These are the books I read in February in celebration of Black History Month

In celebration of Black History Month, I began the month reading as many books by Black authors as I could


Joya Haskin

Books I read in honor of Black History Month ranked from favorite to least favorite.

Black History Month was originally proposed by Black educators and the Black United Students at Kent State University and became nationally recognized in 1976. It is celebrated in the month of February in Canada and the United States. The U.K. celebrates it another month of the year.

In celebration of Black History Month, I tried to read as many books by Black authors as I could.

To begin my month off strong, I reread a favorite of mine from last year: Pet by Akaeke Emezi. Pet was the February pick for Mead’s Book Club (we meet at the Mead Town Hall every last Friday of the month).

I read Pet for the first time last year and was so glad to read it again. The book is about a young girl named Jam who has been raised in the town of Lucille to believe that monsters no longer exist in Lucille because the angels (good humans, not the religious kind) got rid of them all. However, when Jam accidentally brings her mother’s painting of a terrifying creature to life, Jam is unsure what to do. The creature, called Pet, claims it’s in Lucille to hunt a monster. The situation gets even more confusing to Jam when she is told that the monster resides in the House of Redemption, Jam’s best friend. How can anyone save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?

Pet discusses so many different and important topics in so few pages (only 200 pages) and is written in a style similar to the spoken word. This book does a great job about commenting on victim blaming and how appearances can be a lie. Pet looks like a monster, yet it’s the one hunting the monster present in Lucille. Humans may not look like monsters, but sometimes, they are the truest monsters of all.

I would recommend this book to anyone that wants a short, but impactful read. I gave the book a 9/10 on my rating scale or a 5/5 stars on a normal rating scale. Here is a list of trigger warnings for the book as well as a list for representation in the book.

In the month of February, I also read Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo.

This book is probably my favorite book of the year so far. This book is told in verse (poetic stanzas instead of paragraphs) from two perspectives, Camino and Yahaira. Camino lives in the Dominican Republic while Yahaira lives in New York. The two girls are sisters and do not know about each other until the death of their father brings them together.

This book was a beautiful story and has made Acevedo a favorite author of mine. I read Acevedo’s other novels (The Poet X and With the Fire on High) last year and am now all caught up with the author’s works. I can’t fully explain how much I connected to these characters.

This book discusses different cultures and how location itself can be a privilege because oftentimes opportunities are not available to someone because of where they live.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone and gave this book a 9.71/10 on my rating scale or a 5/5 stars on a normal rating scale. Here is a list of trigger warnings for and the types of representation in this book.

To continue to celebrate Black History Month, I read the January release Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas. Concrete Rose is the prequel book to The Hate U Give, which took the world by storm upon its release in 2017.

Concrete Rose takes place seventeen years before The Hate U Give and follows Maverick Carter, Starr’s (the main character of The Hate U Give) father as he finds out that he’s going to be a parent at seventeen. Maverick has to try to navigate school and be a father while he works on trying to make money to help provide for his mother and son. Maverick is a member of one of the gangs in Garden Heights, having joined for his protection after his father went to jail, and he can’t leave because it could cost him his life.

I think that the exclusion of teen parenthood from many media sources keeps some people from seeing themselves and connecting to characters in the mediums they consume. I think Concrete Rose handles both the topic of teen parenthood and of gang politics really well because neither are as simple or easy to understand as some people make them out to be.

Maverick is just a boy forced to become a man too early — not just because he became a father, but because he is Black — just like so many of the Black boys in Maverick’s world and in the real world. This book made me think and feel things that I was not prepared to feel. Just like The Hate U Give, Concrete Rose is an important book for individuals to read to help understand some of the biases and stereotypes that are consistently placed in the media when it comes to Black individuals. Thomas humanizes Black men in this book, and it is important for people to remember that Black men are still men and are still human.

This book got a 9.79/10 on my rating scale or a 5/5 stars on a normal rating scale. The trigger warnings include teen pregnancy, absent father position, gang violence, gun violence, death, drug dealing, racism, drug use, incarceration, death of a loved one, grief, mentions of medical procedures, mentions of abortion, and severe poverty.

For the final book of this review, I read Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers.

Honey Girl is classified as an adult romance contemporary, however, it is not a stereotypical steamy adult romance contemporary. It is mostly focused on the feelings aspect of love. This book is about a woman named Grace Porter who goes to Las Vegas to celebrate getting her PhD in astronomy and ends up getting drunkenly married to a woman she doesn’t even know the name of. Grace later goes to New York to meet the woman she married and tries to figure out herself and what she actually wants to do with her life now that she’s out of school.

I’m going to be completely honest and say that this book was not entirely what I’d expected it to be. From what I had heard about this book, I was expecting there to be a lot more romance, but this book focuses more on mental health and Grace trying to figure out her life. Grace and many other characters have some form of mental illness that affects them. Panic attacks also occur, just so you’re warned.

Grace is a biracial lesbian and essentially all of her friends are either a person of color, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, or both. This book definitely hits on diversity because there are so many different types of people from different communities. This made it really enjoyable to read about. Being half Black and being a member of the LGBTQ+ community has made Grace’s life (when it comes to academics and trying to find a job) difficult because the astronomy field is mostly dominated by white men. Grace does have to navigate that, which is hard.

Overall, I did enjoy this book despite my unmet expectations. Grace grows throughout the novel, learning more and more about herself and the society she lives in. She’s unapologetically Black and queer, and I strongly feel that is something that we need to see more of in the media.

I gave this novel a 7.39/10 with my rating system or a 4/5 stars on a normal rating scale. The trigger warnings include on-page mentions and actions of self harm and panic attacks, depression, sexual intercourse, racism, homophobia, toxic relationships, mentions of a suicide attempt, emotional and physical abuse, child abuse, biphobia, drug use, therapy, and the death of a parent.

Though this was a goal of mine for the month of February, it is important to remember to not just wait for a specific month to read diversely. Diversify your reading by reading books written by authors of color all year round.

Other books that you could read include Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi, A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown, Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (this was also just turned into a graphic novel), and The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed.

If you want more options, check out these lists for young adult, literary fiction, or adult fantasy reads for Black History Month or anytime of the year.