This text was my first introduction to bell hooks and it was what I had expected and more. Syncretizing feminist thought and critical pedagogy, hooks relates stories from her own experiences in the classroom. This book was so important to me at a time where I found myself at the front of classrooms, trying so hard to not replicate the same colonial, white supremacist education that I had received. Not a dense read at all, considering the subject matter. Everyone with even a passing interest in education should read this.
This book centers around decolonization, in Africa and Algeria in particular, but the message is universal. Fanon lays out the consequences of colonialism, a “stolen humanity” of the oppressed. He asserts that violence is a necessary aspect to a process of decolonization. This is something I chose to read in order to further my understanding of decolonization outside the metaphorical.
Written in the everyday vernacular of the people featured in its’ pages, Their Eyes Were Watching God can be thought of as a hero’s journey. It’s the life story of Janie, a Black woman from early 20th century Florida. We see her grow from a teenage girl into her forties and we meet all the terrible, violent men in her life along the way. The book ends as it begins, with Janie sitting on her porch, recounting her life story to a friend.
Things Fall Apart follows Okonkwo, an Igbo man who lives in what will later become south-eastern Nigeria. The book describes his life, the society in which he lives in, as well as the encroachment and influence(s) of British colonialism upon the aforementioned. It examines Christianity and masculinity and their relationship to colonialism. It’s a good read.
This is a collection of short stories published by the Indian-American author Jhumpa Lahiri. Every short story follows a different set of characters, some living in diaspora and some living on the Indian subcontinent. I was so struck by the way the author situates the reader within a world with so few words… The book is full of food, recipes and aromas that made me feel nostalgic for things I never knew.
This books tells the story of a young Dominican girl and her family’s migration story during the era of Trujillo. The García family flees to New York City from the Dominican Republic and the reader finds themself square in the middle of this cultural divide. It’s a poignant narrative full of strong women.
Dreaming in Cuban is a book that I’ve been able to come back to a couple times already. It’s a narrative fractured across time and space(s). The story follows three generations of Cuban women, in Cuba during the revolution and in the US post-revolution. I felt like this was the first book I read where I could almost literally feel the characters’ emotions. At the time I really appreciated the insights that the book shares on both Communism and Santería.
I first heard about this book from Rupaul, on his podcast. This was at a time where I was looking for my own answers to what spirituality meant for me. I think nowadays everyone talks about “living in the now” but this book was able to break it down for me in a way that felt authentic to my own experience. Tollé speaks about the separation of the ego from the self and the nature of “reality”. This book helped me feel more grounded in my own beliefs and really opened up new avenues of thought for me.
Nathan Baez, often referred to as Nate, is a storyteller who uses life experiences to create art music and poetry. Check out his selected titles for The Community Curates below. Also come into the bookstore to see the shelf display and pick up a bookmark!
After reading Between the world and me I felt this sudden urge to apply to an HBCU. Howard specifically. I love how ta Nehisi explores Blackness and what it means to grow up in the U.S as a visibly Black man. Written as a letter to his son, I immediately connected with the message as if an elder was speaking to me directly.
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - September 23rd, 2003
I came across this book while watching an old lecture about African history on youtube. In the video, the teacher started talking about how ancient Africans would travel and map the globe and referenced this book. I immediately felt drawn to learn more about the black experience in ancient America so I hit the library and checked it out. I took my time reading this one and learned so much about what this landmass looked like before european colonization and how advanced ancient Black culture was.
Published: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform - May 29th, 2018
Siddhartha is an amazing tale on enlightenment. This book was given to me during a period in my life when I was traveling across the country and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. After this read, I felt recharged spiritually and ready for more adventure.
This book of poetry is so powerful and inspiring especially as a poet myself. Every piece in this book is well crafted a riddled with beautiful wordplay and stories that make the hair on my arms stand up.
This book is a memoir by Mumia Adu Jamal who was convicted and sentenced to death for murdering a police officer. I was first given this book by a state trooper who would come into El Taller back when I was working as a waiter. We would talk about music and politics and what we were reading at the time and he gave me this book. Mumia writes as he is on death row waiting for his date of execution.
Published: Grand Central Publishing - April 30th, 2019
Parable of the Sower is my bible. I’ve read this book a couple of times and every time I learn something new about myself. My good friend Iva recommended it to me and ever since then, Octavia Butler has become my favorite author. This sci-fi novel takes place outside of Los Angeles during the 2020s in a fallen America. The main character is an empath, who while being the daughter of a preacher, creates her own religious ideology that is meant to take humans beyond the stars.
Published: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform - February 3rd, 2010
This novel was given to me by my high school literature teacher a few years after I graduated. I would visit her classroom from time to time and write with her students. One day I asked her for a new book to read as she placed this amazing piece of literature in my hands. What I love most about this book is the dialogue between the characters. Beautifully written and thought-provoking, this book is definitely a must-read.