June TBR: How We Can Elevate Black Voices Through Literature

Happy hump day!

Today I’m sharing my TBR list for June. It’s more of a Wish List, since I just started my last semester of grad school (yikes) and have a pretty heavy workload for that alone. When you factor in my internships this semester, on top of the insane workload of my other two classes, I don’t know how much focus I can realistically dedicate to reading. Oh, and let’s not forget, the world is basically on fire right now.

There’s a lot of fear in this world, a lot of hurt and anger and pain, and all of those emotions are completely valid and justified. I’ve found it hard to focus on things lately, and so I can only imagine how awful this must all feel for the Black community right now. I don’t have a large platform here, but I wouldn’t be doing my job as a content creator if I did not use my space to support and elevate Black voices during these times. I, as a white woman, will never share in your experiences, but I see you, I hear you, I will continue to do my best to empathize with you every day, and I support you fully.

I wrote this post before the protests started happening, and while I still hope to read my original list below, I’m prioritizing books by Black authors because these voices need to be heard. It’s my job as a white person to educate myself and offer support where I can, and that’s what I intend to do. I also want to share this linktree containing tons of helpful links and resources, including donation funds and petitions; checking these links out is one of the easiest things we can do to help!

Here are a handful of books that have shown up on my social media lately that I intend to purchase, reread, or request from my library. My list is in no way complete; there are tons of ownvoices books by Black authors out there, but for this article I selected a handful that stuck out to me, or that I’ve read in the past and want to revisit in light of the world’s current events. You can find a ton more on this Twitter search, but these are a few that have struck me, and that I’m using as a starting point. As I said earlier, I don’t know realistically how many of these I will be able to read this month. However, I do fully intend to read them all as soon as I can.

  1. BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This is a book that I read in one of my English Lit classes in college. Ta-Nehisi’s memoir, written in the form of a letter to his son, details his experience as a Black man in America and the history that has brought us to where we are today. He tackles tough questions that black parents have to have with their children, but also the tough questions that white people should be asking themselves if we want to better empathize; “What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live with it?” Non-black people will never fully understand the experience of being black in America, but Coates’ words are a wonderful place to start if you’re trying to learn. I’ll be revisiting this book and asking myself all these questions again.

2. THE CITY WE BECAME by N. K. Jemisin

THE CITY WE BECAME was on my original TBR list for this month, and I’m very excited to read it! You can see my full preview in the original list down below. N. K. Jemisin is a Black woman making waves in the SFF world, and I’m sorry to say that I’d never heard of her before watching her livestream with Neil Gaiman recently. I’m looking forward to this read, and exploring the rest of her work in the future!

3. TRISTAN STRONG PUNCHES A HOLE IN THE SKY by Kwame Mbalia

This book is a fiction YA story that follows Tristan Strong, a seventh grade boy staying with his grandparents following a tragic accident that resulted in the death of his best friend. At his grandparents’, Tristan accidentally punches a hole in the sky, throwing him in a battle alongside Black American gods John Henry and Brer Rabbit. To get back home, Tristan and his new friends must enlist the help of Anansi, the Weaver, a trickster god of West Africa. I’ve been wanting to get into this book for ages since it’s part of the “Rick Riordan Presents” series, but when I was at the store today I actually saw it on the shelf; I took that as a sign that it’s time to stop saying “Man, I can’t wait to read that one” every time I walk by it and start saying “I’m reading this book!”

4. CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE by Tomi Adeyemi

CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE is one that I’ve heard of, but never had much interest in looking into. Up until recently, I hadn’t been into fantasy for a while. Contemporary and historical mysteries have been my go-to for a quite some time now, but I’ve been slowly reacquainting myself with the SFF world. Several of my friends read this book last year, but I’d honestly forgotten all about it until it came up on Twitter the other day. My library app has this book and its sequel available on audiobook, so I’m going to dedicate some time each night to listen and immerse myself in Tomi Adeyemi’s world.

