Just hear me out, ok? First, let me state that me highlighting problematic books does not mean I want men. especially Black men to not read. In fact, my heart fills with joy knowing that there are Black men across the country who will gather together to discuss books. I absolutely love books and I love book clubs so to me, this is a win-win situation. However, I am also a big believer in judging people by what they read. To me, reading books affects your psyche more than watching television or films. Books are long-term and for many people, including myself books have helped shaped my perspective, understanding and self-identity.
The LA Times wrote a beautiful piece on how the death of the rapper has inspired Black men to honor him by creating a book club. And since his death, the books he read have been compiled into a list and a lot of those books are flying out the stores. One of those books is Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver. The former Black Panther and serial rapist turned GOP conservative was once lauded by the New York Times as one of the best books in 1968.
”Cleaver is simply one of the best cultural critics now writing,” Maxwell Geismar wrote in the introduction to the McGraw-Hill book, adding:
”As in Malcolm X’s case, here is an ‘outside’ critic who takes pleasure in dissecting the deepest and most cherished notions of our personal and social behavior; and it takes a certain amount of courage and a ‘willed objectivity’ to read him. He rakes our favorite prejudices with the savage claws of his prose until our wounds are bare, our psyche is exposed, and we must either fight back or laugh with him for the service he has done us. For the ‘souls of black folk,’ in W. E. B. Du Bois’s phrase, are the best mirror in which to see the white American self in mid-20th century.” This is how mainstream media described a serial rapist.
Yes, a rapist. An unapologetic rapist at that. If you have never read Soul On Ice, you probably think it’s a militant memoir of a Black Panther’s leader describing the plight of America in the 1960s. I will admit, that is how I perceived the book before I read it. I had already read Huey Newton’s Revolutionary Suicide and Assata Shakur’s autobiography. I wanted to read everything about the Black Panthers but reading Soul On Ice made me cry. I’ll tell you why.
Eldridge Cleaver hated Black women. He admitted that he raped Black women for practice because he, like many other Black men, believe Black liberation will come through their penis. The bravado of being a sexual Black stallion that white men envied seemed to intoxicate Cleaver to no end. To make matters worse, people tried to compare him to Malcolm X and his work was praised for being “raw”.
That’s not the only problematic book on the list, though. On a lighter note, when I was online dating, and I would read men’s profiles, I would swipe left on any man that listed 48 Powers as a book he read. In my experience, men that praise that book are expert gaslighters and manipulators. It’s like they take pride in being emotionally empty. I am not sure why so many men, in particular, think that is a good thing.
Then there is the Isis Papers by Dr.Frances Cress Welsing. She was a notorious homophobe and used her academic standing to falsify Black history as it relates to sexuality and gender. Nobody really questioned it because she was a scholar but as time progressed, it was obvious she had an agenda and most homophobes quote her when spewing hateful rhetoric.
There are a few others but again, I don’t want people to read this and get discouraged from reading. I want everyone to read, but I want folks to understand reading is powerful. Reading is moving and if a book inspires you and touches you, you can find yourself walking in a new light. All of the book titles listed are not bad, but a few are dangerously triggering. So consider this your warning.