This week, Valentine’s Day has fallen amidst the early-week bustle of Black life in Harlem and beyond. It is possible that such a holiday would inspire our community to engage in more self-care. Maybe gifts of the weekend at a local spa, a day of shopping, an easy weekend brunch, or a late evening of affection in the corner of a romantic restaurant on Frederick Douglass. 

You don’t have to be coupled to enjoy a special health splurge, but what may be more fruitful is that we become more conscious about our daily health regimens and relationships. The work we do now on our diets and relationships will make a huge difference next Valentine’s Day. These books offer an opportunity to become more aware of our bodies, sexuality, diets and relational health. If we invest in learning about ourselves, every facet of our lives will become healthier, organized and peaceful.

“Eating While Black: Food Shaming and Race in America” by Psyche A. Williams-Forson | University of North Carolina Press

Before we can eat better, it is important to understand the forms of oppression that have stemmed from Black diets in North America. History is not a necessary tool to change one’s life, but for long-term effects, dismantling unhealthy generational habits and trauma about food will help heal inner wounds, as well as the work we do on our outer selves—our bodies.

“Psyche A. Williams-Forson is one of our leading thinkers about food in America.Sustainable culture—what keeps a community alive and thriving—is essential to Black peoples’ fight for access and equity, and food is central to this fight. Starkly exposing the rampant shaming and policing around how Black people eat, Williams-Forson contemplates food’s role in cultural transmission, belonging, homemaking, and survival. Black people’s relationships to food have historically been connected to extreme forms of control and scarcity—as well as to stunning creativity and ingenuity.” —University of North Carolina Press

“Black Women’s Wellness: Your I’ve Got This Guide to Health, Sex, and Phenomenal Living” by Melody T. McCloud | Sounds True

Sounds True (ST) founder Tami Simon interviewed OB-GYN and author Melody T. McCloud, MD on the ST podcast earlier this week. The enlightening conversation opened by highlighting the incredible historical figure Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, who was a trailblazing Black woman medical professional who cared for Black people right after slavery was abolished. McCloud went on to talk about the disparities Black women patients face in the modern medical sphere. “What’s troubling is that even Black women with access to medical care, with means and insurance, still will lag behind when it comes to a successful health-care outcome,” she said. 

“[McCloud’s] courageous work as a GYN for women of all backgrounds, and her knowledge of her field, women as individuals, and the statistics of cultural imbalances, make ‘Black Women’s Wellness’ a must-have reference for physical, psychological, and sexual wellness, with helpful tips for success in life and love. Finally, we have a book that specifically addresses the path towards health and happiness for our beautiful Black women.” —Jeffrey Gardere, PhD, ABPP

“Monsters in Love: Why Your Partner Sometimes Drives You Crazy—and What You Can Do About It” by Resmaa Menakem | Central Recovery Press

In “Monsters in Love,” republished as an expanded version of a vital relationship manual originally titled “Rock the Boat,” psychotherapist and healer Resmaa Menakem shares insights into the layers of relationships that are not often talked about: hatred in love relationships, the helpfulness of conflict as opposed the detrimental view our culture tends to take, and so on. There is so much to learn from this book about the pursuit of “relationship realism,” which can create a roadmap and clarity regarding the path to positive long-term connections. 

“‘Monsters in Love’ challenges the idea that conflict between partners is unhealthy or something to avoid. Instead, it encourages both people to stand by what they need and who they are—but to do so with compassion rather than competitiveness or vengefulness. This is the purpose of an intimate relationship: to create an atmosphere where both people learn to grow up in their relationship by appreciating each other’s individual needs in a caring and mature way.” —Central Recovery Press

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