PageTurners: The Literary Journey of Black Voices

PageTurners: The Literary Journey of Black Voices

The Black Church; Honey Girl; Reaper of Souls
The Black Church; Honey Girl; Reaper of Souls
Image: Penguin Press, Park Row, HarperCollins

Black history has been passed down from generation to generation through storytelling. Stories of religion, trauma, love and family have been the backbone of our communities, and the most recent releases from Black authors continue that tradition. In a time where meeting and being together in person is near impossible, using literature to have deep conversations has become more important than ever. For Black writers, even our fictional works are often rooted in historical practices and shed light on issues many are dealing with today.

Some of this month’s fictional works include Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers, which explores the intricacies of hidden sexual identities in strict cultures and families. In the Company of Men by Véronique Tadjo looks at the Ebola epidemic through the eyes of those most affected while examining how widespread illnesses impact communities.

Henry Louis Gates Jr., co-founder of The Root, New York Times bestselling author and host of PBS’ Finding Your Roots recently released a book to accompany the network’s new two-part series The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song, which looks at the political, socioeconomic and interpersonal impacts Black churches have on Black communities. Similarly, Dr. Yolanda Smith discusses the stories of divine worship and storytelling passed on from her grandmother in, In My Grandmother’s House: Black Women, Faith and the Stories We Inherit.

These stories shape history and help us navigate the ever-changing world that we live in, and guide us through the toughest parts of our lives. As Black History Month comes to a close, we can look to those before us to tell stories and bring about joy.

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2 / 10

Honey Girl – Morgan Rogers (Fiction)

Honey Girl – Morgan Rogers (Fiction)

Honey Girl – Morgan Rogers
Honey Girl – Morgan Rogers
Image: Park Row

Grace Porter is the perfect example of a high-achieving woman: straight-As in all classes, a PhD in astronomy and daughter of an ex-military father, desperate to show she can live up to his expectations. She is not, however, the type of girl to run off to Vegas, get blindingly drunk and marry a girl whose name she doesn’t even know–until she wakes up the following morning to discover she has done exactly that.

When Grace gets back home to Portland, she finds herself struggling to get a job in her field, staggering under the pressure of her parent’s expectations and terrified of the repercussions of her Vegas activities, so she flees to New York to spend a summer with the wife she barely knows. While there, she is able to ignore the questions and accusatory looks she received in Portland and gets to know her wife, Yuki Yamamoto. However, when her normal life finally catches up with her, she is forced to face her fears while healing from family trauma, longing for companionship and navigating the messiness of adulthood.


February 23, 2021, Park Row

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3 / 10

Hood Feminism – Mikki Kendall (Paperback Release) (Nonfiction)

Hood Feminism – Mikki Kendall (Paperback Release) (Nonfiction)

Hood Feminism – Mikki Kendall
Hood Feminism – Mikki Kendall
Image: Penguin Random House

New York Times Bestseller, Hood Feminism, by Mikki Kendall (originally released February 25, 2020) examines the legitimacy of the current feminist movement and the aspects of feminism that many so-called feminists seemingly choose to ignore. Kendall explains how topics such as food insecurity, access to education, safe neighborhoods, a living wage and medical attention are all feminist issues, but the modern movement puts more emphasis on privilege for a select group of women rather than the basic needs of the rest.

In her debut collection of fierce essays, Kendall draws on her own experiences with hunger, violence, and hyper-sexualization, among other issues, and explores the glaring omissions from the movement marked by “calls for change” from performative feminists who claim to be fighting for the same things.

Mikki Kendall is currently on tour through virtual events. You can find the calendar with specified dates here.

February 23, 2021, Penguin Random House

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4 / 10

In My Grandmother’s House: Black Women, Faith and the Stories We Inherit – Yolanda Pierce (Memoir)

In My Grandmother’s House: Black Women, Faith and the Stories We Inherit – Yolanda Pierce (Memoir)

In My Grandmother’s House: Black Women, Faith and the Stories We Inherit – Yolanda Pierce
In My Grandmother’s House: Black Women, Faith and the Stories We Inherit – Yolanda Pierce

Dr. Yolanda Pierce, dean of Howard University School of Divinity delves into the stories of her grandmother, who spent the majority of Pierce’s childhood teaching her how to survive. In My Grandmother’s House tells stories centered around the tensions of race, spirituality, trauma, freedom, resistance and memory. By looking back at the traditions she was raised with, Pierce built an everyday practice of feminist theology rooted in her personal religious upbringing. Using experiences in a Black church, and divine conversations at kitchen tables, Pierce lays out how her grandmother’s stories carried wisdom strong enough for future generations.

