12 Books To Read During Black History Month

Despite Stacey Dash’s nonsensical statements, Black History Month (BHM) is in fact still happening this year and what better way to celebrate than with some reading. Check out this list of books, both fiction and nonfiction, to help you feel empowered, make you laugh, and get motivated to change the world.

1. How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston

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Source: Harper

Start your BHM right by learning “how to be Black”. Thurston’s book of satirical essays that discuss how to be the best Black person you can be will keep you laughing and shaking your head at it’s realness.

2. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

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Source: Simon & Schuster

Queen of Shondland, Shonda Rhimes has found success in a medium that has never been that open to women of color. Learn about how for one year Rhimes said yes to every opportunity that came her way and how it changed her life.

3. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Source: Anchor

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah centers around a young Nigerian couple who are separated but come back togethers 15 years later and rediscover their love for each other and their homeland.

4. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

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Source: Spiegel & Grau

Written as a letter to his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates dives into what it means to be Black in America, both in the present and in America’s history. Looking at his life experiences, Coates takes a hard look at race in America and what could be improved for the future.

5. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

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Source: Random House

Filled with heart wrenching moments that will make you both angry and sad, Maya Angelou tells the story of her life with honesty and understanding. However, this book isn’t a sad story about what happened to her but instead an uplifting story about how she was set free.

6. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X

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Source: Ballantine Books

From his childhood to his time in jail to his full dive into Islam, Malcolm X fully opens up about his ideals and how the American Dream doesn’t really include Black people. Whether you think his ideas are too extreme or not, they’ll definitely make you think.

7. Monster by Walter Dean Myers

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Source: HarperCollins

Written as a screenplay, this novel follows Steve Harmon, a teenage boy in juvenile detention awaiting trial. Winner of multiple awards, this shocking story demonstrates how one decision can completely alter someone’s life.

8. The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae

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Source: Atria

In this collection of hilarious essays, Issae Rae, creator of the YouTube hit, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, discusses her experiences as a creator of a YouTube show, dealing with people’s unwanted commentary, and rocking her natural hair.

9. Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan

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Source: Signet

Before it became an amazing film, Waiting to Exhale was a bestselling novel. Centered around four black women, each of whom are going through their own relationship trials, this book tells the story of the undeniable bonds that friends share.

10. Beloved by Toni Morrison

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Source: Vintage

This classic novel tells the story of Sethe, a woman who escaped slavery 18 years ago but is still running from the ghosts she thought she left behind there. Filled with suspense, this isn’t just a story about slavery but a story about a mother who’s still being haunted.

11. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

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Source: Mariner Books

A tale about two sisters that are separated for years, The Color Purple is a classic that has since been turned into a movie and musical. Thought provoking, heart breaking, and inspiring this story is worth a read, and even a second if you’ve read it before.

12. Dear White People by Justin Simien

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Source: Atria

Answering questions such as, “Am I the token Black friend?” or “Was that a microaggression?” Dear White People is the ultimate guide to living in “post-racial” America.

 

Five Great Book-To-Film Adaptations

*This is a guest post written by Shant Istamboulian, writer of Shantipedia. Check out his awesome post and fantastic blog. Thursdays are guest post day. If you would like to be featured email toborroworbuy@gmail.com.*
the color purple

Adapting popular books into films has always been a popular idea. Since the silent era, filmmakers have reached into the publishing realm to inspire their vision. D.W. Griffith’s infamous and controversial movie, The Birth of a Nation, was based on Thomas Dixon, Jr.’s equally incendiary novel (later play) The Clansman, while Cecil B. DeMille used the Bible as the impetus for his 1927 film based on the life of Christ, King of Kings.

Classics ranging from Ben-Hur (the silent version and the Oscar-winning masterpiece starring Charlton Heston) to Gone with the Wind, were all based on best-selling books that entertained and challenged readers young and old alike.

The trend continued this past weekend with the release of Paper Towns, the popular YA novel by The Fault of Our Stars writer John Green, while later in the year we’ll see the release of the eagerly anticipated final chapter in the blockbuster Hunger Games franchise, Mockingjay—Part II.

