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RI ARTS

Recent books by Black authors in Rhode Island

Memoir, poetry, fiction, and even books for children published over the past year, with a few more titles expected this summer

A collection of children's books
A collection of children's booksBen Sklar/NYT

Last spring, bookstores around the country closed their doors, unsure when they would be able to welcome readers in again.

But the coronavirus pandemic did not hurt the book industry like it did other sectors. Publishers Weekly recently reported that the sale of books for the first three quarters of 2020 had increased by more than 6 percent compared to 2019. And the demand for books on specific issues surged, such as topics related to social justice and race, as well as about the things that people missed from their lives during quarantine, such as traveling, dating, and sports.

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In Rhode Island, some authors were just publishing their books when the pandemic hit last year. Others started writing during quarantine, and are just about to release their titles this year.

Here’s a round up of recent books by Black authors in Rhode Island.

Memoir

“My Crazy Life,” by Aisha P. Felix

Aisha Felix was born in the US Virgin Islands and raised in the Commonwealth of Dominica West Indies, and works as a certified nursing assistant at the Woonsocket Health and Rehabilitation Center. “My Crazy Life,” which will launch later this summer by Stillwater River Publications, is her first book. She began typing her story during quarantine as a therapeutic project to “help understand her life and learn how to improve the future.”

Poetry

“Fatherhood Is a Verb,” by Quintin Prout

Quintin Prout paid homage to his Cape Verdean heritage in his first collection of poetry, “Nobe’s Kitchen,” which was published in 1998. His latest collection, “Fatherhood is a Verb,” looked to “reinvent” the English language. Published in February 2021, the works reads as a father and daughter interacting from one poem to the next.

Fatherhood is a Verb by Quintin Prout.
Fatherhood is a Verb by Quintin Prout.Stillwater River Publications

“The Whirling Top: A Black Toymaker’s Journey Through a Maze of Racism in America,” by LaMont Morris

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LaMont Morris, an award-winning industrial designer, inventor, and a paper sculpture artist, was featured in Black Enterprise Magazine as one of “America’s Top Black Designers” and is listed as inventor on patents for major classic brands like Play-Doh, Lite-Brite, Tonka, Fisher-Price toys and more. In his new book, “The Whirling Top,” he writes poetry from the perspective of childhood innocence to manhood in “a world of subtle and overt racism,” contrasting his passion for toys against the contrasts of a long history of injustice.

“Doing Wattsnatural: Life in Words,” by Latoya Watts

In this new autobiographical fiction, “Doing Wattsnatural: Life in Words,” Latoya Watts shares some of her experiences being a Pastor’s child, a wife and mother, an educator, and an introvert. She was born on the Caribbean island of Tobago before migrating with her family to Boston at 8 years old. She currently works as a full-time literacy specialist at a high school in Providence, where she and her family live.

“Soul Ties,” by Jewel Williams

Jewel Williams was born in Scarborough, Tobago, and moved to New England when she was 2. By the end of the fifth grade, she moved to Providence and graduated from The Met High School in 2011, where now teaches. Her new book of poetry, “Soul Ties,” will be released later this month, according to her publisher.

Soul Ties by Jewel Williams
Soul Ties by Jewel WilliamsStillwater River Publications

Children’s Books

“Wherever I Go,” illustrated by Munir D. Mohammed

Wherever I Go,” written by Mary Wagley Copp and illustrated by Munir D. Mohammed examines the life of a young girl, Abia, who lives in the Shimelba Refugee Camp. She and her family have been there for the last seven years as her father continues to assure her that it won’t be long before they find their “forever home.” The story was designed to be a tribute to the strength of refugees around the world. Mohammed is originally from Ghana, West Africa, and now lives in Providence. While he is can typically be found in his studio or painting community murals, he also co-founded the International Gallery for Heritage and Culture, which helps provide art and cultural education programs in schools.

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“Seize the Day,” by Gianel Santana

Seize the Day” walks through a day in the life of Aaliyah, who happened to have the worst day yesterday. The story follows Aaliyah waking up “ready to conquer a new day,” before walking through a neighborhood park where inspirational children throughout history are referenced along the way. Something occurs in the book that makes Aaliyah question whether she should continue to find happiness or head back home. Gianel Santana, the book’s author, is a teacher at Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy in Cumberland. She graduated with her master’s in education from Roger Williams University and her bachelor’s in human development and family studies from the University of Rhode Island.

Fiction

“The Hillcrest Damsels,” by Victor Barros, Jr.

“The Hillcrest Damsels” is a contemporary urban fiction book that tells the story of Trevor, a bright and successful young man who is just heading out on his own. Soon, he realizes that unsettling things are happening in his new apartment building and he has to start uncovering the mystery. The book’s author, Victor Barros, is a third generation Cape Verdean-American who was born and raised in Rhode Island. His book will be released sometime this summer.

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Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz.