By HALEY ZAMORA
Celebrate Black History Month with the San Diego County Library! Check out these award-winning, honest and beautifully written memoirs that highlight the complex nature of identity and the diversity of the Black experience. All of these books are available upon request at sdcl.org and in eBooks at www.sdcl.overdrive.com.
“Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More” by writer, editor, director and activist Janet Mock gives readers an unflinching account of her life as a Black, Hawaiian and Trans woman. From her earliest memories, Mock is confident in her gender identity and she gives the reader a raw and candid account of life with her dysfunctional-yet-loving family, the abuse she endured, and the poverty and racism that were pervasive in her life. She acknowledges that she is one of the lucky ones: achieving an advanced degree, belonging to a family that eventually accepts and loves her, and finding her own voice and the man of her dreams. Mock’s story is a difficult but affirming account of what we can accomplish when we are unapologetic and fully accept who we are.
“Survival of the Thickest” by comedienne, actress and writer Michelle Buteau is a hilarious and heartfelt series of essays about growing up Black, Caribbean, Catholic and thick in New Jersey. She gives dating advice gleaned from her own — sometimes horrifying — experiences and gives the reader insight about what it takes to make it in the male-dominated world of comedy. Buteau talks openly about the challenges of her interracial and transcontinental relationship, her heartbreaking struggles with infertility and the importance of supportive friendships. You will walk away from this book wishing that Buteau was your bff.
Winning multiple literary awards, “Heavy: An American Memoir” by Kiese Laymon is ultimately a letter to his mother who appears as the ubiquitous “you” throughout the book. Laymon lays bare the abuse he suffered in childhood at the hands of his brilliant and troubled single mother and by others in her absence. Through the lens of his experiences, he considers what it is to be Black, male and overweight in America. Through his struggles with obesity, addiction and mental health, and his hard-won rise in academia, he seeks to meet the high expectations of his mother and exceed the low expectations set by society. This is a stunning and “heavy” book that is not to be missed.
“How We Fight for Our Lives” by award-winning poet Saeed Jones is a stunning coming-of-age memoir that examines the intersection of race and sexual orientation in the American landscape. Growing up Black and gay in the South, Jones must contend with family turmoil, outside prejudice and his own painful growth to realize his power. Jones is admittedly young to write a memoir but don’t let that stop you from reading this short outstanding book – it will leave you wanting more.
For the latest news on the San Diego County Library visit sdcl.org or follow the La Mesa Library on Facebook, @lamesalibrary. Visit www.sdcl.org or call us at 619-469-2151 to order books, movies, and CDs, and we will contact you when they are ready for pick-up.
— Haley Zamora is a librarian at the La Mesa branch of the San Diego County Library.