Before Farah Jasmine Griffin’s father died, he wrote to her a note ending with a line “read until you understand.” He would die years later when she was nine, and that line has guided her literary curiosity. In Read Until You Understand: The Profound Wisdom of Black Life and Literature (Norton, 2021), Griffin shares the indispensable lessons of Black wisdom that rooted her from the searing rhetoric of David Walker and Frederick Douglass to compelling Black prose of Toni Morrison and James Baldwin, to the Black soul sounds of Gladys Knight and the Pips and Marvin Gaye. Weaving memoir, history, and culture, Griffin explores the themes such as mercy, love, death, beauty, and grace to help readers wrestle with the continuing struggle for freedom and American democracy.
N'Kosi Oates is a Ph.D. candidate in Africana Studies at Brown University. Find him on Twitter at NKosiOates.