jemisin
illustration by Golden Cosmos for WNYC Studios

We at Idlewild are delighted to offer you a list of some of our favorite books, both travel-related and more broad, that are written by Black authors. All have purchase links, and we recommend that you buy from a Black-owned bookstore if you can (reminder that we have a list posted on our social pages, for example here)!

 

BLACK TRAVEL HISTORIES

European Tribe by Caryl Phillips — On a journey from Europe’s greatest cities to its farthest reaches, Phillips proffers the experience of growing up Black on a continent that often ignores or even disparages its darker-skinned citizens. Looking into both the high vaults of Europe’s old churches and the deep-rooted bigotry of its inhabitants, Phillips searches for a way to reconcile his home with the cracks in its foundations. // [purchase]

Overground Railroad: The Green Book & Roots of Black Travel in America by Candacy A. Taylor — The Green Book, published from the 1930s-1960s, was a travel guide that for decades safely ferried Black travelers to hotels, gas stations, and restaurants that were safe for them. Taylor weaves that history with the current state of race relations in America to show how we arrived here, and how much farther we have yet to go. // [purchase]

Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights by Gretchen Sorin — Sorin explores the particular importance and independence that having a car has always represented for Black individuals, especially when attempting to travel safely. Moving from the esteemed Green Book to policies like segregated ambulances, Driving While Black describes both the new freedoms and the violent challenges that Black people in cars have had to face. // [purchase]

Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape by Lauret Savoy — Being of multiracial heritage, Savoy has often tried to track the journeys of her ancestors, sometimes unsuccessfully. Intertwining these personal histories with explorations of the history embodied by American land — from plantations to national parks to the U.S.-Mexico border — she sheds light on the ways in which race has changed the American landscape, both literally and figuratively. // [purchase]

 

NONFICTION VOICES

Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by adrienne maree brown — Drawing from Octavia Butler’s work, brown focuses on the ways in which our relationships with those around us can be paths to real change in our worlds. Offering quotes, self-help philosophy, and real-life examples for organizers and those focused on changing social conditions, brown lays the stones for us to walk in order to take care of ourselves and push for change at the same time. // [purchase]

They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib — At first glance, this collection of essays appears to be largely about music; the specific songs, artists, and memories that the author treasures. And it is — but Abdurraqib takes that entry point to paint a picture of the world as he experiences it: as a music lover, as a Muslim, as someone who has grieved losses, as a Black American. His background in poetry shows in his prose and choice of quotes. // [purchase]

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay — these essays take as lenses different aspects of Gay’s existence — as a woman, of color, who is fat, who is constantly absorbing the state of the culture around her. Her exploration of feminism is as experiential as it is intellectual, picking apart the often oversimplified landscape of the movement to offer something a little more complex, a little more human. // [purchase]

All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks — hooks offers a new way forward for those of us living in a societal structure that often at best oversimplifies love and at worst can turn it to cinders. Pulling apart our idea of love specifically as romance, while sharing her own experience in finding connection, she puts forth a different definition of live, one that centers healing and justice rather than sex and desire. // [purchase]

 

FICTION VOICES

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler — In an imagined version of the early 2020s, a world in shambles thanks to global climate change and economic slides, Lauren lives sheltered in a gated community led by her preacher father. But when her condition of hyperempathy alerts her to the real chaos outside, she must get her community to understand the truth if they are to survive. // [purchase]

Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn — In Jamaica’s Montego Bay, Margot hustles to send her sister Thandi to school, in order to deter Thandi from ever having to take her place. At the same time, they must grapple with the possible destruction of their community for the construction of a new hotel, and Margot wrestles with her newfound and dangerous feelings for another woman. // [purchase]

Eve Out Of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi — four Mauritian teenagers navigate their Port Louis neighborhood, and the traps of their own families and lives, in distinct voices. In the oppressive summer heat, they find solace — one in books, another in a love story — and some will, too, find ends to their story.  // [purchase]

How Long ’til Black Future Month?: Stories by N. K. Jemisin — A richly imagined collection of stories, from a post-Katrina New Orleans swarmed by dragons to an alternate universe whose inhabitants watch us to learn from our mistakes. Jemisin makes room for the possible in her worlds, nudging us to consider what might be possible in our own reality. // [purchase]

Boy Snow Bird by Helen Oyeyemi — When Boy Novak runs away from an abusive family and lands in the idyllic town of Flax Hill, Massachusetts, she becomes close with Arturo Whitman and his radiant, too-perfect daughter Snow. When Boy marries Arturo and gives birth to a dark-skinned daughter, Bird, the family’s core, and their place in Flax Hill, is shaken. The Whitman women take turns narrating, delineating their own paths while they three are inextricably linked. // [purchase]