Books, Family, Loss, and Growth

Throughout Read Until You Understand Griffin entwines her personal account of life as a Black woman in America—tragic encounters with police, teachers who either misrepresent her or open her mind to new thoughts—with those books that underscore the way in which her life functions as a synecdoche for her Black, Philadelphian neighbors.

Twelfth Night Blues

For Black Americans, the questions might be asked, what does Christmas mean to us? And how can we make Christmas something usable for us? If, as Frederick Douglass argues, Christmas was tainted by the power politics of slavery, as the stories in Collier-Thomas’s collection make clear, it was equally tainted by Jim Crow and segregation.


Written by a quondam amateur boxer and celebrated ring scribe, Damage is a fluid combination of medical history, scientific facts, and personal narratives. Half of the gracefully written text is focused on the connection or, much more commonly, the lack thereof between the medical and boxing communities.

Trick and Treat

Calling the Spirits is a nifty survey of the western world’s supposed interactions with the spirits of the dead. Lisa Morton’s book reveals that our quest for ghosts is an expression of humanity, a way to cope with how overwhelmed we are when we lose someone close to us, how unbearable it is to think that the person is gone forever.