The annual ranking
1. Hope on a Tightrope: Words & Wisdom - by Cornel West
Hope on a Tightrope earns the #1 spot at the dawn of the new political era of Barack Obama. Why? Because in spite of the uncritical euphoria surrounding Obama’s historic accomplishment, Dr. West has the guts to call attention to the pressing plight of the least of his brethren even before the President-elect has had a chance to take office.
Plus, the iconoclastic author, in urging the incoming administration to address the concerns of the poor and underprivileged, cleverly invokes “the fierce urgency of now,” the same phrase coined by Dr. Martin Luther King and appropriated by Obama as his campaign theme. Props to Professor West for such a passionate reminder that the struggle for equality couldn’t possibly end automatically upon with the ascension of a black man to the nation’s highest office.
2. Faith under Fire: A Memoir - by LaJoyce Brookshire
Everybody is aware of the devastating toll the escalating AIDS rate has been taking on the black community. For this reason, inner city schools all over the country ought to consider adding this memoir to their curriculum as a precautionary measure. The book revolves around author LaJoyce Brookshire’s relationship with a duplicitous brother on the down low who callously put his monogamous wife’s life at risk.
Only well into their marriage did a bell go off in her head, but by then he already had full-blown AIDS, and she was left in shock by the carousing, carelessness and sexual preferences by a partner she had incorrectly assumed to be a straight, faithful spouse. Not exactly anybody’s idea of a fairy tale romance, but a wake-up call ice to sisters who can’t be too careful, given the rampant spread of AIDS by convicts, intravenous drug users and brothers simply too afraid to admit they’re gay or bisexual due to the intolerant nature of a macho, inner-city culture marked by an intolerance of homosexuality.
3. Standing Tall: A Memoir of Tragedy and Triumph - by C. Vivian Stringer
When Don Imus referred to the young women on the Rutgers University Basketball Team as “nappy headed-hos” a year ago, it deeply affected their Coach, Vivian Stringer who “couldn’t shake the feeling that I had fallen down in my responsibility to protect these girls.” What almost nobody knew is that Vivian was recovering from breast cancer at the time Imus’ indefensible remarks thrust her into the national limelight, and that her mother suffered a stroke right in the middle of the controversy.
So, Stringer never let on that she was going through chemo and caring for her seriously-ill mom while handling the crisis with the utmost poise and dignity. Poignantly written without a whit of bitterness, Standing Tall is as moving a memoir as I ever remember reading. The tears started flowing from the first page and didn’t stop till I finished the book.
4. Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting - by Terrie M. Williams
Social Worker Terrie Williams is most persuasive, here, making the argument that life is hard in the ‘hood, that people are suffering from depression as a consequence, and that the time has arrived to remove the stigma in the community still attached to seeking out psychological help. A convincing call for African-Americans to trade in their self-defeating stoicism for some long-overdue mental health treatment.
5. Don''t Blame It on Rio - by Jewel Woods and Karen Hunter
Did you know that Brazil has become the favorite vacation destination of a rapidly-increasing number of professional African-American males? Are black women even necessary any longer? Perhaps not, according to Jewel Woods and Pulitzer Prize-winner Karen Hunter, co-authors of this eye-opening expose’ which blows the cover off the clandestine sex trade currently flourishing in Rio.
The city is apparently a popular port of call with bourgie brothers from the U.S. due to the easy availability of local women who don’t have the attitude or emotional baggage they generally find attached to sisters back home. A rather revealing look at a disturbing cultural trend.
6. Be a Father to Your Child - by April R. Silver
How do African-American males feel about fatherhood nowadays? Here’s a hint: Between 70 and 85% of black kids are now being raised by single-moms. The popular notion is that misogynistic gangsta rap might have formed men generally unwilling to shoulder their fair share of the burden when it comes to parenting.
But before you jump to conclusions, you might want to read this collection of empowering essays by black men of the Hip-Hop Generation who have not abandoned their children. For this uplifting tome, which includes contributions by rapper Talib Kweli, writer Bakari Kitwana and filmmaker Byron Hunt, offers a heartening mix of poetry, prose and pictures designed to reassure skeptics about the prospects of the black family.
7. The Naked Truth: Young Beautiful and (HIV) Positive - by Marvelyn Brown
This bittersweet biography chronicles the author’s evolution from being diagnosed HIV+ to feeling desperate, frightened and abandoned to blossoming into a fearless AIDS activist. Now 24, this brave young lady deserves considerable credit for going public and thus putting a face on a still generally hidden and denied disease at a time when African-Americans account for the majority of new infections in the United States.
8. The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse - by Richard Thompson Ford
Was it fair for Michael Jackson to turn himself white only to reclaim his blackness when he wanted to sue his record company? According to Richard Thompson Ford, many well-off African-Americans are more than willing to make inappropriate accusations of prejudice for purely selfish reasons.
The author concludes that such opportunists who resort to the tactic of playing the race card “are the enemies of truth, social harmony, and social justice.” His solution? “For all decent and honest people” to join in condemning any such perpetrators. Certainly, food for thought in what has recently been dubbed “post-racial” America.
9. Letters to a Young Sister: Define Your Destiny - by Hill Harper
Actor Hill Harper received nothing but positive feedback a couple of years ago upon the release of Letters to a Young Brother, his inspirational how-to book for African-American males. Its uplifting message emphasized the value of a good education over the accumulation of material possessions while also stressing the importance of being the architect of your own life.
So, it is only fitting that he would choose to write a companion text for black females with the help such luminaries as Michelle Obama, Angela Bassett, Ruby Dee, Nikki Giovanni and Sanaa Lathan. This invaluable tome addresses a litany of concerns occupying the inquiring minds of impressionable girls still in their formative years. Overall, an uplifting collection of sage insights aimed at instilling self-confidence, self-respect and self-reliance.
10. Sweet Release: The Last Step to Black Freedom - by Dr. James Davison, Jr.
Is it detrimental for African-Americans to continue to think of their struggle for advancement as a collective as opposed to a solitary enterprise? This is the controversial contention put forward by Dr. Davison, a psychologist in private practice in California. He believes that those black folks still viewing reality through a pre-Civil Rights Era prism are only standing in the way of their own freedom.
According to the author, the key rests in African-Americans breaking the psychological bonds to their racial past by asserting their individuality, a step which he claims “has little to do with racism, prejudice, or discrimination.” A bitter pill to swallow, but so shockingly confrontational that its prescription for black sanity is a must read, despite the doctor’s apparent right-wing political allegiances.
All about the Beat: Why Hip-Hop Can’t Save Black America - by John McWhorter
Barack Obama: Making History - Edited by Tanya Ishikawa
The Chronicles of a Gentleman (The Untold Truth) - by Leroy Sanders
Company I 366th Infantry - by Harold E. Russell, Jr.
How to Build a Million Dollar Business - by Richelle Shaw
Life as a Single Mom - by Stephanie M. Clark
Life Is a Game - by Jim Copeland
My True Soul: Exploited, Apprehended & Broken Within - by Shawna M. Harrison
Why Black People Can''t Lose Weight - by Makeisha Lee
Why African-Americans Can''t Get Ahead -by Gwen Richardson
25 Things That Really Matter in Life: A Comprehensive Guide to Making Your Life Better - by Gary A. Johnson
Worst Black Book of 2008
A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited about Obama and Why He Can’t Win - by Shelby Steele
The title says it all. Black conservative Shelby Steele took a calculated risk in publishing a book predicting Obama wouldn’t win. Oops. A bigger blunder than the Chicago Tribune’s “Dewey Elected’ headline prematurely announcing the demise of Harry Truman in 1948. Probably already out-of-print.