Pam's Picks: Favorite Books of Legendary Actress Pam Grier

By Administrator RSS Fri, February 9, 2024

It’s the 50 Anniversary of the blaxploitation film Foxy Brown starring Pam Grier. The film is credited for revolutionizing the way women were portrayed in cinema. To celebrate this milestone, the legendary actress did a special interview for the Free Library and shared a list of some of her favorite books.



"It is up to us to seek information and enjoyment that will enhance our lives. I have done this my whole life at the library." - Pam Grier

Black Cake (2022) by Charmaine Wilkerson

In this moving debut novel, two estranged siblings must set aside their differences to deal with their mother's death and her hidden past — a journey of discovery that takes them from the Caribbean to London to California and ends with her famous black cake. In present-day California, Eleanor Bennett's death leaves behind a puzzling inheritance for her two children, Byron and Benny: a traditional Caribbean black cake — made from a family recipe with a long history — and a voice recording. In her message, Eleanor shares a tumultuous story about a headstrong young swimmer who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder. The heartbreaking journey Eleanor unfolds, the secrets she still holds back, and the mystery of a long-lost child, challenges everything the siblings thought they knew about their family, and themselves. Can Byron and Benny reclaim their once-close relationship, piece together Eleanor's true history, and fulfill her final request to "share the black cake when the time is right?" Will their mother's revelations bring them back together or leave them feeling more lost than ever? Charmaine Wilkerson's debut novel is a story of how the inheritance of betrayals, secrets, memories, and even names, can shape relationships and history. Deeply evocative and beautifully written, Black Cake is an extraordinary journey through the life of a family changed forever by the choices of its matriarch.

We’re Better Than This” (My Fight For The Future of Our Democracy) (2020) by Elijah Cummings with James Dale

This memoir by the late Congressman details how his experiences as a sharecropper's son in volatile South Baltimore shaped his life in activism, explaining how government oversight can become a positive part of a just American collective.

Pink Sari Revolution” (A Tale of Women And Power In India) (2013) by Amana Fontanella-Khan

In Uttar Pradesh — known as the "badlands" of India — a woman’s life is not entirely her own. This is one explanation for how Sheelu, a 17-year-old girl, ended up in jail after fleeing her service in the home of a powerful local legislator. In a region plagued by corruption, an incident like this might have gone unnoticed — except that it captured the attention of Sampat Pal, leader of India’s infamous Gulabi (Pink) Gang.

Poor and illiterate, married off around the age of 12, pregnant with her first child at 15, and prohibited from attending school, Sampat Pal has risen to become the courageous commander and chief of a women’s brigade numbering in the tens of thousands. Uniformed in pink saris and carrying pink batons, they aim to intervene wherever other women are victims of abuse or injustice. Joined in her struggle by Babuji, a sensitive man whose intellectualism complements her innate sense of justice, and by a host of passionate field commanders, Sampat Pal has confronted policemen and gangsters, officiated love marriages, and empowered women to become financially independent.

In a country where women’s rights struggle to keep up with rapid modernization, the story of Sampat Pal and her Pink Gang illuminates the thrilling possibilities of female grassroots activism.

The Color of Law” (A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America) (2017) by Richard Rothstein

The author explodes the myth that America's cities came to be racially divided through de facto segregation — that is, through individual prejudices, income differences, or the actions of private institutions like banks and real estate agencies. Rather, this book incontrovertibly makes it clear that it was de jure segregation — the laws and policy decisions passed by local, state, and federal governments — that actually promoted the discriminatory patterns that have continued into the 21st century.

The Plot To Hack America” (How Putin’s Cyberspies and WikiLeaks Tried To Steal the 2016 Election) (2016) by Malcolm Nance

Published a full month prior to the divisive Trump vs. Clinton 2016 presidential election, this book exposed the Russian hacking while the CIA was drafting its own report. In April 2016, computer technicians at the Democratic National Committee discovered that someone had accessed the organization’s computer servers and conducted a theft that is best described as Watergate 2.0. In the weeks that followed, the nation’s top computer security experts discovered that the cyber thieves had helped themselves to everything: sensitive documents, emails, donor information, even voicemails.

Soon after, the remainder of the Democratic Party machine, the congressional campaign, the Clinton campaign, and their friends and allies in the media were also hacked. Credit card numbers, phone numbers, and contacts were stolen. In short order, the FBI found that more than 25 state election offices had their voter registration systems probed or attacked by the same hackers.

Western intelligence agencies tracked the hack to Russian spy agencies and dubbed them the “Cyber Bears.” The media was soon flooded with the stolen information channeled through Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. It was a massive attack on America but the Russian hacks appeared to have a singular goal — elect Donald J. Trump as President of the United States.

