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June Book Selections

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Contemporary Fiction

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

"An extraordinary debut novel, Freshwater explores the surreal experience of having a fractured self. It centers around a young Nigerian woman, Ada, who develops separate selves within her as a result of being born "with one foot on the other side." Unsettling, heartwrenching, dark, and powerful, Freshwater is a sharp evocation of a rare way of experiencing the world, one that illuminates how we all construct our identities.

Ada begins her life in the south of Nigeria as a troubled baby and a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents, Saul and Saachi, successfully prayed her into existence, but as she grows into a volatile and splintered child, it becomes clear that something went terribly awry. When Ada comes of age and moves to America for college, the group of selves within her grows in power and agency. A traumatic assault leads to a crystallization of her alternate selves: Asụghara and Saint Vincent. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these selves--now protective, now hedonistic--move into control, Ada's life spirals in a dark and dangerous direction."

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You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resiliance, and The Black Experience  by Tarana Burke and Brene Brown

Tarana Burke and Dr. Brené Brown bring together a dynamic group of Black writers, organizers, artists, academics, and cultural figures to discuss the topics the two have dedicated their lives to understanding and teaching: vulnerability and shame resilience.

Contributions by Kiese Laymon, Imani Perry, Laverne Cox, Jason Reynolds, Austin Channing Brown, and more. 


Burke and Brown are the perfect pair to usher in this stark, potent collection of essays on Black shame and healing. Along with the anthology contributors, they create a space to recognize and process the trauma of white supremacy, a space to be vulnerable and affirm the fullness of Black love and Black life.

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Classic Fiction

Sea Birds are Still Alive by Toni Cade Bambara

"Ten stories of Black life written with Ms. Bambara's characteristic vigor, sensibility and winning irony. The stories range from the timid and bumbling confusion of a novice community worker in "The Apprentice" to the love-versus-politics crisis of an organizers wife, to the dark and bright notes of the title story about the passengers on a refugee ship from a war-torn Asian nation.

Young girls, weary men, lovers, frauds and revolutionaries -- Toni Cade Bambara handles them all the expertise, passion and huge talent. As the Chicago Daily News said, "Ms. Bambara grabs you by the throat...she dazzles, she charms."

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Long-Term Read

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist


As historian Edward Baptist reveals in The Half Has Never Been Told, the expansion of slavery in the first eight decades after American independence drove the evolution and modernization of the United States. In the span of a single lifetime, the South grew from a narrow coastal strip of worn-out tobacco plantations to a continental cotton empire, and the United States grew into a modern, industrial, and capitalist economy. Until the Civil War, Baptist explains, the most important American economic innovations were ways to make slavery ever more profitable. Through forced migration and torture, slave owners extracted continual increases in efficiency from enslaved African Americans. Thus the United States seized control of the world market for cotton, the key raw material of the Industrial Revolution, and became a wealthy nation with global influence.

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