To demonstrate our power and clout in the publishing industry, Saturday June 13 – Saturday June 20, we encourage you to purchase any two books by Black writers. Our goal is to Blackout bestseller lists with Black voices. #BlackoutBestsellerlist #Blackpublishingpower ✊🏾✊🏿✊🏽 pic.twitter.com/xHfmCeVwwU
— Amistad Books (@AmistadBooks) June 14, 2020
As readers nationwide rally in support of Black lives, Amistad Press has launched the hashtag campaign #BlackoutBestsellerlist and #Blackpublishingpower in an effort to uplift Black authors and book professionals. From Saturday June 13 – Saturday June 20, readers are encouraged to purchase any two books by Black writers with the goal of Blacking out bestseller lists with Black voices. In light of this campaign, we’re spotlighting 7 powerful titles from our Bolden imprint.
The Last Thing You Surrender and Grant Park by Leonard J. Pitts
Read: Q&A with Leonard Pitts, Jr.
In The Last Thing You Surrender, an affluent white marine survives Pearl Harbor at the cost of a black messman’s life only to be sent, wracked with guilt, to the Pacific and taken prisoner by the Japanese . . . a young black woman, widowed by the same events at Pearl, finds unexpected opportunity and a dangerous friendship in a segregated Alabama shipyard feeding the war . . . a black man, who as a child saw his parents brutally lynched, is conscripted to fight Nazis for a country he despises and discovers a new kind of patriotism in the all-black 761st Tank Battalion.
Set against a backdrop of violent racial conflict on both the front lines and the home front, The Last Thing You Surrender explores the powerful moral struggles of individuals from a divided nation. What does it take to change someone’s mind about race? What does it take for a country and a people to move forward, transformed?
Grant Park begins in 1968 with Martin Luther King’s final days in Memphis. The story then moves to the eve of the 2008 election, and cuts between the two eras. Disillusioned columnist Malcolm Toussaint, fueled by yet another report of unarmed black men killed by police, hacks into his newspaper’s server to post an incendiary column that had been rejected by his editors. Toussaint then disappears, and his longtime editor, Bob Carson, is summarily fired within hours of the column’s publication.
While a furious Carson tries to find Toussaint—while simultaneously dealing with the reappearance of a lost love from his days as a 60s activist—Toussaint is abducted by two white supremacists plotting to explode a bomb at Barack Obama’s planned rally in Chicago’s Grant Park. Toussaint and Carson are forced to remember the choices they made as young men, when both their lives were changed profoundly by their work in the civil rights movement.
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James
The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty. That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good: lesser grades turn into As; girls take notice; even a mother’s hug gets a little tighter. Everyone notices.
A fresh cut makes boys fly.
This rhythmic, read-aloud title is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair—a tradition that places on their heads a figurative crown, beaming with jewels, that confirms their brilliance and worth and helps them not only love and accept themselves but also take a giant step toward caring how they present themselves to the world. The fresh cuts. That’s where it all begins.
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Freshwater Road by Denise Nicholas
Read: Denise Nichols interviewed on NPR about Freshwater Road.
When University of Michigan sophomore Celeste Tyree travels to Mississippi to volunteer her efforts in Freedom Summer, she’s assigned to help register voters in the small town of Pineyville, a place best known for a notorious lynching that occurred only a few years earlier. As the long, hot summer unfolds, Celeste befriends several members of the community, but there are also those who are threatened by her and the change that her presence in the South represents. Finding inner strength as she helps lift the veil of oppression and learns valuable lessons about race, social change, and violence, Celeste prepares her adult students for their showdown with the county registrar. All the while, she struggles with loneliness, a worried father in Detroit, and her burgeoning feelings for Ed Jolivette, a young man also in Mississippi for the summer.
By summer’s end, Celeste learns there are no easy answers to the questions that preoccupy her—about violence and nonviolence, about race, identity, and color, and about the strength of love and family bonds. In Freshwater Road, Denise Nicholas has created an unforgettable story that—more than ten years after first appearing in print—continues to be one of the most cherished works of Civil Rights fiction.
Justice While Black by Robbin Shipp and Nick Chiles
Watch: Nick Chiles and Robbin Shipp interviewed on C-SPAN about Justice While Black.
Justice While Black is a must-read for every young black male in America—and for everyone else who cares about their survival and well-being. This is a first-of-its-kind essential guide for African-American families about how to understand the criminal justice system, and about why that system continues to see black men as targets—and as dollar signs.
The book provides practical, straightforward advice on how to deal with specific legal situations: the threat of arrest, being arrested, being in custody, preparing for and undergoing a trial, and navigating the appeals and parole process. The primary goal of this book is to become a primer for African Americans on how to avoid becoming ensnared in the criminal justice system.
