Reading List for One Book One Bronx

One Book One Bronx group photo

June 2020 — Selection

by Gayl Jones

Beacon Press (Feb 15, 1987)
List Price: $16.00
Format: Paperback
Classification: Fiction
ISBN: 9780807063156
Page Count: 192

Here is Gayl Jones’s classic novel, the tale of blues singer Ursa, consumed by her hatred of the nineteenth-century slave master who fathered both her grandmother and mother.

May 2020 — Selection

Heavy: An American Memoir
by Kiese Laymon

Scribner (Jan 01, 2019)
List Price: $26.00
Format: Hardcover
Classification: Nonfiction
ISBN: 9781501125652
Page Count: 288

Synopsis:  With charged intellect and piercing candor, provocative essayist and novelist Kiese Laymon shares his experiences of growing up with racial prejudice and violence both within his own family and in the culture at large.

Kiese Laymon is a fearless writer. In his essays, he filters his personal stories through the full power of his impressive intellect to reflect on American society. But one issue has always evaded his penetrating self-reflection and that was his own abuse, a subject that brought feelings of shame and humiliation. Now he opens himself to this past, confronts these painful memories, and asks us to consider our shared memories as an abusive nation. In “Heavy,” Laymon writes eloquently and honestly about the physical manifestations of violence, grief, trauma, and abuse on his own body and the collective body of the Black community. He also chronicles his attempt to lose 100 pounds, an effort at which he fails. He speaks to his two aunts, his grandmother, his mother, his father, his mother s ex-boyfriend, and the two women who sexually abused him, as well as to his friends, whose abuse he witnessed, about their relationship with violence, race, trauma, gender, and food.

A personal story that illuminates national issues, “Heavy” is defiant yet vulnerable, an insightful exploration that begins with a heartbreaking story of innocence taken and continues through twenty-five years of repeated, haunting implosions, and long reverberations.”

March 2020 — Selection

Juliet Takes a Breath
by Gabby Rivera

Dial (Sep 17, 2019)
List Price: $17.99
Format: Hardcover
Classification: Fiction
ISBN: 9780593108178
Page Count: 320

Synopsis: A People magazine Best Book of Fall 2019
An Amazon Best Young Adult Book of 2019
"F***ing outstanding."—Roxane Gay, New York Times bestselling author

Juliet Milagros Palante is a self-proclaimed closeted Puerto Rican baby dyke from the Bronx. Only, she’s not so closeted anymore. Not after coming out to her family the night before flying to Portland, Oregon, to intern with her favorite feminist writer—what’s sure to be a life-changing experience. And when Juliet’s coming out crashes and burns, she’s not sure her mom will ever speak to her again.

But Juliet has a plan—sort of. Her internship with legendary author Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff, is sure to help her figure out this whole "Puerto Rican lesbian" thing. Except Harlowe’s white. And not from the Bronx. And she definitely doesn’t have all the answers . . .

In a summer bursting with queer brown dance parties, a sexy fling with a motorcycling librarian, and intense explorations of race and identity, Juliet learns what it means to come out—to the world, to her family, to herself.

February 2020 — Selection

A Lucky Man: Stories
by Jamel Brinkley

Graywolf Press (May 08, 2018)
List Price: $26.00
Format: Hardcover
Classification: Fiction
ISBN: 9781555978051
Page Count: 264


In the nine expansive, searching stories of A Lucky Man, fathers and sons attempt to salvage relationships with friends and family members and confront mistakes made in the past. An imaginative young boy from the Bronx goes swimming with his group from day camp at a backyard pool in the suburbs, and faces the effects of power and privilege in ways he can barely grasp. A teen intent on proving himself a man through the all-night revel of J’Ouvert can’t help but look out for his impressionable younger brother. A pair of college boys on the prowl follow two girls home from a party and have to own the uncomfortable truth of their desires. And at a capoeira conference, two brothers grapple with how to tell the story of their family, caught in the dance of their painful, fractured history.

Jamel Brinkley’s stories, in a debut that announces the arrival of a significant new voice, reflect the tenderness and vulnerability of black men and boys whose hopes sometimes betray them, especially in a world shaped by race, gender, and class―where luck may be the greatest fiction of all.

January 2020 — Selection

Searching for Zion
by Emily Raboteau

Grove Press (Feb 11, 2014)
List Price: $17.00
Format: Paperback
Classification: Fiction
ISBN: 9780802122278
Page Count: 320


"I doubt there will be a more important work of nonfiction this year."— Dave Eggers

In this landmark work of narrative nonfiction, award-winning author Emily Raboteau journeys from Harlem to Israel, Jamaica, Ethiopia, Ghana and across the American South on a quest for the Black Promised Land. A memoir that penetrates Raboteau’s need for a homeland to call her own, Searching for Zion also expresses the African-American longing for full citizenship.

