I've always been a stan for reading, and I've been a so-called book geek since kindergarten. My mom would always reward good grades and behavior with a trip to the local library, something my siblings loved more than any new toys or free time to play outside. We would spend hours at the tall stone building in the downtown area of the small town I spent my childhood in, first in the downstairs "Children's Room" (which only had books for readers 5-13). I later graduated to going (i.e., snuck) upstairs to find all the juicy celebrity autobiographies, travel books, and classics like Sula, Moby Dick, and A Midsummer Night's Dream.
So today, when I see so many Black women part of #bookstagram, I feel seen because many of us love not only to read but to drown in books by Black authors, poets, historians, and researchers who continue to add to the narrative and reflection of what it truly means to be a Black person---a Black woman---in America.
Check out (and follow) a few of my favorite Black women bookstagrammers and the books that empower us:
Zora Neale Hurston is clearly an icon, and she's one of my favorite authors, thought leaders, and scholars, so this is an obvious choice for me. What I love, specifically, about this bookstagrammer's page is that it lacks pretension, is super-relatable, and includes a nice mix of nonfiction books, something I'm trying to boost in my collection.
2.Kayla Starr @blackgirlbookadventures
Another classic, Beloved was a book I unsuccessfully tried to read as a 12-year-old, tried again in my 20s (and failed), saw the film, and then fell back in love with again reading in my 30s. Black Girl Book Adventures is a page that just screams brightness, positivity, and a love for books that draws you near.
3.Black Girl With Books @blackgirlwithbooks
This book had a profound effect on me, as it connected the dots between Ghana (a place that has held a special place in my heart since my 2016 visit) and Black America in a way that blew my mind. It also helps that the storytelling and timelines are captivating and thoughtful in a way that any editor who just loves good writing--in an online content environment that seems to reward robotic, vapid, Grammarly-informed, copycat writing---would appreciate.) The founder of this page also offers info on bookstores and other interesting updates for bibliophile baes.
4.Shani Akilah @_shaniakilah
A love of travel and books? Yes, please! Shani's page is refreshing and welcoming, inviting you in on her global adventures along with her journeys through her latest reads. I'm a huge fan of books that feature Black women protagonists in Caribbean or African settings who are able to come into a higher sense of themselves through challenge or hardship. For some reason, I'm always drawn to those books, which is why this one is a top pick for me.
5.Boipelo Lecha @boipelo.reads.books
I'm not big on romance novels (after having grown out of an early obsession with Danielle Steele). At one point, I'd been yearning for a book that offered an elevated sense of the Black love experience (beyond the esteemed OGs like Terry McMillan, Eric Jerome Dickey, and Zane) and stumbled upon Love In Color. It was just what I needed because it's a collection of classic love stories retold through the lens of the author, and the tales centrally feature women.
Biopelo is an up-and-comer in the #bookstagrammer space.
I've been consumed by Black historical fiction, and this is a good one for the collection. It tells the story of a Black southern family through generations in a way that doesn't feel like a book you were forced to read for a college project. It screams, "Turn me into a six-part Netflix saga," and was a surprise hit for me because I made some very ignorant assumptions about a poet being able to write such a story. (Ah, like Maya Angelou isn't literally a queen in my head.)
Virginia-based Semiyah is literally like my reading tastes twin, down to the mix of types of books she showcases on her page, from romance fiction to new YA titles.
Lex serves up book events and information about new releases to boot, and her page doesn't scream, "Hey, I'm going to just promo books sent to me for free by publishers." On top of that, I support any and everything with the name Tiffany D. Jackson stamped on it. She's a graduate of the other HU (heeeey all my Hampton *cough*, I mean, Howard folk), and the way she puts her special stank on YA will have you wanting to actually relive your own teenage years.
Dare I say, reading her work is like the first time I read Judy Blume, Sister Souljah, and Candy Dawson Boyd---all pioneers in what is now known as young adult fiction. It's authentic, truthful, kind, real, and has a living soul, all elements I yearned for back in the late '80s and '90s as a confused, geeky, Black girl at the library and that I still yearn for as an award-winning editor, editorial manager, and self-employed woman at my big age.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by myriam meloni/Getty Images
Take Our 2-Minute Wellness Quiz To Up Your Self-Care Game!
Black women are not a monolith. We all are deserving of healing and wholeness despite what we've been through, how much money we have in the bank, or what we look like. Most importantly, we are enough—even when we are not working, earning, or serving.
Welcome to Black Girl Whole, your space to find the wellness routine that aligns with you! This brand-new marketplace by xoNecole is a safe space for Black women to activate their healing, find the inspiration to rest, and receive reassurance that we are one small act away from finding our happiness.
Want to discover where you are on your wellness journey? You don't have to look far. In partnership with European Wax Center, we're bringing you a customized wellness quiz to help you up your wellness game. Answer our short series of questions to figure out which type of wellness lover you are, what you need to bring more balance into your life, and then go deeper by shopping products geared towards clearing your mind, healing your body, and soothing your spirit.
