Last Sunday, we ended the service with a ritual bridge crossing. Everyone had this image and question in their order of service–


–and I urged them to answer the question and keep that image and pledge somewhere they would see them often.

There are a couple of things I’m going to do. One is to partner deliberately with African-American-led organizations, listen to what they want me to do to help bring justice, freedom and equality to their people, and do it. The other is not so much action as the foundation for action, because when I listen to other people’s stories I am drawn into their struggles: to read a dozen books by African-Americans that would teach me something about their experience of the country we share. I decided to make it a baker’s dozen. I’ve drawn up the list now and noticed that it’s heavily tilted toward the voices of women.* So here, for Women’s History Month, are the books by African-American women that I’ll be reading over the next several months:

how I discovered poetry, Marilyn Nelson. I just learned about this book today from sister UU blogger Tina Porter, who wrote, “If I taught American History, I would make this mandatory reading. If I taught religion, I’d make this mandatory reading. If I could still make my daughters read things, I would make this mandatory reading. Because nothing could be more informative about life in America in 2015 than the story of the years 1950 to 1960 in the life of an African American girl whose father is in the military, moving the family north, south, east and west.”

Citizen, Claudia Rankine, whom I heard speaking on the PBS News Hour this afternoon and found electrifying. Must read more!

Beloved, Toni Morrison. I love Morrison, but for many years now, I have been dragging my feet about reading this, her masterpiece. I’ve endured other books about dead children; it’s time to bite the bullet.

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Adichie is actually not African-American, but Nigerian, but she spends a lot of her time in the United States and writes about the African-American experience. I wondered if anyone would give me this for Christmas. They didn’t, and the waiting list at the library continues to be long, so I’m just going to buy it for myself.

Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago (Lilith’s Brood: the Xenogenesis Trilogy), Octavia Butler. My wife gave me this trilogy before she was my wife. I dipped a toe in, but couldn’t get into it. We’re going on ten years of marriage and I’ve read and enjoyed lots of other Butler, and sadly, there will be no more, so it’s back to Lilith for me. Honestly, sci fi? alluding to Lilith? How can I not love it?

Salvage the Bones, Jesmyn Ward. I don’t know anything about Ward or this book, other than it’s about Hurricane Katrina and sounds interesting.

The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson. A history of the Great Migration of African-Americans to the urban north from the rural south.

Your nominations are welcome. What books–poetry, fiction, non-fiction–by African-American writers have been important to you?

*The others, by men: The Intuitionist, Colson Whitehead; The Known World, Edward P. Jones; Blues City: A Walk in Oakland, Ishmael Reed; and Brothers and Keepers, John Edgar Wideman.