Black History Month: Celebrating Black Joy

There’s a lot going on in our world that is stressful, unhappy, and unpleasant. So, instead of focusing on the more unsavory aspects of the world around us, these authors instead chose to look at the happy. The books on this list aren’t going to be 100% happy from cover to cover (after all, you need conflict to move a story along!), but the overall tone is upbeat and positive. Reading should accomplish one (or more) of three things: (1) It should educate; (2) It should teach empathy, (3) It should be an escape. And while stories with heavier topics and complex, messy endings are equally valid, sometimes you just want to enjoy something happy. And that’s what we’re going to look at today. And of course, in celebration of Black History Month, these books are all written by and feature people of color.

It’s almost Loretha Curry’s sixty-eighth birthday, and her life is pleasantly full. She has a booming beauty supply empire, a wonderful group of long-time friends, and her husband still manages to surprise her. Yes, she’s a bit heavier than she should be, but that’s only a minor thing. Despite what her mother, her twin sister, and everyone else tells her, It’s Not All Downhill from Here, and she refuses to fall prey to their outdated views of aging. But when an unexpected loss turns her world upside down, Loretha will have to summon her all her strength, resourcefulness, and determination to keep on thriving, pursue joy, heal old wounds, and chart new paths. With a little help from her friends, of course!

Xavier Moon prefers to stay in his bedroom, playing video games and avoiding the spotlight. He likes to watch the neighbors having conversations outside, but does not engage. But, for his twelfth birthday, he receives a pair of funky socks and a challenge from great-uncle Frankie, who tells this shy middle-schooler that it’s time to swag out and speak up. The challenge? Join the legendary Scepter League. Easier said than done, though. The Scepter League is the most-elite boys’ after-school club that only admits the most suave and confident young men. Surely, that’s not Xavier! But, his grandfather, great-uncle, and father were all part of the club, and even though Xavier has never had the confidence to apply, his cool new socks are certainly attracting some attention. This just might be the perfect chance to come out of the shadows and follow in the footsteps of the suave men who came before him. Or, perhaps it’s time for Xavier to forge his own path and try something completely new. The Swag is in the Socks is middle-grade fiction, but can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is the story of Alaine Beauparlant, and the very unusual trip she has following the incident (don’t ask) that results in her getting suspended from school, and sent to Haiti for a “spring volunteer immersion project”. Definitely not a vacation. But, that doesn’t mean that it’s all bad. Alaine might be toiling under the watchful eye of Tati Estelle, but she’s also learning a lot about herself and her Haitian roots in the process. Told through letters, articles, diary entries, and email, Alaine’s documented journey proves to be very different than she had hoped for, but certainly more rewarding. If you enjoyed this book, perhaps you would like to consider reading some other epistolary novels (or novels told through letters, emails, etc.) like the ones in this post, here.

While We were Dating is a steamy romantic comedy with a fun “fake dating” angle. Ben Stephens was never interested in a serious relationship. Casual dates were more fun, kept him busy, and helped him to drown out the family drama he’s been trying to ignore. But, things become complicated when he lands a huge ad campaign featuring Anna Gardiner, movie star. Anna is gorgeous and sexy, but also down to earth, considerate, and….well, a little flirting wouldn’t hurt, right? Anna is on a mission to make herself a household name. The ad campaign should be great for that, and it would give her something to distract herself with while in-between projects. Besides, the campaign manager Ben is really cute. and…well, a little flirting wouldn’t hurt, right? But while both parties are just having a little fun, the banter takes a more serious turn. Ben helps Anna with a family emergency and the two reveal truths about themselves that they’ve barely shared with anyone. And then, there comes the perfect opportunity to turn their innocent fling into something for the Hollywood spotlight. But, will Ben be content to slip into the background when it’s all over, as movie star Anna moves on to bigger and better things? And what about Anna? Should she just turn to the next project, or will it be that Ben is exactly the man she needs for the perfect Hollywood ending?

Samiah Brooks never thought she’d be “that” girl. But, her personal life (and deep embarrassment) is now all over the internet, when a live tweet of a horrific date reveals that she’s been catfished by a three-timing jerk. Now, Samiah and the two other “girlfriends,” London and Taylor have gone viral. It can’t possibly get any worse than this. In the wake of these new revelations, the three women decide to spend six months in self-improvement–and they intend to do it without the distractions or heartbreak that comes from dating. And it’s great–at first. Finally, Samiah is making herself a priority. She’s working on that app she always dreamed of creating. Perhaps six months of singleness are just what she needed. Enter Daniel Collins. Her new coworker is handsome, honey-eyed, and totally sexy. What are the chances? However, as Samiah will soon learn, when it comes to love, there is no such thing as a coincidence. But after her last relationship went down in flames, Samiah has to ask herself that all important question: is Daniel really boyfriend material? Or is he too good to be true? The Boyfriend Project is a sweet, sexy, and heartwarming romance that readers are sure to love.

Emoni Santiago is a Black-Latina high school student, caring for her young daughter and her aging abuela (as though high school weren’t tough enough!). Despite the heavy responsibilities and tough decisions she makes every day, Emoni finds solace and freedom in her kitchen, where she can add a little something magical to everything she cooks, making amazing dishes for everyone to enjoy. Emoni’s dream is to be a professional chef. But, she doesn’t have time to join the school’s new culinary arts class. And she doesn’t have the money for her class’s trip to Spain. And she certainly shouldn’t entertain big dreams of working in a real kitchen someday. There are just too many things that she has to do. But, even with all the rules she has for her life, and all the rules that others have imposed upon her as well, once Emoni starts cooking, there is nothing that can stop her; and her only choice is to let her talents break free. With the Fire on High is a complex, but ultimately hopeful tale of food, family, and following your heart.

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Erin

I'm the Reader's Advisory Librarian at WPPL. My interests include old horror films, classic novels, manga and anime, paper-crafting, and plants. If you like my suggestions, you can request personalized recommendations from me on My Librarian page.