Samantha’s June Book-It List


Art by: Lily Cohen ('20)

Samantha Roehl shares her favorite books for the month.

During the writing of this column, protests began throughout the country. These protests, sparked by Minneapolis’s refusal to charge four cops with murdering George Floyd, have since brought the spotlight back to Black Lives Matter and police brutality.

With graduation on the horizon, my previous draft of this book-it list was full of childhood favorites, as a way to memorialize an ending 12 years in the making. This is my last book-it list. This is one of the last things I’m going to write for Eastside. But sometimes, the stories we tell can make us complicit, even if we don’t intend to be. I will admit that the books I read in my childhood are not as diverse as the ones I seek out today. So instead, this book-it list is going to put front-and-center some of my favorite Black-written books.

“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas
“The Hate U Give” made waves when it was published in 2017. Now, it is probably the first to come to mind when one thinks about Black young adult books. But it is memorable for a reason.

Not shying away from the subject of police brutality, protagonist Starr Carter witnesses her close friend, an unarmed teenager, get shot and killed by a police officer. This is a book about loss and speaking out and righting wrongs — all topics that are as painfully topical now as they were three years ago.

“The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison is something of a legend. A Pulitzer Prize winner for her novel “Beloved,” she wrote 11 novels during her lifetime.

“The Bluest Eye” is Morrison’s first book. It follows Pecola Breedlove, an 11-year-old black girl who believes that if her eyes were to miraculously turn blue she could be beautiful. Thoughout the story, Morrison addresses devastating topics such as incest and child molestation. But the cornerstone of the book is the way that racism affects Black self-perception and how it impacts Black lives, specifically those of young girls. It’s a hard book to read, both in how it’s told and what it says, but definitely worth it.

“Don’t Call Us Dead” by Danez Smith
A poetry collection dealing with racism and homophobia, “Don’t Call Us Dead” sucker-punches the reader at least once per page. The opening poem, full of snippets of an afterlife for black men killed by police, is both brutal and beautiful.

“Anything is possible / in a place where you can burn a body / with less outrage than a flag”

“Bud, Not Buddy” by Christopher Paul Curtis
In a callback to this column’s original vision, I decided to include a middle grade book. Bud is ten years old and on the run, looking for his father with nothing but his suitcase and a flyer for a band. He believes he will find his father and nothing, not even the Great Depression, is going to stop him.

“The Poet X” by Elizabeth Acevedo
Written in verse, “The Poet X” is a classic coming-of-age story. Xiomara questions her family’s faith and channels her feelings into poetry that she’d never be able to share. But throughout the book, Xiomara breaks out of her shell and comes into her own.

If you pick this book up, I’d definitely recommend the audiobook. Narrated by Acevedo herself, the audiobook is incredible and adds even more weight and emotion to an already brilliant book.