Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon: 2013 African American Read-In

sunday salonWe have more than a week before February gets here but it’s still plenty of time to figure out what to read for The 2013 National African American Read-In. It’s a yearly event that’s been going on for the past twenty four years and is hosted by the Black Caucus of NCTE and NCTE itself. Throughout the month of February, people all over the country get together to discuss and celebrate books written by African Americans.

Last year’s online read-in here on 1330v was a lot of fun. I think the event is a great tradition and so I’m hoping you guys will join me once again this year.

I found seven very different books that I think would appeal to a wide range of people. Below is a list of the books along with a small description of each one along with links for more information.

danticat brother

Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat.  Non-fiction/memoir. 2007 winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography. Family memoir about the author’s complicated childhood in Haiti and America while reflecting on the lives of her father and his older brother and her relationship with the two. The memoir’s first line: “I found out I was pregnant the same day that my father’s rapid weight loss and chronic shortness of breath were positively diagnosed as end-stage pulmonary fibrosis”.

jones tayari

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones. Fiction. Silver Sparrow is a book that once you read it, you need to discuss it with someone right away. You’ll probably start talking about it before you even finish it. I know I did. Dana Yarboro is the secret child of James Witherspoon, a bigamist who keeps Dana and her mother hidden in plain view while he spends most of his time with his “first” family. Told from the viewpoint of both daughters, Silver Sparrow is a page-turner that leaves readers wanting to pick up everything Jones has published.

lavalle devil

The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle – Fiction/ fantasy. When Pepper finds himself locked up in a mental institution, accused of a crime that he doesn’t remember committing, he’s knows he’s in trouble. Things go from bad to worse when a strange creature visits his room and nearly kills him. Can this creature be stopped?


Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer – Fiction/short stories. ZZ Packer is an author whose work has been on my reading list forever and with good reason. Her short story, “Brownies” has been anthologized in magazines and books for years. After reading “Brownies” for myself, I knew this was an author who deserves all the attention she receives.


How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston. Non-fiction/Humor. What it is: a hilarious, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking look back on the author’s life growing up in D.C. and what being black (and white) means to not only the author but a number of people he interviews. Part guidebook/memoir/mediation, How To be Black is a book you can easily re-read over and over again. M from Buried in Print wrote a review of this.


The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities by Will Allen. Non-fiction. In the past year when I’ve read books about farming in the United States, Will Allen’s name has popped up numerous times. Allen, the son of sharecroppers, cashed in his retirement fund to start farming. In The Good Food Revolution, Allen writes about his journey from corporate America to farming and how the need for good healthy food affects us all.


A Woman Like Me by Bettye LaVette. Non-fiction, memoir. I had no idea who Bettye LaVette was until I saw her on the news last year. LaVette is a singer who was a part of the Motown scene decades ago but only recently became famous. Her memoir is a no-holds-barred account of her life that includes sex, drugs, and plenty of music.

Note: You can vote for up to three books. I’m closing the poll next Saturday, January 27th and will announce the top pick next Sunday. The book discussion will go on Monday, February 25th. Probably with the exception of A Woman Like Me, you should be able to find every book I’ve listed at your local library. I hope you decide to vote and join in next month’s discussion.

42 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: 2013 African American Read-In”

  1. I’ve had Victor LaValle on my list ever since Diversiverse! It was hard to pick just three – great list!

    I just finished the book Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo – have you read it? I really enjoyed it and I think you would, too 🙂

  2. I voted for Thurston – I’m not really a memoir person but I love him! And I am thinking I want to re-read The Bluest Eye, even though it isn’t on your list! But I can’t remember it, except that it was amazing. I hate not being able to remember books! arggghhhh!

    Thanks for posting this and sponsoring the read-in! :–)

    1. Thurston is so hilarious. How to Be Black is a really good book and I recommend it on audio. I know what you mean about forgetting books! I read The Bluest Eye at least ten years ago and all I can remember is the ending. How bad is that? 😉

  3. Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is an amazing collection of stories and is also the only book on the list I’ve read. I’ve voted for the two I’ve been meaning to read because self-serving, etc.

  4. I voted for Packer, but I have a pile of books I need to read for the TBR Dare so may not get to it. I do have Kevin Young’s “The Grey Album” on my stack!

  5. I haven’t read any of the ones on the lit. I participated last year and will try and do it again this year. I’ve wanted to read Baratunde – oh and a Walter Mosley book (All I Did Was Shoot My Man) is nominated for an Edgar Award this year.

  6. Oh, I didn’t know about the African American Read-In event. I’ll have to do my bit. I like your recommendations – I’ve only read Silver Sparrow, which I enjoyed. I’m going to check the others out,

  7. Oh man, great choices. I’m really looking forward to Baratunde’s book and Edwidge Danticat’s book (both already on my TBR), so I voted for them.

  8. I think I am going to go with Silver Sparrow, as it’s one that I have already, and I’ve been really eager to read it. Now I will get my chance! Great challenge! I am glad you are doing this!

  9. What a great list and a terrific thing to do. I have Brother, I’m Dying, Silver Sparrow, and the new LaValle on my wishlist–unfortunately, I have committed to the TBR Double Dog Dare. I have Big Machine, though, and I’ve already Read Drinking Coffee Elsehwere…maybe I can be an honorary participant with substitutes from TBR? 🙂

  10. This is such a great list! Thank you for putting it together! I hope I get it together and join in this year.

  11. I liked How To Be Black and Good Food Revolution, but I voted for other books since I’ve already read these two!

    I talked to our local library’s children’s librarian and she went all out to do several African American Read-In activities. Our book club is providing the adult piece — we’ll be reading Wake of the Wind by J. California Cooper.

    1. That’s so great that your library is going to participate in a read-in! Let me know what you guys think of Wake of the Wind. Is there a children’s book pick for the read-in?

      1. The kids read One Crazy Summer and had a skype conversation with Rita Williams-Garcia. So cool!

        Our book group meeting is tomorrow night so I’m almost done with The Wake of the Wind. It’s a good thing that it’s a compelling read because I didn’t allow myself much time for it. I’m flying through it and can’t wait to see how it all turns out!

      2. Need to add The Wake of the Wind to my reading list! That is so cool that the kids got to meet Rita Williams-Garcia. Did you know the sequel to One Crazy Summer is coming out in a few months?

  12. What a wonderful list of books. I could have voted for every single one of them–okay, with the exception of A Woman Like Me because I don’t tend to like celebrity memoirs. Thank you for hosting this event. I can’t wait to see what gets picked!

  13. I need to read the Allen (he’s coming to town next month) AND I want to read Silver Sparrow. I’d love to join this awesome event!

  14. Thanks for the link to my thoughts on Baratunde Thurston’s book. Mr. BIP listened to it this year and it seems like the audio version is every bit as impressive as I found it to be in print. (My copy of Tayuri Jones’ novel didn’t arrive until last Friday, but I still plan to read it!)

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