P/P Year in Review: Best Books of 2016

Written By: Olivia J. B. Baxter


Editor’s Note: Here we are at the end of 2016. I am sitting here working on my computer while listening to James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” as a book on tape. I wrote a poem about being so tired that I couldn’t read Baldwin, but of of course, like him, I have a morbidly effervescent determination to find a way around my exasperation. I have over 200 books stacked up in my small apartment in Downtown Baltimore. “Discovering Your Past Lives: The Best Book on Reincarnation You’ll Ever Read…In This Lifetime!” jumped out at me as I am currently doing research for my second book, “The Warmest Low and Other Essays & Poems” which is a surrealist love story and collection of writings about reincarnation, karma and relationships.

Anyway, my new friend Olivia wrote a list of the Best Books of 2016 for Publik / Private. We met at a reading in Philadelphia a few weeks ago and immediately recognized that we had a lot in common. After hearing each other read excepts from our own upcoming books, we walked over to one another, noted our literary similarities and exchanged information.  She and I are both autodidacts, feminist women of color and have a deep love and affinity for the written word. I am so thankful to have met her and that she was able to volunteer to write this list. If you want to get ahold of her, email us at info@publikprivate.org. Happy New Year! -je


Into the Light- Aleatha Romig  


Into the Light prompts an examination of the Duality of light and dark. This psychological thriller accentuates human motive and underlines inter-connectivity as we follow two women protagonists existing in different environments having disparate experiences. A prodigious mind f*ck.

The Mothers- Brit Bennett  


This is the debut book by new Author Brit Bennett and it along with its author have rightfully received great praise. The Mothers is a book that can be swallowed whole- Certainly worth reading in one sitting. This book follows a young woman, Nadia, as she navigates through the grief and healing of losing her mother to suicide. She seeks to compensate for that love lost in her new relationship with a pastor’s son which leads to her becoming pregnant and having an abortion. The events to follow challenge Nadia as she navigates into and throughout adulthood where she finds herself questioning where she could or would be if her choices had been different and her own.

If the Dress Fits – Carla De Guzman


If the Dress Fits is a light-hearted contemporary romance approaches stigmas around weight by endorsing the confidence, strength, and proficiency women- specifically thick and fat women- can have as they challenge social constructs and beauty standards around body size, while also going through the process of letting go of one’s own insecurities around weight and its influence of her worthiness of love.  

What is Not Yours in Not Yours – Helen Oyeyemi


This magical book introduces an alternative perspective into life as it is beneath the surface through use of a key that can unlock worlds and hidden aspects of each of its characters’ lives. Helen Oyeyemi and What is Not Yours in Not Yours delves into the mysticism of human layers creating kaleidoscope views of secrets, desires, and lies. I’m a new fan of this young British author.

Juliet Takes a Breath – Gabby Rivera


I adore the characters in this book. Juliet makes me want to climb into the pages and move in solidarity with her as she begins to explore a world away from home for the first time in Portland as a young, gay, brown Latina from the Bronx, NY on internship under the tutelage of a renowned writer and femactivist, Harlowe Brisbanne. Juliet Takes a Breath houses love, grief, empowerment, self-exploration, awareness, revolution, and sisterhood- all the right ingredients for a piece of literature that can be savored as it fills the reader up with every page read.

Fetish Bones- Camae Aweya


An ode to ancestors; Psalms to freedom fighters, matriarchs, community, culture; Praise of survival, strength, and endurance of black women, families, communities; Prayers for the lost, dismantled, and living dead; A literary hex on generations of oppressors.  Fetish Bones is a compilation of raw, uninhibited poems acknowledging the symptoms our communities and people of color have endured from being raised under and within a racist society by transporting the reader throughout space and time into Camae’s recollections of family, community, and colonialism.

Queer & Trans Artists of Color – Interviews by Nia King


Queer & Trans Artists of Color is Enlightening. Empowering. Entrancing- I was in a trance reading these interviews. The sixteen artists interviewed address racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny in their families, communities, and society, with specific focus on these issues existing within LGBTQ communities. The artists speak of their own experiences with becoming aware of the many ways in which members of society are being conditioned and trained to oppress one another. This book dissects the impact systems of colonization and the patriarchy have had on us, and how they influence our ability to connect and encourage revolutionary movement through creative arts.

There’s great emphasis on the artists’ intentional steps to dismantle systems of oppression through the creation of outlets for marginalized groups of queer and trans people to commune, learn, and create in safe environments and supportive communities. The reader should have a highlighter or pen in hand and google search open to underline and research the names, events, organizations, and artists mentioned throughout this book.

Mad Woman – Kat Savage


Exposed. We’ve been invited into the chambers of Kat Savages being in Mad Woman –  a gallery displaying her least adorned feelings, faults, experiences, and thoughts. She undresses herself for the reader, revealing her flesh, spirit, and soul in this book of poetry and prose.

Mind Platter- Najwa Zebian


The powerful roar of a woman unheard can shake solid ground.  Mind Platter introduces us to personal reflections of maintaining integrity, motivation, and love through life experiences with friendships, family, hurt, disappointment, and more. A voice for the voiceless. Bringing forth appreciation for my journey that has led me to be the person I am today; aware today will shape who I will be tomorrow.

Furthermore – Tahereh Mafi


An enchanting fantasy. Alice, a pigment-less twelve-year-old born in Fernwood, a land where color is magical, sets off on a journey into a land called Furthermore with a companion Oliver- whose magical power is his strong ability to lie and deceive- to locate her father after he has been away for three years. Mafi carefully crafted this story developing individual villages within Furthermore that are mystifying in their topsy-turvy nature- up is down, right is left, inanimate objects are alive. Alice not only sets out to find her father, but she is forced to find, embrace, accept, and assert herself in order to survive in the dangerous world of Furthermore. This book is an all ages book, but from a sci-fi enthusiast it’s a pleasant read for an adult.


Olivia J. B. Baxter ‘Liv.’ is an autodidactic expressionist who uses artistic mediums as vehicles to transport her on expeditions throughout the shallows and depths of self, society, heritage, and environments to gain a better understanding of and connection to personal, communal, ancestral, and universal truths. She’s also a women’s health and human rights activists, Co-developing the Philly Birth Project to provide pregnancy, birth, and postnatal support services to women and families of color to address and remedy maternal and infant mortality within Philadelphia’s communities of color.


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