Standing My Ground” (A Capitol Officer’s Fight for Accountability and Good Trouble After January 6th) (2023) by Harry Dunn

This is the stirring memoir of Harry Dunn, a Capitol Police Officer on duty on January 6th, who has become one of the most prominent and essential voices regarding the truth of that day. Walking the halls of democracy as a Capitol Police officer, Harry Dunn was a man slowly experiencing an awakening. It sparked after the election of our first Black president. It grew as his belief in the bravery and honor of law enforcement was shaken by Ferguson and countless other cases of police brutality toward the Black community. It continued to burn brighter as he watched members of Congress, many of whom he had befriended, lose their way to partisanship, as political extremism intensified. And it exploded into a blaze when he fought side-by-side with his fellow officers on January 6th, when democracy and their lives were threatened.

Democracy In Black” (How Race Still Enslaves The American Soul) (2016) by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

America’s great promise of equality has always rung hollow in the ears of African Americans. But today the situation has grown even more dire. From the murders of Black youth by the police to the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act to the disaster visited upon poor and middle-class Black families by the Great Recession, it is clear that Black America faces an emergency — the election of the first Black president has prompted many to believe we’ve solved America’s race problem.

Democracy in Black is Eddie S. Glaude Jr.'s impassioned response. Part manifesto, part history, part memoir, it argues that we live in a country founded on a “value gap” — with white lives valued more than others — that still distorts our politics today. Whether discussing why all Americans have racial habits that reinforce inequality, why Black politics based on the civil rights era have reached a dead end, or why only remaking democracy from the ground up can bring real change, Glaude crystallizes the untenable position of Black America — and offers thoughts on a better way forward. Forceful in ideas and unsettling in its candor, Democracy In Black is a landmark book on race in America, one that promises to spark wide discussion.

We Had A Little Real Estate Problem” (The Unherald Story of Native Americans & Comedy) (2021) by Kliph Nesteroff

From Kliph Nesteroff, “The Human Encyclopedia of Comedy” (VICE), comes the important and underappreciated story of Native Americans and comedy. It was one of the most reliable jokes in Charlie Hill's stand-up: “My people are from Wisconsin. We used to be from New York. We had a little real estate problem.”

In We Had a Little Real Estate Problem, acclaimed comedy historian Kliph Nesteroff focuses on one of comedy's most significant and little-known how, despite having been denied representation in the entertainment industry, Native Americans have influenced and advanced the art form.

American Psychosis” (A Historical Investigation of How The Republican Party Went Crazy) (2022) by David Corn

In this fast-paced, rollicking account of how the GOP since the 1950s has constantly encouraged and exploited extremism and paranoia to gain power, American Psychosis offers readers a brisk, can-you-believe-it journey through the netherworld of far-right irrationality and the Republican Party’s interactions with the darkest forces of America — which culminated in Donald Trump’s triumph. It tells the hidden history of how the Party of Lincoln forged alliances with extremists, kooks, racists, and conspiracy-mongers and fueled fear, anger, and resentment to win elections — and how this led to the GOP becoming a Trump personality cult that bolsters the most bizarre and craziest excesses of the right.

Lords of Finance” (The Bankers Who Broke The World); By Liaquat Ahamed (2009) by Liaquat Ahamed

It is commonly believed that the Great Depression that began in 1929 resulted from a confluence of events beyond any one person’s or government’s control. In fact, as Liaquat Ahamed reveals, it was the decisions taken by a small number of central bankers that were the primary cause of the economic meltdown, the effects of which set the stage for World War II and reverberated for decades.

In Lords of Finance, we meet the neurotic and enigmatic Montagu Norman of the Bank of England, the xenophobic and suspicious Émile Moreau of the Banque de France, the arrogant yet brilliant Hjalmar Schacht of the Reichsbank, and Benjamin Strong of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, whose façade of energy and drive masked a deeply wounded and overburdened man. After the First World War, these central bankers attempted to reconstruct the world of international finance. Despite their differences, they were united by a common fear — that the greatest threat to capitalism was inflation — and by a common vision that the solution was to turn back the clock and return the world to the gold standard.

Allow Me To Retort” (A Black Guy’s Guide To The Constitution) (2022) by Elie Mystal

According to commentator and lawyer Elie Mystal, Republicans are wrong when they tell you the First Amendment allows religious fundamentalists to discriminate against gay people who like cake. They're wrong when they tell you the Second Amendment protects the right to own a private arsenal. They're wrong when they say the death penalty isn't cruel or unusual punishment. They're wrong when they tell you we have no legal remedies for the scourge of police violence against people of color.

In fact, Mystal argues, Republicans are wrong about the law almost all of the time, and now, instead of talking about this on cable news, Mystal explains why in his first book. Allow Me to Retort is an easily digestible argument primer, offered so that people can tell the Republicans in their own lives why they are wrong. Mystal brings his trademark humor, snark, and legal expertise to topics as crucial to our politics as gerrymandering and voter suppression, and explains why legal concepts such as the right to privacy and substantive due process are constantly under attack from the very worst judges conservatives can pack onto the courts.

