Black Artstory Reading List 2020

Greenlight is honored to take part in SOME WORDS: BLACK ARTSTORY MONTH 2020.  Black Artstory Month is an annual series created by the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership that elevates and celebrates the long-standing history of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill as a haven for Black artistry. In celebration of the history that Fort Greene and Clinton Hill have long-held space for Black artists that have creatively and courageously wielded their words, Greenlight has curated a suggested reading list of great Black authors with ties to the neighborhood. These titles can be purchased at Greenlight Bookstore (online or in the store) or borrowed through fellow program sponsors the Brooklyn Public Library.

Click here for more about Some Words: Black Artstory 2020 programs on Myrtle Avenue and beyond!


Native Son (Perennial Classics) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780060837563
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (while supplies last)
Published: Harper Perennial Modern Classics - August 2nd, 2005

Wright is in some ways the godfather of Fort Greene / Clinton Hill's literary and artistic culture. He came to the neighborhood from Chicago in 1937, staying with friends while he wrote this masterful and challenging novel -- the first national bestseller by a black author when it was published in 1940 -- mostly while sitting on a bench in Fort Greene Park.

Spike Lee: Do the Right Thing Cover Image
ISBN: 9781623260422
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (while supplies last)
Published: Ammo Books - June 15th, 2014

Lee's 40 Acres and Mule production studio in Fort Greene was the starting point for iconic films including Do the Right Thing. Lee created this book, including behind-the-scenes visuals and interviews, for the film's 25th anniversary in 2014.

City Kid: A Writer's Memoir of Ghetto Life and Post-Soul Success Cover Image
ISBN: 9780452296046
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (while supplies last)
Published: Plume - March 30th, 2010

Sometime neighborhood resident Nelson George highlighted Fort Greene's black artist communities with his documentary Brooklyn Boheme.  His many novels and nonfiction works on music and media are joyful and critically brilliant explorations of black artistic expressions and their influence in American culture.  His memoir City Kid tells his own story of growing up in Brooklyn and creating a career in the arts, with all of the humor and insight that characterize his writing and filmmaking....

The Plot Against Hip Hop (A D Hunter Mystery) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781617750243
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (while supplies last)
Published: Akashic Books - November 1st, 2011

... and The Plot Against Hip Hop, the most recent of George's D Hunter mystery novel series, ranges throughout the neighborhoods of New York with a plot related to the real-life East Coast/West Coast feud that led to the deaths of Biggie and Tupac. 

The Intuitionist: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385493000
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (while supplies last)
Published: Anchor - January 4th, 2000

Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning author Colson Whitehead is a former Fort Greene resident, and wrote five novels while living in the neighborhood.  While his award-winning recent novels including The Underground Railroad and Nickel Boys are not to be missed, Whitehead's debut novel The Intuitionist, the story of an unconventional elevator repairman, was written while living in Fort Greene and established his literary reputation.... 

The Colossus of New York Cover Image
ISBN: 9781400031245
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (while supplies last)
Published: Anchor - October 12th, 2004

... and Whitehead's brilliant poetic nonfiction work Colossus of New York captures the unique bittersweetness of city life as only a longtime resident artist can convey.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307949707
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (while supplies last)
Published: Vintage - October 8th, 2013

Ayana Mathis taught in the inaugural class of the MFA program at St. Joseph's College in Clinton Hill starting in 2012, heralding a new era in the neighborhood's literary life.  Her brilliant and heartbreaking debut novel, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, tells the story of a resilient and complicated woman in the context of the Great Migration, and was chosen for Oprah's Book Club 2.0. 

Land of Love and Drowning: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594633812
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (while supplies last)
Published: Riverhead Books - July 21st, 2015

Former Clinton Hill resident Tiphanie Yanique conjures the stories of her own Caribbean heritage with this haunting and award-winning novel set in the Virgin Islands. Chronicling three generations of an island family from 1916 to the 1970s, it's a novel of love and magic, set against the emergence of Saint Thomas into the modern world, with echoes of Toni Morrison and Gabriel García Márquez.

Delicious Foods: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316284936
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (while supplies last)
Published: Back Bay Books - January 19th, 2016

Neighborhood resident James Hannaham teaches writing at Pratt Institute and creates irreverent, stylistically innovative fiction, like his most recent novel Delicious Foods.  Narrated in part by a young man searching for his mother, who has been trapped in a slave-like existence at a food processing facility, and in part by the drug that addicts and controls her, the novel is challenging in its voice and  scathing in its social commentary.

Air Traffic: A Memoir of Ambition and Manhood in America Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525432210
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (while supplies last)
Published: Vintage - March 19th, 2019

Gregory Pardlo is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship for his poetry.  In his memoir Air Traffic, he tackles the intersections of race and masculinity in American culture with the story of his relationship with his father; sections of the book are set in Fort Greene.

Handbook for an Unpredictable Life: How I Survived Sister Renata and My Crazy Mother, and Still Came Out Smiling (with Great Hair) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307952400
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (while supplies last)
Published: Three Rivers Press - March 31st, 2015

Pioneering actor and current Clinton Hill resident Rosie Perez (whose breakout role came in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing) details the challenges of her own coming of age in Westchester and Brooklyn with wit and humor in her bestselling memoir.

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250306906
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (while supplies last)
Published: St. Martin's Griffin - January 14th, 2020

Clinton Hill resident asha bandele collaborated with Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors on this powerful account of starting a movement -- from the injustices that sparked it to the mentors that inspired it, with a vision for its future.  Khan-Cullors and bandele launched the book at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in Fort Greene for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 2018.

The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop Cover Image
By Kevin Coval (Editor), Quraysh Ali Lansana (Editor), Nate Marshall (Editor)
ISBN: 9781608463954
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (while supplies last)
Published: Haymarket Books - April 7th, 2015

Fort Greene / Clinton Hill is a gathering place for many of Brooklyn's young black authors, especially poets; Greenlight Bookstore's quarterly Poetry Salon hosts SRO crowds to see some of the best new voices in poetry.  The Breakbeat Poets anthology series showcases many of these fresh voices, including Poetry Salon curator Angel Nafis.

Woke Baby Cover Image
ISBN: 9781626722958
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (while supplies last)
Published: Roaring Brook Press - December 31st, 2018

Poet and publisher Mahogany Browne, who hosts an ongoing poetry salon at Fort Greene's BRIC House, turns her talents to writing for children with this fierce and joyful picture book for the next generation of activists.

Sulwe Cover Image
By Lupita Nyong'o, Vashti Harrison (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781534425361
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (while supplies last)
Published: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers - October 15th, 2019

Sometime Fort Greene resident and Oscar-winning actor Lupita Nyong'o collaborates with fellow neighborhood resident Vashti Harrison on this gorgeous children's picture book about colorism, self-esteem, and learning that true beauty comes from within.