Reading list: Black History Month & beyond

UC Irvine
3 min readFeb 24, 2022

Jared D. Childress, an African American studies major with a passion for literature, shares some of his favorite books by Black authors. An aspiring journalist, Jared has worked as a bookseller at several independent bookstores, including Underground Books, a Black-owned bookstore in Sacramento.

Jared D. Childress takes a study break in Aldrich Park with his “absolute favorite” book, Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More-Janet Mock, 2014

I was changed by this book. Mock uses her present-day memoir to explore race, gender, class, and community. Mock is a Black trans woman who unapologetically discusses the ways in which she has experienced both oppression and privilege. This story speaks across racial, gender, and generational lines. Not only is Mock a masterful writer, she is a writer and director on the ground-breaking show Pose.

Assata-Assata Shakur, 1987

My heart raced as I read Shakur’s firsthand account of being a freedom fighter who was falsely imprisoned during the Black power movement of the 1970’s. In this fast paced memoir, Shakur is smart and cunning in her confrontation of sexism, anti-blackness, capitalism, the prison industrial complex and more. Shakur is an uncompromising black woman and a true freedom fighter — even when it means sacrificing her own life. If there is one political autobiography to read — this is it!

Invisible Life — E. Lynn Harris, 1991

This novel moved me to tears. Invisible Life tells the story of an ambitious Black man discovering his sexuality during the early 1990’s. Against the backdrop of New York City and the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the protagonist must reckon with his family, his faith, and significant others. Harris, who passed away in 2009, is one of the most prolific Black queer writers of the 21st century. Invisible Life is currently being developed into a series by HBO.

Beloved — Toni Morrison, 1987

Jared D. Childress calls Toni Morrison’s Beloved “a book to read over and over again.”

Reading Beloved during an independent-study with Professor John Murillo was truly an honor. In this haunting novel, Morrison invites readers into the home of a formerly enslaved Black family. With Prof. Murillo’s help, we found that Morrison uses color, rhyme, repetition, and unprecedented detail to challenge the way that history often sanitizes these stories. This book — which schools have attempted to ban — is one to read over and over again.

WILL — Will Smith with Mark Manson, 2022

This book took me by surprise. The first chapter, Fear, shows vulnerability as Smith admits he’s always seen himself as a “coward” who couldn’t fight. This is definitely not the expected opening of a book by one of the most revered celebrities of our time. Smith’s story not only chronicles his meteoric rise to fame, but it is a story of self-reflection and growth. Smith’s body of work is the soundtrack to the lives of many; as he tells his story, readers can’t help but reflect on their own.

Thanks for reading! This is a publication of UCI’s Office of Strategic Communications & Public Affairs



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