25 Books of Everyday Blackness

Black people do not solely exist in the narratives of slavery or #BlackExcellence. Thus, this February 2021 and Black History Month, our theme is "Everyday Blackness". Here are 25 titles ranging from children's board books to Adult non-fiction on the everyday Black experience that you can add to your library today.

15 of the 25 book covers from the list on a red background

Black History Month seems to be a place for tremendous success or significant struggle, but what about the in-between?

MAR Recommends: 25 Books of Everyday Blackness

February is Black History Month. Typically, acknowledgement of this means two things: celebrating Black excellence and/or lamenting over injustice and atrocities endured in the past by the Black community. Harriet Tubman. Martin Luther King Jr. Barack Obama. Viola Desmond. Jazz and Blues musicians. Star athletes. Slavery. The Underground Railroad. Segregation. The Civil Rights Movement. I could go on, but I assume you get the idea. Black History Month seems to be a place for tremendous success or significant struggle, but what about the in-between? What about what it means to be Black every day? What about the everyday experience of regular people? I am by no means suggesting that we erase history, as there is undoubtedly vital importance to acknowledging and learning about the past, but perhaps we need to do a better job of also acknowledging the everyday and the here and now. As well, perhaps the celebration of Black heroes and important figures should not just be reserved for February, but become embedded in our everyday lives.

As I began compiling this month’s booklist, my feelings and thoughts on what it means to be Black every day have changed. Initially, I approached this topic with a bit of trepidation. As a white woman, how could I possibly write on this subject and do it proper justice? How could I write about what it means to be Black every day when it is not my experience and not my story to tell? I began by looking for books with Black protagonists, written by Black authors, sharing stories of regular everyday people doing regular everyday things. I wanted books where race wasn’t the central focus, but where the characters were just living their regular lives and happened to be Black. If you’re starting to roll your eyes a bit at my thought process, stay with me here because I quickly had an “aha” moment. I first began to wonder if I was having trouble locating these books because of a gap in the publishing industry, but then it hit me. I was approaching this completely the wrong way, and certainly from a place of white privilege. Because, you see, the experience of being Black every day cannot be removed from the experiences of microaggressions, systemic racism, and racial injustice. These are the everyday experiences Black people are living. Here. Now. Not just in the past. Sure, books exist where the characters just happen to be Black. But many of these books are not written by Black authors. Books with Black characters written by authentic Own Voices authors are not like those with predominantly white characters, because their lived experiences are not like ours, and we have a VERY long way to go on our antiracism journey before injustice can be removed from the everyday. And so, instead of even attempting to continue a description of a lived experience which is not mine, I hope I’ve done justice in letting these Black authors do the talking this month.

You’ll find a variety of “everyday” experiences on this month’s list of recommended reads. To my surprise, I had slightly less difficulty finding board books with representation allowing Black babies and toddlers to see faces which look like their own within the pages, telling everyday stories of families and love. The picture book list contains two titles about Black hair: one in which a young girl learns important lessons about boundaries and consent, and the other which reads like a love letter to the Black barbershop. The YA and Adult lists contain some overlap, in that both audiences may find appealing titles on either of these lists, and I have endeavoured to include diverse experiences on both.

Happy reading, and Happy Black History Month.

Board Books

Hey, Baby! A Baby’s Day in Doodles By Andrea Pippins

“Follow a baby throughout the day, from napping to snacking to playing–and everything in between! High contrast, lively illustrations combine with gorgeous, colorful photographs to showcase the warmth and tenderness between a mommy and her baby. This affectionate look at babyhood is sure to appeal to new parents and grandparents, who will recognize their own little one in the pages.” - Penguin Random House

Full, Full, Full of Love by Trish Cooke

“Jay Jay’s mother drops him off on her way to pick up his father, so he and Grannie, whose face is as soft and warm as a down comforter, wait for the other guests. Cooke portrays Jay Jay’s anticipation in true child form as he repeatedly asks if dinner’s ready yet and watches restlessly out the window. The focus on Jay Jay and Grannie in the beginning might lead the reader to expect more of a story about their relationship rather than a celebration of ritual and family, but a celebration it is. Cars full of relatives finally pull up and out tumble tired, but cheerful parents and excited kids.” - Kirkus Reviews

Whose Toes Are Those? and Whose Knees Are These? By Jabari Asim