13 Habits to Start Early in Your Marriage

13 Habits to Start Early in Your Marriage

I absolutely love marriage. Although Mr. M and I have only been married for a little over a year, it is a topic I have always been passionate about, and something I love to encourage other ladies in. Recently, Mr. M and I were at a Sweetheart Breakfast thrown by our church for Valentine’s Day, and they stressed the topic of mentorship. As Christians, we believe in living through community and recognize that we can do nothing by ourselves. As newlyweds, we are to fall under the leadership of an older couple and allow them to mentor us in our relationship. However, even though we have only been married for a year and some change, we also have a calling to turn around and mentor other couples who are younger than us and who may not be married. The beauty of mentorship is accountability. I can’t tell a girl I’m mentoring that she needs to honor her boyfriend with her words and actions if I’m not honoring my husband with my words and actions.

That is a big reason why I love to talk about marriage every Friday. It holds me accountable to the things that I say. Every day I am reminded of who I am as a woman of God and as a wife; and every day I am shown new ways to love my husband, and convicted of old things I do that don’t show my husband love. Mr. M and I love to look up to couples who have been married 10+ years and talk about how they are more in love than they have ever been. And that is our goal – to not allow the stressors and selfishness in our lives to distance us from each other. Instead, we want to take our flaws, work through them, and grow closer to each other.

Last night we celebrated Anti-Valentine’s Day – the day when we first made eyes at each other. We went out for a nice dinner and dessert, then came home put on our pjs and snuggled while watching a movie. It was the perfect “ahhh” after having a busy first two months of the year. And that got me thinking about how grateful I am that we made date night a habit in our marriage. Even though we don’t have kids yet, I believe that starting good practices now will help us to transition into them one day when we have little babies running around. (We’ll come back to this in a few years to see if I’m correct.)

13 Habits to Start Early in Your Marriage

Make Date Night a Priority

Rain, snow or shine – pick out a day of the week that you can set aside as TOGETHER time. Whether it’s cooking together, or going on an adventure, it’s important to set aside quality time where you know you get to talk and connect emotionally.

Related: Date Night Ideas

Go to Bed Together

I can count on one hand the number of times Mr. M and I have gone to bed separately, and when that has happened, I don’t sleep well until he’s in bed with me! It’s so crazy how easy it was (for me, not so much for him because I’m a bed & cover hog) to transition into sleeping next to him. Going to bed together each night allows you to talk, recap your day, or do other fun married things. And by the way – keep your cell phones out of the bedroom.

Spend Time With Each Other’s Families

This is easier for Mr. M and me, since his family lives in our town and my family is only two hours away. Creating great relationships with your families unifies you as a couple, and unifies your families as well. In a perfect world, everyone gets along, but I realize this is not the case. However, you can show love to your spouse by showing them that the people they love are important to you, too.

Seek Wise Counsel

Once again, I’m talking about mentorship. Having an older couple to love on you and guide you in your first few years (and subsequent years!) of marriage is SO beneficial. It’s nice to have someone to text, “I’m mad because he didn’t do the dishes, am I crazy?” and get a sincere response. I love my husband better because of the mentors we have in our lives.

Go to “Maintenance Counseling”

Before Mr. M and I got married, we spent 6 months in pre-marital counseling. Then, at the 6 month mark of marriage, we went to counseling again. Tonight we are going to our 1 year counseling appointment. I jokingly asked Mr. M if he had his laundry list of complaints to submit and work through tonight. But seriously, I’m a huge proponent of counseling in general. Going to someone who knows you as a couple, asks the hard questions, and allows you to walk through any issues you might be going through in a safe space is life-changing for your relationship. In your relationship, you need to pull the weeds when they are small before they turn into full-grown weeds that choke up your relationship. Maintenance counseling gives you the chance to expose hte weeds and pull them up.

State Expectations, Revisit Expectations

One thing we did not do is set clear expectations of who was going to clean what in the house. We both work full-time, so we both take care of the house. I do the laundry, and Mr. M does the bathrooms. And then our genius idea was “whoever sees what needs to be done will just do it.” Wellll guess who sees what needs to be done. After many emotional break downs and little arguments, we finally realized our system was not working. Now we set expectations of who cleans what and I ask for help rather than sulk and do everything by myself. Whatever it is in your relationship – state your expectation: whether it’s for finances, sex, quality time, etc. Every now and then, go back and revisit your expectations and see what needs to change and where you are doing well.

