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Beach Reads, Memoirs Dominate the Summer: July 2020 Celebrity Book Club Picks

Beach Reads, Memoirs Dominate the Summer: July 2020 Celebrity Book Club Picks

With the impact of the anti-Black racism protests last month, some of the celebrity-founded book clubs kept the focus on Black stories as others chose the top books of the summer including reads perfect for the beach (if it’s open) and texts exploring gender and sexual identity.

AMERIE’S BOOK CLUB

You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat

The debut novel features a Palestinian American girl who is yelled at by a group of men for showing her legs on a trip to Bethlehem. The experience eventually allows her to tell her mother she’s queer as she moves to different spaces to find her true self.

I rooted for her and hurt for her as she tried to find her way through one bad decision after another,” Amerie wrote on Instagram. “The main character, whose name is never revealed, stayed with me long after I closed the book, as did her hope for yet another shot at love.

BELLETRIST BOOK CLUB

The Dragons, The Giant, The Women: A Memoir by Wayétu Moore

The author of She Would Be King and founder of nonprofit One Moore Book has a new memoir about her experience living through the civil war in Liberia. At five years old, she’s waiting to be reunited with her mother, who’s studying in New York, then her world is turned upside down with the war. Her family flees on foot from their home and get smuggled across the border of Sierra Leone, where they get a chance to fly to the U.S.

Belletrist, founded by actress Emma Roberts and producer Karah Preiss, also chose the Black woman-owned Semicolon Bookstore in Chicago as its indie bookstore of the month.

GMA BOOK CLUB

Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan

The Crazy Rich Asians series creator’s new book takes place on the island of Capri with a half-Chinese, half-White woman trying to fall for the well-off White man her family likes while avoiding another man, who is Chinese, she keeps suppressing her feelings for.

“It’s a summer escape full of travel, food, fun and fashion,” Kevin told Good Morning America. “The outrageous characters will make your crazy families seem almost normal.”

KAIA GERBER’S BOOK CLUB

Darling Days: A Memoir by iO Tillett Wright

Born female, the author comes of age in downtown New York with a young widowed mother and adopts the persona of a boy amid the 1980s “intersection of punk, poverty, heroin, and art.”
“In talking to him about his experience publishing this book, he taught me that writers who happen to be queer too often are dismissed as ‘queer writers’ and their books, regardless of the topics they cover, end up exclusively stocked on ‘LGBT author’ shelves,” Kaia wrote in an Instagram post. “Darling Days goes far beyond this—it is a story about neglect, creativity, internalized homophobia, and the beauty you can make out of pain. it is a New York story of growing up and out of the life you are born into.” 

NONAME’S BOOK CLUB

Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Y. Davis

Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex by Eric A. Stanley and Nat Smith

Rapper Noname picks Are Prisons Obsolete?, a book that calls for the abolition of prisons and how it will benefit society as a whole. The homie pick, Captive Genders, comes from Che Gossett. It studies trans and gender-queer people in prison with the most recent version including a foreword from CeCe MacDonald, who was imprisoned for killing a transphobic attacker, and an essay by Chelsea Manning, the former U.S. Army soldier who transitioned amid getting sentenced for espionage.

OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB

Deacon King Kong by James McBride

This novel tells the story of a church deacon who shoots the neighborhood drug dealer point blank range in front of the community and the aftermath.

“In naming Deacon King Kong my latest Oprah’s Book Club selection, I am hoping readers will find in it what I did: sorrow, joy, resilience, humanity, and an understanding that while we struggle with pain and trauma, we can find shelter in one another—just as the characters in the Cause housing project in McBride’s Brooklyn do,” Oprah wrote in the Instagram announcement

READ WITH JENNA – TODAY SHOW BOOK CLUB

Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan

Jenna Bush Hager’s book club via her Today Show gig is one of the hottest books of the season. The main character is a new mother who hires a college senior as a baby-sitter. As they grow close, the baby-sitter’s relationship with the mother’s father-in-law leads to a betrayal.

“I wanted to explore American life in the pre-Trump years and sort of how we got here,” the author said in an article introducing the book club pick. “The book very much digs into the gig economy, the shrinking safety net and the notion that privilege takes many different forms.”

REESE’S BOOK CLUB

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

After the book club delayed its selection announcement in June, actress Reese Witherspoon directed her book club to make two selections—a first to recognize current events. Both books will be read over June and July.

“Elevating women’s stories is at the core of Reese’s Book Club. I love how this community champions the narrative for women and we are just getting started,” the book club placed in a graphic on Instagram. “Unity and understanding through the lens of storytelling is how we will continue these meaningful conversations.”

Readers expressed their disappointment in the comments over the book club adding a book by a Black woman author last minute and not pushing back the book by a White woman author to another month.

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