By J. California Cooper
My fifth-grade teacher, who has since become one of my best friends, is a strong, powerful black woman. One day she said, 'Instead of calling and asking me for advice, try reading J. California Cooper.' The stories in this collection follow common folk dealing with everyday issues. They're good people who sometimes make evil choices, and you see them suffer as a result. While many of the stories start off dark and depressing, ultimately, they are incredibly inspirational.
By Trisha R. Thomas
The novel deals with black culture and the many stereotypes that we try to overcome. Many black women grow up thinking that they're not as beautiful as white women (and some of us get nose jobs and fake hair to make us look more white). The main character thinks her boyfriend is going to give her an engagement ring. Instead he brings her a puppy. Not only does she decide to leave the guy, but she also cuts her hair off and wears it in a short Afro. She'd been very proud of her long, stick-straight hair (for years she'd had it chemically processed to keep it that way). She gets rid of the thing that she thought was most beautiful about herself and realizes what was most attractive wasn't her physical self, but her spirit. I think it's an especially good book for young black women to read. I've been there—I wish I'd had this book 15 years ago.
Edited by Kabir Helminski
I like Rumi, who was a poet and practitioner of Sufism (a mystical branch of Islam), because his writing is very spiritual. He doesn't hit you over the head with the tenets of a specific religion, but he introduces God in almost every passage. One statement I live by is 'If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?' It's a great reminder that if you can't get up and dust yourself off after a disappointment, then how will you be made better?
By James McBride
My mother is white and my father is black, so I felt an immediate connection to this story of an interracial family. It's a memoir written by the son of a Jewish woman and a black Baptist minister. The story follows his mother's efforts to find acceptance. Eventually, she decides to give up her faith and become a Baptist. She's criticized for doing so, and that's really what the book is about—how she chooses to live her life, how she's judged and how her decisions affect her children.
By Anne Wilson Schaef
You're supposed to read a page of this book a day, starting with January 1. I don't do that— dip in and out. When you get busy, it's so nice to take five minutes out of the day and feed your spirit. No matter what page you turn to, it has a thought that can make you a better participant in life. I'm always amazed because so many times the message on the page I've chosen at random turns out to be exactly what I needed to hear. I give this book to all my girlfriends, and I always keep a copy nearby—in my purse, my car or my travel bag.