Spring is here and summer is on the way. That means it’s time to spend some time outside. What better way to enjoy the great outdoors than with some powerful reads? Here are our recommendations for empowering reads to pick up.
Slay In Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible
When Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené were 22 and 23 years old, respectively, they were inspired by all the icons of black greatness, like Beyonce and Serena Williams. However, when they surveyed the books available to women, they found tomes like Lean In and Girl Boss exciting but not directly applicable to their experiences as black women. Adegoke is a senior writer at The Pool, and Uviebinené is a marketing manager who has worked with some of the UK’s major brands. As they considered what they wanted from their own lives, they decided to create a project that would feature the advice of successful black women about what it takes to truly thrive. The result is Slay In Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible.
Adegoke and Uviebinene interviewed 39 black British women who have made an impact in their respective fields, including science, entertainment, media, and more. They spoke with author Malorie Blackman, director Amma Asante, Vogue publishing director Vanessa Kingori and scientist Maggie Aderin Pocock, among others, about how they navigated the challenges of life. In addition to discussing challenges everyone faces, the book delves into the daily microaggressions that are specific to black women. They talk about how stereotypes about black women, such as the trope of the angry black woman, are perpetuated by the media, and they confront the negative commentary that always arises when black women talk about race.
Many of the women highlighted in the book started their careers in the corporate world but eventually chose to strike out on their own. Their experiences in becoming successful entrepreneurs will resonate with any woman who seeks to create her own lane. Girls Against says it’s a must-read for intersectional feminists.
Happy Ever After: Escaping the Myth of the Perfect Life
Would it surprise you to find that the most conventionally “successful” people tend to be the least happy? Research has shown that the people with the highest paying jobs were less happy than people who are paid much less. This, of course, proves yet again that money doesn’t buy happiness, but what does?
That’s the question Paul Dolan tries to answer in Happy Ever After: Escaping the Myth of the Perfect Life. Dolan is a professor who has studied the art of happiness for several decades. According to Dolan, the myths about success and happiness actually create expectations that trap people. Narratives shape how we experience almost every part of our lives, from relationships to education to careers. These stories can be helpful for helping us navigate life, but Dolan also says these stories can chafe. When narratives suggest we will be happy once we reach a certain status – whether based on money, career path, or social standing – the result can be a study of limited returns. The harder we strive to achieve the markers of success, the less happy we tend to be. Dolan describes this as the “narrative trap.”
Dolan exposes one of the most interesting aspects of this phenomenon: judging ourselves more harshly than we do our friends. As Dolan explains, we often encourage our friends to follow their hearts and do what makes them happy, while denying our own impulses toward happiness. Dolan also says this can take the form of judgment, where we are jealous of our friends because they are ignoring conventions and narratives that we feel bound by.
Dolan’s book examines the evidence and finds that people should ignore what they believe will make them happy and focus on what the data suggests. A key aspect of this is actually learning not to sweat the big stuff. Dolan said happiness is found in the small stuff, especially things like having a purpose and experiencing pleasure.
The Last Black Unicorn
Tiffany Haddish has thrilled audiences with her stand up and her movie appearances. Now she brings her unique and hilarious style to a book, The Last Black Unicorn. This book of essays is both funny and touching, as she describes growing up in South Central LA and how she used humor to survive life as a foster kid. Haddish recounts being in a group home and having difficulty in school. A social worker ultimately challenged her – she could get psychiatric help or go to the Laugh Factory Comedy Camp. Haddish chose the latter, and it utterly changed her life.
Haddish explains how she made it as a comedian and actress. You’ll discover the painful truth about her first marriage, which was filled with domestic violence. These were years that Haddish said she just couldn’t make funny. Then there are the many stories from her life growing up and learning the entertainment industry. You’ll laugh out loud about how she got revenge on her ex, and how she perceives life as a newly famous person.
If you want a book that is both bawdy and inspirational, Haddish fits the bill.
