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A love of Black literature animates every page

A love of Black literature animates every page

Black literature is a truly vast landscape. Farah Jasmine Griffin, one of the leading voices on African American literature, is the perfect guide with her book “Read Until You Understand: The Profound Wisdom of Black Life and Literature.” She takes readers into the past to evaluate where America has been, and looks into the future to theorize about where the country could go.   

Griffin’s love for Black literature was stoked from childhood by her father, who died when she was young. His death affected her greatly, but the memory of him provides a golden thread that ties the book together. He often gave her books and publications that “articulated a sense of Black history and culture that stretched beyond the borders of the United States.” 

Her father’s insistence that she read until she understands – an admonition that provides the book’s title – drives Griffin to explore the many branches of Black life and thought. Each chapter untangles complex topics such as the definitions of mercy, forgiveness, and freedom. She explores questions such as: What does it mean to have mercy? How does this relate to how we dismantle white supremacy? From Toni Morrison to James Baldwin to Phillis Wheatley to Barack Obama, Griffin uses Black culture to connect present-day conflicts with those of our not-so-distant past. 

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