5. A SONG OF WRAITHS AND RUIN by Roseanne A. Brown

A SONG OF WRAITHS AND RUIN is a brand new release that I’ve seen all over Twitter lately (shoutout to Book Twitter for some amazing recs, always!) This book is set in a world “inspired by West and North African mythology” according to the book synopsis, and I am all for mythology in books! It came out yesterday, June 2, and I’ve placed an order through Semicolon Bookstore in Chicago, the only Black-woman owned indie bookstore in the city. I’m so excited to read this debut, support this author and support an indie bookstore, all at the same time!

6. THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD by Zora Neale Hurston

Finally, THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD is another book from college I’m looking to revisit this month. It’s been almost six years since I first read it, and I honestly don’t remember much of the story anymore, but I remember the feelings this book left me with very well. It’s a coming-of-age type story that follows the fictional Janie Crawford as she grows from a teenager girl into a woman, fighting for agency and her own voice. It was my favorite that I read in that class, and I wish I remembered more than a few snippets of scenes here and there, but I definitely feel this is a book worth revisiting and I’m looking forward to doing so.

I strongly encourage everyone to check out the books in the above list, as well as the link to the Twitter search. There are so many Black creators we can be supporting right now, and by reading their work we’re not only supporting them, but elevating their voices as well.


Like I said earlier, I’m still hoping to read my original list that I’d planned out before George Floyd’s murder hit the news. However, I’ve spent much of the past few days reevaluating my role in all this as a white woman and how I can better, more effectively use the power my privilege has granted me to help this community in mourning. Part of that has been evaluating the books that I read, and coming to the realization that my TBRs are often incredibly white. I’m committing myself to be conscious of this from here on out, and to diversify my reading as frequently as I can.

That’s the wonderful thing about books. Everyone has a world of stories inside of them, and books allow us a glimpse into those worlds. I’m making a promise to myself, to my readers, and to all my friends and family that identify with marginalized groups, that I’ll continue to explore worlds that don’t look like my own, from voices that don’t sound like my own, because their stories are just as important as anyone else’s. They deserve to be heard, read, gushed over and shared with your friends, just like the new Hunger Games or Twilight books.


If, by some miracle, I’m able to read more this month than just the list above that I’m currently prioritizing, then I intend to read the following books as well:

  1. CIRCE by Madeline Miller

CIRCE is Madeline Miller’s second book, retelling the Greek myths of Circe. I absolutely loved her first book, THE SONG OF ACHILLES. I have a review of it going up next week, but I’ll preview my review here by saying the book absolutely b r o k e me. I cannot remember the last time a book made me sob like that. It was glorious. Miller’s writing style is beautifully poetic and I loved how TSOA stayed with me so long, and so strongly after I finished reading it. I have very high hopes for this book!

2. THE CITY WE BECAME by N. K. Jemisin

I’m so excited to read this book! I’ve never heard of N. K. Jemisin before, but I preordered this book while listening to a livestream she did with Neil Gaiman a few weeks back. Their conversation was so much fun and so insightful as they discussed the craft of writing and their influences, but what really struck me was Jemisin’s reading from this book. The premise is so interesting, and the voice of her writing really stood out to me. Here’s the description from the inside cover:

In Manhattan, a young grad student gets off the train and realizes he doesn’t remember who he is, where he’s from, or even his own name. But he can sense the beating heart of the city, see its history, and feel its power.

In the Bronze, a Lenape gallery director discovers strange graffiti scattered throughout the city, so beautiful and powerful it’s as if the paint is literally calling to her.

In Brooklyn, a politician and mother finds she can hear the songs of her city, pulsing to the beat of her Louboutin heels.

And they’re not the only ones.

Every great city has a soul. Some are ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got six.

God, I love that idea. It’s got such an AMERICAN GODS feel, in my opinion; the idea of things like Cities and Technology and Commerce and whatnot becoming real, god-like entities in our world… ugh, I love it. That’s all I can say. I’m so excited for this one.

3. THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES by Suzanne Collins

Full disclosure: I was a “cool” teenager who didn’t like anything when it was popular because I was “too cool.”

Yeah. Cringe, I know. So when THE HUNGER GAMES were getting really popular, I refused to read it, even though all of my friends were talking about it. Eventually, though, I was forced to read CATCHING FIRE for a summer reading assignment, and if you know me you know I physically cannot read books out of order (why would they assign the second book in a series anyway???) so, I read the first book. And then I read the second book, a day later. And then I rushed to the library and checked out the third book immediately after that, and… I think the whole series took me less than a week to read. I was obsessed so fast, but after the movies came out my obsession really fizzled out. Eventually I all but forgot about the series.

And then Suzanne Collins announced a new book.

And then Target had it for 20% off, and, well, one thing led to another and here we are. I can’t wait to read this book. It’s long, and I’m not 16 anymore, but I’m hoping to binge it in a day or two like I used to, just for nostalgia’s sake!

4. PRACTICAL DEMONKEEPING by Christopher Moore

This is the first book in a loosely related series, I think. My dad loves this guy. Typically, my dad likes nonfiction, specifically Eastern European history (he’s Polish and has always been really into history). But one day he picked up a Christopher Moore book and he fell in love. He thinks Moore is one of the funniest guys he’s ever heard of, so naturally he sent me all four of his books—because, really, he wants me to read the last one, but like I said before, I am incapable of reading books out of order in a series. I’m not some kind of monster. Honestly, I get that from my dad. 100%.

Anyways, PRACTICAL DEMONKEEPING’s Goodreads description reads:

In Christopher Moore’s ingenious debut novel, we meet one of the most memorably mismatched pairs in the annals of literature. The good-looking one is one-hundred-year-old ex-seminarian and “roads” scholar Travis O’Hearn. The green one is Catch, a demon with a nasty habit of eating most of the people he meets. Behind the fake Tudor facade of Pine Cove, California, Catch sees a four-star buffet. Travis, on the other hand, thinks he sees a way of ridding himself of his toothy traveling companion. The winos, neo-pagans, and deadbeat Lotharios of Pine Cove, meanwhile, have other ideas. And none of them is quite prepared when all hell breaks loose.

I am a fan of demon-centric stories, so I think it’ll be interesting!

5. THE HIPPOPOTAMUS POOL by Elizabeth Peters

Ah, Amelia Peabody. I am diligently working my way through this series, and have been since it was recommended to me, years ago, by my sister-in-law. (Christina, if you’re reading this I’M SORRY IT’S TAKING SO LONG THERE ARE SO MANY BOOKS TO READ I GET DISTRACTED.)

As I’m writing this, I’m about halfway through the seventh installment in the series, THE SNAKE, THE CROCODILE, AND THE DOG, which is absolutely friggen killing me. In a good way. So much drama. But I’m hoping to finish that in the next day or two, and in June I’m hoping to tackle the eighth book in the series.

I will say, instead of adding the description, that I do highly recommend this series to all of my readers! Especially those of you who like the Lady Emily series; Elizabeth Peters is a major influence for Tasha Alexander, the author of Emily’s stories, and Amelia Peabody even makes a few discreet cameos in the later books. If you like Egypt, Victorian England, or women fighting people with parasols, go read Amelia Peabody stat!

There you have it! Maybe I should call this more of a June Wish List than a June TBR, but we’re going to be optimistic.

Having the ability to escape reality for a little while is a privilege and a blessing, but I strongly encourage all of my readers, white, black, and everyone in between, to take some time to escape into a good book this month. Things are heavy, and it can be very easy to let yourself get bogged down by these dark, difficult emotions we’re facing every day. Take some time for self care and immerse yourself in a new world, even if it’s just for a half hour a day. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and you can’t fight for equality and justice if you’ve got nothing left to give. Take care of yourselves, and stay safe.

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