Juneteenth Books and the Best BIPOC Books Out Today


I’m back from vacation and feeling mighty fine! Turns out napping at all hours of the day for a week was just what I needed. That, and books, of course.

While I was out, I loved reading our Managing Editor Vanessa Diaz’s In Reading Color send (as always, I love it when she gets spicy), but I’m also happy to be back yapping about the best BIPOC bangers newly out. For this week, they consist of the first adult book by bestselling YA author Nicola Yoon — which is giving Get Out and Stepford Wives realness — an anti-colonial sci-fi heisty adventure, and what sounds like a fun reality show romp featuring an Iranian American family.

I’ve also got a few recs for Juneteenth, which takes place on June 19th. It commemorates when the 250,000 enslaved Black people in Galveston, TX, still under the Confederacy, despite 1863’s Emancipation Proclamation, were freed by around 2,000 Union soldiers. I consider it America’s true Independence Day instead of July 4th (because can you really proclaim independence when not everyone is free?), but I’m not trying to get on a soapbox just yet.

With that said, read new books, celebrate Juneteenth, and be merry!

One of Our Kind by Nicola Yoon

One of Our Kind is Yoon’s (Everything, Everything, Sun Is Also a Star) first adult novel, and it is bringing some heat. In it, Jasmyn and King Williams are a Black couple who move to Liberty, California, a town they believe to be a Black utopia. It certainly seems nice — at first — and though King fits right in immediately, Jasmyn doesn’t. Where she was hoping for like-minded people interested in social justice and activism, she instead found a community of people obsessed with getting spa treatments at the bougie wellness center at the top of the hill. What’s more, she finds out a secret that reveals this perfect place is anything but.

cover of The Stardust Grail by Yume Kitasei; image of the Milky Way with a tentacle sticking out

The Stardust Grail by Yume Kitasei

After last year’s The Deep Sky, Kitasei is serving up what sounds like more glorious sci-fi, this time featuring ” a thrilling anti-colonial space heist to save an alien civilization.” After 10 years of being the best art thief in the galaxy — who returned stolen artifacts to their rightful civilizations — Maya Hoshimoto has been forced into hiding. Now, she’s just a student of anthropology who dreads the future. Then, an old friend pops up with the job of a lifetime — if she can find a powerful item, an alien species could be saved from extinction. Thing is, no one alive has ever seen it, and others are after it, too. To get it, she’ll go from strange worlds to ancient ruins and realize that saving one species could spell ruin for all of humanity.

cover of The Sons of El Rey by Alex Espinoza

The Sons of El Rey by Alex Espinoza

Here’s our other wrestling-centric book, this time featuring Luchadores — or masked Mexican wrestlers, for the unfamiliar. We meet Ernesto Vega in Mexico City in the 1960s when he’s still working on a construction site but is soon discovered by a luche libre trainer. Ernesto is transformed into the rockstar Luchadore El Rey Coyote and becomes known all across Mexico. Decades pass, and in L.A., his son Freddy is fighting to keep his gym open, while his grandson, Julian, is fighting to live authentically as a gay man. As Ernesto’s life fades away in hospice care, everyone from his descendants to his wife’s ghost and manifestations of the past visits him.

cover of Tehrangeles by Porochista Khakpour

Tehrangeles by Porochista Khakpour

The Milanis are a family of Iranian American multimillionaires with a reality show coming out that they realize will air all their dirty laundry — and everyone, from the four larger-than-life daughters to their Persian cat Pari, has something to hide.

cover of Hip-Hop Is History by Questlove

Hip-Hop Is History by Questlove

With the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop having just passed last year, legendary drummer of The Roots, Questlove, looks at history-making songs within the genre, gracefully picking them apart and showing what they meant to music and Black American history alike.

✨ Celebrate Juneteenth! ✨

On Juneteenth cover

On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed

I love to recommend this short book (it’s only 148 pages!) for Juneteenth reading, as it was released just a month before Juneteenth became a federal holiday. In it, Reed details the history of Juneteenth — what led up to it and what came after. I love it when historical topics get a more personal treatment, and here, Reed includes her personal ties to the holiday as a native Texan. She reckons with the white male identity that a lot of Texas projects to the rest of the country, showing instead how diverse the state is and how much nonwhite men have contributed to its — and the rest of America’s — history.

cover of They Built Me for Freedom by Tonya Duncan Ellis, illustrated by Jenin Mohammed

They Built Me for Freedom by Tonya Duncan Ellis, illustrated by Jenin Mohammed

Here’s another history of Juneteenth, this time geared towards the youngins. In it, we learn about the history of Juneteenth through the perspective of Emancipation Park, a park in Houston, Texas that was dedicated to the ending of slavery in the U.S.

cover of Watermelon and Red Birds: A Cookbook for Juneteenth and Black Celebrations  Nicole A. Taylor

Watermelon and Red Birds: A Cookbook for Juneteenth and Black Celebrations by Nicole A. Taylor

Food is always a huge part of any culture, and in the first-ever cookbook celebrating Juneteenth, Taylor’s 75 recipes guide us through the history of the holiday by looking at where and who we’ve come from — like one for an Afro-Egg Cream, which, like the book’s title, highlights the importance of the color red for the holiday.

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