Ready to get whole? Take our quiz now!
From Monogamy To Polyamory: 'I'm In An Asexual Poly Marriage With My Husband Of 7 Years'
Have you ever wondered what it's like to be asexual and in an open marriage? Relationship Coach Mikki Bey shared her first-hand experience with us as well as answered some of our burning questions.
Like a lot of people, Mikki met her now husband, Raheem Ali, online. As soon as they met, they instantly fell in love and got engaged on their first date. Just 90 days after they met, the couple tied the knot and have now been married for seven years. Raheem and Mikki aren’t your typical married couple, and despite being married for almost a decade, their marriage is anything but traditional. Mikki and Raheem have what she calls an "asexual polyamorous marriage."
Defining Her Sexuality
It wasn't until last summer that Mikki found the language to define her sexuality. "I didn't have the language for it until last summer," she explained to xoNecole. "Looking back, I just thought sex wasn't my thing. It was never enjoyable for me, and I'd go years without even noticing.”
Mikki always thought she was broken because she had no interest in sex. Mikki noticed after her friends came to visit and started discussing their sexual fantasies that she realized something was different about her. “At that point, I knew something was definitely different about me since I do not have sexual fantasies at all. It was truly news to me that people are at work thinking about sex! That was not my experience.” This led to Mikki researching asexuality, which she soon realized fit her to a T. “It felt like breathing new air when I was able to call it by name," said Mikki.
"Looking back, I just thought sex wasn't my thing. It was never enjoyable for me, and I'd go years without even noticing it."
Asexuality refers to people who experience little or no sexual attraction, experience attraction without acting on it sexually, or experience sexual attraction differently based on other factors. Like most things, asexuality falls on a spectrum and encompasses many other identities. It's important to remember, however, that attraction and action are not always synonymous: some asexuals may reject the idea of sexual contact, but others may be sex-neutral and engage in sexual activity.
It's possible that some asexuals will have sex with someone else despite not having a libido or masturbating, but others will have sex with a partner because it brings a sense of connection.
From a Traditional Marriage to Kitchen Table Polyamory
Although Mikki never really had a high sex drive, it wasn’t until after the birth of her son, that she noticed her sex drive took a real nosedive. “I never had a high sex drive, but about a year after my son was born, I realized I had zero desire. My husband has a high sex drive, and I knew that it would not be sustainable to not have sex in our marriage at that time.”
She was determined to find an alternative to divorce and stumbled upon a polyamory conversation on Clubhouse. Upon doing her own research, she brought up the idea to their husband, who was receptive. “It’s so interesting to me that people weigh sex so heavily in relationships when even if you are having a ton of sex, it’s still a very small percentage of the relationship activity," Mikki shared.
They chose polyamory because Mikki still wanted to be married, but she also wanted to make sure that Raheem was getting his individual needs and desires met, even if that meant meeting them with someone else. “I think that we have been programmed to think that our spouses need to be our 'everything.' We do not operate like that. There is no one way that fits all when it comes to relationships, despite what society may try to tell you. Their path to doing this thing called life together may be different from yours, but they found what works for them. We have chosen to design a marriage that works for us,” Mikki explained.
"We have chosen to design a marriage that works for us. We both consent to each of us having everything from casual sex partners to lifetime partners if it should go there. We believe love is abundant and do not limit ourselves or each other on how we express it."
She continued, “We both consent to each of us having everything from casual sexual partners to lifetime partners if it should get there. We believe love is abundant and do not limit ourselves or each other on how we express it. Our dynamic is parallel with kitchen table poly aspirations.”
Kitchen table polyamory (KTP) is a polyamorous relationship in which all participants are on friendly terms enough to share a meal at the kitchen table. Basically, it means you have some form of relationship with your partner’s other partner, whether as a group or individually. A lot of times, KTP relationships are highly personal and rooted in mutual respect, communication, and friendship.
Intimacy in an Asexual Polyamorous Marriage
Mikki says she and her husband, Raheem, still share intimate moments despite being in a polyamorous marriage. “Our intimacy is emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical, although non-sexual. We are intentional about date nights weekly, surprising and delighting each other daily, and most of all, we communicate our needs regularly. In my opinion, our intimacy is top-tier! I give my husband full-body massages, mani-pedis and make sure I am giving him small physical touches/kisses throughout the day. He is also very intentional about showing me his love and affection.”
Raheem and Mikki now use their lives as examples for others. On their website, thepolycouplenextdoor.com, they coach people interested in learning how to be consensually non-monogamous. “We are both relationship coaches. I specialized in emotional regulation, and Raheem specializes in communication and conflict resolution. The same tools we use in our marriage help our clients succeed in polyamory."
Mikki advises people who may be asexual or seeking non-monogamy to communicate their needs openly and to consider seeking sex therapy or intimacy coaching. Building a strong relationship with a non-sexual partner requires both empathy and compassion.
For more of Mikki, follow her on Instagram @getmikkibey. Follow the couple's platform on Instagram @thepolycouplenextdoor.
Featured image by skynesher/Getty Images