The Underground Railroad: A Novel (2016) by Colson Whitehead

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora — an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood — where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned when Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead's ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor — engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city's placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its Black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

My Life On The Road (2015) by Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem — writer, activist, organizer, and one of the most inspiring leaders in the world — now tells a story she has never told before, a candid account of how her early years led her to live an on-the-road kind of life, traveling, listening to people, learning, and creating change. She reveals the story of her own growth in tandem with the growth of an ongoing movement for equality. This is the story at the heart of My Life on the Road.

Entertaining Race” (Performing Blackness In America) (2021) by Michael Eric Dyson

For more than thirty years, Michael Eric Dyson has played a prominent role in the nation as a public intellectual, university professor, cultural critic, social activist, and ordained Baptist minister. He has presented a rich and resourceful set of ideas about American history and culture. Now for the first time he brings together the various components of his multihued identity and eclectic pursuits. Entertaining Race is a testament to Dyson’s consistent celebration of the outsized impact of African American culture and politics on this country. Black people were forced to entertain white people in slavery, have been forced to entertain the idea of race from the start, and must find entertaining ways to make race an object of national conversation. Dyson’s career embodies these and other ways of performing Blackness, and in these pages, he entertains race with his pen, voice, and body, and occasionally, alongside luminaries like Cornel West, David Blight, Ibram X. Kendi, Master P, MC Lyte, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Alicia Garza, John McWhorter, and Jordan Peterson.

Black Rodeo” (A History of the African American Western) (2023) by Mia Mask

African American westerns have a rich cinematic history and visual culture. Mia Mask examines the African American western hero within the larger context of film history by considering how Black westerns evolved and approached wide-ranging goals. Woody Strode's 1950s transformation from football star to actor was the harbinger of hard-edged western heroes later played by Jim Brown and Fred Williamson. Sidney Poitier's Buck and the Preacher provided a narrative helmed by a groundbreaking African American director and offered unconventionally rich roles for women. Mask moves from these discussions to consider Blaxploitation westerns and an analysis of Jeff Kanew's hard-to-find 1972 documentary about an all-Black rodeo. The book addresses how these movies set the stage for modern-day westploitation films like Django Unchained. A first-of-its-kind survey, Black Rodeo illuminates the figure of the Black cowboy while examining the intersection of African American film history and the western.


And of course, anyone who reads Foxy: My Life in Three Acts by Pam Grier will be inspired by her incredible life and legacy!


Foxy: My Life in Three Acts (2010) by Pam Grier

Some may know her as hot, gutsy, gun-totin' Foxy Brown, Friday Foster, Coffy, and Jackie Brown. Others may know her from her role as Kit Porter on The L Word. But that only defines one part of the legend that is Pam Grier.

Foxy is Pam's testimony of her life, past and present. In it, she reveals her relationships with Richard Pryor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Freddie Prinze Sr., among others. She unveils her experiences as a backup singer and a blaxploitation star. In particularly candid and shocking chapters, she shares — for the first time — her view of those films and the persecution that Black folks, especially women, needed to endure to make a name for themselves ... including how it felt to be labeled one of the most beautiful women alive, yet not be permitted to try on clothes in a department store because of the color of her skin. And in words sure to inspire many, she tells the story of her ongoing battle with cancer.

From her disappointments to her triumphs, nothing is held back. With Foxy, Pam wishes to impart life lessons to her readers — and hopes to touch their hearts.

Learn more about Pam Grier's amazing life, legacy, and outlook in the Free Library's special interview: "Mini Jawns: A Chat With Pam Grier."

Have a question for Free Library staff? Please submit it to our Ask a Librarian page and receive a response within two business days.

Leave this field empty

Add a Comment to Pam's Picks: Favorite Books of Legendary Actress Pam Grier

Email is kept private and will not be displayed publicly
Comment must be less than 3000 characters
This is wonderful. I did not even know thier were this "mini Jawn" interview. Are they listed on the FLP website? - Philadelphia
Monday, February 12, 2024

I would like to have on hold Pam Grier book bio foxy
Stacey Paige - Philadelphia
Monday, February 12, 2024

A role model for the ages; much love.
JoAnna Turner - Philadelphia
Sunday, February 18, 2024

A wonderful list and star.
Wednesday, February 21, 2024

I would like to receive actual dates of ongoing events at the Free Library of Philadelphia
Gary Shaw - Philadelphia
Saturday, February 24, 2024

What Library is Pam Grier Book ?
Charmaine Moore - Philadelphia Pa
Sunday, February 25, 2024