The Artist's Bookshelf

The Artist’s Bookshelf: April Bey

The Los Angeles artist lists 5 favorite books.

“The Artist’s Bookshelf” is a column about books that inspire the CHIRB staff’s favorite artists.

A visual artist and tenured professor at Glendale College in Los Angeles County, California, April Bey grew up in the Bahamas–which we can see all through her artwork. Her pieces explore the intersections of American and Bahamian culture, and offer social critiques rooted in feminism, race theory, and AfroFuturism.

Bey’s work is in the permanent collection of The California African American Museum, The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas and The Current, Baha Mar in Nassau, Bahamas. She also has a digital show up now at Artsy entitled Welcome to Atlantica. The vibrant and moving pieces on view are inspired by the planet of Atlantica, the setting of a short story Bey’s Black father told her as “a way to explain racism.”

Below are five books that have also inspired Bey’s wholly original art.

Patterns in Circulation: Cloth, Gender and Materiality in West Africa
By Nina Sylvanus 

University of Chicago Press

“I visit West Africa a lot to work directly with women who sell Chinese knockoff “African” wax fabric. This book has helped my investigations into the origins of this textile printing technique and how it has been commodified and made popular by West African women while at the same time being heavily colonized by Dutch and Chinese corporations.” 

Children of Blood and Bone
By Tomi Adeyemi 

Square Fish

“African Jujuism at it’s finest! There’s Nigerian magic and Gods and it completely takes you away and out of this world. The character development and relationships are intensely detailed and engaging–it takes me away which is a common theme in my own work.”  

The Fifth Season
By N.K Jemisin 


“Read anything by N.K Jemisin and you will be taken to another world entirely. This book recreates Earth as its own character and its interactions with and war against humans some of which have abilities like controlling earthquakes and volcanoes.”

By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

Anchor Books

“As someone who grew up in The Bahamas I deeply relate to her “Dear non-American Black” train of thoughts throughout the whole book as well as her insights on dealing with feminism and racism in America as someone who grew up in a primarily black country. The voice and tone of the entire book is one I just go back to for comfort and bravery.” 

Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States: exhibition catalogue 
By by Ilene Susan Fort, Tere Arcq, and Terri Geis

“I got to see this exhibition in person and was blown away by just how much surrealist art existed but wasn’t necessarily well-known by women artists of color. A particular piece I was drawn to was a piece by Lee Miller titled Untitled (Severed Breast from Radical Mastectomy), c. 1930.” 

About Amy Brady

Amy Brady is the Editor-in-Chief of the Chicago Review of Books and Deputy Publisher of Guernica Magazine. Her writing has appeared in Oprah, The Village Voice, Pacific Standard, The New Republic, McSweeney's, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter at @ingredient_x.

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