A BEAUTIFUL STRUGGLE
Yrsa Daley-Ward, the celebrated poet behind bone, now brings us The Terrible (Penguin, $16), an impactful coming-of-age memoir. Born to a Jamaican mother and Nigerian father, then raised by devout Seventh-Day Adventist grandparents in northern England, Daley-Ward reveals the pain, damage and joy of childhood, such as her family bonds and even fear of sexuality—all with shocking honesty.
Delving into Nafissa Thompson-Spires’s 12 boundary-pushing vignettes in Heads of the Colored People (37 Ink/Atria, $23) is a bona fide treat. The author, who holds a Ph.D. in English from Vanderbilt University, immerses readers in the lives of believable characters, like two helicopter Jack and Jill moms in the “Belles Lettres” chapter. Thompson-Spires brilliantly uses satire to showcase the Black contemporary middle class.
AN UNLIKELY ROMANCE
Occurring 23 years before the Supreme Court’s Loving v. Virginia historic ruling, Enemies in Love (The New Press, $25.99) is about African-American nurse Elinor Powell and German POW Frederick Albert, who fall for each other in Jim Crow–era Arizona. Spelman alum and Columbia Journalism School adjunct professor Alexis Clark draws from firsthand interviews with friends and relatives of Powell’s and Albert’s in this moving tale that proves love conquers all.
STRENGTH OF A WOMAN
Escape to Zimbabwe in This Mournable Body (Graywolf Press, $16), an intense novel by acclaimed author, filmmaker and playwright Tsitsi Dangarembga. The multihyphenate returns to the lead character of her highly praised debut, Nervous Conditions. You will root for Tambudzai, an unemployed, middle-aged single woman who has to think of creative ways to face her landlady when the rent is due. Will she return to her parents’ impoverished hometown to ease the financial strain and myriad other adversities? Dangarembga keeps you flipping those pages to find out.
In her riveting debut collection of short stories, How to Love a Jamaican (Ballantine, $27), Alexia Arthurs explores a vast range of issues, from race and class to gender and family. A Jamaican immigrant who moved to Brooklyn at the impressionable age of 12, she tells vivid stories that keep readers on their toes. Need proof? There’s a chapter titled “Light-Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands,” inspired by her real-life interaction with another young Black woman writer she thought she’d have more in common with.
“My life is the answer to generational prayers.” These eight poignant words begin Take You Wherever You Go(Grand Central, $26), a powerful memoir from Tony Award winner Kenny Leon. The tome is a heartwarming tribute to Leon’s maternal grandmother, Mamie Wilson. Grandma Mamie, mother of 13, lived the kind of life that makes you exhausted from just reading about it (like coping with a philandering husband who cheats with her cousin), yet she maintained the fortitude to instill this important life lesson in her grandson: “You gotta laugh, baby.”
As the title suggests, I Can’t Date Jesus (37 Ink/Atria, $17) is a hilarious collection of stories surrounding the unpredictability of romantic relationships. Yet in the book, the openly gay Houston-bred, Howard University–educated and Harlem-based author Michael Arceneaux goes beyond the obvious and delivers brave essays about the challenge of finally coming out to conservative parents and his ambitious pursuits of becoming a professional writer. He also cleverly explains how Beyoncé’s Black southern pride has influenced his life.