One of the questions submitted for the Frequently Asked Questions episode of Season 2 was, “What are you currently reading?” It’s an interesting question.
Let me share a little backstory. I’ve always been an avid reader, even earning the childhood nickname “Read-a-Book.” I cherished the escape that books offered from the chaos of being one of eight in my family. Amidst the countless voices and frequent squabbles, books became my sanctuary. I continued to enjoy physical books throughout my pregnancy and well into the fourth trimester. However, as a Single Mother by Choice (SMC), my life took a different turn.
The pursuit of my second child became an almost three-year journey, consuming my time and energy. It was only after my second child arrived and was weaned that I finally had the headspace to return to reading.
I purchased a few hardcopy books, but I soon realized that the luxury of sitting down with a physical book had disappeared. Parenting demanded all of my hands, making reading a book feel like a chore. Nevertheless, my love for books persisted, and I knew I had to find a different approach.
My journey into audiobooks began with CDs. I listened to the entire Game of Thrones series and discovered that audiobooks were a delightful way to pass the time during work commutes. Unfortunately, my commute did not extend into my home.
Then, by chance, I stumbled upon Audible, and it captured my heart. Since then, I’ve been hooked, alternating between Audible and Libby, courtesy of my local library. Interestingly, my local library doesn’t offer many contemporary books by African American authors, but audiobooks have filled that void.
Now, fast forward to Season 2 of Start to Finish Motherhood, and the question, “What are you currently reading?” Here’s my response:
Okay, so I used to be an avid reader, and when I became a mom, I wanted to hold on to that part of myself, and it was hard. I still purchased books and tried to read while nursing and juggling a baby and it was hard. I gave up reading and I started to feel dumber. I knew I wasn’t, but I missed reading and seeing words. Then, I remembered how much I enjoyed audio books, and so I started renting audio books from the library and purchasing books. I feel in love with the ease of listening to books while I cooked, commuted and sat still as I put the kids to sleep… so I just finished Octavia Butler’s “Kindred”, I am also reading “Finding Me”, by Viola Davis, for a second time I listened to “The Smartest Kids in the World” and in preparation for an upcoming episode “Discovering the Inner Mother.”
Then, it hit me—I remembered how much I enjoyed audiobooks. So, I started renting them from the library and buying them. I fell in love with the convenience of listening to books while cooking, commuting, and settling the kids to sleep. Recently, I completed Octavia Butler’s “Kindred,” I’m currently engrossed in “Finding Me” by Viola Davis, revisiting “The Smartest Kids in the World” for a second time, and preparing for an upcoming episode on “Discovering the Inner Mother.”
Now, let me share a comprehensive list of remarkable books I’ve enjoyed over the past three years, in no particular order. Keep in mind that the links provided in this article are my affiliate links, and if you find my reviews useful, using these links is a great way to pay it forward. Thanks in advance! You can also sign up for Audible using my link here:
I’ve been exploring Afro-futurism, and Octavia Butler’s name often comes up. My journey with her work began with “Kindred.” Initially, I hesitated because the story partly unfolds during the time of slavery, and I prefer to avoid narratives centered on Black trauma. However, this book was exceptional. It provides a powerful way to engage with this painful past in an empowering manner. I wholeheartedly recommend listening to this book; it offers an authentic depiction of the era.
I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel with Kris during an episode of Embodied, and her spunk and enthusiasm left me intrigued. I promptly invited her to the podcast to discuss intentionally choosing a single life. Just as I chose single motherhood, many people are also opting for a life without marriage and children. Kris’s book provides valuable insights into the Black middle class, delving into the structural forces influencing this choice. If you want a taste of Kris’s perspective and her bubbly personality, read the book and listen to the episode titled “How I’m Living my Best Life Childfree”.
I discovered this book when my first podcast ended abruptly, leaving me in need of rest and healing. I found solace in a community of Black women and regrouped. Rest became an essential part of my healing journey, providing me with the energy to resist. Throughout history, deep rest has been a luxury for Black bodies, as our ancestors were brought to this continent to work, leaving exhaustion deeply ingrained in our bones. This book is a practical guide to mindfulness in action. Since reading it, I’ve prioritized rest, naps, and listening to the needs of my mind, body, and spirit. I highly recommend this book; I often revisit it during moments when single motherhood feels overwhelming, as it serves as a reminder that rest is my refuge, my right, and my resistance.
