It all started one fateful day in the summer of 2019 when Chicago-based rapper Noname tweeted a photo of the book she was reading, Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi. One of her followers responded asking to be pen pals and share thoughts because they happened to be reading the same book. The rest, as the saying goes, is history. The idea for Noname’s Book Club, opens a new window was born.
With more than 82,000 followers on Twitter and 52,000 on Instagram as of February 2020, the digital book club is on fire. Dedicated to uplifting the voices of people of color, Noname’s Book Club spotlights two books each month by authors of color. Discussions mainly happen on social media or at one of the six chapters nationwide that meet in-person.
“We feel it’s highly important to have free, in-person meetups to discuss the monthly picks in a safe and supportive environment,” states the club’s website. “In 2020 we also want to raise funds to send our monthly picks to select prisons in various cities. It is extremely important to us to share work we believe in with as many folks as possible.”
With selections described as “reading material for homies”, the books span from literary classics to works by emerging authors. In a recent NPR interview, opens a new window, Noname emphasized that the book club’s goal is to “highlight voices that may not be picked up by other book clubs, to welcome all readers, and to educate people on timely, tough social topics.”
She also hopes that the book club encourages people to visit their local library or shop at local or Black-owned businesses. The Noname Book Club website has a tab featuring participating libraries and a tab for folks to find locally-owned bookstores in their community. Here in Cincinnati for example, Black-owned Smith & Hannon Bookstore is thriving in its new Over-the-Rhine location.
In an interview with ESSENCE, opens a new window, Noname revealed that she struggled with reading as a child, despite being the daughter of Chicago’s Afrocentric Bookstore owned by her mother, Desiree, the first Black woman to ever own a bookstore in the Windy City. Reading just wasn’t Noname's thing. That is until she read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye in high school. “I remember reading that in high school and my mind being blown,” she told ESSENCE “I remember that book being really, really pivotal for me in actually getting me interested in reading.”
While her mother’s bookstore closed in 2008, Noname’s Book Club helps keep its legacy alive and exposes Noname’s fans to the rich world of reading. “I still struggle with reading,” she admitted to ESSENCE “But I love reading […] To be reading with a community just feels good.”
Read on for the book club’s current selections, as well as past titles.
Sister Outsider , opens a new windowby Audre Lorde
Magical Negro, opens a new window by Morgan Parker
Sabrina & Corina, opens a new window by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
The Wretched of the Earth, opens a new window by Frantz Fanon
Persepolis (The Story of a Childhood), opens a new window by Marjane Satrapi
Parable of the Sower, opens a new window by Octavia E. Butler
How to Cure a Ghost, opens a new window by Fariha Roisin
Faces & Masks (Memory of Fire, Vol. 2), opens a new window by Eduardo Galeano
Faces in the Crowd, opens a new window by Valeria Luiselli
Don't Call Us Dead, opens a new window by Danez Smith
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, opens a new window by Paulo Freire
We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, opens a new window by Samantha Irby
You can follow Noname's Book Club on Twitter @Nonamebooks, opens a new window and on Instagram @nonamereads, opens a new window. To support their work visit patreon.com/nonamebooks, opens a new window.