A Juneteenth Reading List by Local Authors You Need to Know

Happy Juneteenth! When we first thought of compiling a reading list for the holiday, we ran into two problems. First, not everyone knows what Juneteenth is or what it represents. Second, there’s no way we’re even close to being the leading experts on what it means to celebrate black history and identity. To make a long story short, we asked local authors, whose work we admire and who engage the community, to share their favorite books that celebrate everything that goes into Juneteenth.

We urge everyone to understand the origins and meaning of this holiday, because it’s very important to our local history. As an indie bookstore, it’s our duty to spread knowledge about Houston’s literary community and uplift the voices within it, and the writers below represent a big facet of that. Below is a fantastic list that we cannot wait to share.


Amanda Johnston

Author of two chapbooks, GUAP and Lock & Key, and the full-length collection Another Way to Say Enter. Her poetry and interviews have appeared in numerous online and print publications. The recipient of multiple Artist Enrichment grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women and the Christina Sergeyevna Award from the Austin International Poetry Festival, she is a member of the Affrilachian Poets and a Cave Canem graduate fellow. Johnston is a Stonecoast MFA faculty member, a cofounder of Black Poets Speak Out, and founding executive director of Torch Literary Arts. She serves on the Cave Canem Foundation board of directors

"When I think of Juneteenth, I think of the promise of freedom and all that was erected to block that promise and all that has been done to push through, dig around, and climb over those blockades. These collections are shovels of light and hammers of resistance driving toward that same promise of freedom, still, in 2018. These poets and their urgent works are the necessary truth pulsing at the heart of our celebration."

In the Language of My Captor Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9780819577115
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Wesleyan University Press - February 7th, 2017

"These poems fork an oppressive tongue into jig and meaning. Read carefully before speaking on the surface of each line."


American Happiness Cover Image
$21.95
ISBN: 9781588383273
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: NewSouth Books - October 1st, 2016

"This is poetry as ointment for the American condition. Read for what ails your past and future history."


My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781608467679
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Haymarket Books - May 30th, 2017

"Mothers leave daughters maps into the world and deeper into self. This collection is a hymn of survival."


The Breakbeat Poets Vol. 2: Black Girl Magic Cover Image
By Jamila Woods (Editor), Mahogany L. Browne (Editor), Idrissa Simmonds (Editor)
$19.95
ISBN: 9781608468577
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Haymarket Books - April 17th, 2018

"Black women writing unapologetically free. Read this and get your life!"


Jonathan Moody

 Author of Olympic Butter Gold and The Doomy Poems. His poetry has appeared in African American Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Borderlands, The Common, among other publications, and is forthcoming in Harvard Review Online


My Bondage and My Freedom Cover Image
By Frederick Douglass, John David Smith (Introduction by), John David Smith (Notes by)
$16.00
ISBN: 9780140439182
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Classics - February 4th, 2003

"When I was sixteen, I encountered My Bondage And My Freedom and took note of how Douglass decimated the patronizing myth/oxymoron of the “benevolent” slave master. Twenty-three years later, the scene of a young Douglass tricking his slave master’s son into teaching him how to read still lingers as a testament to how reading is a subversive act that can liberate minds."


Liara Tamani

Author of Calling My Name. She holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College and a BA from Duke University.


The Collected Works of Phillis Wheatley (Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers) Cover Image
$24.99
ISBN: 9780195060850
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Oxford University Press, USA - December 1st, 1989

"It’s hard to talk about the beauty and importance of this book in a few sentences. For those who may not know, Phillis Wheatley was the first African-American to publish a book. Although she was a slave, her poetry was famous. Through her poems and letters, we get a glimpse of her life…of her dreams…of her struggle for freedom for herself and others."


The Souls of Black Folk (Restless Classics) Cover Image
By W. E. B. Du Bois, Vann R. Newkirk, II (Introduction by), Steve Prince (Illustrator)
$19.99
ISBN: 9781632060976
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Restless Books - February 14th, 2017

"There is so much history and wisdom in this book of essays. Although written at the beginning of the twentieth century, the double consciousness that DuBois explores in this book is still the experience of many black Americans today. It’s a classic."


The Bluest Eye (Vintage International) Cover Image
$14.95
ISBN: 9780307278449
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - May 8th, 2007

"This is the novel that made me fall in love with writing as a teen. It was the first book I saw myself in. I was drawn to the beauty of the language and the exploration of a young black girl’s internalization of the white beauty standard."


Cane Cover Image
By Jean Toomer, Rudolph P. Byrd (Afterword by), Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Afterword by)
$15.95
ISBN: 9780871402103
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Liveright - June 13th, 2011

"I love the structure of this book—songs, poems, stories, and sketches beautifully woven together in celebration of black culture. It’s so rich and soulful."


Calling My Name Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780062656865
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Greenwillow Books - October 24th, 2017

"Yes, it’s my own book but I’m not just shamelessly plugging it. :) Calling My Name has a whole chapter that takes place at a Juneteenth Festival, so it’s fitting for this list. And it explores the interior life of a young black girl growing up in the suburbs in the South, a very common African-American experience but one not explored a lot in literature."


Ebony Stewart

Author of Home, Girl, Hood. Stewart is a touring performance artist and slam poet who has been active in the central Texas slam poetry scene and theater community for over a decade.


Liliane: A Novel Cover Image
$20.99
ISBN: 9780312644109
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Griffin - October 11th, 2011

"Let's be honest, anything this woman writes is gold. This particular body of work explores mental health and childhood memories within the black culture (more specifically black womyn) as a way to discourage the negative stereotype."


God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse Cover Image
By James Weldon Johnson, Maya Angelou (Introduction by), Henry Louis Gates (Editor)
$15.00
ISBN: 9780143105411
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Classics - May 27th, 2008

"The short book of poems reads like a prayer, hymnal, and praise. These sermons of poetry are moving and speak to the tradition of surviving."


Between the World and Me Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780812993547
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Spiegel & Grau - July 14th, 2015

"Say or feel how you want about the author... but you can not deny the way he bends and folds the complexity of the black man and the way America romanticizes their death. The book really exist as a way to humanize and have compassion for black men. The book itself reminded me a lot of James Baldwin's If Beale Street Could Talk."


Home. Girl. Hood. Cover Image
$15.00
ISBN: 9780989009263
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Timber Mouse - February 7th, 2018

"Many authors write from a place of knowing. In Home.Girl.Hood, [I] strive to 'figure it out' with the reader. An honest young girl growing woman as a vulnerable & transparent poet."


Bryan Washington

Author of Lot, coming out from Riverhead in 2019. His fiction and nonfiction have been published in the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, BuzzFeed, New York Magazine, The Paris Review, Boston Review, Tin House, One Story, Bon Appétit, MUNCHIES, American Short Fiction, GQ, FADER, The Awl, Hazlitt, and Catapult, where he writes a column called “Bayou Diaries”.


Life on Mars: Poems Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781555975845
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graywolf Press - May 10th, 2011

"Smith sees between the cracks, beyond the stars, and through the seams; her third collection has been a marvel and a light since 2011."


Black Deutschland: A Novel Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781250117977
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Picador - February 7th, 2017

"Pinckney's opus of a young gay guy volleys between life in Chicago, and his travails in Berlin –– consequently, the novel is a wonder and a force. There's hardly anything else like it."


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