The upcoming Labor Day weekend unofficially marks the end of summer, and was born after social unrest by American workers in the late 19th century sparked the creation of the labor movement.
Today many workers get a day off in honor of the federal holiday, which may also afford some extra time to dive into your reading list. Books can be a tool to immerse yourself in the experiences and stories of others, and to learn from one another. For ideas, here are five books by Black female authors.
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson
From the “untouchables” in in India to the Jews in Nazi Germany to racism in America, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson links together patterns throughout history that illustrate how artifical racial hierarchies have been created across cultures, and argues that America’s 400 years of institutionalized racism is akin to a caste system. One of Wilkerson’s gifts is being able to shed light on large, complex issues by weaving in personal stories.
Unashamed: Musings of a Fat, Black Muslim, by Leah Vernon
In this memoir, model, influencer and inclusive content creator Leah Vernon touches upon everything from her love-hate relationship with her faith; domestic violence and divorce; white privilege and allyship; her struggles with mental illness; social-media-fueled anxiety; and why she believes we all have an “angry Black bitch” inside of us, regardless of our race. This is a real-life chronicle of a woman who learned to find her voice and speak out, unapologetically.
Confessions from Your Token Black Colleague, by Talisa “Tali “Lavarry
Part memoir and part action plan, this book is a candid account of the author’s experiences with discrimination working in corporate America, and includes interviews from leaders of all levels about how to take steps for real change. Lavarry says that every person inside an organization must take responsibility for self-examination and self-transformation, including herself. She illustrates how she got there by revealing her own journey.
Author of the acclaimed novel White Teeth, Smith recently released Imitations, a collection of six essays written during the beginning of quarantine. She shares questions and reflections on the social unrest, racial disparities exposed during the pandemic, performative allyship on social media, and much more. The personal experiences she writes of help serve as an account of these unprecedented times.
The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
This multi-generational novel tells the tale of identical Black twin sisters, born in the Jim Crow South, and how their lives go in separate directions when one sister decides to pass for white. If you’re looking to escape into a fictional story, Bennett brilliantly examines race and identity, family and history, and love and belonging—and it just may make you reflect on the realities of your own.
Article originally published in Forbes.