Redefining Realness (Atria $24.99) by Janet Mock is a memoir about growing up trans gender in Honolulu. In it Mock puts a very raw account of being born a boy, her trials as a sex worker, and becoming the woman she is today. An existential work championing the triumphs and struggles when what you feel doesn’t match what you see in the mirror. This book may change your life or someone you know that is truly struggling with what fitting in really means.

In the Zone: How to Get over Your Obstacles and Succeed (Abingdon Press, $16.99) by Mark Crear is a fantastic self-help book. This two-time Olympic medal winner and world record holder in the 110-yard hurdle is also an ordained pastor, certified life coach and published author. Taking the same work ethic he applied to succeed in all his other endeavors, these tips for hurdling the obstacles in your own path may truly help you win in the game of life. Learn more about him and his works at

Witness: Two Hundred Years of African-American Faith and Practice at the Abyssinian Baptist Church of Harlem, New York (Eerdemans, $25) by Genna Rae McNeil, et al., is a fantastic history of one of the oldest African-American churches and communities in New York. Legend has it Abyssinian began when a small number of Blacks left a church in downtown New York City due to persecution. This small group was inspired by the Coptic Ethiopians they witnessed exit in protest to the segregation of worship experienced in this same church. More than its beginnings, Abyssinian is a cornerstone to the history and culture known as Harlem. Definitely check this out.

Searching for Zion (Grove Press, $17) by Emily Raboteau is now out in paperback, with cover art provided by contemporary artist Kehinde Wiley. If you’ve ever wanted to leave your native country for the promise of a utopia elsewhere, this book is for you. While she answers many questions on differences between races and religions, one of her main concerns is what happens when you are the “other” elsewhere. Raboteau finds out in conversations with ex-patriates residing in Israel, Jamaica, Ghana and Ethiopia. She doesn’t have all the answers, but in asking the questions, many truths shine through.

When I Was the Greatest (Atheneum, $17.99) by Jason Reynolds is a contemporary novel set in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, based around a narrator, his sister, his best friend and the best friend’s brother. This young adult work has librarians and classroom teachers alike buzzing. It’s an urban tale that middle school students can relate to; adults as well. Reynolds’s novel is an enjoyable story about community, family and friendship that’s relatable and enjoyable at any age.

Down to the Crossroads: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Meredith March Against Fear (Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux, $28) by Adam Goudsouzian is about the last great freedom march of the Martin Luther King Jr. era in 1968. This march was begun and led by James Meredith, who intended to walk from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi to promote voter registration. What happened from the mobs to the gunmen to the police brutality to the emergence of a young activist named Stokely Carmichael is a pivotal part of American history.

—Brook Stephenson