Ten Travel Books by People of Color

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6. Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam by Andrew X. Pham

Bicycle narratives hold a special place in travel journalism. Perhaps it’s the inherent sense of gratitude that the reader is not the one pushing past traffic, boredom and agony on two wheels. Among the titles in this genre, Catfish and Mandala is the best. Andrew X. Pham traces his family’s history from a war-era work camp to the slums of California all while narrating his five-month bike trip through Vietnam in painstaking lyric detail.

7. Go Girl!: The Black Woman’s Book of Travel and Adventure edited by Elaine Lee

Flip any guidebook over and chances are slim that a black woman is staring back at you. This is just one of the reasons Elaine Lee’s epic collection of travel essays from the viewpoint of black women is such an invaluable, necessary and even radical presence in the travel writing canon. One highlight (in a book full of them) is Audre Lorde’s Is Your Hair Still Political? about being blocked from entering the Virgin Islands for wearing her hair in dreadlocks.

8. The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors by James E. Mills

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In June of 2013, the first team of exclusively African-American climbers attempted to summit North America’s highest peak, Denali in Alaska. The purpose was to highlight several messages: adventure isn’t just a white thing; people of color deserve better representation in adventure media; and young people of color should have role models to look up to in the field of outdoor recreation. Journalist James E. Mills relates this account of Expedition Denali’s historic ascent.

9. Richard Wright’s Travel Writings: New Reflections edited by Virginia Whatley Smith

Legendary writer and activist Richard Wright expatriated to Paris, France, in 1946, noting in his essay I Choose Exile that more freedom exists in one square block in Paris than in the entire continental United States. He became renown as one of the few African-Americans to write travel literature at the time, and this collection of somewhat academic explorations of those writings examines the writer’s relationship to the predominantly white genre.

10. South of Haunted Dreams: A Ride Through Slavery’s Old Back Yard by Eddy L. Harris

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Travel writer and memoirist Eddy L. Harris’ South of Haunted Dreams follows the author on a motorcycle trip through his native American South. In the book, he recounts conversations with both black and white Americans about the nature, history and humanity of the region. He once said, “Looking back on those books, I don’t look on them as travel, but as an aspect of this interior dream that I’m having all the time.”

Long live the dream.

A queer mestiza travel writer from Brooklyn by way of Ecuador, Bani Amor’s mission is to decolonize travel media.

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