Here’s my take: books that are about history—fiction or nonfiction—guide us in the decisions we make about setting and breaking boundaries. Reading fictional works that feature an inspiring hero or heroine doing something extreme or overcoming a major obstacle can be very influential when it comes to making difficult decisions of our own. Reading a memoir or anthology that centers around empowerment––and particularly female empowerment––can be a guiding force in understanding where we stand in society and how to navigate that.
As it is Women’s History Month, it’s important to honor the stories of women who paved the way for different career paths like Roz Stevenson. Her memoir, Look at God! My Hollywood Walk of Faith explores not only the extra steps she had to take as a Black woman in the film industry, but how she got her start in the 1960s during the country’s “Anti-Poverty” programs that were implemented in Black communities. Award-winning historians and Drs. Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross examine how Black women have shaped and paved the way for communities despite the oppression, sexism and racism they have always faced.
There are the fictional characters who we hold dear to us because their heroic acts allow us to imagine ourselves in those worlds and fighting the same battles. Morowa Yejidé’s Creatures of Passage gives readers a chance to experience grief and intergenerational trauma in a unique way while Brenda Sparks Prescott takes us back in time to the Cuban Missile Crisis and the effects it had on motherhood in Home Front Lines.
But I would be remiss to not include James Beard award-winner Rodney Scott on the list as he pens the history of his family, their trials and triumphs alongside a plethora of recipes for all the smoked barbecue dishes your heart could ever desire.