Books

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Poetry

In “The Monster I am Today: Leontyne Price and a Life in Verse,” Author Kevin Simmonds pens an ode of poetry and prose to the operatic grand dame.

Soprano Leontyne Price as Cleopatra in “Antony and Cleopatra” at the Met in New York City. September 1966. (Photo by Jack Mitchell/Getty Images

I first saw her in a 1984 United Negro College Fund commercial. Instead of Black educational promise portrayed through the familiar visuals of a young Black actor and his respectable, hard-working parents―reliably fortified by the voiceovers of James Earl Jones, Adolph Caesar or Ossie Davis―there she was

her face & chest / low-lit / black gown /

square-necked & sequined / sleeves / of beaded fringe

I just about burst when her 60-second apparition materialized on our kitchen TV and she sang

We’re not asking…


Our Questions. Her Answers

Asking for support is an act of resistance. Author Elayne Fluker’s new book offers help to “unapologetically ambitious women.”

Author Elayne Fluker thinks you should consider saying “yes,” the next time someone asks if you need help. Image: Mecca Gamble

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” It’s a widely shared proverb of questionable origins (though most attribute it to the continent of Africa), but for author, entrepreneur and podcast host Elayne Fluker, it’s a way of life.

In her debut book, Get Over “I Got It,” Fluker encourages “unapologetically ambitious women” to embrace support in every facet of life. To help women combat “I Got It” Syndrome, which she defines as a way of proving we can do it all by ourselves, Fluker has developed the following acronym H.E.L.P.:

H…


Six Black authors join forces to tell stories of Black love, not pain

‘Blackout’ co-authors. Photo illustration: Qadir El-Amin; sources: Imani Khayyam, Cassidy Chin, Amir Lowery, Nigel Livingstone, Sonya Sones, and Andrew Fennell

Six bestselling Black women authors have joined forces to co-author a new love story that’s sure to have us feelin’ the heat this summer.

Bestselling authors Angie Thomas, Nicola Yoon, Dhonielle Clayton, Nic Stone, Ashley Woodfolk, and Tiffany D. Jackson came together to write Blackout, a new young adult novel about a fictional blackout that plunges New York City into darkness. But sparks still manage to fly between several young Black characters trying to navigate the city and their own love lives through the dark.

What makes Blackout truly unique isn’t just the collaboration between some of the biggest names…


The poet and organizer reflects on writing, hoops, and relationships

Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: Jennie Bergqvist

Poet Mahogany L. Browne made her young adult novel debut in January with Chlorine Sky, a literary gift told in verse. Chock full of resonant Black girl childhood moments, Chlorine Sky is a coming-of-age story about the power and perils of a young friendship and the growing pains it takes to become self-aware and self-assured. We journey through it all with the book’s protagonist, Sky, a teen with mighty basketball skills trying to understand — and accept — who she is and who she is becoming as she experiences colorism and sexism. …


Her new book, ‘Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual,’ is a guide to embracing your greatness

Photo illustration: Dennis Huynh/Medium

Luvvie Ajayi Jones is proof of what happens when you pair 18 years of blogging and writing with tenacity and synchronicity. She went from working for the man to being the woman, with a 14,000-member app, her own social network, a popular TED Talk, and now what is sure to be another New York Times bestselling book. Released today, Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual is chock-full of the I’m Judging You writer’s step-by-step tips on how to face down fear, earn your worth, and big-up yourself in a world that wants to put us all down.

Yes, racism and sexism…


Her talent as a novelist is evident, but her nurturing of Black authors cannot be overlooked

Black and white photo of Toni Morrison smiling.
Black and white photo of Toni Morrison smiling.
Toni Morrison. Photo: Reg Innell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

A few years ago at a Radcliffe Institute exhibit, I came across photos of a draft of what would become Angela Davis’ autobiography. A foundational Black literary text, bare-boned and vulnerable, is not something you often get to see. The manuscript bloomed with the strokes of a blue pen, notes from the editor on what needed to be changed. In the caption of the photo, the editor’s name was noted: Toni Morrison.

There is so much power in that photo. It tells us a lot about Davis, but it tells us even more about Morrison. Morrison, one of the most…


I devoured the Cicely Tyson autobiography, Just As I Am, the same week it arrived in the mail. What a life! The takeaways were numerous, but what I most appreciated about her story is her integrity. She decided early on in her career not to take on roles that she felt would not represent Black women in all our multifaceted glory. And when you survey the landscape of roles she portrayed, you know that she stayed true to herself.

Challenging the status quo is never easy for Black women — I can only imagine the amount of intestinal fortitude she…


Bestselling authors R.O. Kwon and Roxane Gay discuss their new work

Photo illustration; Image sources: Simon & Schuster, Reginald Cunningham, Smeeta Mahanti

Kink, a new anthology of fiction edited by R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell, explores the world of sexual desire in a way not often seen in literary fiction. Some of today’s most talented and acclaimed writers, such as Roxane Gay, Melissa Febos, and Carmen Maria Machado, delve into topics of love, dominance, submission, BDSM, and more, with stories about women, people of color, and queerness as it relates to sex and desire. The book gives voice to these characters in a way that breaks the boundaries of taboo, celebrating sexuality in both daring and moving ways.

In a time of…


This New York Times bestselling author’s latest YA novel is an unapologetic love letter to Black girls

Portrait of Renee Watson.
Portrait of Renee Watson.
Renee Watson. Photo: Shawnte Sims

With Black girlhood at the helm, Renée Watson wants to start important conversations. The New York Times bestselling author has written books (one which has been optioned for a movie) about activist girls who raise their voices and take to the streets. But Watson’s latest installment, Love Is a Revolution, is an unapologetic love letter that highlights the quieter voices who show up for themselves and their loved ones in small, but equally important ways. After all, the main character’s grandmother says, “The most radical thing you can do is love yourself and each other.”

In the opening scene of…


The author of ‘Surviving the White Gaze’ takes on boundaries, artistic evolution, and more in her new book

Rebecca Carroll.

For many years, Rebecca Carroll riveted us with her work as a cultural critic at WNYC and host of the podcast Come Through, which covers a series of conversations about race in America. Her essays, profiles, and cultural takes have appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Guardian, and many more. Now, it may not be her first book, but as her first memoir, Surviving the White Gaze unearths Carroll’s journey as a Black woman forging her identity in a White family, school, and neighborhood.

Carroll grew up in a small New Hampshire town, living what many would…

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