2020 was a challenging year. When the world was forced to quarantine at home, many of us found solace in books, where we could escape to a different reality. I asked our editors to talk about one book that helped get them through 2020. Here is a collection of their selections, highlighting BIPOC titles that were either released or enjoyed in 2020. – Carolina Meurkens [Editor-in-Chief]

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko was my favorite quarantine read of 2020! The story revolves around Sunja, a Korean woman from a small fishing village and her lineage from her parent’s story to her grandchildren. It spans across a timeframe of nearly a century, starting in the late 19th century with Sunja’s father. The story not only focuses on the personal lives of this family, but the class and ethical hardships that Koreans faced during and post World War II. The novel spans across three parts, so it’s a hefty read but VERY WORTH IT! Also Apple TV bought the rights to the book, so hop on the bandwagon ASAP so you can gloat about how the novel is better than the TV adaption (it always is, right?)- Kimber Monroe [Director of Operations]

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras 

This was one of the first books I picked up this year. It is a really great fiction novel with some historical facts revolving around the turmoil of 1990s Colombia. The book focuses on the lives and problems of two different young girls in different social economical statues whose lives intertwine. I don’t really read a lot and I’m hoping to get more into reading this upcoming year, but out of the few books I picked up this year, I really recommend Fruit of the Drunken Tree. – Maya Renee Castro [TV/ Film/ Theater Editor]

Jazz by Toni Morrison

“I like the way the City makes people think they can do what they want and get away with it.” 

Toni Morrison is one of my favorite writers and when I found out she had a book written about New York City, you know I just had to read it. This book takes place in 1920’s New York City which in it of itself grabbed my attention. Morrison uses Jazz as a literary tool to play with characters, rather than Jazz being a central topic, Jazz becomes the characters in the way that their stories live within history through sensuality and sorrow. – Joana Meurkens [Art Director]

You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat 

It comes as no surprise that there aren’t many things we can categorize as great when it comes to the year 2020, but Zaina Arafat’s new novel is certainly an exception. Arafat’s main character in You Exist Too Much is a Palestinian-American struggling to find their way through culture, religion and sexuality while juggling wanting to be loved yet not loving themselves enough. Jumping from the past and present with each chapter, readers see that homophobia, racism and identity issues permeates through the characters entire life. Being an Arab-American woman, I found Arafat’s writing to be nothing short of a masterpiece. The struggles of religion, identity and my sexuality are continuously things I feel proud of one day, and guilty for the next. I urge you all to give it a read, and let me know what you think. – Citrine Ghraowi [Politics Editor]

A Fortune For Your Disaster by Hanif Abdurraqib

If there’s one thing that eclectic essayist/poet/cultural critic Hanif Adurraqib is going to do, it’s making you feel abnormally intimate towards a punk rock song you’ve never heard. Or a concert you’ve never been to because you weren’t into that band in ‘02.  And you’ll thank him every time. In his mastery of both pen and pain, A Fortune of Your Disaster,  Adurraqib’s latest collection of poems, sandwiched between a collection of essays and a long form book about Black Dance, is simply another reminder of what it feels like to hear someone try their hardest to communicate the intangibles of our favorite songs, concerts, and dead idols. How they can soundtrack moments of our lives forever, how much memory is intrinsically linked to sound itself. – Tayo Omisore [Poetry Editor]

Luster by Raven Leilani

Luster is Raven Leilani’s debut novel and it took the literary world by storm when it was released this year. It’s an intimate look into how racial identity and intimacy are often intertwined. Edie is a young African American woman struggling financially and navigating the pitfalls of intimacy and loneliness in New York City. She meets Eric online, an archivist in an open marriage. Edie is drawn to Eric for a number of reasons, the main one being that he admires her youthful tenderness. In an unfortunate sequence of events, Edie ends up homeless and unemployed, after which Eric’s wife Rebecca invites Edie to live in their home.

Within weeks, Edie finds herself growing comfortable in their family dynamic, especially as she helps their adopted daughter Akila navigate her Blackness. What took my breath away when I read this novel was the fresh unconventional approach Leilani had on deconstructing domesticity and the power dynamics in intimate relationships. – Carolina Meurkens [Editor-in-Chief]

Questions for Ada by Ijeoma Umebinyuo

Questions for Ada is perfectly on time. Each intricately written poem meets you where you are and doesn’t judge, but whispers truths you’ve known all along.  She writes about the diaspora child figuring out her way in a society that uplifts misogyny but leaves little room for the thoughts of women. She writes about needing to pause. She writes uplifting messages that you need to hear. I feel like she writes about and to me and for that I am eternally grateful. 

For this “Best Of,” I wanted to include proof. Read below for my favorite poems, the ones that resonate with me the most, from Questions from Ada.Stephanie Eyocko [Food Editor]

pg. 38:

For imperfect daughters 

For those who do not 

bow to tradition 

For imperfect daughters

still trying each day 

Not to call themselves failures

You are here. you are becoming.

isn’t that enough?

pg 84:

I am too full of life 

To be half-loved. 

pg 92:

I am learning to be patient

with my healing

and never to close my mouth 

when my scars scream.

I am learning to be patient 

with my healing

and never to carry fire

when all i want to do is 

feast on water and silence.

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