Read with Us: Book Lovers Day

August 9th marks Book Lovers Day. The annual holiday encourages all bibliophiles to set aside the technology, and fully indulge in their personal libraries. Though the origin and creator of Book Lovers Day is unknown, the holiday is celebrated globally as it gives platform to literature from and about diversified identities and experiences. 

In honor of Book Lovers Day, I would like to share books I often return to as well as books I have added to my list of favorites. This list covers rather expansive genres, so enjoy the ride.

Don't Call Us Dead: Poems By Danez Smith

My copy of this collection is so marked up. I have written in the margins, highlighted Smith words up and down, folded the corners of pages of poems that made me frown as I read (a good sign). And this collection deserves that level of attention if not more.Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press, 2017) – Smith’s third collection – is beautifully human and culturally necessary. Smith stunningly weaves together their HIV diagnosis with societal ills that further plague their Black, queer body. But there are poetic moments – “dinosaurs in the hood,” for example – where Smith exists in the hope that a future void of white gaze is “[...] possible, pulsing, & right there.” 


TW: Mentions of sexual abuse.
This 1985 classic centers protagonist, Offred, in a “now” patriarchal, white supremacist, totalitarian, theonomic, and neo-Puritanical United States. After the United States government is overthrown by the Republic of Gilead, the novel’s antagonist, women are classified as “handmaids” and forcibly assigned to produce children for “commanders,” the ruling class in Gilead.Atwood has referenced the book as an “anti-prediction”, yet the novel’s themes – subjugated women in patriarchal societies, suppression of women’s reproductive rights, loss of agency – ring eerily loud and familiar, especially as we navigate a post-Roe America. But it is equally important to recognize Atwood’s depiction of revolutionary feminism and organized, political resistance. Offred reminds readers that language and storytelling is a powerfully effective tool to reclaim one’s identity and reject systemic oppression. 
No matter the age, I will always pick up a children’s picture book. I love the opportunity picture books allow me to retrieve an original part of myself. And Dare To Be Me is one of my favorites from The Collective Book Studio’s Fall 2023 catalog.In this rhythmic tale, readers are encouraged to brave each day as their most authentic selves. Though this title’s primary audience is young readers, its message and themes remain true for readers of all ages. And I doubt there is a better way to be reminded of your uniqueness than with a loudly confident narrator and playful illustrations.  

I thought I would end with a fervent, poetic influence of mine: Audre Lorde. I found this collection in The Elliot Bay Book Company – located in Seattle, Washington – and batted neither eye as I approached the checkout counter with it in hand.The Collected Poems (W. W. Norton & Company, reprinted 2000), which includes over 300 of Lorde’s poems from various works, offers a chronology to her publications and grants readers access to Lorde’s visceral experience with Black, female, and lesbian identity – “The Brown Menace Or Poem To The Survival of Roaches” and “The Black Unicorn.” Lorde does not use poetry to disguise herself or her politics. Instead, she powerfully poetizes her presence, cementing herself onto pages and minds. If you come across this collection (I hope you do), spend time with the riches Lorde left behind.