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The Community Curates with james-valentín

james-valentín is a teaching artist whose work is dedicated to crafting space(s) for himself and his community to refashion our world.


Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (Harvest in Translation) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780415908085
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Routledge - September 12th, 1994

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. 



The Wretched of the Earth Cover Image
By Frantz Fanon, Richard Philcox (Translator), Homi K. Bhabha (Foreword by)
ISBN: 9780802141323
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Grove Press - March 12th, 2005

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. 




Their Eyes Were Watching God Cover Image
ISBN: 9780061120060
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Published: Amistad - May 30th, 2006

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: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385474542
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Published: Penguin Books - September 1st, 1994

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. 


Interpreter Of Maladies Cover Image
ISBN: 9780358213260
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Mariner Books - October 22nd, 2019

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.



How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents Cover Image
ISBN: 9781565129757
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Algonquin Books - January 12th, 2010

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 Cover Image
ISBN: 9780345381439
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Ballantine Books - February 10th, 1993

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.


A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose Cover Image
ISBN: 9780452289963
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Life - January 30th, 2008

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. 


The Community Curates with Nathan Baez

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! 

Between the World and Me Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812993547
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: One World - July 14th, 2015

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. 


They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812968170
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
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. 


Siddartha Cover Image
ISBN: 9781720469360
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
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.


My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter Cover Image
ISBN: 9781608467679
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Haymarket Books - May 30th, 2017

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. 


Live from Death Row Cover Image
ISBN: 9780380727667
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Perennial - June 1st, 1996

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.  


The Phantom Tollbooth Cover Image
By Norton Juster, Jules Feiffer (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780394820378
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Published: Yearling - October 12th, 1988

Parable of the Sower Cover Image
ISBN: 9781538732182
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
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. 


Wild Seed (Patternist #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780446676977
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Grand Central Publishing - April 1st, 2001

This book blew my mind. Another amazing tale by the late great Octavia Butler. It’s about two immortal Africans who have superpowers and breed humans for slavery. This really a MUST READ!


Portrait of Dorian Gray: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (Reader's Choice Edition) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781450541718
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
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.