Have a Monthly Check-In

One great space to revisit expectations is by having a monthly check-in. Mr. M and I don’t do this, but it is something I definitely want to implement in our relationship! I heard on The Real the other day that this lady has a monthly check-in with her husband while they’re in the bathtub. It’s a non-threatening environment, and the intimacy that comes with being smooshed together in the bathtub makes it so you are more emotionally available to talk about hard things. I’ve also heard about couples taking coffee dates to go over their schedules, their week, and their finances. Date night is not the time to sit down and make a budget, or talk about business related things, so setting aside a time for a monthly check-in keeps you on the same page.

Surprise Each Other

It is SO easy to get into the routine of things and start to take your spouse for granted. I’m embarrassed to admit that this happened quicker than I expected in our marriage. We both have pretty consuming jobs – both emotionally and time wise – and I’m not so fantastic at compartmentalizing. When I notice we’re off sync, I have to take a heart check and see what’s going on. Usually it has to do with one of us being extraordinarily busy and consumed in our mind with things other than each other. I get it – this is how life goes. But like I said earlier, I don’t want to allow the stressors of life to get in the way and consume us. So when things like that happen, I take intentional time to stop by Mr. M’s job and bring him a sweet treat. You can surprise your spouse in a multitude of ways. What is his/her love language? Use that as a guide to see how you can treat your spouse spontaneously.

Related: 5 Ways to Connect in the Busy Seasons

13 Habits to Start Early in Your Marriage

Have Alone Time 

Look, I love my husband and want to spend all my time with him. But you know what else I really enjoy? Books and bubble baths and long romantic walks through the home goods section in TJ Maxx. While it is incredibly life-giving to spend time with your spouse, you also need to take time to yourself. Find an hour each week where you can get some quality 1:1 time with you. Whether it’s taking yourself on a coffee date, going to the gym, cleaning the house, etc. Whatever it is that brings you joy, do it. You will be a happier lady and a happier spouse.

Set a Budget, Revisit the Budget

I hate the B word. I’m really good at saving, but I’m also really good at spending and not allocating monies for this and that. Mr. M is more thrifty than I. I joke that at the end of the month, I start to use his debit card because he has more money in his account. But seriously – budget for the lifestyle you can afford and stick with it. (I’m preaching to the choir here.) Keep credit card charges at a minimum, and consult each other before major purchases. Someone once told me, “The two biggest stressors in marriage are sex and money; my suggestion is to have a lot of both.” While I laughed, it’s so true. If you don’t have a lot of money, you can be wise with your money and that will save you a ton of grief.

Spend Time in Scripture Together

Mr. M and I both grew up in Christian homes where our families spent time together in Bible Study and prayer. A good foundation to set for any Christian couple is to keep God in the center of your relationship. How do you do this? By spending time with the Lord by yourself and also with your spouse. In all transparency, I’m not fantastic at being vulnerable in my faith in front of my husband. Why? Because I’ve always felt more insecure about my faith and it’s a very personal thing to me. However, I am learning so much by opening up in prayer and worship with Mr. M. And I have to look at it as spiritual exercise – the more you do it, the more you enjoy it.

Honor Each Other

Your spouse is your best friend and your life partner. You have to live with that person and go to bed with them every night. So why wouldn’t you honor and give life to them? A little honor goes a looong way in your marriage. Respect each other with your words, your actions, and the way you speak about your spouse in front of people. I know that people say “men want respect, and women want love” but the truth is, we all want to be honored.

Get Away

Getting away with your spouse to get out your element does wonders for your relationship. Mr. M and I took little mini weekend getaways several times last year, and it was so lovely and helpful for us to get away from the routine and relax and enjoy each other. The downside to it? You get spoiled and want to get away ALL the time. When you set your budget with your spouse, make sure to set aside “date night” money and “get away money.” That way you have something to save up to look forward to!

What would habits would you recommend setting early on in your marriage?

 

15 Chickflicks to Watch Tonight

15 Chickflicks to Watch Tonight

One of the saddest things of 2018 is the lack of chick flicks we’re producing these days. One of the staples of my childhood and teenage life was getting together with my best friends, or having a girl’s night with my mom, sisters, and grandma and aunts to watch a feel-good, cry your eyeballs out chick flick. And sadly,  I haven’t seen too many “I MUST GO SEE THIS” films coming out that represents what a 90s chick flick should be.

