Since opening in 2017, Kalima DeSuze’s Crown Heights bookstore and coffee shop Cafe con Libros has become a beloved haven for readers—in particular Black and Afro-Latinx women—looking for a space to dive into the very best that intersectional feminist literature has to offer. And thanks to her background working to combat racism and gender-based violence for nearly 20 years, there are few people better equipped than DeSuze to offer a reading list that spans both the checkered history and the irrepressible joy of Juneteenth.
For DeSuze, it’s this balance between knowledge of the past and hope for the future that guides both her daily work at the bookstore and the books she selected as essential reading for the holiday. “Of course, they’re all written by, for, and about Black women, and told through different kinds of stories, whether fiction or non-fiction,” DeSuze explains. “But I wanted to think about the actual meaning of Juneteenth, from the history around it to the ways in which Black folks and in particular Black women have moved through it, through culture, through activism, through our hair, even, which can be a point of both resistance and joy.”
And as for DeSuze’s own Juneteenth celebrations this weekend? “On Sunday, I’m actually going to relax and my staff are off to do whatever they want to do,” says DeSuze. “My way of celebrating is just by relaxing, really, as I don’t always have the opportunity to slow down. I think with these big holidays that celebrate Black joy, it often feels like there’s an expectation that we always have to be doing something. But sometimes, especially for Black women, the best thing we can do for ourselves is to allow for a sense of comfort and relaxation and restoration. So I’m going to offer myself that to the best of my ability this weekend.”
Here, find DeSuze’s picks for the best books to read this Juneteenth—and beyond—spanning everything from political histories to cookbooks.
On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed (2021)
The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race
“This is a response to James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time written by a new generation of thought producers on race and racism in the United States of America. There are gendered aspects of it, too, because it’s also about the ways in which intersectional identities have very different experiences. Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time is a book that I think everybody should read—even to this day, it still astounds to me—but then to have a new generation talk about it and engage with it all over again, it chronicles how far we’ve come, how much further we have to go, and how the fight looks different now. I don’t think it’s just a response to The Fire Next Time, I think it’s in dialogue with Baldwin. There’s no disagreement there—they are truly, genuinely in dialogue.”