Welcome to In Reading Color, a space where we focus on literature by and about people of color.
I, like many of you I’m sure, read about Tyre Nichols’ death this past weekend. I had been reading about it before this weekend, but the release of the videos made it one of the main things people were discussing online. I didn’t watch the video, but I read about it, and that was enough.
I knew it had started with an overzealous traffic stop, as a result of over-policing. What I didn’t know was that the officers involved were members of a task unit called SCORPION, which existed to combat crime in more violent neighborhoods. Maybe because I know who tends to get over-policed in this country, or for some other reason, but reading about this task unit, and others like it, reminded me of Jim Crow, and I wanted to explore that a bit.
The books I have to recommend today after the new releases are fairly well-known or by well-known authors, but I wanted to revisit them because I think they touch on that feeling that this whole situation evokes in me. They also offer some hope that things will get better.
If you’d like to donate to the Tyre Nichols Memorial Fund, you can do so here.
Vintage Black Readers Sweatshirt by thetrinigee
This sweatshirt shows a vintage picture of Black readers partaking in a mobile library. It’s also available in different colors. $40
Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree
An 80-year-old woman experiences a depression after the death of her husband that ends up giving her a new, positive outlook on life. Suddenly, she’s eager to buck social traditions and gender norms, flipping the relationship she has with her free-thinking daughter on its head. She befriends a trans woman, travels back to Pakistan to confront her trauma surrounding Partition, and grapples with what it means to have the different identities that women hold. I know this sounds like a very serious take on what it means to live, etc. and it is — but it’s also done with a joyful and light tone, and has fun wordplay and puns that make it a unique read.
Maame by Jessica George
Maddie is 25, the primary caregiver of a father who suffers from late-stage Parkinson’s, and still somehow at the beck and call of a mother who lives all the way in Ghana. Apart from that, living and working in London comes with casual racism that is wearing away at her. Once her mother returns, though, Maddie pounces on a new found freedom that she plans to spend on a few “firsts” — like living with roommates, going out after work for drinks, and dating. But it isn’t long before something terrible happens and Maddie must pivot again. This is another book that balances the heaviness of issues like family, race, and gender with humor and charm.
More New Releases:
Central Places by Delia Cai
Promise Boys by Nick Brooks (Young Adult)
Reggie’s and Delilah’s Year of Falling by Elise Bryant (Young Adult)
Vampire Weekend by Mick Chen
River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer
Going Dark by Melissa de la Cruz
For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter.
Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Y. Davis
As soon as it may feel like reforming the inherently crooked system we have in the U.S. is impossible, just remember how ingrained the institution of slavery was at one point in this country, and how it was still abolished. Davis lays out the history of prisons in the U.S. — and how they became a replacement for slavery — and what the world would look like without them.
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Like Davis before her, Alexander explains how the caste system didn’t disappear with the abolition of slavery. Rather, it mutated into what we have now — a mix of systems that maintains a certain social order. Prisons have a disproportionate number of Black and Latine men, and are being fed by biased policing, like the traffic stop that resulted in Tyre Nichols’ death.
Also read more about caste and how humans fit others into it in Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Coates is super popular, of course, so you’ve probably heard of this book, so consider this encouragement to read it if you haven’t already. In it, Coates writes a letter to his son — in the same vein as James Baldwin’s letter to his nephew in The Fire Next Time — that explains the concept of race in America and what it means for those of us who possess Black bodies. For such a short read — 152 pages — this packs a lot of visceral writing.