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6 Reading Recommendations from Radcliffe’s 2021–2022 Fellows

6 Reading Suggestions Book Covers

The 2021–2022 cohort of Radcliffe fellows includes scholars, scientists, artists, writers, and practitioners. Below, a selection of Radcliffe fellows share books that inspired their research, activated their imaginations, and sparked their enjoyment. 

These fellows provided reading recommendations as a thank you to Radcliffe’s donors, whose support is critical to advancing the Institute’s people, programs, and research collections.

Read Until You Understand: The Profound Wisdom of Black Life and Literature (W.W. Norton and Company, 2021)

By Farah Jasmine Griffin

Recommended by W. Ralph Eubanks, 2021–2022 Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Fellow

A gripping read, Read Until You Understand invites the reader to examine a lifetime of lessons and ideas imparted by some of the most renowned Black figures in history. Ralph notes how this book “melds together memoir, history, and literary criticism to examine the ways literature holds the power to be transformative in our lives.” He adds that the book shows how one can use literature “to examine the wounds of the past and present and see those wounds as powerful and learn from them.”

The Sentence (Corsair Books, 2021)

By Louise Erdrich

Recommended by Amy Erdman Farrell, 2021–2022 Mary Beth and Chris Gordon Fellow

Louise Erdrich’s latest novel tells the story of a haunted bookstore in Minneapolis, and a protagonist who is set to uncover the mystery of the ghost’s death. Reviews have claimed that the novel sustains “a narrative as rich, emotional, and profound as anything Louise Erdrich has written.” Amy also recommends Rebecca Hall’s Wake, which tells the hidden history of women-led slave revolts during the Middle Passage—as well as picking up books by her fellow Radcliffe fellows. (You can find books by this year’s fellows on their biographical pages.)

The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois (HarperCollins Publishers, 2021)

By Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Recommended by Ariela Gross, 2021–2022 Joy Foundation Fellow

The first novel by an acclaimed poet, The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois tells the story of a protagonist who comes to terms with her difficult multiethnic past. Ariela praises the book as a “sweeping, mesmerizing, multigenerational story of a Black and Indian family, from the era of enslavement through the present.”

The Vanderbeekers Make a Wish (Clarion Books, 2021)

By Karina Yan Glaser

Recommended by Anthony Abraham Jack, 2021–2022 Shutzer Assistant Professor

The Vanderbeekers Make a Wish is the fifth book of Karina Yan Glaser’s Vanderbeekers literary series. Set in the summer in New York City, this installment tells the story of children who come to terms with their father’s past life and begin to understand the importance of family. Anthony loves this series for “its world building and its ability to discuss tough issues in an accessible way.”

What Stars are Made Of: The Life of Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin (Harvard University Press, 2020)

By Donovan Moore

Recommended by Joan R. Najita, 2021–2022 Edward, Frances, and Shirly B. Daniels Fellow

A biography of Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin—the first PhD in astronomy from Radcliffe College and the first female full professor at Harvard University—is a must-read for all who are interested in the history of women at Harvard. Joan describes this book as “the incredible story of the physicist who discovered what the Sun and other stars are made of.”

The Light of the World (Grand Central Publishing, 2015)

By Elizabeth Alexander

Recommended by Adaugo Pamela Nwakanma, 2021–2022 Radcliffe Institute Graduate Student Fellow 

This memoir tells the emotionally and poetically gripping story of Elizabeth Alexander RI ’08, the noted poet, who is left to navigate the world after the abrupt death of her husband. Adaugo applauds the book as “simply a beautiful meditation on the depth of love, grief, presence, a life well-lived, and much more.”

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