February 16, 2021, Broadleaf Books

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5 / 10

In the Company of Men – Véronique Tadjo (Fiction)

In the Company of Men – Véronique Tadjo (Fiction)

In the Company of Men – Véronique Tadjo
In the Company of Men – Véronique Tadjo
Image: Penguin Random House

Two boys spend their days running through the forest, hunting small animals and cooking them over an open fire, living a happy life filled with joy and fulfillment. But within a month, they were both dead, lives taken from them by a vicious and deadly disease that neither the local healer’s remedies nor a medical team’s treatments could even begin to cure. Though the family is warned by medical officials not to touch the bodies of the sick, the warning comes too late and the boys’ sister is barely sent away in time, hoping for a chance of survival.

Reflecting an era acutely relevant to the one we are living in now, In the Company of Men illustrates the extent of the Ebola epidemic in a series of snapshots through the eyes of those affected, such as doctors, students, grandmothers and orphans, cast out from their village for fear of infection. Véronique Tadjo’s story comes at a poignant time and explores critical questions about how we cope with a global crisis while fighting fear and prejudice.

Véronique Tadjo is currently on tour through virtual events. You can find the calendar with specified dates here.

February 23, 2021, Penguin Random House.

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6 / 10

Mouths of Rain: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Thought – Briona Simone Jones (editor) (Essays)

Mouths of Rain: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Thought – Briona Simone Jones (editor) (Essays)

Mouths of Rain – Briona Simone Jones (Editor)
Mouths of Rain – Briona Simone Jones (Editor)
Image: The New Press

Told through a collection of essays by Black women including Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Jewel Gomez and Beverly Smith, Mouths of Rain explores the long history of intellectual thought and stories by Black lesbian writers spanning from the nineteenth century through the twenty-first century. Edited by Briona Simone Jones, the anthology includes essays by those who have shared relationships with other women as well as those who have self-identified as lesbian, written about Black lesbians and those who see the word “lesbian” as something political, defying the constructs of capitalism, heterosexism and heteropatriarchy. Taking its title from an Audre Lorde poem, Mouths of Rain addresses the pervasive issues surrounding lesbian identity.

February 23, 2021, The New Press

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7 / 10

Reaper of Souls – Rena Barron (Young Adult)

Reaper of Souls – Rena Barron (Young Adult)

Reaper of Souls – Rena Barron
Reaper of Souls – Rena Barron
Image: HarperCollins

After many years of yearning and searching for the gift of magic, Arrah finally possesses the ability to perform–but it came at too steep a price. She is now the last surviving witchdoctor, forced to pick up the shattered pieces of a family that betrayed her all the while running from The Demon King, hunting her down in hopes of using her to destroy everything.

Based on stories of African voodoo, Reaper of Souls follows Kingdom of Souls (published August 2020) and is the second installment of the Kingdom of Souls trilogy, which has been optioned for film by Michael B. Jordan and his Warner Bros. production company, Outlier Society.

February 16, 2021, HarperCollins

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8 / 10

The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song – Henry Louis Gates (Nonfiction)

The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song – Henry Louis Gates (Nonfiction)

The Black Church – Henry Louis Gates Jr.
The Black Church – Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Image: Penguin Press

From the co-founder of The Root and New York Times bestselling author, Henry Louis “Skip” Gates pens the powerful history of the Black church in America and its impact as the Black community’s abiding rock as a companion to his PBS series. In an account of his own experiences growing up in a small, segregated West Virginia town, Gates takes readers on a journey through over four hundred years of the meaning and reckoning of the Black church in American history, spanning the entire country.

The book outlines how the Black church has always been more than a place of peace and sanctuary, but a place to explore the needs and dreams of the Black community. Gates brilliantly tells the story of the Black church and the ways it has supported the community, the civil rights movement, and other political outlets for Black people. Still and all, as a source of strength and a force for change, the Black church is at the center of the action at every stage of the American story, as this enthralling history makes vividly clear.

February 16, 2021, Penguin Press

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9 / 10

The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together – Heather McGhee (Nonfiction)

The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together – Heather McGhee (Nonfiction)

The Sum of Us – Heather McGhee
The Sum of Us – Heather McGhee
Image: Penguin Random House

Heather McGhee launches her personal story across the country from Maine to Mississippi to California while taking account of what we lose when we buy into the zero-sum paradigm–the idea that progress must come at the expense of others. The Sum of Us is a story of how public services in the country from parks to schools to healthcare have become private luxuries. In her journeys, McGhee finds proof of what she has coined “the Solidarity Dividend”–gains that come when people across race accomplish what can’t be done individually. McGhee uses her economic and sociological background to paint a story of the cost of racism while keeping the humble stories of people–including white people actively working towards dismantling white supremacy–who want to be part of making a better America.


February 16, 2021, Penguin Random House

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10 / 10

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