Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina (Touchstone, $24.99) by Misty Copeland is a raw, honest tale of growing up and into the calling of a lifetime for a young girl. Copeland is shuffled around the world of ballerinas and her mother’s husband’s homes struggling to find her own place. Her memoir is filled with passion, pain, success, and the pure joy of an African-American prodigy dancer maturing and excelling in a field where she is 99% of the time the darkest skin-toned woman in the room… and the most talented. 

How Sweet the Sound (Abingdon Press, $14,99) by Vanessa Miller is a contemporary romance novel about a gospel singer who travels far for fame and fortune only to lose her voice. She returns home, and hopes the man she left can help her get right. Right entails getting her singing voice back, and regaining the fame she was just beginning to taste and enjoy.

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Bedrock Faith (Akashic, $16.95) by Eric Charles May might be the surprise hit from this list. This Chicago native writes a novel set in a small Black town. Really it’s a block community where an ex-convict returns home and turns everything upside down with the religious conversion he underwent in prison. He wasn’t the best juvenile, and turns this small world around via accusations, losing friends, gaining enemies, and more. Bedrock Faith isn’t a short read, but it’s a rich one, and the characters are engaging.

Transforming Pain to Power (Berkley, $19.95) by Daniel Beaty is the self-help book that you just might need. This talented author, motivational speaker, and playwright has won NAACP awards for theater twice, as well as an Obie Award. This book tells his story from youth, poverty, and pain to success. “It is full of my poems, personal stories, and exercises I’ve used personally and as a teacher for over a decade.” Go to tour dates near you.

The Sweetest Thing (Dafina, $6.99) by Deborah Fletcher Mello is the romance novel that will set your sweet tooth aflame. A man dies and leaves his successful business, Just Desserts, to his daughter. Problem is, the men who run the business and create the desserts have never heard of her. She wants to sell it off but falls for one of them. Then a rival suitor comes calling for her affections and the business itself. This is just the thing for spring, because it’s getting hot in here. Enjoy.

The Orchards of Lost Souls (Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux $ 26) by Nadifa Mohamed  begins in pre-civil war Somalia. This novel traces the intersection of three women’s lives—a soldier, a street urchin, and a woman abused by the police—as a country plunges into civil war. While Mohamed herself was barely four when the war began in real life, she paints a compelling picture of life and struggle inside a Somali she’s been exiled from via memory, imagination, and talent.

Boy, Snow, Bird (Riverhead, $27.95) by Helen Oyeyemi. This novel is some kind of wonderful. A retelling of a fairy tale in classic Oyeyemi fashion (like her five previous award-winning novels, in fact), this one is Snow White turned on its head. You have the evil stepmother, Snow White herself, the prince, and the shunned sister. But that isn’t telling you much about how a White woman from New York City ended up in a small town in Massachusetts bearing a Black daughter. Watch for the changes. This book is good.

The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery (Simon and Schuster, $26) by Sarah Lewis. This critical study is an investigation into the psychology and exaltation of creativity, art and the human spirit. Lewis includes profiles of writers and artists across the spectrum, from Frederick Douglass to physicist Andre Geim. The author (a curator, educator and Andy Warhol for the Visual Arts board member) says it best: “It’s about looking at achievement in reverse.” If success is in your plans, be you creative, philanthropic, entrepreneurial business-oriented or however, read this book. For more about Lewis, see

Brook Stephenson