Essay Collections of Black Authors

Essays might not the first genre you think of when you're looking for literature to read. An essay, much like a short story, can pack a great deal of punch in fewer words than a novel. Set aside fifteen minutes to read an essay from one of the collections below-- you'll be entertained, better informed, and hopefully inspired to add essays to your reading repertoire. 

Well-read Black Girl is a collection of essays by black women. The collection was curated by Glory Edim, the creator of the Well-Read Black Girl book club, a book club dedicated amplifying the voices of Black women writers. Readers will find pieces by Tayari Jones, Gabourey Sidibe, Jamia Wilson, and Lynn Nottage, among others. Recommended poetry, plays and feminist works by Black women writers are dotted throughout the book. 

Ross Gay's The Book of Delights contains 102 essays and begins and ends with a piece about the author's birthday. He finds delight, not in the spectacle of birthday celebrations, but in what others might consider the mundane or unimportant: having enough cash on hand to buy lychees from a fruit truck, the sweet words from a Trans-bridge employee, and salty enough peanut butter. Gay is the author of three books of poetry including Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, which the library also carries. 

Notes From a Black Woman's Diary is a posthumous publication of selected works by Kathleen Collins, an African American poet, playwright, writer, filmmaker, and director. The collection contains stories, letters, plays and diary entries. An entry dated only 'July 19' reads:

There is no such thing as a helpless black woman. . . . There is no cultural conditioning, no unspoken expectation anywhere, that would allow me to believe I could afford to be helpless. The attitude of helplessness, of dependence, is foreign to me, based on assumptions that are alien to my upbringing. There was only one dominant theme in my childhood: holding on, no matter what... shifting and turning and choreographing and juggling and manipulating life to stay inside it! To live! And perhaps even grow! 

Looking for more? Check out Novelist Plus, (free to use with a library card) and type in an author or title to discover read-alikes of your favorite books. Of course, you can always browse the collections in your neighborhood branch or search the catalog and place holds on items to pick up. Happy reading! 

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