Author Favorites with Mychal Denzel Smith

by Mychal Denzel Smith

Author and professor, Melissa Harris-Perry, said of Mychal Denzel Smith’s Invisible Man, Got The Whole World Watching, “[it] answers the pressing but unasked question, what would happen if all those black boys felled by bullets had a chance to make mistakes, read books, fall in love, hone skills, take new paths, and grow up?” 

On November 1st, Mychal stopped by MahoganyBooks for an Author Talk and Book Signing. After an engaging conversation touching on a wide variety of subjects from the “power of words” to galvanize a movement to redefining how a community truly engages in transformative political action. We asked Mychal to talk about the books that have been most impactful to him as a reader. His response, listed below, included some all-time classics as well as a couple of titles Mychal acknowledged as being ahead of its time in radical thinking.


The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley
The Autobiography of Malcolm X

ONE OF TIME’S TEN MOST IMPORTANT NONFICTION BOOKS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

The Autobiography of Malcolm X defines American culture and the African American struggle for social and economic equality that has now become a battle for survival. Malcolm s fascinating perspective on the lies and limitations of the American Dream, and the inherent racism in a society that denies its nonwhite citizens the opportunity to dream gives extraordinary insight into the most urgent issues of our own time.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X stands as the definitive statement of a movement and a man whose work was never completed but whose message is timeless. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand America.

Assata by Assata Shakur
Assata

The life story of African-American revolutionary Assata Shakur, previously known as JoAnne Chesimard.

This black activist’s memoir is like a freeze frame of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Though the polemical rhetoric is dated, the book is an otherwise compelling tale of the impact of white racism on a sensitive and powerful young black woman. Born Joanne Chesimard, she took an African name to confirm her commitment to black liberation, joined militant organizations, and was ultimately convicted of the murder of a New Jersey highway patrol officer in 1977. Her descriptions of life in prison and the vagaries of the court system are especially wrenching.
Living now in Cuba as an escaped felon, she continues her utopian plea for revolution.

Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
Sister Outsider

Presenting the essential writings of black lesbian poet and feminist writer Audre Lorde, SISTER OUTSIDER celebrates an influential voice in twentieth-century literature.

In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change. Her prose is incisive, unflinching, and lyrical, reflecting struggle but ultimately offering messages of hope. This commemorative edition includes a new foreword by Lorde scholar and poet Cheryl Clarke, who celebrates the ways in which Lorde’s philosophies resonate more than twenty years after they were first published. These landmark writings are, in Lorde’s own words, a call to “never close our eyes to the terror, to the chaos which is Black which is creative which is female which is dark which is rejected which is messy which is. . . .”

The Evidence of Things Not Seen by James Baldwin
The Evidence of Things Not Seen

In his searing and moving essay, James Baldwin explores the Atlanta child murders that took place over a period of twenty-two months in 1979 and 1980. Examining this incident with a reporter’s skill and an essayist’s insight, he notes the significance of Atlanta as the site of these brutal killings–a city that claimed to be “too busy to hate”–and the permeation of race throughout the case: the black administration in Atlanta; the murdered black children; and Wayne Williams, the black man tried for the crimes.

Rummaging through the ruins of American race relations, Baldwin addresses all the hard-to-face issues that have brought us a moment in history where it is terrifying to be a black child in white America, and where, too often, public officials fail to ask real questions about “justice for all.”

Baldwin takes a time-specific event and makes it timeless: The Evidence of Things Not Seen offers an incisive look at race in America through a lens at once disturbing and profoundly revealing.


About Mychal Denzel Smith

Photo Credit: Syreeta McFadden

A Knobler Fellow at The Nation Institute, a contributing writer for The Nation magazine, and a contributor to Feministing.com and Salon. His debut book, Invisible Man, Got The Whole World Watching, is a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice. Recognized as a groundbreaking cross between the memoir and cultural criticism genres, Smith’s book, a New York Times Bestseller, has been lauded by critics and scholars alike while also being nominated for an NAACP Image Award.

A writer for The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Root among others, his work has won praise from celebrated writers, journalists, and public intellectuals, including Marc Lamont Hill, Melissa Harris-Perry, Michael Eric Dyson, Tayari Jones, and more.

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MahoganyBooks is an online bookstore that believes in social entrepreneurship. We take a leadership role in the African American community promoting reading, writing, and cultural awareness as tools to improve communities as well as enrich the lives of motivated individuals.

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