Books are constantly being turned into movies, sometimes great, sometimes not, but in the past 30 years there’s definitely been some standouts. Here’s my top five.

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The Color Purple (1985, based on the book by Alice Walker)

When screenwriter Menno Meyjes set out to adapt the Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name, he was met with a tall order. Alice Walker’s piece is structured as a collection of letters written by protagonist Celie (played by Whoopi Goldberg in the film). How do you turn that into a feature film screenplay? The unenviable task was handled with care by Meyjes and the resulting film is touching and powerful from first frame to last and proved to be a classic example of how to adapt tricky material. Filled with wonderful performances by a great cast, including Danny Glover and Oprah Winfrey in early, career boosting roles, The Color Purple also had the distinction of providing a bridge for Steven Spielberg to segue from blockbuster filmmaking to more prestige films which would later include Empire of the Sun, Schindler’s List, and Saving Private Ryan.

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FANTASTIC MR. FOX (2009, based on the book by Roald Dahl)

Roald Dahl was a children’s writer but his books always contained an edge missing from others published in its day. This is why adapting his books has never been easy as filmmakers desperately try to toe the line between the sweet and salty. Most Dahl adaptations are serviceable at the very best. (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is considered a cult classic but a great adaptation of a Dahl book it is not.) The one filmmaker to successfully translate Dahl’s voice from page to screen was Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel). His version of The Fantastic Mr. Fox is a great time, thanks to wonderful stop-motion animation, a collection of star talent (George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray) that gets the material, and the perfect blending of tastes between author and filmmaker. Anderson’s style is not for everyone, but I dare you to watch this Fox without a smile on your face.

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GONE GIRL (2014, based on the book by Gillian Flynn)

It’s rare for an author to adapt their own book into a screenplay. Rarer still is for them to knock it out of the park as Gillian Flynn did with her script to her dark page-turner. Working with David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club), Flynn perfectly eliminates all the fat from her novel to deliver a tautly-paced stunner that never lets up, even to those who read the book (the “shock” moment in the book’s climax still managed to get me in the silver screen version). The Gone Girl script serves as a master class on how to adapt a popular novel and it was unfortunate that the Academy failed to nominate Flynn for a much deserved Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar (she would’ve deserved the win, too).

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JACKIE BROWN (1997, based on the novel Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard)

Crime novelist Elmore Leonard always seemed like the bridesmaid when his work was adapted into films. While some of his westerns (3:10 to Yuma, Hombre) became minor classics, his crime novels never turned out the way you expected. Anyone remember 52 Pick-Up or Cat Chaser? It wasn’t until the late nineties when a trio of his books were turned into films that are now modern classics. Between 1995’s Get Shorty and 1998’s Out of Sight, Quentin Tarantino adapted his comic thriller Rum Punch into Jackie Brown. The brilliance of Jackie Brown is how Tarantino made the source material completely his own, changing protagonist Jackie Burke, a white, blonde-haired Miami flight attendant, to Jackie Brown, a black Los Angeles-based woman, while still retaining Leonard’s voice. Jackie Brown was Tarantino’s follow-up to Pulp Fiction so it didn’t get the proper attention it deserves, but with outstanding turns by Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton, Robert De Niro, Bridget Fonda, and the one and only Pam Grier (in the role of her career), who makes magic with co-star Robert Forster in his Oscar-nominated role, this is a must watch. Better yet, read Rum Punch before watching Jackie Brown and marvel at Tarantino’s achievement.

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MISERY (1990, based on the book by Stephen King)

A Stephen King film adaptation comes around almost every year but none have reached the perfection that is Misery. Director Rob Reiner tackled King for the second time (after Stand by Me) with a little help from Oscar-winning screenwriter William Goldman (All the President’s Men) to deliver a sometimes darkly comic, mostly chilling take on what it means to take fandom to its limits. James Caan (as novelist Paul Sheldon) and Kathy Bates (as his “number one fan” Annie Wilkes) are superb, playing the ultimate game of one upmanship. Goldman (against his will) even managed to soften the novel’s most brutal moment (SPOILER ALERT: in the book Annie chops off Sheldon’s foot and cauterizes the wound) without sacrificing its integrity and created an iconic moment in the interim. Bates won a well-deserved Oscar for Best Actress and her performance still tingles the spine.

