The connotation of “newness” denotes that something else must be considered “old.” New cannot exist without old, but the beauty of the mind and the blessing of the individual mindset or outlook brings about a certain freedom to define modes of duality into something completely different — a third path. In compiling this list of the Best Black Books of 2022, I do not desire for these pieces of literature to be considered old or something of the past. I hope they will be marked as books to consider, read and re-read well into the future. Many readers ingest the same books several times throughout their lifetimes, learning something new with each revisit, deepening their understanding into each passage.
Just because 2023 has manifested, it does not mean we should forget all that we have gleaned from 2022, a year that brought an array of Black writers and books to the fore of Western and global consciousness. This is part two of Best Black Books of 2022, which will differ slightly from part one in that excerpts of my coverage of these books in Amsterdam News throughout the year will appear in the highlights of each book.
Black Country Music: Listening for Revolutions | Francesca Royster (University of Texas Press)
English professor and scholar Francesca Royster’s book Black Country Music follows the author on an observational and historical journey through the racially divisive undertones of American country music. “I felt like there was a lot of distraction or discomfort, talking to other Black people about country music. I really wanted to pursue that, understand it and also think about it in terms of my own experience being in Nashville. That set me on the course, researching, interviewing friends, getting a sense of different everyday people sharing the same mixture of interest but also [the] discomfort [of] talking about it. I thought, there’s a story here,” Royster told the Amsterdam News earlier this year. This book is just as personal as it is a well of knowledge regarding the history of the Black country tradition and the artists who contribute to it, past and presence.
Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, the Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm | Dan Charnas (Swift Press)
Earlier this year, we noted three hip hop nonfiction books that emerged in 2022. One of the selections was one of the most acclaimed books of the year: Dilla Time. “Award-winning journalist and hip hop music business expert, Dan Charnas teaches a course at New York University entitled ‘Topics In Recorded Music: J-Dilla, a definitive look at the life and music of the late Detroit born hip hop production genius, J Dilla.’ Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, the Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm journeys from Dilla’s childhood to his untimely death of a rare blood disease. He is known to be one of the most revered hip hop producers of all time, unequivocally defining the sound of the hip hop soul area in the 1990s and 2000s,” said the Amsterdam News in August 2022.
Black Disability Politics | Sami Schalk (Duke University Press)
Black Disability Politics is a profound exploration and documentation of a cultural topic that has gone overlooked throughout the entire history of the Black American experience. This examination of the process of freedom fighting for rights, validation and voices advocating for disabled Black citizens is an important history to share with the world. Sami Schalk, an associate professor of Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin, writes about the history of Black disability politics, giving a deeply important view of the fight for the rights of disabled Black people in America since the 1970s.
The Black Girlhood Studies Collection | Aria S. Halliday, Editor, & Various Contributors (Canadian Scholars’ Press)
The Black Girlhood Studies Collection author, assistant professor of Gender and Women’s Studies Aria S.“Halliday does an amazing job of creating a thoughtful and well-researched literary environment that considers Black girls in a world that ignores the deep crevices of their lives and perspectives,” said the Amsterdam News in August 2022. Black girlhood is another disparaged, under-researched and underserved population of the world, and Halliday acknowledges this sector of marginalized people residing in the United States, Canada, the African diaspora and the Caribbean. The Black Girlhood Studies Collection is a vital volume of thoughtful intellectual insights ranging from “self-care and fan activism to political role models and new media, this interdisciplinary collection engages with Black feminist and womanist theory, hip-hop pedagogy, resistance theory, and ethnography,” wrote the book’s publisher.
Ain’t But a Few of Us: Black Music Writers Tell Their Story | Willard Jenkins, Editor, & Various Contributors (Duke University Press)
Within the span of the nearly a century of the Black music genre, which has also been understood and revered as a Black spiritual, improvisational practice, there have been a disturbingly minimal number of Black jazz writers, broadcasters, journalists and critics. This reality — the overwhelming majority of white writers and editors who specialize in covering jazz — was initially addressed with vigor by writer and thinker LeRoy/Leroi Jones, later known as Amiri Baraka, followed by writings about this issue over the next 60 years. Nonetheless, in 2022, a modern, fresh collection of interviews entitled Ain’t But a Few of Us gives voice to Black jazz writers from the 1940s to today in a triumphantly panoramic view of the visceral experience of Black jazz journalists and those who choose to cover the music successfully, by being published widely and regularly throughout their careers.
Signs & Skymates: The Ultimate Guide to Astrological Compatibility (Running Press)
Black mysticism and astrology has existed under the radar of modern popular culture since the New Age era arose in America in the 1960s, gaining popularity in white mainstream culture in the 1970s and ’80s. This, in turn, caused Black practitioners to live and work quietly, finding it tough to attain diverse clients in need of healing and guidance outside of their community or local region. 2022 brought the publication of the definitive book, Signs & Skymates. “West African astrologer Dossé-Via Trenou has created a definitive guide for astrological compatibility. Signs & Skymates will enlighten readers about their relationships with family, friends and selves through Via Trenou’s comprehensive style that uses ‘whole-chart houses’ to find compatibility between people’s astrology charts.Compatibility is found when two people’s birth charts are compared and even overlaid upon one another to find the commonalities, synchronicities, differences and clashes between two people who are in a relationship.” The book encourages “readers to expand their ideas about each sign — including the ones in their own chart.” “Whether you are very experienced in astrology or just learning, this book will assist you in discovering the nature of your interpersonal connections,” said the Amsterdam News in September 2022.