October 2019 — Selection

Hair Story : Untangling The Roots Of Black Hair In America
by Ayana Byrd and Lori Tharps

Palgrave Macmillan (Feb 01, 2001)
List Price: $23.95
Format: Hardcover
Classification: Nonfiction
ISBN: 9780312265991
Page Count: 198

Two world wars, the Civil Rights movement, and a Jheri curl later, Blacks in America continue to have a complex and convoluted relationship with their hair. From the antebellum practice of shaving the head in an attempt to pass as a "free" person to the 1998 uproar over a White third-grade teacher’s reading of the book Nappy Hair, the issues surrounding Black hair continue to linger as we enter the twenty-first century.

Hair Story is a historical and anecdotal exploration of Black Americans’ tangled hair roots. A chronological look at the culture and politics behind the ever-changing state of Black hair from fifteenth-century Africa to the present-day United States, it ties the personal to the political and the popular.

Read about:

* Why Black American slaves used items like axle grease and eel skin to straighten their hair.
* How a Mexican chemist straightened Black hair using his formula for turning sheep’s wool into a minklike fur.
* How the Afro evolved from militant style to mainstream fashion trend.
* What prompted the creation of the Jheri curl and the popular style’s fall from grace.
* The story behind Bo Derek’s controversial cornrows and the range of reactions they garnered.

Major figures in the history of Black hair are presented, from early hair-care entrepreneurs Annie Turnbo Malone and Madam C. J. Walker to unintended hair heroes like Angela Davis and Bob Marley. Celebrities, stylists, and cultural critics weigh in on the burgeoning sociopolitical issues surrounding Black hair, from the historically loaded terms "good" and "bad" hair, to Black hair in the workplace, to mainstream society’s misrepresentation and misunderstanding of kinky locks.

Hair Story is the book that Black Americans can use as a benchmark for tracing a unique aspect of their history, and it’s a book that people of all races will celebrate as the reference guide for understanding Black hair.

June 2019 — Selection

We the Animals
by Justin Torres

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Aug 30, 2011)
List Price: $18.00
Format: Hardcover
Classification: Fiction
ISBN: 9780547576725
Page Count: 126

Synopsis: An exquisite, blistering debut novel. Three brothers tear their way through childhood smashing tomatoes all over each other, building kites from trash, hiding out when their parents do battle, tiptoeing around the house as their mother sleeps off her graveyard shift. Paps and Ma are from Brooklyn he’s Puerto Rican, she’s white and their love is a serious, dangerous thing that makes and unmakes a family many times. Life in this family is fierce and absorbing, full of chaos and heartbreak and the euphoria of belonging completely to one another. From the intense familial unity felt by a child to the profound alienation he endures as he begins to see the world, this beautiful novel reinvents the coming-of-age story in a way that is sly and punch-in-the-stomach powerful. Written in magical language with unforgettable images, this is a stunning exploration of the viscerally charged landscape of growing up, how deeply we are formed by our earliest bonds, and how we are ultimately propelled at escape velocity toward our futures.

May 2019 — Selection

The Crazy Bunch
by Willie Perdomo

PublicAffairs (Apr 02, 2019)
List Price: $18.00
Format: Paperback
Classification: Poetry
ISBN: 9780143132691
Page Count: 128


From a prize-winning poet, a new collection that chronicles a weekend in the life of a group of friends coming of age in East Harlem at the dawn of the hip-hop era

Willie Perdomo, a native of East Harlem, has won praise as a hip, playful, historically engaged poet whose restlessly lyrical language mixes “city life with a sense of the transcendent” ( In his fourth collection, The Crazy Bunch, Perdomo returns to his beloved neighborhood to create a vivid, kaleidoscopic portrait of a “crew” coming of age in East Harlem at the beginning of the 1990s. In poems written in couplets, vignettes, sketches, riffs, and dialogue, Perdomo recreates a weekend where surviving members of the crew recall a series of tragic events: “That was the summer we all tried to fly. All but one of us succeeded."”

April 2019 — Selection

Training School for Negro Girls
by Camille Acker

The Feminist Press at CUNY (Oct 23, 2018)
List Price: $17.95
Format: Paperback
Classification: Fiction
ISBN: 9781936932375
Page Count: 232

"This flawlessly executed work reinvigorates the short fiction genre." —BUST "Acker perfectly captures the varied experiences of her characters, making clear that each of [their] lives is worth exploring individually, and valued as being one shining part of the ocean of human experience." —NYLON When you’re black and female in America, society’s rules were never meant to make you safe or free. Camille Acker’s relatable yet unexpected characters break down the walls of respectability politics, showing that the only way for black women to be free is to be themselves.

