In 2020, we did not hosting a community book event due to the pandemic. Instead, we presented this booklist which reflects the rich tapestry of the American experience.
Read one. Read several. Or read them all.
Written with humor and vulnerability, this deeply relatable graphic memoir is a love letter to the art of conversation—and to the hope that hovers in our most difficult questions.
This stirring love story is a deeply insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward—with hope and pain—into the future.
The winner of the NBCC Award for Poetry offers up a spirited collection of short lyric essays, written daily over a tumultuous year, reminding us of the purpose and pleasure of praising, extolling, and celebrating ordinary wonders.
Jason Reynolds’ fiercely stunning novel takes place in sixty potent seconds—the time it takes a kid to decide whether he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother. Told in short, staccato narrative verse, Long Way Down is a dazzlingly brilliant look at teenage gun violence.
Set in New York and China, The Leavers tells the story of an immigrant Chinese mother and her son. A vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging, The Leavers tells the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away.
Written as a letter to Coates’ adolescent son, Between the World and Me explores what it is like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it. Coates interweaves his own personal history with American history and confronts issues of race as they exist in the United States today.
A national bestseller when it first appeared in 1963, The Fire Next Time galvanized the nation and gave passionate voice to the emerging Civil Rights Movement. Written as two letters, on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, Baldwin exhorts Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism.
Another Brooklyn heartbreakingly illuminates the formative period when a child meets adulthood—when precious innocence meets the all-too-real perils of growing up. Set in 1970s Brooklyn, Woodson breathes life into memories, portraying an indelible friendship that unites young lives.
Tommy Orange’s wondrous and shattering novel follows 12 characters from Native communities: all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, all connected to one another in ways they may not yet realize. Hailed as an instant classic, There There is poignant, unflinching, utterly contemporary and truly unforgettable.
Roxane Gay’s memoir is an intellectually rigorous and deeply moving exploration of the ways in which trauma, stories, desire, language and metaphor shape our experiences and construct our reality. Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health.
Structured around the forty questions that Luiselli asks undocumented Latin-American children facing deportation, Tell Me How It Ends humanizes these young migrants. The book highlights the contradiction of the idea of America as a fiction for immigrants with the reality of racism and fear both here and back home.
The Other Americans begins when Driss Guerraoui is hit and killed by a speeding car. The aftermath of his death relates the story as different characters—deeply divided by race, religion, and class—tell their stories, each in their own voice. The Other Americans is at once a family saga, a murder mystery, and a love story informed by the treacherous fault lines of American culture.
Homegoing follows the parallel paths of two half-sisters in Ghana and their descendants through eight generations. From the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem, Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed.
Bluebird, Bluebird transcends the conventions of crime fiction by exploring the collision of race and justice in America. This rural noir is suffused with the unique music, color, and nuance of a small East Texas town.
Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s is a powerful and compelling collection of Tiffany Midge’s musings on life, politics, and identity as a Native woman in America. Artfully blending sly humor, social commentary, and meditations on love and loss, Midge weaves short, stand-alone musings into a memoir that stares down colonialism. Midge ponders Standing Rock, feminism, and a tweeting president, all while exploring her own complex identity and the loss of her mother and while employing humor as an act of resistance.