A few good reads On The Shelves: The Black Flamingo, a coming of age story about a mixed-race gay teen in London (Dean Atta), Twisted, an in-depth look at society’s perception of black hair (Emma Dabiri) and My Vanishing Country, a memoir/ode to fatherhood that explores the South’s dwindling rural, black working class (Bakari Sellers).

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

Michael is a mixed-race gay teen growing up in London. All his life, he’s navigated what it means to be Greek-Cypriot and Jamaican—but never quite feeling Greek or Black enough.

As he gets older, Michael’s coming out is only the start of learning who he is and where he fits in. When he discovers the Drag Society, he finally finds where he belongs—and the Black Flamingo is born.

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Twisted: The Tangled History of Black Hair Culture by Emma Dabiri

Emma Dabiri can tell you the first time she chemically straightened her hair. She can describe the smell, the atmosphere of the salon, and her mix of emotions when she saw her normally kinky tresses fall down her shoulders. For as long as Emma can remember, her hair has been a source of insecurity, shame, and—from strangers and family alike—discrimination. And she is not alone.

Through her personal and historical journey, Dabiri gleans insights into the way racism is coded in society’s perception of black hair—and how it is often used as an avenue for discrimination. Dabiri takes us from pre-colonial Africa, through the Harlem Renaissance, and into today’s Natural Hair Movement, exploring everything from women’s solidarity and friendship, to the criminalization of dreadlocks, to the dubious provenance of Kim Kardashian’s braids.

Despite increasingly liberal world views, black hair continues to be erased, appropriated, and stigmatized to the point of taboo. Through the lens of hair texture, Dabiri leads us on a historical and cultural investigation of the global history of racism—and her own personal journey of self-love and finally, acceptance.

Deeply researched and powerfully resonant, Twisted proves that far from being only hair, black hairstyling culture can be understood as an allegory for black oppression and, ultimately, liberation.

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My Vanishing Country: A Memoir by Bakari Sellers

Part memoir, part historical and cultural analysis, My Vanishing Country is an eye-opening journey through the South’s past, present, and future.

Anchored in in Bakari Seller’s hometown of Denmark, South Carolina, Sellers illuminates the pride and pain that continues to fertilize the soil of one of the poorest states in the nation. He traces his father’s rise to become, friend of Stokely Carmichael and Martin Luther King, a civil rights hero, and member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) , to explore the plight of the South’s dwindling rural, black working class – many of whom can trace their ancestry back for seven generations.

In his poetic personal history, we are awakened to the crisis affecting the other “Forgotten Men and Women” whom the media seldom acknowledges. For Sellers, these are his family members, neighbors, and friends. He humanizes the struggles that shape their lives: to gain access to healthcare as rural hospitals disappear; to make ends meet as the factories they have relied on shut down and move overseas; to hold on to precious traditions as their towns erode; to forge a path forward without succumbing to despair.

My Vanishing Country is also a love letter to fatherhood – to Sellers’ father, his lodestar, whose life lessons have shaped him, and to his newborn twins, who he hopes will embrace the Sellers family name and honor its legacy.

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