Since restarting my reading journey, and rekindling my love for writing, I have come leaps and bounds in the way that I now perceive them both. Hell, the way my relationship with literature in general, has come so far that it even brought new friends into my life that I otherwise may never have found.
But one thing that I can attest 100% is the way I have begun this mission to make reading ‘cool’ again. And so, began my quest to realise why reading as a black man ISN’T an oxymoron, but why it is actually THE SHIT.
It is for this reason, we started the Mostly Lit Podcast (rate and review us on Soundcloud and iTunes. Follow us on Twitter @mostlylit) because we wanted to make reading books fun for everyone, like it was for us.
*FYI We know many Black men do read- however, behind every joke is a dash of truth- Remember what Chris rock said about books? Well, this guy is not Chris Rock- but his joke is poignant to our point!
In case you haven’t noticed, we are well in the era of Black Girl Magic. Something we as Black men should embrace and uplift to help empower our Black women – not to demean them.
So when I see this so called rise in ‘hotep’, ‘fuck-boy’ and ‘fake deep’ antics, it makes me shudder. I just want to grab some of these guys by the shoulders give them a cartoon slap.
Yes, it is great to do your own research. But, with that must come the ability to fact check and be critical in your eagerness to believe a false narrative simply because it makes you feel good about yourself. If you originate from African diaspora falsely imprisoned, oppressed and stolen due to the Trans-Atlantic slave trade; your origins are from West Africa not Eygpt!
Reading more than the typical can automatically make us much more wholesome.
Pick up a Harlan Coben novel. Read some Sartre. Heck, read some Mills and Boon if you want to be different. But for the life of me – don’t invest all your time in the ankhs and chakras.
Oh, and that goes for that 57 Laws book or something.
Not everyday vengeance.
- You don’t have to be excessively militant. Just disarm your opponent with a quote.
As a Black man, people – usually Caucasians – will try and belittle you in public. At work, in the queue at Asda, even just going for a casual coffee. You know, to make you seem harmless.
Easy to have around. A big mold of chocolate dewiness.
Don’t let this happen.
I mean, yeah we can be cute and all, but we aren’t there to make them feel comfortable. Or to let them make us feel like a speck on their canvas.
‘Knowledge is power! This mantra is more than just a saying your mum, dad, grandad, nan, uncle, aunt or random old Black man you shared a bus ride with would say. It is the very truth that emancipates young Black men every day from the shackles of mental slavery- ‘remember none but ourselves can free our minds’ Bob Marley [Yes listen to conscious music as well!}
So, the more you read the more you can use.
Whether it be, ‘Stupidity is a talent for misconception’ or ‘Whatchu talkin’ bout Willis?’
Remember, code-switching can keep them on their toes.
- ‘The best way to understand another culture is to read and study works from it.’
Lord knows English sensibilities are sometimes lost on people of colour in this country.
But if you want to know more about the culture we have been forced to assimilate to, then your best bet is to read some of what they call Classics.
Oscar Wilde is a great place to start.
Wuthering Heights is an insight into Northern mundanity…but hey, ho.
- ‘Et Tu Brute?’
I made one of my closest friends with this quote.
Find your intellectual sparring partner. Stay nimble and alert.
I actually thought it was French when she said it to me, and I felt like such a berk I had to go and read parts of the play to heal my ego (And so will you! It is ok to admit you do not know where this is from- it isn’t ok to go on not knowing).
Yunior de las Casas is my hero. He’s just another ain’t shit ni**a like the rest of us.
Slyly became enamoured by him, but that’s another blog post for another time.
Far too many Black men grow up without role models. Even though I was fortunate to have a few in my life I needed the heroes within them. So I’d say reach into culture: Books, movies, music – whatever helps.
You can find your heroes in books, especially if you feel like there aren’t any around you.
- There will always be a friend for you in a book.
Following on from that, I feel in the best company around my books. They don’t judge and I can tell them to shut up whenever I want.
Am I slightly crazy? Maybe. But who wants to be sane?
Just don’t be like Kevin Hart. He’s frontin’.
- You learn a greater sense of empathy.
My friend once asked me if I had ever been brought to tears by a book before, and when I initially said no, he said ‘Because you haven’t let yourself be totally immersed in it before. Try it.’
There we have it. Immerse yourself in a book and actually learn to feel some level of empathy for that character, their family, their lives and struggles – or joy!
I got really frustrated reading Native Son and seeing that Bigger Thomas was more of an idiot than I could fathom carried that emotion around for the rest of the day.
At the same time, when Henry De Tamble got frostbite in The Time Traveller’s Wife, I did feel a pang of sadness and fear. I mean, he was about to lose his toes!
- Everything is a conversation starter.
‘Did you hear…’
‘You kind of remind me of Frankenstein’s beast…you know, in a good way!’
‘Have you read…’
‘Yawn, Bronte, yawn yawn.’
‘That is an amazing book!’
‘The Alchemist? Really?’
There are no limits to what we can achieve, you never know who you’re going to meet. Be as punch as the opening line of Orwell’s 1984.
‘It was bright cold day in April and clocks were striking thirteen…’
I’ve fallen in love in a book shop. Both with the shop and with someone in it. Everything becomes so fleeting sometimes, but remember you’re meeting like minded souls who could potentially change your life. (Or ruin it.)
- It’s a hell of a weapon.
Failing ALL of the above. Get yourself a book with some sharp corners, and over 600 pages. Life comes at you fast, and judging by the way that Black Lives are just being scattered – it will be a good distraction to get a head start.
Remember, most of us aren’t gangster rappers, grime artists or even superheroes like The Black Panther(sadly not). Therefore, our biggest weapon is our mind. The ability to use it, wield it and grow it. Intelligence and knowledge are the biggest and most dangerous weapon a Black man can have in a world of misinformation, hidden agendas, hidden figures, lost heroes, divided communities and social unrest. Equip yourself with the arsenal to walk into battle armed with knowledge. Did we already say knowledge is power!?!
Gotta stay Peyped.
(If you get why that’s funny, hit me up. I want to be your friend.)
Here are some suggestions on books about the Black experience to read- Click on the title to go to their amazon page. Go on treat yourself to some knowledge!
- The Miseducation of The Negro by Dr. Carter G. Woodson
- Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
- Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coats
- The Sellout by Paul Beatty [Booker Prize Winner]
- Twelve Years A Slave book by Solomon Northup
- The Colour Purple by Alice Walker
- I know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou
- The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
- Pimp by Iceberg Slim
- To Kill A Black Man by Louis E Lomax
- The Black Presidency by Dr. Michael Eric Dyson
Let us know your thoughts
Have you found love in a book shop?
What is your favourite book?
Do you wish you had read more at a younger age?
What book do you think everyone should read at least once?
Please comment below and challenge someone to think a litter deeper.
By Alex Reads (subedit Antoine Allen)
Host of the Podcast Mostly @mostlylit
Like this? Check out our interviews with young Black British author Alpa Cauwenbergh