A Year in Reading: Mahogany L. Browne

December 21, 2020 | 4 books mentioned 1 2 min read

It’s been a long year standing still between my books and the outside world. The two choices below are just a few of the worlds that allowed me to preserve my headspace, while oscillating between genres.

Fiction: The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw came as a surprise, the beautiful cover, the small sized containment of secrets and shame. The collection of stories is a culmination of femme and punch. It rocks the tethered ideologies informing sexuality, intimacy, religion and orgasm. The stories of how women find love, and the venn diagram where spirituality and organized religion intersect, is a journey. It is a fulfilling read, lush in its luster. The slick of the pages, the want of our humanity when no one is looking, when no one is judging.


YA: Every body Looking by Candice Iloh is a flight and flight kind of text. It is a YA novel in verse where a young femme’s voice grows into herself. Her body becomes the flight pattern for home. Her home becomes her body’s articulation of movement. Her body is a force of light, the language crawls on the page like a prayer, or a song, no…the score. It is a score. If you have the time to lose and laugh and consider your own youthful reckoning, this book bring it. Forward.


Graphic: A Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds is the book length poem turned into a graphic novel. Jason’s craft is succinct. His emotional urgency is consistent and palpable. The story of the young man convening with the truth of ghosts on his way to avenge his brother’s death, is a eulogy. It is a eulogy for who we can lose sight of when we distracted by the pain of loss.


Current Events: We Will Not Cancel Us: And Other Dreams of Transformative Justice by adrienne maree brown is serving as my amuse bouche of the year. It is the final book title on my reading list. And it is truly a compass in how I want live in 2021. The collection of exploratory essays is filled with accessible language and strategies to build social movements that are sustainable in the face of harm. I am re-reading the text as I type this, relocating my annotations as road maps to a rooted more communal understanding. Brown unveils each bullet point like a question mark. This emboldened and tender text insists the readers become active and engaged citizens when she writes “In this sanctuary we feel our victory, where winning means a mass and intimate healing.”

I feel like reading is a sport. And while poetry is my truest love, I’ve challenged my reading list to delight in all my literary landscape delights in all the genres. It’s been a long year coming, and these books are in preparation for my continued healing, my large and unforgiving living.

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Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 20192018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

is a writer, organizer & educator. Executive Director of Bowery Poetry Club & Artistic Director of Urban Word NYC & Poetry Coordinator at St. Francis College. Browne has received fellowships from Agnes Gund, Air Serenbe, Cave Canem, Poets House, Mellon Research & Rauschenberg. She is the author of Woke: A Young Poets Call to Justice, Woke Baby & Black Girl Magic</a (Macmillan), Kissing Caskets (Yes Yes Books), Dear Twitter (Penmanship Books), and the forthcoming YA novel Chlorine Sky. She is also the founder of the Woke Baby Book Fair (a nationwide diversity literature campaign) & as an Arts for Justice grantee, is completing her first book of essays on mass incarceration, investigating its impact on women and children. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.