Treasures on the Shelves — Black History Month reads recommended

Published 10:30 am Thursday, February 17, 2022

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As we celebrate Black History Month, I’m excited to write about some of the Black authors who are part of our collection.

Alyssa Cole is best known as an author of romance novels but in 2021 she switched things up and wrote one of the best thrillers of the year. “When No One is Watching” is set in a predominately black neighborhood in Brooklyn. As the novel opens, the neighborhood is being “gentrified”, with long-time residents being forced out by rising rents and property taxes, but as the story progresses, something much worse is slowly revealed.

This book has wonderfully likeable characters and is fast-paced and thought-provoking, with social justice issues skillfully blended with a thrilling mystery.

Colson Whitehead is one of the most talented and successful authors writing today, winning the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 2017 for his novel “The Underground Railroad”, then won the Pulitzer again for his 2020 novel “The Nickel Boys.” His latest novel, “Harlem Shuffle” takes place in 1960’s New York and is filled with a variety of deftly drawn characters and a propulsive narrative that is clever and socially incisive.

If you are a fan of the television show “Empire”, you may already be familiar with Attica Locke, who was both a writer and producer for the hit show. She is also an award-winning novelist and in 2017 introduced Darren Matthews, a Black Texas Ranger, in her book “Bluebird, Bluebird”, then followed up with “Heaven, My Home.” If you enjoy mystery books, you won’t want to miss these titles. Intricate, layered story lines and an emotionally wounded main character determined to make his mark in the world elevate these books beyond your average crime novel.

Television hosts Sunny Hostin and Tamron Hall added author to their already extensive resumes. Hall published her first book, “While the Wicked Watch” about a journalist trying to solve the murders of young black girls in Chicago and Hostin wrote “Summer on the Bluffs” a generational saga set in the exclusive beach community of Oak Bluffs. Politician and activist Stacey Abrams wrote her third novel “While Justice Sleeps”, a political thriller about the attempted assassination of a Supreme Court Justice just as a controversial case is set to be heard by the Court. All three of these books were bestsellers and I hope these ladies will continue to publish in the future.

One recent book was both a book club favorite as well as critical success. “The Other Black Girl” by Zakiya Dalila Harris takes place in a New York publishing house where the main character finds herself being harassed and undermined. Her colleagues are eager to point their fingers at her co-worker, the “other” black girl of the title, but is she really behind it all? An intense commentary on workplace ‘diversity’ programs and the psychological phenomena of gaslighting combine to make this one of the best debut novels of the last year.

“Blackbirds in the Sky – The Story and Legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre” by Brandy Colbert is a young adult non-fiction account of the one of the worst events of the 20th century, the destruction of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, also known as the Black Wall Street. The event left businesses destroyed and hundreds dead, yet it is rarely discussed or examined. This book is not an easy read but contributes vital information in understanding the nature of the occurrence and is the book I would recommend the most for readers seeking to expand their awareness of our history over the last century.

Holly Howze is the branch manager for the Ripberger Public Library located in Kenbridge. She can be reached at