By Olivia Whitener 2-11-2016

Have you read America’s Original Sin by Jim Wallis and want to read more about the present civil rights movement and how the church needs to get moving? Did you stay up all night finishing Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me and are looking for other memoirs to lead you to more questioning of the world? Have you been waiting for another book to spark discussion in small groups, like Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy?

I reviewed our book collection of new releases from the past year and compiled a list of the most important new books to read this Black History Month. And as this weekend is a long one for many, we thought you might be looking for another book (or five) to read. Enjoy!

If You Want More On … Today’s Issues and Ways Forward

Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, Douglas (2015, Orbis)

“I wish Stand Your Ground wasn’t necessary. But it is. The first step to dismantling a culture of death like ours is talking about it honestly and, especially for white people like myself, accepting responsibility to change it.” Greg Williams, in his review from last May, hits the nail on the head as to why Kelly Brown Douglas’ book is an important read, especially this year.

The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind, Rankine, Loffreda, and King (2015, Fence Books)

This book is a collection of letters from poets of diverse backgrounds, writing about the relationships between and the implications of race, art, and imagination — part of Claudia Rankine’s Open Letter Project, started in 2011. If you are an artist, or a critic or appreciator of art, this anthology provides deep questions and deep answers in the form of multiple shorter essays.

The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement, Barber and Wilson-Hartgrove (2016, Beacon Press)

A memoir of the Forward Together Moral Movement of 2013 in North Carolina, this is also invitation for us to reflect on what role we play in the stories Rev. Barber is telling. Especially during primary season, when political news centers on voting across the country, this book is helpful in giving accounts of what some activists are doing to try to ensure justice in this nation.

If You Want More On … Faith and Theology

Blue Note Preaching in a Post-Soul World: Finding Hope in an Age of Despair, Moss III (2015, WJK Press)

The magazine staff thought this book was so important that it deserved to be excerpted in our February issue — and now we are inviting you to read the full text. Rev. Otis Moss III connects some of the historically African American music traditions, including soul and blues, with the importance of lament in the process of grief. In his beautiful sermonic writing, he brings us back to the Cross and helps us to find hope as we grieve. It is perfect for the Lenten season as well.

An Introduction to Womanist Biblical Interpretation, Junior (2015, Westminster John Knox Press)

In this introductory text, Nyasha Junior illustrates the relationships between feminist and womanist biblical interpretation, providing an overview of historical and contemporary writers and thinkers that have brought the scholarship to where it is today. This is an important read for anyone leading studies of the Bible — articulating a well-known lens to some readers and an eye-opening new perspective to others.

Ferguson and Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community, Gunning Francis (2015, Chalice Press)

Dr. Leah Gunning Francis interviewed over two dozen faith leaders who have been a part of the protests of today’s Civil Rights Movement since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Through these interviews, the book is able to present many voices, talking about how clergy and lay leaders must join in the movement for racial justice.

If You Want More On … Leaders of the Past

The New Abolition: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Black Social Gospel, Dorrien (2015, Yale University Press)

The first major work documenting the history and resounding legacy of the Black Social Gospel, Gary Dorrien brings to life the major theologians, politicians, and pastors that shaped the teachings and preachings of many, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Recommended if you have more time to dig deep into history and philosophy, this surprisingly approachable yet thick text provides necessary information about an overlooked perspective and historical movement.

Remnants: A Memoir of Spirit, Activism, and Mothering, Harding (2015, Duke University Press)

Rachel Elizabeth Harding completed a compilation of the life and words of her mother, activist Rosemarie Freeney Harding, and the resulting memoir is a beautiful testament to familial love. Remnants tells of the hardships of the struggle for civil rights through poetry, story-telling, memories, and interviews. For a personal account of the civil rights movement, read the words of these two remarkable women.

The Radical King, King and West (2015, Beacon Press)

“This is precisely the King whose words can be the sustenance for today’s movement, ” writes Ryan Herring in his review of The Radical King from our May issue. The past year has seen a rise of protests and activism across the country, from the streets of Baltimore to college campuses, and this compilation of speeches and writings — the tenth in Cornel West’s “King Legacy” series — is a must-have for inspiration for radical love and prophetic criticism of systemic injustices.

If You Want More … Memoirs and Novels of the Soul

The Light of the World: A Memoir, Alexander (2015, Grand Central Publishing)

One of the most critically acclaimed memoirs of last year, The Light of the World, through the poetry of Elizabeth Alexander’s pen, tells of love and loss, relationship and loneliness, wholeness and brokenness. As an introduction to the writing of one of the most beautiful African American poets of our time, this memoir is for anyone who wants a true love story for Valentine’s Day.

God Help the Child, Morrison (2015, Knopf)

Lani Prunés reviewed Toni Morrison’s newest novel in the September/October issue of Sojourners, with these important words: “The trauma we are born into or that is branded upon us is a burden we carry no matter how much we deal with it. It has repercussions we did not ask for that aren’t easily dismissed.” For a story of childhood trauma, skin privilege, and forgiveness, sit down with some tea and enter the world of Bride and Sweetness.

Olivia Whitener is a former Editorial Assistant for Sojourners. You can follow Olivia's musings on Twitter @owhitener

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