The first quarter of 2016 is coming to a close, and already it’s been a wild ride. We can all use a momentary break from the reality of racist Trump and the relentless flood of crises on our radar. Books have the unique power of taking our minds from our circumstances and planting us firmly in another town, time, world, or way of thinking. While books won’t eradicate the things plaguing us, they can provide a brief escape – to a distant destination, a different perception. A few of us at Philadelphia Printworks put together this list of our favorite and recent reads. We hope they come to mean as much to you as they do to us!
1. In Love and Trouble by Alice Walker
Recommended by Dominique Matti, Editor
I’m ashamed to admit that, until the other day, I hadn’t picked up a book since the day I became a mom. But I decided to grab a coffee and take some time to myself, and as an afterthought, I grabbed a book off my shelf to take with me. It was In Love and Trouble by Alice Walker. I grabbed it because it was red and thin, a collection of short stories. I like short story collections because I can digest them in doses. I opened this book and couldn’t close it. I read half of it in one sitting, kept reading on my walk home, and sat down as soon as I got in the door and finished it. It chronicles the tales of differing Black women through differing eras, and all of the traumas they’ve endured through loving. There’s the story of a woman who drives herself mad trying to find out who her abusive husband is cheating on her with – only to find that he’s been sneaking off to revolutionary meetings. There’s the story of a woman who wants to put a curse on the white welfare woman responsible for the starvation of her children (she denied the Black woman food rations for looking too dignified). There’s the story of a married woman who ponders the home her husband bought them just months after she attempted to murder him with a chainsaw. In the legacy of The Color Purple, it is a blatantly womanist work of art -- Alice Walker does not dress up the abuses Black women face at the hands of both men and white women. It is a piece that masterfully captures the difficult intersections of womanhood and Blackness.
2. Crosstown to Oblivion by Walter Mosley
Recommended by Misty Sol, Writer
This collection is a series of 6 novellas, organized into 3 books, by Walter Mosely. This is Black speculative/pulp fiction goodness. In each of them Mosely explores the boundaries of our known realities. These books challenge us to question the nature of God, the universe, and even the nature of our own being. In Gift of Fire, the first one I read in the collection, the book opens with a mixed race Prometheus, the Greek god, gathering up his intestines, climbing down off the mountain, and walking into the ghettos of modern day L.A. These books are disgusting, mind blowing, terrible, and amazing.
3. The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
Recommended by Maryam Pugh, Founder
Recently, while listening to an episode of Sampler, the host, Brittany Luse, began gushing about the book Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. Since I was in the middle of a 2-hour road trip, I decided to download the audiobook and give it a try. What can I say? Brittany was right.
Year of Yes is an amazing memoir chronicling Shonda Rhimes’ decision to push past her fears and to begin saying yes to life. The story was inspirational, moving, authentic and touching. As anyone who watches Grey's Anatomy or Scandal knows, Shonda has a way with words. As she candidly discussed success, friendship, and relationships-- all I could think was "Wow, this is so relatable." She is me. How does Shonda know my life!? I devoured the book in 2 days. It was a quick 5 hour listen. And since then, I frequently find myself thinking back to some of the chapters. I find myself constantly recommending it to my friends. There's something in it for everyone. If you do decide to pick it up, I'd highly recommend purchasing the audiobook. Listening to her recount her experiences added a layer to the experience that felt extremely personal.
4. At the Dark End of the Street by Danielle McGuire
Recommended by Shanice Brim, Writer
*Trigger Warning: rape*
I chose At The Dark End Of The Street by Danielle McGuire. I was always aware of the fact that Black women's roles in Black movements were underwritten but never knew how deliberately it was done. This book speaks to the radical nature of Rosa Parks (whose image has been sanitized to great lengths) and her involvement with the NAACP. It also covers Jo Anne Robinson, who was the mind behind the Montgomery Bus Boycotts. It chronicles not just how Black women informed the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, but how rape impacted those movements-- and by proxy women's rights movements. The only thing I didn't enjoy is the end. It makes it seem like we already made it, but unfortunately we're still dealing with sexual harassment and rape at both the hands of police and the white men some of us work for.