Since 2020, I’ve embarked on a journey of learning and unlearning. I’ve been shedding the rules and behaviors of White supremacist culture, reevaluating what I thought I knew, and challenging the patterns that inform my parenting. This transformative journey led me to gardening as a healing and restorative activity. Although I can’t recall how I stumbled upon this book, I know it will remain a part of my study for years to come. “We Are Each Other’s Harvest” tells the story of Black agriculture and Black farmers in America. It offers detailed first-hand accounts of the barriers and systems designed to dispossess farm lands from Black descendants of slaves (ADOS). While we can’t change the past, understanding it empowers us to make different, more informed choices. For me, it has deepened my connection to the land and sustainable practices that enrich our family activities. To gain more insight into how gardening enhances my parenting, you can check out my article “Sun, Soil, and Squirrels: My Epic 2023 Garden Project Journey!” and explore my joyous little garden through my YouTube playlist, “We Are Each Other’s Harvest” by Natalie Baszile celebrates the unsung heroes of our communities: Black farmers. Baszile masterfully weaves together stories of food, family, and heritage, reminding us of the deep connection between our culture and the land.
It’s interesting; despite my enjoyment of hardcopy books, audiobooks have opened up the world of autobiographies read by the authors themselves. Condoleezza Rice’s “Extraordinary Ordinary People” is a timeless gem for me. I’ve listened to it both on CD and Audible, and it’s one of the few books I lend out and diligently retrieve when someone’s done reading it! This book provides a captivating glimpse into Birmingham during the civil rights era and offers insights into the lengths Black parents went to shield their children from the pervasive effects of southern racism. I’ve always appreciated hearing from those quieter voices who bore witness to history, and Condoleezza’s autobiography did not disappoint. She played a crucial role in bringing the civil rights era to life for me.
Gabrielle Union has always felt like a friend in my head. I thoroughly enjoyed her first book and eagerly anticipated reading this one. I believe it was released shortly after I welcomed my second child, and the fact that it covers her journey to building her family made it a must-read for me. I appreciate her honesty and vulnerability. I’m an advocate for allowing people to tell or not tell their stories as they see fit. This book is a delightful blend of humor, honesty, and Gabrielle’s authentic self, mirroring her public persona.
This book was recommended to me by a friend, and I found it to be a lovely read. It offered me a deeper insight into Buddhism and a perspective on mental health within the context of Black and Brown communities—a viewpoint I might not have otherwise considered. Definitely an interesting and enlightening read.
9. “The Color of Money” by Mehrsa Baradaran
This book, along with “Money Out Loud,” provided me with a profound understanding of racial disparities in the wealth gap. It left me deeply disheartened by the American financial system. It delves into the intentional nature of redlining, predatory financial practices, and the careless handling of Black people’s money. Moreover, it discusses the policies, systemic structures, and other factors that contribute to the economic disparities experienced by Black individuals and communities today. This eye-opening read challenges us to confront uncomfortable truths and work toward a more equitable future.
This book does for the Asian community what “The Color of Money” does for the Black community. It sheds light on patterns and systems intentionally designed to exploit, offering insight into why Black and Brown communities historically distrust banking and financial systems. I’ve followed Berna for years and was excited to read “Money Out Loud.” It provides a fresh perspective on personal finance, addressing the unique financial journeys and challenges faced by people of color while offering insights and strategies for financial empowerment.
The more I delve into the experiences of Black people in America, the more crucial conversations around intersectionality become. I’ve become even more intentional about seeking out the unique experiences of Black women. Black women’s experiences cannot be wholly assumed to be covered when discussing Black history. Much of Black history focuses on the contributions of Black men, while Women’s history tends to center on stories of White women. Intersectionality forces us to focus on the experiences of Black women, and I wholeheartedly embrace it. In “Ain’t I a Woman,” bell hooks explores the intersections of race, gender, and feminism. Her thought-provoking essays have compelled me to challenge and reshape my approach to Black movements and Black spaces.
Now, as the kids have decided to gang up on me, I need to wrap this up. Here are some other books I’ve listened to and enjoyed:
A refreshing perspective and a nuanced look at how racial bias disrupts lives on a daily basis.
Prince Harry’s account of his experiences with the royals. It sheds light on the complexities of family dynamics and the consequences of breaking generational cycles of trauma.
Shonda Rhimes shares her empowering journey of saying “yes” to opportunities, speaking truth to power, and unapologetically embracing her gifts.
These books have been my adult companions, guiding me through moments of reflection, inspiration, and ultimately contributing to my growth as a Black woman, a parent, and an activist. Dive into their pages on Audible, and please let me know what you think. If you don’t have an Audible subscription yet, you can sign up here, and you can also find some of these titles through your local library using the Libby app. Happy reading (and listening)!