10 Movies To Watch During BHM

There’s no better time to catch up on your Black Pop Culture than during Black History Month. Whether it’s a historically based film or a comedy, “black” films tend to be underrated. If you haven’t seen these films before now’s as good a time as any to see what you’ve been missing.

1. The Best Man

The 90s were a great time for Black films. This film is a hilarious dramedy focusing on Harper, a novelist, who’s recently written a book based on his college days. However, the books contains a secret that Harper has been hiding from his best friend, Lance, who is about to get married. Filled with a very attractive cast this movie will have you laughing, crying, and gasping all the way through.

2. The Wood

1999 was clearly a good year for films that revolved around a wedding and a group of guys. Friends, Mike, Slim, and Roland, reminiscence on their high school days (shown in flashbacks) as Roland prepares to get married (or maybe not). Showing the hilarity of a man (or boy’s) mind this one is definitely a goodie.

3. Love &  Basketball

Seriously, if you haven’t seen this film before I just can’t. I love this movie. Following two kids from the first day they meet on the basketball court all the way through their college years we get to see all the drama, laughs, and fights that define their relationship. As they say in the film, “Nothing’s fair in love and basketball.”

4. Remember the Titans

Again, another movie everyone should watch. Classic film. What I love about this movie is it deals with the issues of segregation in a way that keeps people interested but also makes it clear that this isn’t just for entertainment. This film tells the story of integration and how a football team was able to bring together two different groups of people in a way that hadn’t been done in that town before. Amazing.

5. The Great Debaters

Another amazingly moving film. This film not only has a great cast (Denzel Washington and Forest Whittaker amongst so many others) but was also directed by Washington and produced by Oprah Winfrey. The movie itself is great because it deals with a time that many don’t talk about. The time between the Reconstruction Period and the start of the Civil Rights movement. It has been argued that the civil rights movement started long before Martin Luther King, Jr. was around and I think this movie kind of shows that. Many stories of African-Americans doing great things has been lost to an American history that lacks color. The thing that I love most about this movie is it shows people there’s more to Black History than just the big names. There’s so many others that have been forgotten and people need to be reminded of that.

6. The Butler

If you’re looking for something a little more recent this movie was fantastic. Forest Whittaker and Oprah Winfrey did a great job in this movie. What makes it so inspiring is it shows two different generations of African-Americans: one who grew up being taught to be silent and respect the white man and one who challenged those ideas. I still can’t believe it didn’t get nominated for any Oscar. A shame.

7. The Color Purple

Based on the novel written by Alice Walker, this film tells the story of Celie, along with many other African-American women during the 1930s. The story demonstrates the trials these women faced, how they overcame them, and how some didn’t. I think this movie gets a bad rap sometimes because it’s not the easiest movie to watch but that’s because it deals with tough issues that can make people feel uncomfortable. However, I think it’s a great film and the musical was awesome as well, though it’s sadly no longer running.

8. Coming to America

I love Eddie Murphy. I think he is absolutely hilarious and talented. Playing multiple roles in this movie, he shows the story of a African prince traveling to America to find his Queen which of course leads him to Queens, NY. Naturally hilarity ensues as Prince Akeem (Murphy) pretends to be a normal American and falls in love.

9. Friday

Out of the whole trilogy (though supposedly they’re making a fourth one) this is the funniest one. Ice Cube and Chris Tucker make a hilarious pair. These two friends go through their Friday running from gangsters trying to kill them, trying to get money, and just plain trying to survive. These two are hilarious as is the whole cast. Definitely a movie to watch.

10. Set It Off

Last but certainly not least is Set It Off. This cast is filled with four amazing black actresses. The premise is four women getting even with a system that they feel is against them and in a way most certainly is. Obviously I’m not saying robbing banks was the best solution but it definitely makes for a good movie. A must see!

There are way more films that could be added to this list but for now I’ll leave you with these. Definitely try to expand your horizons this Black History Month by not only watching movies but actually learning about black history. Enjoy!