PageTurners: Traversing the Literary Worlds Holding Us Down

PageTurners: Traversing the Literary Worlds Holding Us Down

What’s Mine And Yours, The Conductors, Black Boy Out of Time
What’s Mine And Yours, The Conductors, Black Boy Out of Time
Image: Grand Central Publishing, HMH Books, Little A
It's Lit!It's Lit!Where all things literary live at The Root

You know that feeling when you pick up a book for the first time and think, “yeah, I’m going to read this in all of two seconds” because of how quickly the storyline sucks you in? Well, the books released in just the first week of March will reel you in faster than you can say “literary, literally.”

Books do a lot for readers: They provide a place to escape, insight into worlds you’d never thought possible and an uncanny ability to help solve problems you didn’t even know existed. Just yesterday, Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda hit the shelves, giving us yet another way of interpreting the fictional world of Wakanda through the eyes of authors across the African diaspora like Nikki Giovanni, Harlan James, Danian Jerry and more. Other mystical tales include The Conductors, a story about a couple on the Underground Railroad who draw power from the stars in order to help free slaves.

In addition to magical fiction, Safia Elhillo, notably known for her written and spoken word poetry, debuted her first Young Adult novel, Home is Not a Country while Victoria Princewill makes her literary debut with In the Palace of Flowers.

Not only will this week’s fictional releases hold your attention, but memoirs from Hair Ziyad, editor-in-chief of RaceBaitr, and a second from Luvvie Ajayi Jones will have you hanging on to their every word as they tackle their innermost fears and how they have navigated through them.

And of course, we can’t kick off Women’s History Month without honoring and recognizing one of history’s most iconic film stars, Josephine Baker, in a new biography by Terri Simone Francis–because what’s more riveting than a story about an early queen of the silver screen?

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Josephine Baker’s Cinematic Prism — Terri Simone Francis (Nonfiction)

Josephine Baker’s Cinematic Prism — Terri Simone Francis (Nonfiction)

Josephine Baker’s Cinematic Prism — Terri Simone Francis
Josephine Baker’s Cinematic Prism — Terri Simone Francis
Image: Indiana University Press

Nicknamed the “Black Venus,” “Black Pearl,” and “Creole Goddess,” Josephine Baker was the first Black woman to star in a major motion picture. She took the European film industry by storm in the 1920s and back home in the United States, her career bringing hope to the Black press and new cinema, adding to the rise of Black glamour. Josephine Baker’s Cinematic Prism explores Baker’s celebrity and ability to have such a hold in the Black film industry even while working almost exclusively with white directors, actors and crew in white—specifically European—spaces.

Francis examines the dialogue between Baker and the characters she portrayed, particularly those whose narratives seemed to undermine the stardom they offered. Expertly crafted, Josephine Baker’s Cinematic Prism illustrates the most prominent links between Black cinema, conflicting opinions of Baker in the popular press and the broader aspirations for progress towards racial equality.

February 18, 2020, Indiana University Press

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Black Boy Out of Time: A Memoir – Hari Ziyad (Memoir)

Black Boy Out of Time: A Memoir – Hari Ziyad (Memoir)

Black Boy Out of Time: A Memoir – Hari Ziyad
Black Boy Out of Time: A Memoir – Hari Ziyad
Image: Little A

In this heartwarming, heart-wrenching and radical memoir, Hari Ziyad reflects on their experiences growing up queer and Black in Cleveland, Ohio. One of nineteen children in a blended family, Hari Ziyad journeys down a complex path of identity, self-understanding and finding peace within themselves, bringing readers along as they find their true self in New York City.

Black Boy Out of Time explores childhood, gender, race, trust–both built and broken–and how those wounds can be repaired through generations. Ziyad reframes their own coming-of-age story and investigates what it means to live outside of the constrictive narratives Black children are born into.

March 1, 2021, Little A

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Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda – Jesse J. Holland (Edited by) (Fiction)

Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda – Jesse J. Holland (Edited by) (Fiction)

Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda – Jesse J. Holland (Edited by)
Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda – Jesse J. Holland (Edited by)
Image: Titan Publishing Group

Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda is an anthology of short stories written by critically acclaimed and groundbreaking authors from across the African diaspora such as Nikki Giovanni, Harlan James, Danian Jerry, Kyoko M., L.L. McKinney, Temi Oh, Suyi Davies Okungbowa and more. Set in Wakanda, Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda features tales of T’Challa’s adventures along with stories about the supporting characters.


March 2, 2021, Titan Publishing Group

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Home Is Not a Country – Safia Elhillo (Young Adult)

Home Is Not a Country – Safia Elhillo (Young Adult)

Home Is Not a Country – Safia Elhillo
Home Is Not a Country – Safia Elhillo
Image: Make Me a World

Home Is Not a Country, Safia Elhillo’s debut young adult novel, follows Nima, a young girl from a suburban town and her struggles with identity. She feels misunderstood by everyone around her, including her mother, who is stuck in her life far outside of suburbia and her friend Haitham, who was the one person with whom Nima could be her true self until that bond broke. As life around her starts to crumble, Nima grapples with the knowledge of another nameYasmeen—the one her parents didn’t give her at birth. But to Nima, that name feels more real than her own; as she tumbles downward, she finds herself wishing to be someone else and fights for that identity harder than anything she’s fought for before.

