The Book That Changed My Life

Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni was a 1973 National Book Award Finalist for her biography Gemini.

Poet and biographer Nikki Giovanni (center) poses with students from Harlem, New York's Family Academy, where she participated in a week long residency through The NBF's Family Literacy outreach program.

The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin is the book that influenced my writing more than any other because it taught me the truth could be plainly said. Baldwin's searing essay utilized all the elements of my life: the Church and the Bible (and they are definitely different); the musical cadence of gospel songs and the blues; plus, which is most important to me, I saw that the evidence of my own heart and mind could inform my muse. I did not have to seek an alien form in order to tell the stories of my people.

If I were choosing five books that I think made a major difference to me I would select: