Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Ten Books That Have Influenced Me The Most(Updated)

In no particular order**

Assata Shakur: The Autobiography

I read this book in college. I remember we were on a tournament and staying in a hotel. My friend Wanda had given me this and Elaine Brown's book. I cried after having read them both. This book is a powerful accounting by Twentieth-Century escaped slave, Assata Shakur of the events that led up to her being handcuffed to her hospital bed and placed under arrest while unconscious, her body ridden with bullets, for the death of a New Jersey police officer in an attempt to intimidate and destory the BLA and the Black Panther Party on the part of the FBI and other agencies. In the book, she also offers up details of her life from her childhood and early college years up until the point of her escape from prison and eventual exile in Cuba. Assata is a brilliant poet and she incorporates some of her poetry into the book. I think everyone should read this book.

Angela Davis:The Autobiography

It must have been my freshman or sophomore year of college when I read this book. I have always been in awe of Angela Davis and I completely devoured the book. It was quite profound. Very carefully constructed by Angela, the book sheds light on her life up to the point of her involvement with the Soledad Brothers movement and her friendships with George and Jonathan Jackson. From her early years in Birmingham, Alabama, her foundation in activism from her parents, who were involved with the Scottsboro Trial,to her time in New York at The Little Red School and her graduate study at the Sorbonne and the University of Frankfort, the book builds up to the point of her accepting a teaching position in the University of California system and the unfolding of events that led to her going underground, the worldwide FBI hunt that ensued, and the eventual trial that held the attention of the world.

A Taste of Power- Elaine Brown’s Autobiography

Elaine Brown was very much unknown to me before I read this book my sophomore or junior year of college. This book, along with the others on this list, added something to my makeup and to my understanding and grasp of the world as I understand it today. Elaine Brown truly is an inspiration. In this book, Elaine details the events in her life that led her to join the Black Panther Party and which eventually catapulted her into the position of Chairwoman of the Party. The book is eye-opening in that she gives a first hand account of the deeply rooted misogyny that was present in the Black Power Movement and even more widely on the left as a whole in the 1960s. She gives a vivid account of the threat on her life placed by Eldridge Cleaver as well as the abuses she experienced at the hands of Huey P. Newton and other men within the party. She gives a terrifying account of a brutal beating she received at the hands of a party member and discusses beatings that were delved out to other party members as well.

A frank and honest account of the accomplishments and shortcomings of the Black Panther Party, this book is a wonderful accounting of her life from her early days in Philadelphia to her rise to lead one of the most progressive, revolutionary organizations in modern history.

Possessing the Secret of Joy—Alice Walker

My favorite book. Enough said.

Giovanni’s Room- James Baldwin

I first read Giovanni's Room at the end of my junior year of college. It was the first book I had ever read that explored the issue of homosexuality, especially sexual relations between men( I may have read Zami before Giovanni's Room). I adore and very much love Jimmy Baldwin and this book definitely imprinted itself upon my consciousness. James Baldwin is a God.

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name- Audre Lorde

I read this book in the same period in which I read Giovanni's room. Audre Lorde is a Goddess/Mother of the earth. This book completely shook my foundation to the core and made me much more completely whole. Delivering what she calls an autobiomythography, Audre Lorde embraces her self, her queerness, and in the process queers the entire world with the love that she gives through this book. Accounting for her life from her early childhood in New York City, the daughter of immigrants to her coming into her womanhood as a lesbian, as a woman of color, this book is perhaps the most valuable piece of queer/othered fiction ever written. One thing that stuck out to me from this book is her frankness in describing the lesbian scene of the 1950s and 60s and the amount of racism and lack of solidarity that existed (and still exists) among gays and lesbians. Audre Lorde is, as I said, a Goddess/Mother and her voice will always be treasured.

The Glory and the Dream- William Manchester

I read this book the summer after my sophomore year of High School for the A.P. American History course I took my junior year. It was quite profound and really made history a living entity for me, perhaps for the first time, with its vivid depictions of the depression, the Vietnam War,and American culture of the 1930s, 40s, 50s, and 60s. Some of the things that stuck out to me from this book were Curious Yellow (which I eventually found and saw: what a film) and the trial of Richard Whitney for fraud on the stock exchange. I really appreciated the montage pages which were included at the end of every chapter, which were pages that listed some of the vernacular of the particular era and were mini-shots of the culture of the time--with movie posters, political slogans, and other cultural regalia.

The Souls of Black Folk—W.E.B. DuBois

I got this book from my Uncle Lawrence's House when I was either thirteen or fourteen. DuBois was the first person I had ever read that profoundly shaped and influenced my intellect. Not only did Dubois' discussion of Afro-Americans make a profound impact on my psyche, but his exploration and study of peoples around the globe- from the Jews to the Japanese, really served as a stimulus in me and encouraged my own explorations of ethnicity.

My early intellectual pursuits led me to studying the Swedes in Minnesota and the settlements of Jews in the South, and really peaked my interests in the ethnic makeup of urban areas. From my keen interest io various peoples as a small child growing up in Chicago with access to different cultures, Dubois opened a new door into my world. Along with this, perhaps of more importance, Dubois led me to consider the concept of identity and how people and communities identify themselves.

I Wonder as I Wander by Langston Hughes

I recieved this book from my Uncle Donald when I was about thirteen or fourteen. Langston's account of his travels and his descriptions of people and places all over the world from China to Cuba to the USSR had a profound effect on me.I am a natural traveler and I loved his descriptions of the Chinese and watermelons floating down the Mekong River and Russian peasants in Tashkent sipping from a communal bowl of tea.....

Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America by Lerone Bennett Jr.

I also recieved this book from my Uncle Lawrence's house. Whenever I would visit him, he would send me off with a big box of books from his library. This was one of them. It is a great history text that really gives a vivid and accurate accounting of African civilizations before Europeans appeared as conquerors( before that they were there as either slaves or as equals: European monarchs sent their children to the Universities at Timbuktu and Songhay to be educated; they intermarried with African nobility. It was only the invention of the gun that gave the Europeans the chutzpah to try and conquer another civilization). As I read this book when I was about 12 or 13 or 14, I dare not do much detailing. It is a beautiful hardcover book and is an invaluable collection to anyone's library.

Also worthy of mention:

Sex and Race series by J.A. Rogers


Mozart Guerrier said...

I like your blog.I'm going to create a link to my own.

I'm a big fan of all these authors.


Brandon said...