6 Books That Have Inspired Me As A Black Woman

Reading is an activity that I have enjoyed since I was a child. I remember riding my bike to the local library and spending hours there choosing a selection of books to take home with me. They used to have a competition to encourage children to read six books during the six weeks of summer. We even had a library at home filled with all the classics such as Tom Sawyer, Little Women, To Kill A Mockingbird and more. There was one thing that my parents made sure that we had in our home library, books written by Nigerian authors for children. As I’m no longer in school and working 9-5, it has been a struggle to get back into reading books for fun. I was getting into that habit in 2020, then the pakuromo arrived but luckily I was able to read 10 books last year. This year, it has been even harder to get into that routine of just sitting down, opening a book and just reading a page or a chapter. I’ve been motivating myself to build up the habit again. There are 6 books that have inspired me as a Black woman to celebrate myself more, to celebrate my identity and my heritage as well as everything that Black women should do to protect their mental health whilst discussing culturally sensitive issues. All of these books I have read in the last year and I’d highly recommend them if you are a Black woman looking for inspiration, motivation and just hearing what other Black women have to say.

Slay In Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible By Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené

As a young Black woman that grew up in the UK, I was able to resonate with so much that was written in this book. Although I don’t live in the UK anymore, it really spoke to my experiences whilst living in Switzerland. It’s definitely a book that you need to pause and digest what you are reading. Some of the statistics in the book can be somewhat depressing but that’s reality of being a Black woman in society that does not want to see you succeed. Reading the experiences of other Black women in the UK that are doing well, despite everything, is very inspiring and motivating. It inspires me to keep staying focused and slay in my lane no matter what. For Black women, it is a book that is written by us and for us. It is a book that I wish had existed when I was much younger. Even if you are a not Black, I would still recommend the book to you. I believe it is important to have the awareness and to understand what Black women go through both in and out of the workplace.

Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri

Embracing my natural hair has been instilled in me since birth. I never permed it or did any other type of chemical treatment to it growing up. Although my hair was always natural or in some protective styles such as box braids and crochet braids, I didn’t know how to take care of my hair until I was in grad school. I first discovered this book through Emma’s Twitter account where I would join in with the critical debates. I didn’t read it until last summer during the BLM movement. This book spoke to me in a way that I could not imagined. I’ve always known that society has politicised Black hair but to go through the history from pre-colonial Africa to the Harlem Renaissance to the Natural Hair Movement provided me with a different perspective with how I viewed my hair, Black oppression and Black liberation. All the things that I learnt from this book pushed me to watch Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker and encouraged me to learn more about all the different movements and eras that she mentions. Black is beautiful. African features are beautiful. Our hair is versatile and transcends gravity. It’s such a powerful and vivid book that I can read multiple times because it celebrates everything that I am.

Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race was a hard read. There is a lot in there about race relations in Britain that I had never heard about growing up or learnt in formal education. It’s interesting that when we talk about race relations, it’s always based on the U.S perspective despite the fact that the British Empire had a big part to play in colonisation and that the U.K today refuses to accept that there is institutional and structural racism in their society. With everything that happened last summer with the BLM movement and the protests, I had reached my limit where I was not in the space to have to this conversation with a group of people that failed to recognise that racism exists. This book explores everything about the concept of race and race relations in Britain from the genesis to now. It inspired me to create and set boundaries where I could protect my mental health whilst discussing culturally sensitive issues that are very dear to me. It’s a book for everyone regardless if you don’t identify as Black. I’ve always said that knowledge is power and I believe that everyone should read books based on someone’s else lived experience and to understand the historical contexts of what we are seeing in today’s world.

Dear Ijeawele: A Feminist Manifesto In Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche is an amazing author, speaker and person. This was an easy yet powerful read. The way she frames mother-daughter relationships and the surrounding topics such as rejecting traditional gender roles, female sexuality, race, objectification, embracing feminism etc. inspired me and pushed me to look at the women in my life, especially my mum, aunties and grandmothers. To look at them as women, who have their own lives, goals and dreams separate from the identities that have been prescribed to them based on our relationship. This book resonated with my current mindset to ‘be a full person that is brave, kind and can stand up for myself’. I can never accept that I can’t do anything because of my gender. There are so many powerful statements in that book and it indicates that we should celebrate every aspect of our womanhood.

Daughters of Nri by Reni K Amayo

Daughters of Nri is an Afrofuturism fantasy fiction set in ancient Nigeria. I’ve never read or sought out fantasy books based in Africa and it didn’t disappoint. During this pakuromo, I have been heavily buried in learning more about ancient Africa so when I stumbled onto Reni K Amayo’s first book, I jumped at the opportunity to read. What attracted me to the book the way that Reni draws you into the lives of the two main characters that feels like you are watching their lives in the background. This book inspired me because growing up I rarely read books where Black women were the main characters. The storyline resonated with me as I was able to see myself in the characters, it brought an additional sense of pride as a Nigerian as well as it prompted me to delve more into the history of Ancient Nigeria and Africa. It is such an amazing story and I can’t wait to buy the second book in series later in year. If you do like fantasy books, I would recommend reading this one and opening your eyes to a different experience.

Love In Colour by Bolu Babalola

Love In Colour is an anthology of mythical tales from around the world about love. I’ve never seen a writer express the emotion of love in the way that Bolu Babalola does. It excites me. Each short tale…I wish it was much longer. That how engrossed I was with each of them. The first is set in Nigeria and I could imagine it vividly, the others are set in other parts of the world, one is set in Ghana, in Egypt, in Greece and more. What was so beautiful about these set of tales were the women in their various environments, expressing their different shades of love. I found it very inspiring as love is not one thing, it doesn’t appear at one point but at multiple points in your journey…it depends on the perspective that you look at it. It made me fall in love with love more than I ever had before. It made me recognise and come to terms with what love is, how it can be expressed as well as owning that power that you can be both strong and vulnerable with it.

These are the six books that have inspired me as a Black woman and they have encouraged me to read more books written by Black woman to continuously celebrate myself, my identity and heritage through literature. It has also encouraged me to read books by women from different ethnic backgrounds so I can see the world from their perspective. I think it is very important to read books whether they are fiction, personal development, factual, non-fiction etc. written by people who don’t look like you and have lived a different life to gain more awareness and understanding.

If you have read any of these books or read others that have inspired you, please let me know in the comments below and share those books. I’m always on the hunt for new books and I’d like this to be a resource to other searching for books to inspire them.

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