4 Books to Better Understand the Black Female Experience

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Recent events in the U.S. have sparked a new interest in and respect for Black authors as well as a further curiosity on understanding the Black experience. The country has always been known as a“melting pot,” but has often failed to understand and share the stories of all that makeup this pot. HG contributor Jordan {creator of new “Bookstagram” @_completelybooked based in Hoboken} shares four books to add to your list now that allow for a peek inside daily experiences of powerful black women.

Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Genre: Novel

Just like the subtle nature of micro-aggressions, the racial themes in this book are somewhat underlying, but they inform the entire narrative of the characters. Emira Tucker is a 25-year-old college graduate doing what most recent grads do — trying to find multiple streams of income to cover rent and going out with friends on the weekend. But, like many real-life 25-year-old Black girls, Emira’s character must watch her back a bit more than her non-black friends. She finds herself in an unlikely situation — babysitting very late one evening for a well-off white family in Philadelphia when things turn south. She is wrongfully accused of kidnapping the white toddler and caring for her inappropriately. After being caught on film by a handsome on-looker, Emira’s world is catapulted into realizing the truth about her surrounding well-intending, but undereducated loved-ones.

Throughout the book, Reid depicts common occurrences between a color-blind white boss and a Black employee who needs a paycheck through the relationship with Emira and the mother she works as a nanny for, Alix. A wanna-be influencer, Alix tries to stay at the top of her social game, even when moving out of NYC against her will. Her odd obsession with Black culture and approval, but not necessarily Black people, is showcased in questions like “How do you pronounce the name SZA” or scenarios in which she begs Emira to stay late after shifts. Despite her lowly boss, Emira truly loves the baby she watches and wishes for more time with her constantly. Like most 20-somethings, Emira finds herself with a boyfriend. One that happens to be white. Not only is she new to the whole girlfriend thing, but she also has to navigate his understanding of Black people next to her actual experience being Black.

Reid manages to weave the reality of race through almost every major situation in the novel in such a subtle way it could go missed by the reader. She captures the feeling of being Black in America where race is always a thought to those who are often hurt by it most and often never a thought by those who do the hurting.

Small Doses {For Potent Truths and Everyday Use} by Amanda Seales

Genre: Humor

Amanda Seales is known by a variety of audiences due to her multihyphenate career. Singer, songwriter, actress {Notably HBO’s Insecure}, director, comedian, talk-show host, most recently an author, and overall creative, Seales is truly a jack {or Jane-of-all-trades. Perhaps her most impressive and most utilized accomplishment is her master’s degree in African-American Studies from Columbia University. Her first book, Small Doses {which is also the name of her podcast}, combines all her talents in written form. Seales is known for being very outspoken on the topic of race. She recently stated during her gig as host of the BET Awards that “race always beats me to the conversation.” Her book depicts exactly what she meant by this statement. Seales humorously brings the reader through very common, everyday experiences such as dating and going to work, but from a Black and funny perspective. She hilariously discusses the all-too-common experience of Black women navigating the world with different hairstyles every few weeks and the questioning that comes along with that. At one point, she hilariously shares her experiences of being famous among Black people before becoming a mainstream celebrity.

While the book falls into the humor category, Seales gets real about topics such as ‘White Allyship’ vs. ‘White Saviors’ {note: the former is more effective in combating systemic racism and understanding those from different backgrounds}. Using her educational background, she breaks down how systemic racism has set Black Americans back centuries and how the majority can use their privilege to dismantle the system. She eloquently explains the hurtful nature of cultural appropriation to readers who may not understand why dressing in a culture other than your own is stealing. For her Black readers, she celebrates the culture and creates nostalgia when recounting events of her childhood that are shared by many Black Americans. The comedian in her comes out in all topics, but she also lets the reader know she means business when it comes to racial equality and equity.

