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Read Until You Understand  By  cover art

Read Until You Understand

By: Farah Jasmine Griffin
Narrated by: Farah Jasmine Griffin
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Publisher's Summary

Farah Jasmine Griffin’s beloved father died when she was nine, bequeathing her an unparalleled inheritance in closets full of remarkable books and other records of Black genius. In Read Until You Understand - a line from a note he wrote to her - she shares a lifetime of discoveries: the ideas that framed the US Constitution and that inspired Malcolm X’s fervent speeches, the soulful music of Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, the daring literature of Phillis Wheatley and Toni Morrison, the artistry of Romare Bearden, and many others. 

Having taught a popular Columbia University survey course of Black literature, she explores themes such as grace, justice, rage, self-determination, beauty, and mercy to help listeners grapple with the ongoing project that is American democracy. Joining her experiences in Black communities with her immersion in the glorious works of Black artists, Read Until You Understand is a powerful testament to the enduring wisdom of Black culture and history.

©2021 Farah Jasmine Griffin (P)2021 Recorded Books, Inc.

What listeners say about Read Until You Understand

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Brilliant!!!

I absolutely loved this text, part memoir part historical reference, Professor Griffin weaves the words of some of our most beloved authors, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, James Baldwin into this collection of essays. She discusses topics as varied as mercy, justice and the "transformative potential of love " with an engaging and easily understandable method. I highly recommend this book.

8 people found this helpful

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Love it beautiful

Love this book very well done will tell friends and family to buy this book

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Yes, I know

This is unlistenable.

Not because it’s “wrong”, but because it’s not something to listen to in this form. The author is right in everything she states. It’s just that the content she presents in this compressed form of a book, and probably more specifically an audio book, is impossible to ingest, work with. At least I couldn’t.

The holocaust was an inhumane atrocity. I’ve read quite a number of books on the subject. But: Would I listen to a multi-hour monotone read-out of those atrocities? No, sorry. The suppression of blacks in the United States is continuing on for hundreds of years, and certainly has killed as many humans in that same time span. Do I want to listen to a monotone read-out of those atrocities? No, really sorry. I know this cannot, inherently, be “entertaining”, but I still have to be able to live with it.

2 people found this helpful

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Love this book

I don’t usually read/listen to books more than once but this is definitely a book I’d re-listen to. This book takes place in the area my family lived in and areas I’ve travelled in South Philly. Recently, on a walk down Bainbridge street I discovered blue heritage markers that informed me of how vast the African American community was in SP. I saw the heritage marker for where Cheyney University originally sat. The markers for Billie Holiday and another musical group. I’ve visited Gamble and Huff and met both personally. Long story short this book was interesting and factual. I truly enjoyed listening to the author.

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I would have liked a booklist.

In Read Until You Understand, Farah Jasmine Griffin sets her Black literature discussion against her life, most notably her father. When Griffin's father died when she was nine years old, he left a large library of Black literature, both older works and more current items. He used the phrase "Read until you understand," which Griffin takes to heart.

I expected an overview of the literature so that I, too, could read until I understood. That is not what I got. Instead, I received a family history with sprinklings from many works, some on the history of Black literature in the United States, some on the movements of the 60s and 70s, and some as it related to her life.

I listened to an Audible version of this book, and while I listened, I wondered if there was a list of sources covered. I ended up bringing home the physical book from the library. There were a number of references and indices, but no reading list. Since I had only read two of the many books she discusses (only briefly), I was disappointed.

As the narrator, Griffin was superb, and if this book had been what I had expected, I would have been able to give it another star. I feel the book's description was very much lacking.

I read a lot and was shocked that the only titles with which I had familiarity were BELOVED and A RAISIN IN THE SUN. I have so many on my reading list, I had hoped to be better guided.

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So Much to Read

This truly made me realize all that I have to explore in black literature. As well as exposing my children NOW! Thank you for sparking my curiosity and hunger for more!

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Easily the best book I’ve read in 2022

This book was like taking the best college course I’ve ever had nearly 20 years after finishing undergrad. Highly recommend.

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A beautiful meditation

I really loved Read Until You Understand. Especially the way Prof. Griffin moves between memoir, history, and literary readings. I wish more literary scholars wrote so honestly and beautifully. Thank you. 🙏🏽

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I would like this to be in print

I work with an organization that helps people in recovery from substance abuse. This would be a great resource for exploring literature of the Black experience in America. Please make a print version.

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Read so you will understand!

This book is part memoir, part black literature class part intoxicating language and ell worth the time!