It’s Black History Month. This month we’re going to be featuring Black creators on one of our favorite bookish platforms, Bookstagram. Representation is incredibly important and we don’t think that it’s fair for Black people to always be in a teaching or corrective role when it comes to their existence in this world. Our first Bookstagrammer of the Week this month is Alana of @blkstacks, we’re breaking down what it means to be a Black voice during such a politically charged time. Plus Alana is suggesting a few books that we can read to diversify our bookshelves with Black literature this Black History Month.
You should know the drill by now, but if you don’t–let’s review! Every week, our wonderful outreach team talks with different Bookstagram accounts that we think you need to know. Each interview is catered to the individual Bookstagrammer, while following our overarching theme of the month. As we know, this month is Black History Month, a time in which we’re taking a step back to allow Black voices to shine–like they should anyway.
So let’s get to know our first Bookstagrammer of the Week for our Black History Month features.
Alana, what inspired you to start your account–@blkstacks?
I was inspired to start @blkstacks during the pandemic. I was in a deep bout of depression and had been spending the majority of my time alone after having moved out of a household that proudly supported the Trump administration and was very open about their ideas of Black people and People of Color which were not very enlightened to say the least. I needed an escape, books, and I needed community. The internet.
The pandemic was definitely a time of unrest in America–to say the very least. I’m glad that reading was a beneficial way for you to reset and recenter yourself in your life.
That being said, did you create any reading goals for yourself this year?
This year I wanted to read more Morrison, Shakespeare, and Baldwin. As well as 100 books, but we’ll see how it goes.
Over your time collecting your many (many) books, I’m sure you’ve found a few that you’re more drawn to. Who are some of your favorite Black authors?
Some of my favorite authors are Nella Larsen, N.K. Jemisin, Zora Neale Hurston, Talia Hibbert, Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Jasmine Mans, Morgan Parker, Kiley Reid, Angela Davis, Octavia Butler, and Toni Morrison. These are authors whose entire repertoires I hope to read to completion.
You make a point to highlight Black voices and narratives everytime you pick up a book. In fact, your Bookstagram bio says, “prioritizing the narratives of poc & LGBTQ+ community – extra love for women of color.”
Why is it important to you to highlight Black voiced narratives?
I think People of Color have answered this question plenty. I think even the most racist of people are clear as to why. But personally speaking, I think it is important to highlight Black narratives because at the end of the day we need to know that we are out there. Community is extremely important and white culture is, at times, smothering. It was designed to be in hopes that it may prevail above others, but it’s not my culture and it’s a place foreign to me. It can be disorienting, truly, and when I need to come home or be reminded of what brown folks sound like I reach out to these narratives wherever I can find them. It’s about community.
There’s a lot of talk about representation in the book world, especially when it comes to Black people. However, when it comes to Black literature there’s no shortage of relatable characters. Despite this, Black authors are statistically published less than white authors.
What do you hope to one day see more of within Black literature?
I hope to see more joy in Black literature. It’s there but I’d like to see more. Especially for Black women.
As February is Black History Month, what are some of the books that recommend us to read this month?
Every Black History Month I dedicate the entire month to Black literature. Here are some of the books I’m reading this year: The Blacker the Berry by Wallace Thurman, Sula by Toni Morrison, Native Son by Richard Wright.
For folks looking to step into Black literature and/or sticking to the theme of Black History Month here are some go to recs: Afrekete: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Writing by Catherine E. E. McKinley, any selections from The Brown Sisters series by Talia Hibbert, Nigger by Dick Gregory, The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin, Passing by Nella Larsen.
As much as we hate to see her go, our time with Alana is coming to a close. But of course, we can’t go without our final question.
What’s a fun fact about you, Alana?
I am a part-time bookseller and a part-time composer and I freaking love it.
We’ve talked about this before, but remember to not expect the Black people around you to teach you about their culture. If you’re curious, ask questions! However, don’t always expect people to be at your beck and call–in any walk of life.
When it comes to Black History Month, this is a great time to promote Black authors, Black narratives, Black illustrators, Black small-businesses, and much more. But it’s also important to remember that these spaces and people exist outside of Black History Month.
Go drop a follow over on Alana’s socials to enjoy her content year round! And make sure to check out our Instagram–@bookstrofficial–to see her feature on our page!
Want more Bookstagrammers of the Week content from me? Check out last week’s feature here!