The year 2020 was a time of both rest and unrest. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests, we were kept apart physically even as racial injustice brought us together in protests and online discussion. When we couldn’t talk about current events in person, we turned to books and literature as sources of information and catharsis, says Melissa Pearson, assistant teaching professor of English at Northeastern. “Every time these atrocities happen, people try to go somewhere to make sense of it all,” Pearson says.
In June and July, amid a surge of Black Lives Matter protests across the nation, books by Black authors about Black experiences consistently topped The New York Times Best Sellers list and Amazon charts. Award-winning nonfiction that examined Black experiences through the lens of history, such as Ijeoma Oluo’s “So You Want to Talk About Race” and “How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi, quickly rose in popularity. The books are important because they tell Black stories from Black perspectives, says Pearson.
“Black history, Black culture, Black futurism has in many ways been whitewashed or told through the lens of the white narrative,” Pearson says. “It’s very important that we get primary accounts of the Black experience.”