessons learned— part biography/ part self-help book, this phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes tale is about men and money, love and work, mothers and daughters, life and death, and the patterns and pathologies that families pass down through the generations—until someone gets clear enough to break the pattern and pave the way to healing.
The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison
“If there is somebody with bluer eyes than mine, then maybe there is somebody with the bluest eyes. The bluest eyes in the whole world. That’s just too bad, isn’t it?”
The Bluest Eye is Toni Morrison’s first novel, a book heralded for its richness of language and boldness of vision. Set in the author’s hometown of Lorain, Ohio, it tells the story of black, eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove. Pecola prays for her eyes to turn blue so that she will be as beloved as all the blond, blue-eyed children in America. In the autumn of 1941, the year the marigolds in the Breedloves’ garden do not bloom. Pecola’s life does change- in painful, devastating ways, The Bluest Eye remains one of Toni Morrisons’s most powerful, unforgettable novels- and a significant work of American fiction.
Kindred – Octavia E. Butler
“Like all good works of fiction, it lies like the truth.”
A pioneer of her genre, Butler’s dystopian novels explore myriad themes of Black injustice, women’s rights, global warming and political disparity, and her work is taught in over two hundred colleges and universities nationwide. The visionary author’s masterpiece pulls us—along with her Black female hero—through time to face the horrors of slavery and explore the impacts of racism, sexism, and white supremacy then and now.
Hope On A Tightrope – Cornel West
“I want to be a prisoner of hope.”
The New York Times bestselling author of Race Matters and Democracy Matters offers provocative, open-hearted wisdom for our times. In a world that yearns for unarmed truth and unconditional love, in the midst of cold greed and blind hatred, Hope on a Tightrope offers a new compass. This courageous collection will challenge all those in search of new perspectives and provides deep wells of inspiration that marry the mind to the heart.