Try one of these audiobooks, and your ears—and heart and mind—will thank you.
I’m 30 years late to the Nikki Giovanni party, and this collection of poetry is a revelation. Performed by the celebrated and award-winning poet herself, Make Me Rain dives into subjects both light and heavy as she uses her unique perspective to provide insight into even the most upsetting issues. Giovanni is in her late 70s, and her voice has a sage quality that softens the blow of difficult topics, including slavery, rape, abuse and police brutality. When she’s reading her more cheerful poems, it sounds like she’s got a smile on her face, knowing she’s got the goods. The brash way she declares, “I don’t like pancakes” in the poem “No Pancakes Please” shows how she can bring her strong point of view to the most mundane topics. Poetry is best read aloud, so this audiobook is the ideal format for this collection. It’ll take you from laughter to outrage to hope.
Bryan Washington navigates death, grief, family and relationships in his fresh novel, Memorial, which makes for a captivating audiobook. Benson and Mike are in a rocky place in their relationship. When Mike gets word that his father is dying, he leaves Houston, Texas, for Japan to be with him, leaving Benson alone with Mike’s newly arrived mother as a house guest for an indeterminate amount of time. Washington does a stellar job narrating as Benson, capturing a young man on the precipice of the rest of his life, with all his frustrations and uncertainty, and holding his own with experienced actor Akie Kotabe, who voices Mike’s sections. Kotabe is a Japanese American actor who grew up in Texas, and he truly brings Mike and his elderly father to life.
Written by Traci Chee, We Are Not Free tells the stories of 14 second-generation Japanese American teenagers whose lives are upended during World War II. For the crime of having Japanese parents, they are taken away from everything they know and placed in incarceration camps. A cast of 12 narrators brings these stories to life. Among them is Ryan Potter, known for playing Hiro in the movie Big Hero 6; Grace Rolek, who has played Connie on “Steven Universe” since 2013; and Brittany Ishibashi, who plays Tina on Marvel’s “Runaways.” The performances make this not-so-distant history feel modern and relevant, as though you could find these characters at any high school across America. This is an important reminder to learn from the past or be doomed to repeat it.