Read More: 4 Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List ASAP

More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say) by Elaine Welteroth

Genre: Memoir/ Autobiography

Warning: this book will change your life for the better. You will feel an overwhelming sense of empowerment with the turn of each page. For women of color reading, feelings of relation, as well as pride, may come. For non-women of color reading, further understanding of why office politics stem deeper for Black women than just the confines of the office walls may occur. A true navigation of what seems, on the outside to be a perfect career but is really a bumpy road is showcased through this story.

Elaine Welteroth made history and took headlines by storm when she was named editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue in 2016, making her just the second Black person to hold this title in Conde Nast’s 100+ year history. Like any person climbing to the type of her career, hardships come along the way. However, unlike her colleagues that had achieved this high-ranking position, she had to do it while navigating the world as a bi-racial young professional. Studies have shown the importance of seeing “yourself” represented in the roles you want — this is particularly true for young women of color. While Welteroth is now this person for millions of young American girls, she really didn’t have this for herself. She had to go out and dig for women to look up to. She chronicles her determination to be in the presence of powerful Black women in the magazine world — this determination quickly paid off.

By the time she celebrated her 30th birthday, Welteroth graduated college, turned her grueling internship at Ebony magazine into a full-time role, got her heart broken horribly twice, negotiated salaries, gained and lost close friends, moved up the ranks at Glamour magazine, found the love of her life, turned around the image of Teen Vogue, and became its editor-in-chief. For a cautionary tale of the grit it takes to blaze a new path in a white male-dominated field while also balancing personal life and finding true happiness, get into this story.

See More: 15 Books that Will Take You On Adventures Without Leaving Home

Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women White Feminist Forgot by Mikki Kendall

Genre: Essay Collection

If audiences are tired of hearing about racial injustice or the stories of Black women’s struggle, Mikki Kendall’s Hood Feminism is the alarm clock that won’t stop ringing. Sleep will not be had under her watch. The feminist movement formally began nearly 200 years ago. But, perhaps one of the high points of this movement during our lifetime was the gathering of millions of women and male allies on a cold January morning in 2017 following the election of arguably one of the most controversial Presidents in U.S. history. While women donned their pink pussy hats and chanted for equal rights, Black women watched on knowing this was the first time many of those women ever had to stand up for unfair treatment in their lives. For Black women, this fight starts the moment they enter the world. Hood Feminism gives the screaming cry Black women have wanted to let out, but the world hadn’t been ready to listen.

The circumstances in which these realizations have been broadcasted to the world are awful however, for the first time in history Black women are starting to be seen as human. Kendall shares the dangers and celebration of terms such as “strong Black women” and even “Black Girl Magic.”Within the culture, these terms allow Black women to honor each other and flaunt their accomplishments despite hardships, but to those outside, it has caused more harm than good and depicts this group as superhuman causing a myriad of issues in the workplace {passed up for jobs and raises} and healthcare {see Black childbirth mortality rate}. She tears down mainstream feminism topic by topic and how it is a movement truly made for women in the majority and leaves out all others. Areas such as gun violence, food insecurity, mental health, police brutality, and many others where opportunities for triumph are not as easily accessible for Black women, women of color, and women of different sexual orientations because of America’s quickness to jump to the defense and protection of white women are discussed. While Kendall airs out these hardships, she still elevates Black women in a way that shows they are not here to feel sorry for, they are not victims in these situations. They are looking for the movement to include them and to understand how something that was made for good, could still be lacking.

Have you read any of these books? Let us know in the comments below!

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Jordan and Joelle are true Jersey Girls. Originally hailing from down the shore in Hazlet, NJ, the girls made their "rite of passage" move to Hoboken a few short years after graduating with degrees in Communications from Loyola University. Outside of their 9-5 as senior publishers in NYC, the twins can be found walking their yorkie-poo Chica, working out at the best hot yoga studios, or trying out the best restaurants in town. Like many 20-somethings, Jordan and Joelle are balling on a budget and know how to score the best deals around town!


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