For Black History Month, I’m highlighting a few books by Black women authors about faith, spirituality, and communal thriving. Add them to your reading list!
In My Grandmother’s House by Yolanda Pierce
The church mothers who raised Yolanda Pierce, dean of Howard University School of Divinity, were busily focused on her survival. In a world hostile to Black women’s bodies and spirits, they had to be. Born on a former cotton plantation and having fled the terrors of the South, Pierce’s grandmother raised her in the faith inherited from those who were enslaved. Now, in the pages of In My Grandmother’s House, Pierce reckons with that tradition, building an everyday womanist theology rooted in liberating scriptures, experiences in the Black church, and truths from Black women’s lives. Pierce tells stories that center the experiences of those living on the underside of history, teasing out the tensions of race, spirituality, trauma, freedom, resistance, and memory.
The Lightmaker’s Manifesto by Karen Walrond
Leadership coach, lawyer, photographer, and activist Karen Walrond knows that when you care deeply about the world, light can seem hard to find. But when your activism grows out of your joy–and vice versa–you begin to see light everywhere.
In The Lightmaker’s Manifesto, Walrond helps us name the skills, values, and actions that bring us joy; identify the causes that spark our empathy and concern; and then put it all together to change the world. Creative and practical exercises, including journaling, daily intention-setting, and mindful self-compassion, are complemented by lively conversations with activists and thought leaders such as Valarie Kaur, Brené Brown, Tarana Burke, and Zuri Adele. With stories from around the world and wisdom from those leading movements for change, Walrond beckons readers toward lives of integrity, advocacy, conviction, and joy.
Unbossed by Khristi Lauren Adams
From Khristi Lauren Adams, author of the celebrated Parable of the Brown Girl, Unbossed is a hopeful and riveting inquiry into the lives of eight young Black women who are agitating for change and imagining a better world. Offering practical lessons in leadership, resilience, empathy, and tenacity, Unbossed includes profiles of the young Black women we will be reading about decades from now. Like their foremothers in earlier freedom movements, Black girls are transformational leaders. They are pacesetters, strategic thinkers, visionaries, mobilizers, activists, and more. Their stories may often be overlooked. But Black girls are leading the way.
Bipolar Faith by Monica A. Coleman
As it had for generations in her family before her, a heaviness hung over Monica Coleman throughout her young life. As an adult, this rising star in the academy saw career successes often fueled by the modulated highs of undiagnosed Bipolar II Disorder, as she hid deep depression that even her doctors skimmed past in disbelief. Serendipitous encounters with Black intellectuals like Henry Louis Gates Jr., Angela Davis, and Renita Weems were countered by long nights of stark loneliness. Only as Coleman began to face her illness was she able to live honestly and faithfully in the world. And in the process, she discovered a new and liberating vision of God.
Written in crackling prose, Monica’s spiritual autobiography examines her long dance with trauma, depression, and the threat of death in light of the legacies of slavery, war, sharecropping, poverty, and alcoholism that masked her family history of mental illness for generations.
The Enneagram for Black Liberation by Chichi Agorom
The Enneagram is an ancient system of human development that shows us the limiting stories that keep us stuck in unhelpful patterns, and invites us into more expansive stories. For too long, conversations about the Enneagram and its personality types have been centered on and by whiteness. In The Enneagram for Black Liberation, certified Enneagram teacher and trained psychotherapist Chichi Agorom reclaims the Enneagram as a powerful tool for Black women to rediscover our wholeness and worth that existed long before systems of supremacy told us we weren’t enough.
For Black women in particular, our Enneagram personality types reflect more than just our way of being in the world; they are shaped by armor that we use to protect ourselves from pain, suffering, and shame. Breaking down each Enneagram type as a form of armor, this book offers practices to help Black women, and all who live on the margins, begin to build a sense of self separate from our mechanisms of self-protection, while working to dismantle the systems that require us to stay constantly armored up. Chichi Agorom takes readers through each of the nine Enneagram types, along with stories of Black women who identify with them, to illustrate the stories people must tell themselves in order to feel safe. In the process, Agorom seeks to inspire us to expand beyond our type patterns.