Black Joy

5 books that brought us joy in 2022

We were back outside this year in a major way, but we did manage to be still enough to read a few books in 2022. These are books by Black authors that changed how we think and brought us joy in those quiet moments between catching flights and catching feels on the dance floor. Presented in no particular order, five books we hope you’ll pick up in the new year.

Didn’t We Almost Have It All: In Defense of Whitney Houston by Gerrick Kennedy

It’s hard to believe 2022 marked the 10-year anniversary of pop icon Whitney Houston’s passing. By fusing biography and cultural criticism, Gerrick Kennedy tells the story of Whitney’s life and legacy with the love and care the superstar didn’t always receive during her time here on Earth. It’s far from a scandal-scorching tell-all, but Kennedy does address Whitney’s love life, relationship with addiction and her Blackness alongside his layered, complex portrait of the iconic singer’s humanity. In this deep exploration of the singer’s duality Kennedy provides nuance and grace that Houston wasn’t always afforded. A defense fitting of our beloved Nippy. — Daric L. Cottingham

Finding Me: A Memoir by Viola Davis

Before she was formidable prime time lawyer or big screen warrior king, Viola Davis was a child in Central Falls, Rhode Island struggling to survive a girlhood afflicted with bullying at school and poverty at home. In her memoir, Davis charts her journey to the world’s biggest stages and her insistence on being seen and heard. Her memoir reminds us that success is not just about manifesting it but being open and allowing yourself to say well done. Beyond her career, Davis shares stories of her love life and family, offering a deeply personal look into the makings of one our generation’s greatest actors. — Daric L. Cottingham

Black Joy: Stories of Resistance, Resilience, and Restoration by Tracey M. Lewis-Giggetts

I’ve got to be honest here, the team has yet to read this offering from Tracey M. Lewiss-Giggetts, but how could we leave THE book about Black joy off our end of year list?! We hope we can all read it together in 2023 when we launch our Black Book of the Month picks. Until then, do as we’ve done, and enjoy Tracey’s mini-odes to Black joy on her Instagram. – Minda Honey

Inciting Joy by Ross Gay

Every time Ross Gay puts out a book about a seemingly uplifting topic – joy, delight, gratitude – I run right out and buy it. And every time I’m walloped by the weight of all that joy, delight and gratitude entail – sorrow, sadness, heartbreak and pain. Generally, I’d say this behavior makes me a fool, but there’s nothing foolish about rushing to drink in the wisdom in Gay’s words. At a recent reading, he told the audience he chose the title of his book as testament to all that has attempted to deny us the joy in life — and yet, here we are. – Minda Honey

Thot by Chanté L. Reid (Sarabande Books)

This book-length essay might be called Thot, but it will get your thoughts going. On Reid’s mind is what’s been on most of our minds these past few years: community, police violence, mental health and Toni Morrison – okay, that last one may just be me because I always have Morrison on the mind. While the subject matter might be heavy, the writer’s wordplay, pacing and line breaks will keep you engaged as Chanté brings us from her beloved Bronx to Beloved and back in less than 100 pages. – Minda Honey

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