The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter–And How to Make the Most of Them Now
Still in your 20s? Then it’s high time you read Dr. Meg Jay’s treatise on how to make the most use of your 20s. Dr. Jay is a clinical professor at the University of Virginia who rejects the notion that “the 30s are the new 20s” since it suggests that the 20s can just be written off. Dr. Jay views a person’s 20s as the most defining years of their life and cautions young people not to trivialize this important time. Dr. Jay says this is pure hype, making people think they should just float through the decade without any specific direction.
Dr. Jay’s book explains her research and gives you the tools to understand yourself, your life, your relationships, and make the most of them. She explains that a person’s life changes more dramatically during their 20s than in any other decade, presenting compelling studies about brain development, social networks, relationships, personality, and identity. Want to use your time wisely? Then pick up this important book on what you can’t afford to miss.
Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive
There aren’t many books that feature the voices of people who have lived in the shadows, doing work that seems to render them almost invisible. This is the story of Maid. Stephanie Land was 28 years old when she had a brief fling and wound up pregnant. After having her daughter, her expected trajectory (college, marriage, career, children) was interrupted. She wound up homeless for a time, having to work as a housekeeper just to make ends meet. Throughout this time Stephanie clung to her dream of one day becoming a writer. She worked during the day, took online college classes, and spent every extra minute writing.
But Land didn’t want to write just anything. Instead, she focused on the stories that no one ever told. Stories about people who live on food stamps. Stories of how government bureaucracy winds up crushing and demoralizing the very people it is intended to help. Stories about living in halfway houses and the challenges of climbing out of poverty. Stories about the judgment she faced from other people – and for herself – for being a single mother struggling to get by. Through it all, Land exposes the stigma American society puts on the working poor.
Land writes about becoming “a nameless ghost” to her wealthy clients, who usually never learned her name. As a maid, she learns all about her clients’ lives, and how often they are unhappy despite their status. Land begins to grow and change as she scraps to rise above the poverty line. Land’s triumph will both inspire you and make you think.
Fiction can also be powerful, so don’t overlook these exciting new titles.
Searching For Sylvie Lee
Jean Kwok’s upcoming novel traces the lives of a first-gen Chinese-American family who face the shock of their lives when their family member Sylvie goes missing. Written from the point of view of Sylvie’s sister Amy, the story traces Sylvie’s disappearance while visiting their grandmother in the Netherlands. The book has drawn rave reviews because it crosses genres: a romance, a thriller, and an immigrant tale. The book is out June 4.
The Only Woman in the Room
Hedy Lamarr is a fascinating person: an acclaimed actress and scientist, she was one of MGM’s top stars when she invented a radio guidance system that would have jammed Nazi communications. Although the US government declined to take her up on the idea, eventually her technology led to the development of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Lamarr’s life has been the subject of biographies, but in this book, Marie Benedict imagines her life as a work of fiction.
Kate Quinn is an author of historical fiction who uncovers real – and often previously unread – documents to explore events we think we know well. In her previous book, The Alice Network, Quinn tells the story of real female spies who formed a daring and dangerous network in World War I-era France. Her follow up, The Huntress, is also inspired by the true story of a Nazi criminal who escapes the War without being caught. However, there are three women who are on his tail, including one of the infamous Night Witches, the Russian female fighter pilot regiments that relentlessly pursued the Nazis. Lovers of historical fiction who seek stories about women who challenge convention will love this book.
The Matchmakers’ List
If you’re in the mood for romance, Sonya Lalli’s tale of a meddlesome grandmother will warm your heart and make you laugh. The novel tells the story of Raina, who finally gives up and lets her traditional grandmother Nani find her a husband. As Nani sets Raina up with a series of disastrous dates, Raina realizes she needs to find a way to move forward without hurting her grandmother’s image of her. A comedy about the challenges and joys of multicultural dating, The Matchmakers’ List reads like a big-screen romantic comedy.