It's that time of year again. Where everyone discusses the Best, Best, Best of the year. And then we all consider what the new year brings and pray it's better than the last. In the case of the world itself we need it to be better than 2017--a year that will live in infamy for the regularity with which many of us said "dafuq???" That said, 2017 was also another wonderful one in terms of the arts. Books in particular. So here's my list of fantastic books I read that stayed with me long after I folded the binding back in place. These are titles I'll keep recommending over the course of 2017 and beyond. (Not all books I read this year were published this year.)
All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry (2017) - All the Wind in the World was a much deserved longlisted title for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. Samantha and I had a great talk on the MiP podcast about her process and what she aimed to do with this book; I loved every minute of it. All the Wind is dark, heartfelt, and kind of messes with you when it comes to what people's intentions are as well as mysticism. Who's at fault and when do we become accountable for our own actions? Really good stuff from the opening line.
Don't Call Us Dead by Danez Smith (2017) - A finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry, Danez's second book hits on a very emotional and visceral level. Exploration of Black bodies and gay bodies and marginalized bodies is at the heart of Don't Call Us Dead to experience narrators from beyond and on the ground seeing the world as it could be and is.
Nature Poem by Tommy Pico (2017) - Tommy's second book of poetry to come out in 2017 has been categorized as poetry as well as nonfiction, rightly or wrongly. In an epic nature poem Pico weaves in a story of disenchantment, love, longing, desire, and investigation of the self as a Native American, a gay man, an artist among many identities that creates a self spilling their emotions on the page.
Octavia Butler's Kindred (graphic novel) adapted by Damian Duffy, illustrated by John Jennings (2017) - Kindred was the first Octavia Butler novel I had the pleasure to read, so when I heard there was a graphic novel that came out early in 2017 I got it immediately from the Black Comics Festival at Schomburg Center. This is basically what a sketch of an adapted movie would look like of Kindred utilizing the text with Jenning's stark and sparse imagery to capture Dana in two worlds as she navigates the challenge of saving her family line and herself.
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison (2017) - It's easy to see why Little Leaders became an immediate NYT bestseller when it came out. Vashti has created a great reference book and discussion book for young and older readers to learn more about Black history. Thankfully we have more to look forward to. When I spoke with Vashti for the MiP podcast she mentioned another Little Leaders of the World due out in the near future.
A Burst of Light and Other Essays by Audre Lorde (2017) - This reissue of Audre Lorde's essays from independent press ixia press allows us to revisit Audre's voice and her final years. It's a somber read but helps you feel more connected to what she sees in America and overseas as a Black woman utilizing art to connect and uplift.
The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui (2017) - This graphic memoir from Thi Bui is an expansive look at her family's journey from Vietnam to the United States. How they came together and broke apart, and how Bui sees herself through her relatives and parents emigration as she builds her own family in the U.S. while trying to reconcile the idea of family and being an impending parent.
In the Country by Mia Alvar (2015) - These are phenomenal short stories from Mia Alvar in her debut. Just wonderful. They're not short in terms of length (no story is shorter than 7,000 words), which is what I loved because my stories tend to be on the "longer" side. And Mia manages to navigate worlds within those pages and give us the complete breadth of characters moving on, staying put, recognizing who they are and what their beliefs are when pushed to the brink. So good.
Saga, Volume 7 by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (2017) - My heart was utterly shattered when I got to the end of Volume 7. And I just found out that Volume 8 released two days after Christmas. (So I can guarantee that that one will make the Fave Reads for 2018.) Without wanting to reveal spoilers I can say that Vaughan and Staples collaboration continues to show the tenuous nature of a family in general let alone on the run in outer space.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2016) - The hype was real. I got to sit down with Colson's multi award-winning tome last spring while on residency in Nebraska. The writing is impeccable and it's a slimmer volume for a historical novel not weighing you down in the violence of the time but never letting up from the brutality.
Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (2016) - Caldecott honoree and a CSK honor mixes the fabulous poetry, practically hymnal, from Weatherford with the abstract and colorful illustrations from Christie to tell a story of slavery and joy in the freedoms Black people found when in their community.
Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe (2016) - Winner of the Caldecott award Javaka's five-year sojourn to produce Radiant Child was worth the wait and work behind it. Vibrant in it's details and lush in it's admiration of Basquiat this is a visual masterpiece.
Other books I read this year and also very much enjoyed were Rise of the Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste, This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins, Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani, Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, King Me by Roger Reeves, The Leavers by Lisa Ko, Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Marchado, and Hunger by Roxane Gay.