Skip to main content


Welcome to the Shelf Care reading list by The Blue Bench! Every month, we curate a reading list of books showcasing powerful voices and talented storytelling. These books delve into topics related to sexual assault, identity, trauma, healing, hope, community, and resilience.

The books highlighted in this month’s list are about BIPOC Mental Health in recognition of BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month. [TW/CW: These books may contain topics related to sexual assault, domestic violence, drug use, racism, violence, eating disorders, and other topics that may be triggering]

We are adding a special book every month, a banned book of the month. Books depicting sexual violence often get placed on banned book lists. We believe that silencing authors who’ve written about sexual violence perpetuates stigmas around the issue.

Heart Berries: A Memoir

By Terese Marie Mailhot

This book is a collection of prose and essays from a First Nations women and her experience growing up in an abusive household and suffering from mental health issues. Navigating her pain as well as her place in the world and taking control of her own story, her voice is a unique but poetic form of writing.

Terese Marie Mailhot is a First Nations Canadian journalist, author, and teacher. She is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, Al Jazeera, and other publications.

The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health: Navigate an Unequal System, Learn Tools for Emotional Wellness, and Get the Help You Deserve

By Rheeda Walker, Ph.D.

This book is a study on the mental health crisis that Black Americans face, as well as the barriers they face in receiving adequate help and care. Throughout this book, readers will be able to: recognize mental and emotional health issues, understand the various ways in which these mental health issues impact overall health and quality of life, develop tools to neutralize stressors, and navigate the unequal healthcare system.

Rheeda Walker, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist. Her areas of focus have been in understanding suicide and African American adult mental health. She currently is a professor at University of Houston.

My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies

By Resmaa Menakem, MSW, LICSW, SEP

In this book, therapist Resmaa Menakem digs into the trauma caused by racism in America from the perspective of body-centered psychology. The body holds our trauma-response, and the generational pain of white supremacy. This book is a reminder that racism not only affects folks mentally, but also in the body, and offers a healing guide for somatic healing methods.

Resmaa Menakem, MSW, LICSW, SEP is an author and trauma specialist. Menakem is a New York Times Best-Selling author. The focus of his work has been about trauma, white body supremacy, somatic abolition, and racism in America.

The Color of Hope: People of Color Mental Health Narratives

By Vanessa Hazzard and Iresha Picot, M.ED, LBS

This book is a project aimed at shedding light on the mental health of communities of color. Doing this through showcasing narratives from people of historically marginalized communities helps break through stigma and shame. Contributors share their stories of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other mental health issues, all from the perspectives of Black, Latinx, and Asian identified folks.

Vanessa Hazzard is an author, educator, and massage therapist. In her work and practices she is committed to mental health and trauma-awareness in yoga and bodywork.

Iresha Picot, M.ED, LBS is a licensed behavioral therapist. She has been featured in articles by NPR, Bicycle Magazine, and PBS American Portrait Series.

Heavy: An American Memoir

By Kiese Laymon

This memoir is written as a collection of essays that reflect both the state of American society and the author’s experiences with abuse. His conflicted feelings of joy, shame, confusion, and humiliation. Laymon invites the reader to consider what happens when Black Americans grows up in a country that is obsessed with progress but refuses to face the messiness of both the work and it’s own history. Laymon talks about his complicated relationships with his mother, eating disorders, obesity, sex, and gambling.

Kiese Laymon is an author from Jackson, Mississippi, and is the other of Long Division and How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. His memoir, Heavy, was named one of the 50 Best Memoirs of the past 50 Years by The New York Times

Banned Book of the Month

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

By Maya Angelou

This classic autobiography describes the childhood and early adolescent years of American author and poet Maya Angelou. This coming-of-age story illustrates how Angelou’s struggles with abuse, sexual assault, and racism in America. The topics covered include the celebration of Black women, a critique of racism, the importance of family and familial bonds, the quest for independence, and self-definition. Due to depicting childhood sexual abuse, racism, and violence, this book has been challenged and banned in some schools and libraries.

Maya Angelou was an American memoirist, poet, and civil rights activist. She has published books, essays, poetry, plays, movies, and television shows. She has received countless accolades for her important literary and civil rights work. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has brought her international recognition and critical acclaim.

Powered by Firespring