I’m a huge movie watcher, so I wanted to get together some of my favorite films that you can watch by yourself, with your bestie, or with your man for Valentine’s Day this year! And to my knowledge there are no Nicholas Sparks inspired movies on here. But there are a couple Julia Roberts movies mentioned because I think all good chick flicks should have Julia Robertson in them.

Cry Your Eyeballs Out

Steel Magnolias – 1989

This is the perfect “coming of age” movie in chick flicks, if you ask me. You deal with life, love, and loss. There are so many big named, amazing actresses in this movie and Sally Fields – she just takes the cake for her performance in this one.

PS I Love You – 2007

OK when I watched this for a second time in college, I started crying before the movie started, throughout the entirety of this film, and for 10 minutes after the movie ended. Granted, I was in a very dark place emotionally but if you need a cathartic movie – this is the one for you.

Happy Endings

Licensed to Wed – 2007

I don’t know how I just discovered this movie like a month ago, but it was recently added to Netflix so I watched it with my sister and Pai and we laughed the entire time! It features John Krasinski, Mandy Moore, and Robin Williams – so an A+ class in the comedy department.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding – 2002

I can watch this movie over and over and over again because it is so stinkin’ quirky, and quirky is my favorite. I also felt like it mirrored my life as I was planning our own intercultural wedding.

When Harry Met Sally – 1989

When Harry Met Sally has an R rating, so I didn’t watch it unitl I was a grown up, but as soon as it was over, I had to call my grandma as this is one of her favorite movies. We talked for a long time about love and marriage after watching this movie, so it holds a special place in my heart. The downside is it’s hard to hear Billy Crystal without thinking of Mikwasowski from Monster’s Inc.

Unconventional Endings

Me Before You – 2016

just watched this movie this week. I read the book last year and liked it, but didn’t think it was absolutely amazing. I would almost say I like the movie more than the book in this one! Louisa is so quirky and adorable, and the chemistry between her and Will Trainer is adorable. You’ll probably cry at the end.

LaLa Land – 2017

La La Land is a movie I need to own. Once I got past Emma Stone’s breathy singing, I fell in love with the head nod to 1960’s cinematography, and this is one modern day musical I can get behind. I love my chick flicks to be realistic, so the ending here was perfect for me.

15 Chickflicks to Watch Tonight

Quirky & Cute

500 Days of Summer – 2009

If there ever was a perfect casting choice, it was to put Zooey Deschanel across from Joseph Gordon Levitt. THEY ARE THE PERFECT AWKWARD COUPLE. I had no idea what to expect watching this movie in college, but I want to get my hands on it again because it is so perfect. Anytime I am at Ikea all I can think of is the line from this movie, “Honey, there’s an Asian family in our bathroom.”

About Time – 2013

I can’t mention chick flick movies without putting a movie on here with Rachel McAdams. If I’m being completely transparent with you guys, I don’t remember what this movie about (which is typical, this is why I get to watch movies over and over again) but I remember absolutely loving this one. It has time travel in it, so this is the second time Rachel McAdams is married to a time-traveler. Go figure.

Girl Power

Hidden Figures – 2016

Now that I’ve seen Empire, it’s hard to watch a movie with Taraji P Henson in it without imagining her screaming, “Lucious!” and banging someone with a broomstick. However, Hidden Figures is the perfect girl power movie – these ladies are smart and fierce. I love that this story is also based on a true story.

Mona Lisa Smile – 2003

I love it anytime Julia Roberts comes onto the scene. As a lady armed with a liberal arts degree and dreams of teaching one day, Mona Lisa Smile was the perfect feminist, liberal arts film.

The Help – 2011

Anytime you put Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer together, you have a power team. I love the bravery these ladies show in sharing their stories. Plus when a small town writer changes the world? It’s a great ending.

Movies You Can Watch With Your Man

Hitch – 2003

I am all here for Will Smith making us laugh. I have seen this movie more times than I can count, and a couple of those times have been with my husband and my parents. It’s the perfect rom-com to settle down with valentine.

Princess Bride – 1987

My husband didn’t initially think he would like Princess Bride, but after he sat down and watched it with me, he loved it! It’s corny, the hero saves the day, and it will make you laugh. This is a timeless classic you could watch even with your kids!

15 Chickflicks to Watch Tonight

What are your Valentine’s Day plans?

