If you are in search of a good book, this month’s BLAC bookshelf has got you covered with five great titles. First up, UCLA professor, Dr. Safiya Umoja Noble’s book, Algorithms of Oppression is an eye-opening examination of the racism of online search engines. Tochi Onyebuchi’s intriguing story Goliath, set in 2050s New York, has themes of racism, social justice, and climate change that feel current. Los Angeles-based author Nefertiti Austin who writes about the erasure of diverse voices in motherhood shares her advice and journey as a single woman adopting through the foster care system in Motherhood So White. Tara Longfellow’s charming debut novel Memphis follows three generations of women and was selected as a Today Show book club pick, and critically acclaimed author, Kereen Getten, offers readers a heartfelt tale told through the eyes of a Jamaican girl in the YA novel If You Read This.
1. Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism
By Safiya Umoja Noble
New York Press, 248 pages
Data discrimination is a real social problem. In Algorithms of Oppression, Safiya Umoja Noble challenges the idea that search engines like Google offer an equal playing field for all forms of ideas, identities, and activities; Noble argues that the combination of private interests in promoting certain sites, along with the monopoly status of a relatively small number of Internet search engines, leads to a biased set of search algorithms that privilege whiteness and discriminate against people of color, specifically women of color.
Dr. Safiya U. Noble is an internet studies scholar and Professor of Gender Studies and African American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where she serves as the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry (C2i2). In 2021, she was recognized as a MacArthur Foundation Fellow for her ground-breaking work on algorithmic discrimination, which prompted her founding of a non-profit, Equity Engine, to accelerate investment in companies, education, and networks driven by women of color. In 2022, she was recognized as the inaugural NAACP Archwell Digital Civil Rights Award recipient.
By Tara M. Stringfellow
Random House Publishing Group, 272 pages
A spellbinding debut novel tracing three generations of a Southern Black family and one daughter’s discovery that she has the power to change her family’s legacy.
In the summer of 1995, ten-year-old Joan, her mother, and her younger sister flee her father’s anger, seeking refuge at her mother’s ancestral home in Memphis. Half a century ago, Joan’s grandfather built this majestic house in the historic Black neighborhood of Douglass-only to be lynched days after becoming the first Black detective in the city. This wasn’t the first time violence altered the course of the family’s trajectory, and as Joan settles into her new life, she soon discovers it won’t be the last. Longing to become an artist, Joan pours her rage and grief into sketching portraits. One of her subjects is their enigmatic neighbor Miss Dawn, who seems to know something about curses, and whose stories show Joan that her creativity, devotion, and relentless hope are the continuation of a long matrilineal tradition. Joan begins to understand that her life does not have to be defined by vengeance … that the sole instrument she needs for healing is her paintbrush. Unfolding over seventy years through a chorus of voices, Memphis weaves back and forth in time to explore the complexity of what we pass down, in a family and as a country: brutality and justice, faith and forgiveness, sacrifice and love. Poet, former attorney, Northwestern University MFA graduate, and semifinalist for the Fulbright Fellowship, Tara M. Stringfellow has written for Collective Unrest, Minerva Rising, Jet Fuel Review, WomensArts Quarterly Journal, and Apogee Journal, among other publications. After having lived in Okinawa, Ghana, Chicago, Cuba, Spain, Italy, and Washington DC, she moved back home to Memphis, where she sits on her porch swing every evening with her hound, Huckleberry, listening to records and chatting with neighbors.
3. Goliath: A Novel
By Tochi Onyebuchi
Tordotcom, 336 pages
In the 2050s, Earth has begun to empty. Those with the means and the privilege have departed the great cities of the United States for the more comfortable confines of space colonies. Those left behind salvage what they can from the collapsing infrastructure. As they eke out an existence, their neighborhoods are being cannibalized. Brick by brick, their houses are sent to the colonies, what was once a home now a quaint reminder for the colonists of the world that they wrecked.
A primal biblical epic flung into the future, Goliath weaves together disparate narratives―a space-dweller looking at New Haven, Connecticut as a chance to reconnect with his spiraling lover; a group of laborers attempting to renew the promises of Earth’s crumbling cities; a journalist attempting to capture the violence of the streets; a marshal trying to solve a kidnapping―into a richly urgent mosaic about race, class, gentrification, and who is allowed to be the hero of any history.
Tochi Onyebuchi’s other work includes Riot Baby. He was a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and NAACP Image Awards and winner of the New England Book Award for Fiction, the Ignyte Award for Best Novella, and the World Fantasy Award; the Beasts Made of Night series; and the War Girls series. His short fiction has appeared in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, The Year’s Best Science Fiction, and elsewhere. His non-fiction includes the book (S)kinfolk and has appeared in The New York Times, NPR, and the Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy, among other places. He earned degrees from Yale University, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Columbia Law School, and the Paris Institute of Political Studies. He currently resides in Connecticut.
4. Motherhood so White: A Memoir of Race, Gender and Parenting in America
By Nefertiti Austin
Sourcebooks, 304 pages
Author and memoirist, Nefertiti Austin shares her story of starting a family through adoption as a single Black woman. In this unflinching account of her parenting journey, Nefertiti examines the history of adoption in the African American community, faces off against stereotypes of single Black moms, and confronts the reality of what it looks like to raise children of color and answer their questions about racism in modern-day America.
Nefertiti Austin writes about the erasure of diverse voices in motherhood in the critically acclaimed Motherhood So White: A Memoir of Race, Gender and Parenting in America. Her work around this topic has appeared in the “New York Times”, “Washington Post”, “Huffington Post”, “MUTHA”, “Gen Medium”, and many other publications. She has appeared on numerous shows/podcasts, including “The Today Show”, “1A with Joshua Johnson”, and NPR. Nefertiti is the proud adoptive mother of two children and lives in Los Angeles.
5. Dream, My Child
by r.h. Sin
The Dream, My Child books is a lullaby that illustrates the importance of rest. Written from the perspective of parenthood, this beautifully drawn picture book guides little ones through the journey of dream exploration while sparking their imaginations. The lullaby follows Sin’s son, Graham, through his nightly travels to far-away places. Dream, My Child will captivate babies and toddlers as they drift into beautiful dreams of their own. The New York Times bestselling poet brings his signature poetic style to children’s publishing. Sin and New Zealand illustrator Janie Secker bring dreams to life in this stunning picture book and illustrate the importance of rest. This book is inspired by family, imagination, and the exploration of sleep. With beautiful illustrations by Secker, this picture book is bound to captivate babies and toddlers as they drift into their own beautiful dreams.