March 2019 — Selection

by Akwaeke Emezi

Grove Press (Feb 13, 2018)
List Price: $24.00
Format: Hardcover
Classification: Fiction
ISBN: 9780802127358
Page Count: 240

An extraordinary debut novel, Freshwater explores the surreal experience of having a fractured self. It centers around a young Nigerian woman, Ada, who develops separate selves within her as a result of being born "with one foot on the other side." Unsettling, heartwrenching, dark, and powerful, Freshwater is a sharp evocation of a rare way of experiencing the world, one that illuminates how we all construct our identities.

Ada begins her life in the south of Nigeria as a troubled baby and a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents, Saul and Saachi, successfully prayed her into existence, but as she grows into a volatile and splintered child, it becomes clear that something went terribly awry. When Ada comes of age and moves to America for college, the group of selves within her grows in power and agency. A traumatic assault leads to a crystallization of her alternate selves: As?ghara and Saint Vincent. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these selves?now protective, now hedonistic?move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dark and dangerous direction.

Narrated from the perspective of the various selves within Ada, and based in the author’s realities, Freshwater explores the metaphysics of identity and mental health, plunging the reader into the mystery of being and self. Freshwater dazzles with ferocious energy and serpentine grace, heralding the arrival of a fierce new literary voice.

January 2019 — Selection

Bloodchild and Other Stories
by Octavia Butler

Seven Stories Press (Oct 04, 2005)
List Price: $14.00
Format: Paperback
Classification: Fiction
ISBN: 9781583226988
Page Count: 224

A perfect introduction for new readers and a must-have for avid fans, this New York Times Notable Book includes "Bloodchild," winner of both the Hugo and the Nebula awards and "Speech Sounds," winner of the Hugo Award. Appearing in print for the first time, "Amnesty" is a story of a woman named Noah who works to negotiate the tense and co-dependent relationship between humans and a species of invaders. Also new to this collection is "The Book of Martha" which asks: What would you do if God granted you the ability—and responsibility—to save humanity from itself?
Like all of Octavia Butler’s best writing, these works of the imagination are parables of the contemporary world. She proves constant in her vigil, an unblinking pessimist hoping to be proven wrong, and one of contemporary literature’s strongest voices.

December 2018 — Selection

If Beale Street Could Talk
by James Baldwin

Penguin Books (Oct 06, 2006)
List Price: $14.95
Format: Paperback
Classification: Fiction
ISBN: 9780307275936
Page Count: 197


In this honest and stunning novel, Baldwin has given America a moving story of love in the face of injustice. In a love story that evokes the blues, where passion and sadness are inevitably intertwined, Baldwin creates two characters so alive and profoundly realized that they are unforgettably ingrained in the American psyche.

Now a Motion Picture (Annapurna Pictures, Dec 14, 2018)

Set in early-1970s Harlem, If Beale Street Could Talk is a timeless and moving love story of both a couple’s unbreakable bond and the African-American family’s empowering embrace, as told through the eyes of 19-year-old Tish Rivers (screen newcomer KiKi Layne). A daughter and wife-to-be, Tish vividly recalls the passion, respect and trust that have connected her and her artist fiancé Alonzo Hunt, who goes by the nickname Fonny (Stephan James). Friends since childhood, the devoted couple dream of a future together but their plans are derailed when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit.

Through the unique intimacy and power of cinema, If Beale Street Could Talk honors the author’s prescient words and imagery, charting the emotional currents navigated in an unforgiving and racially biased world as the filmmaker poetically crosses time frames to show how love and humanity endure.

November 2018 — Selection

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches
by Audre Lorde

Crossing Press (Jun 01, 1984)
List Price: $14.95
Format: Paperback
Classification: Nonfiction
ISBN: 9780895941411
Page Count: 190

essays & speeches

October 2018 — Selection

Bodega Dreams
by Ernesto Quiñonez

Vintage (Mar 14, 2000)
List Price: $15.95
Format: Paperback
Classification: Fiction
ISBN: 9780375705892
Page Count: 224


“A new and authentic voice of the urban Latino experience.” —Esmeralda Santiago, author of When I Was Puerto Rican
In a stunning narrative combining the gritty rhythms of Junot Diaz with the noir genius of Walter Mosley, Bodega Dreams announces the arrival of a writer who The Village Voice has already hailed as “a Writer on the Verge.”
The word is out in Spanish Harlem: Willy Bodega is king. Need college tuition for your daughter? Start-up funds for your fruit stand? Bodega can help. He gives everyone a leg up, in exchange only for loyalty — and a steady income from the drugs he pushes.
Lyric, inspired, and darkly funny, this powerful debut novel brilliantly evokes the trial of Chino, a smart, promising young man to whom Bodega turns for a favor. Chino is drawn to Bodega’s street-smart idealism, but soon finds himself over his head, navigating an underworld of switchblade tempers, turncoat morality, and murder.

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