10 Self-Affirmations to Make Your Day

10 Self-Affirmations to Make Your Day

Have you ever had those days where you just feel as if you aren’t enough? Like everything you do – no matter how well you do it – isn’t right?

Recently I received some news that made me question who I am. While it wasn’t exactly terrible news, it still caused me to doubt in my abilities and in my identity. I soon started to spiral down into a dark place where I was believing lies about myself that I knew weren’t true.

I have long said that being in your 20s is like being in the middle school of adulthood. We all are all in different stages. You have 25 years old who are still in school, who are out of school, who are married and unmarried, who have 1-2 kids and who don’t have children.

I recognize that we each have our own journeys, and our timetables vary. But some days it can still feel as if you’ve been left behind.

So what do you do?

You can sulk and have a pity party, or you can encourage yourself. I often use to wait until my mom or my husband would talk some sense into me, but the other day I realized (because Pai wasn’t texting me back) that there are just those days where you have to talk sense into yourself. So I grabbed my favorite pens and a piece of paper and wrote down things I knew were true:

I am a strong woman.

I am a confident woman.

I am a great wife.

I am competent.

There is a pastor from Bethel Church in Redding, California who says, “Your words build worlds.”

I used to not put much weight in what I had to say, but the older I get, the more I realize that the words I say not only reflect my situation, but speak life into my situation.

Even if something is the pits, I don’t have to say, “This is the pits.” Instead I can flip the situation on its head and say, “Even though this really sucks, it did give me the realization that I do ____ really well and that is going to help me in the future.”

After I wrote down my self-affirmations, I realized that the lies that were in my head didn’t measure up to the truth I had to tell myself. I was then able to go about my day confident in myself and in my abilities.

If I’m being honest, I never put much stock into self-affirmations. But it seems as if the older I get, the more I realize I don’t have it all together and I need that much more encouragement to make it through on those tough days.

10 Self-Affirmations to Make Your Day

If you’ve noticed, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted on a Monday. And that’s becauuuuse I’ve been working on soemthing that has been on my to-do list for months.

An email list!

I really pushed off the idea of having an email list for a long while, but I realized that if I want to get serious about this passion and hobby of mine, that this is the definite next step. So I am excited to introduce to you the Hugs & Lattes newsletter!

And to celebrate, I have 10 self-affirmations to make your day go right to download for you today.

What are  your favorite ways to pick yourself up on the down days?

5 Quirky Ways to Celebrate Love this V Day

5 Quirky Ways to Celebrate Love this V Day

If I’m being honest, I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day. I mean, I enjoy chocolate and a good excuse to celebrate love. But why do that just on February 14th and not all year? Some say (my dad, my husband) that I’m high maintenance.

It probably doesn’t help the fact that Mr. M and I met and consequently fell in love at an Anti-Valentine’s Day party. So February 15th is my preferred day to celebrate love.

But I’m not one to pass up an excuse to come up with an excuse to celebrate love – whether you’re loving on your partner or on your best friend: these five ideas are fun and quirky ways to celebrate an inexpensive Valentine’s Day!

Related: Why You Need to Celebrate Galentine’s Day

Inexpensive Valentine's Day Ideas

Take Awkward Couple Photos (on purpose)

I’m not gonna lie. . . I have done this both with my  best girl friends and with Mr. M. The girl friends were easier to convince. Awkward couple photos are bound to make you both laugh and have a fun time being silly. It also gives you a good excuse to make fun of Valentine’s Day and couples that take awkward photos by accident (because they’re awkward. . .)

Make a Spotify Playlist

When Mr. M and I first started dating, we spent a summer apart, so we stayed connected by making a collaborative playlist on Spotify. It’s like making mix tapes for each other, but in 2018. Pick out your favorite songs, or songs that remind you of each other and make a joint playlist! (This is also the perfect time to come up with your couple name.)

My best friend from college also regularly sends me an ACTUAL mixed cd for my  birthday or other special occasions and it’s my favorite part of snail mail.

Go on a Thrift Shop Shopping Spree 

Give each other a budget of $5-10, then go and pick out something fun and useful, or an item of clothing for each other. If you pick out clothes, wear those outfits on a date later that day!