While the precarious safety of black males has received renewed interest in the past year because of the deaths of teenagers Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, the fact is that this group has always been under threat from the armed guardians of the white social order. The tactics have been modernized, but the impact is still devastating—we are witnessing an epic criminalization of the African-American community at levels never before seen since the end of slavery.
How to Slowly Kill Yourself in America by Kiese Laymon
Watch: NPR Coverage of How to Slowly Kill Yourself in America and Kiese Laymon’s “Overdue Success”
In How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, Laymon deals in depth with his own personal story, which is filled with trials (and reflections on those trials) that illuminate under-appreciated aspects of contemporary American life. As revealed in the book’s title essay, Laymon attended three colleges before earning his undergraduate degree. He was suspended from the first of these institutions, Millsaps College, following a probationary period resulting from a controversial essay he published on campus. As the school’s president described it, the “Key Essay in question was written by Kiese Laymon, a controversial writer who consistently editorializes on race issues.” Controversy seemed to follow this young writer, but as he himself puts it, “my job is to ask questions, to broaden the scope of American literature by broadening the scope of who is written to and imaginatively writes back.”
Someone Has Led This Child to Believe by Regina Louise
Watch: Regina Louise on Good Morning America
After years of jumping from one fleeting, often abusive home to the next, Louise meets a counselor named Jeanne Kerr. For the first time in her young life, Louise knows what it means to be seen, wanted, understood, and loved. After Kerr tries unsuccessfully to adopt Louise, the two are ripped apart—seemingly forever—and Louise continues her passage through the cold cinder-block landscape of a broken system, enduring solitary confinement, overmedication, and the actions of adults who seem hell-bent on convincing her that she deserves nothing, that she is nothing. But instead of losing her will to thrive, Louise remains determined to achieve her dream of a higher education. After she ages out of the system, Louise is thrown into adulthood and, haunted by her trauma, struggles to finish school, build a career, and develop relationships. As she puts it, it felt impossible “to understand how to be in the world.”
Eventually, Louise learns how to confront her past and reflect on her traumas. She starts writing, quite literally, a new future for herself, a new way to be. Louise weaves together raw, sometimes fragmented memories, excerpts from real documents from her case file, and elegant reflections to tell the story of her painful upbringing and what came after. The result is a rich, engrossing account of one abandoned girl’s efforts to find her place in the world, people to love, and people to love her back.
Leonard Pitts, Jr., is the author of the novels Grant Park, Freeman, and Before I Forget, as well as two works of nonfiction. He is a nationally syndicated columnist for the Miami Herald and winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, in addition to many other awards. Born and raised in Southern California, Pitts lives in Maryland outside Washington, DC.
Derrick Barnes, a graduate of Jackson State University, is the author of eight books, including the popular series Ruby and the Booker Boys. He also wrote best-selling copy for Hallmark as the first African American male staff writer for the company. Barnes resides in Charlotte, North Carolina, with his wife and four sons.
Gordon C. James, a graduate of the School of Visual Arts, is a nationally recognized, award-winning fine artist specializing in figurative drawing. He is the illustrator of the Scraps of Time children’s book series. He has worked for Hallmark as an illustrator and artist and has taught at the University of North Carolina. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Denise Nicholas is an actor and writer who has appeared in numerous films and TV shows including Room 222 (for which she earned two Golden Globe nominations) and In the Heat of the Night, for which she wrote six episodes. She received two Emmy Awards for the PBS special Voices of Our People: In Celebration of African American Poetry as well as four NAACP Image awards for her work over the years.
Robbin Shipp, Esq., is an attorney in Decatur, Georgia. She lives in Atlanta with her daughter. Nick Chiles has won more than a dozen major journalism awards, including a Pulitzer Prize as a newspaper reporter in New York City. He is the author or co-author of 12 books, including two New York Times bestsellers, one co-written with Rev. Al Sharpton and one with gospel superstar Kirk Franklin. He lives in Atlanta.
Kiese Laymon is an American writer, editor and a professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi. He is the author of three full-length books: a novel, Long Division, and two memoirs, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America and Heavy.
Regina Louise is the author of Somebody’s Someone, which chronicles her journey through foster care. The one-woman stage adaptation of the book debuted at the Sacramento Theatre Company and was nominated for two NAACP Theatre Awards. Her story, which is in film production, has been featured on All Things Considered, the BBC, and The Early Show, among others. Louise is a leadership coach in human services, a Hoffman Process teaching candidate, and the winner of an Adoption Excellence Award from the Administration for Children and Families. She is also a trauma-informed trainer who advocates on behalf of foster youth and their emotional permanency. She lives in Northern California.