March 2, 2021, Make Me A World

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In the Palace of Flowers – Victoria Princewill (Fiction)

In the Palace of Flowers – Victoria Princewill (Fiction)

In the Palace of Flowers – Victoria Princewill
In the Palace of Flowers – Victoria Princewill
Image: Cassava Republic Press

Victoria Princewill’s debut novel In the Palace of Flowers reimagines the opulent Persian royal court of the Qajars at the end of the nineteenth century. During this precarious time of fear, foreign interference and growing public dissent, an aging ruler grapples with his unsuitable heir.

On the opposites side of wealth, two slaves, Jamila and Abimelech, are torn from their families and placed at the palace to serve at the whims of the royal family. Their growing knowledge of their own insignificance drives them to take control of their lives as they find themselves navigating the dangerous political terrain within the palace walls. Exploring themes of love, friendship and political intrigue, In the Palace of Flowers is a journey of two outcasts who fear being forgotten.

March 2, 2021, Cassava Republic Press

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Life After Death – Sister Souljah (Fiction)

Life After Death – Sister Souljah (Fiction)

Life After Death – Sister Souljah (Fiction)
Life After Death – Sister Souljah (Fiction)
Image: Simon and Schuster

After being locked up, Winter Santiaga was seeking revenge: Seeing to avenge her father’s business; to right wrongs and pay past dues; to reset an empire and get her lover Midnight back, no matter what type of woman had him while she was serving time. But while Winter is making plans for revenge, another woman is doing the same. Simone, Winter’s friend and business partner, is locked and loaded with Winter as her target, ready to do whatever it takes to bring her down.

Life After Death is the long-awaited sequel to The Coldest Winter Ever.

March 2, 2021, Atria/Emily Bestler Books

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Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual – Luvvie Ajayi Jones (Memoir)

Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual – Luvvie Ajayi Jones (Memoir)

Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual – Luvvie Ajayi Jones
Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual – Luvvie Ajayi Jones
Image: Penguin Life

Luvvie Ajayi Jones is known for her wit, warmth and brutally honest truth-telling. But behind her outward veneer of confidence, Jones is also plagued by the ever-present enemy of progress, better known as fear. Due to her experience with imposter syndrome and years-long reluctance to call herself a writer, Jones shares the powerful thesis behind professional Troublemaker, and how these experiences aren’t hers alone.

Through humor, honesty and under the influence of her professionally troublemaking Nigerian grandmother, Jones guides readers through the actions that must be taken within ourselves in order to do the things that scare us.

March 2, 2021, Penguin Life

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The Conductors – Nicole Glover (Fiction)

The Conductors – Nicole Glover (Fiction)

The Conductors – Nicole Glover
The Conductors – Nicole Glover
Image: HMH Books

Drawing magic and power from the stars, Hetty Rhodes and her husband, Benjy ferried dozens of slaves to freedom as conductors on the Underground Railroad. However, with the end of the Civil War came a new purpose for those powerssolving the mysteries and murders in their community that white authorities chose to ignore.

Known for their powers, Hetty and Benjy are called upon to solve a strange death plaguing Philadelphia’s Seventh Ward. But when an old friend is murdered, their investigation stirs up a nest of lies, intrigue and long-buried secrets. The Conductors follows Hetty and Benjy as they work to solve a mystery unlike any they’ve handled before, all the while uncovering the unknown about their neighbors–and themselves.

March 2, 2021, HMH Books

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The Kitchen without Borders: Recipes and Stories from Refugee and Immigrant Chefs – The Eat Offbeat Chefs, Penny De Los Santos (Photographs by), Siobhan Wallace (With) (Cooking)

The Kitchen without Borders: Recipes and Stories from Refugee and Immigrant Chefs – The Eat Offbeat Chefs, Penny De Los Santos (Photographs by), Siobhan Wallace (With) (Cooking)

The Kitchen without Borders: Recipes and Stories from Refugee and Immigrant Chefs – The Eat Offbeat Chefs, Penny De Los Santos (Photographs by), Siobhan Wallace (With)
The Kitchen without Borders: Recipes and Stories from Refugee and Immigrant Chefs – The Eat Offbeat Chefs, Penny De Los Santos (Photographs by), Siobhan Wallace (With)
Image: Workman Publishing Company

Eat Offbeat is a catering company staffed and founded by immigrants and refugees who have found their footholds in cooking and sharing their stories through food. The Kitchen Without Borders offers over 70 authentic, nourishing and heartwarming recipes featuring dishes that have deep flavors rooted in the countries they come from. Culinary traditions from Syria, Iran, Eritrea, Venezuela, Senegal and more. The Kitchen Without Borders gives readers more than just recipes, but an intimate look into the lives of the chefs and portrays the journeys of displaced people, highlighting the connection between food and home.

March 2, 2021, Workman Publishing Company

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What’s Mine and Yours – Naima Coster (Fiction)

What’s Mine and Yours – Naima Coster (Fiction)

What’s Mine and Yours – Naima Coster
What’s Mine and Yours – Naima Coster
Image: Grand Central Publishing

A small county in North Carolina rises in outrage as a new school desegregation initiative is instated, pulling students from the largely Black east side of town and placing them into predominantly white high schools on the west. For two students, Gee and Noelle, the initiative sets off a chain of events that will entwine them and their families for the next twenty years.

When Gee and Noelle’s mothers get involved, they attempt to give the two tools to navigate the ever-changing circumstances of integration. Paths collide when Gee and Noelle join the school play and the two seemingly disconnected families begin to form a series of deeply knotted, messy ties that shape the trajectory of their adult lives.

What’s Mine and Yours is a story of love and loss told through an intricate and vibrant tapestry spanning across years, states, countries and continents, exploring the unique makeup that exists in every family–and what breaks them apart and binds them together.

March 2, 2021, Grand Central Publishing

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