Write a Poem for Each Other 

Whether you are a secret poet, or you just like to be adventurous, writing a poem for each other can be a fun way to express your love for your loved one. Your Valentine’s Day poem can either be silly or serious. My personal favorites are ones that make me laugh. If you’re not a great poet, you can still come up with fun ways to write about your loved one in a way that can make them feel special.

Make a Scrapbook Together

This one may appeal more to girl friends, because I have never met a man who willingly sits down and works on a scrapbook with his lady. I’ve started this thing where every New Year, we take time to reflect on the previous year and write down our highlights from each month and print out pictures from each month. Something like this could also be done for dating anniversaries, best friend-aversaries, or just any time you realize you have 1000 pictures on your phone.

Related:5 (Last Minute) Valentine’s Dates

Inexpensive Valentine's Day Ideas

10 Books to Read for Black History Month

10 Books to Read for Black History Month

When Mr. M and I were in Memphis two weeks ago, we had the opportunity to go to the National Civil Rights Museum. It was an awe-inspiring afternoon, and we could have spent so much longer than the 3 hours we spent working our way through the museum.

The older I get, the more I am conscientious and appreciative that we take time to commemorate black history. It is unfortunate that we a) have to make a conscious effort to do so and b) that we relegate it into one month when it all should be integrated into America’s history. Although my husband was not born in America, he shows a deep understanding and appreciation of acknowledging the pain that encompasses the black community in American history, which has helped open my eyes to do so as well.

So what do you do if you don’t live an area of have any African-American/black friends? You can read! This is why I love books. It has helped open my eyes to to worlds that I would not have known otherwise. Today I’ve compiled 10 books to read during black history month. And let me make a disclaimer: I have not read all of these books yet. Almost all of them are on my bookshelf at home, and I am halfway through several of them. A few of these recommendations came from Mr. M, and a few of them came from NPR (because Fresh Air is my jam!)

10 Books to Read During Black History Month (2)

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 The Hate You Give – Angie Thomas

I just started this book last night and already got tears in my eyes during the first chapter. This is the perfect book club book – especially if everyone in your book club is white. This book is so important to read – especially during this era.

“Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.”

Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston

I fell in love with Zora Neal Hurston in my 20th century American literature class in college. Her short story, “Sweat” introduced me to her strong characters and the nuanced way she weaves love and life and insecurity amongst her characters.

“Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.”

Beloved – Toni Morrison

This is a book I have picked up several times and never finished, but it is on my list of books to read this month during Black History Month. Toni Morrison is such a praised author, and her protagonist – who used to be a slave, brings us into her world of living post-slavery but still struggling with her identity.

“Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement.”

Between the World and Me – Ta Nehisi Coates

This is also on my list to read this month, and I’m already bracing my heart. I got this book for Mr. M a couple years ago, and I have listened to several interviews and podcasts with Ta Nehisi Coates since. He speaks in such a raw and vulnerable way; I can understand his cynicism, but it also hurts to read if you’re a sensitive soul. 

“In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?

Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.”

Any and All Maya Angelou Autobiographies (Letters to My Daughter Listed Below)

I am really jealous because my husband lived in Winston-Salem once and heard Maya Angelou speak at the library before she passed away. I fell in love with Maya Angelou’s poetry and autobiographical works in college, and I think she intertwines pain and beauty in the same sentence in such a spectacular way.

“Dedicated to the daughter she never had but sees all around her, Letter to My Daughter reveals Maya Angelou’s path to living well and living a life with meaning. Here in short spellbinding essays are glimpses of the tumultuous life that taught Angelou lessons in compassion and fortitude: how she was brought up by her indomitable grandmother in segregated Arkansas, taken in at thirteen by her more worldly and less religious mother, and grew to be an awkward six-foot-tall teenager whose first experience of loveless sex paradoxically left her with her greatest gift, a son.

Whether she is recalling lost friends such as Coretta Scott King and Ossie Davis, extolling honesty, decrying vulgarity, explaining why becoming a Christian is a “lifelong endeavor,” or simply singing the praises of a meal of red rice, Maya Angelou writes from the heart to millions of women she considers her extended family.”

The Color Purple – Alice Walker

It’s hard to think of the Color Purple without thinking of Oprah, but this is a classic in African-American literature. 

“Published to unprecedented acclaim, The Color Purple established Alice Walker as a major voice in modern fiction. This is the story of two sisters—one a missionary in Africa and the other a child wife living in the South—who sustain their loyalty to and trust in each other across time, distance, and silence. Beautifully imagined and deeply compassionate, this classic novel of American literature is rich with passion, pain, inspiration, and an indomitable love of life.”

Letters from Birmingham Jail – Martin Luther King Jr

Did you think I was going to list books to read during Black History Month without mentioning Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr? This is a short, but deep read from the profound MLK.

“The Letter from Birmingham Jail, also known as the Letter from Birmingham City Jail and The Negro Is Your Brother, is an open letter written on April 16, 1963, by Martin Luther King Jr. The letter defends the strategy of nonviolent resistance to racism. It says that people have a moral responsibility to break unjust laws and to take direct action rather than waiting potentially forever for justice to come through the courts. Responding to being referred to as an “outsider,” King writes, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.”

The Color of Water – James McBride

I picked this book up last year, intrigued as I will be a white mother to black children one day. I loved reading about James McBride’s life and how he struggled with his identity, but was enveloped by the love of his mother. 

“Who is Ruth McBride Jordan? A self-declared “light-skinned” woman evasive about her ethnicity, yet steadfast in her love for her twelve black children. James McBride, journalist, musician, and son, explores his mother’s past, as well as his own upbringing and heritage, in a poignant and powerful debut, The Color Of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother.

The son of a black minister and a woman who would not admit she was white, James McBride grew up in “orchestrated chaos” with his eleven siblings in the poor, all-black projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn. “Mommy,” a fiercely protective woman with “dark eyes full of pep and fire,” herded her brood to Manhattan’s free cultural events, sent them off on buses to the best (and mainly Jewish) schools, demanded good grades, and commanded respect. As a young man, McBride saw his mother as a source of embarrassment, worry, and confusion—and reached thirty before he began to discover the truth about her early life and long-buried pain.

In The Color of Water, McBride retraces his mother’s footsteps and, through her searing and spirited voice, recreates her remarkable story. The daughter of a failed itinerant Orthodox rabbi, she was born Rachel Shilsky (actually Ruchel Dwara Zylska) in Poland on April 1, 1921. Fleeing pogroms, her family emigrated to America and ultimately settled in Suffolk, Virginia, a small town where anti-Semitism and racial tensions ran high. With candor and immediacy, Ruth describes her parents’ loveless marriage; her fragile, handicapped mother; her cruel, sexually-abusive father; and the rest of the family and life she abandoned.

At seventeen, after fleeing Virginia and settling in New York City, Ruth married a black minister and founded the all- black New Brown Memorial Baptist Church in her Red Hook living room. “God is the color of water,” Ruth McBride taught her children, firmly convinced that life’s blessings and life’s values transcend race. Twice widowed, and continually confronting overwhelming adversity and racism, Ruth’s determination, drive and discipline saw her dozen children through college—and most through graduate school. At age 65, she herself received a degree in social work from Temple University.

Interspersed throughout his mother’s compelling narrative, McBride shares candid recollections of his own experiences as a mixed-race child of poverty, his flirtations with drugs and violence, and his eventual self- realization and professional success. The Color of Water touches readers of all colors as a vivid portrait of growing up, a haunting meditation on race and identity, and a lyrical valentine to a mother from her son.”

The New Jim Crow – Michelle Alexander

Mr. M recommends this book be put on the list. While it is not a novel, this is another must-read for white people in the 21st century. I haven’t read it yet, but it is also on my to-read list.

“By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control—relegating millions to a permanent second-class status—even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. In the words of Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, this book is a “call to action.”

When They Call You a Terrorist – Patrice Khan-Cullors

I heard about this book from an NPR segment a couple of weeks ago. It just came out last month, and I am anxious to get my hands on it. Although I have not heavily followed the Black Lives Matter movement, I do believe in standing in solidarity with our black brothers and sisters in a nonviolent way. I am curious to read more on Patrice Khan-Cullors and how she co-founded the Black Lives Matter movement.

“From one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement comes a poetic memoir and reflection on humanity. Necessary and timely, Patrisse Cullors’ story asks us to remember that protest in the interest of the most vulnerable comes from love. Leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement have been called terrorists, a threat to America. But in truth, they are loving women whose life experiences have led them to seek justice for those victimized by the powerful. In this meaningful, empowering account of survival, strength, and resilience, Patrisse Cullors and Asha Bandele seek to change the culture that declares innocent black life expendable.”

10 Books to Read During Black History Month

What books would you add to the list?