Poetry, Fiction, Non-Fiction: no matter what you want to read, it’s here.
Black writers are one of the least represented groups among publishers and bestseller lists. This is an outright travesty as literature is the best way to tell stories authentically. Literature is how we share experiences, opinions, and history.
So, let’s change the norm. Black voices need to be heard as much as their white counterparts.
We’ve put together a list of black authors from across multiple genres, all of which are a must-read. From poetry that hits at our collective hearts to fiction stories about what it means to be a modern woman to a range of non-fiction choices, we’ve got a little bit of everything.
Grimacy’s second collection of poetry focuses on what is difficult and what is beautiful about living. She uses these poems to honor both what is dead and what is alive, using the same elegant language, giving each the respect they deserve. As the title suggests, everything in this collection is seen as an “animal.” Everything has desires, hunger, pain, and language. Everything is alive and everything an experience loss.
Considered one of the most influential poets of her time, Audre Lorde described herself as a “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” She spent her life using her creativity to shed light on injustice. Her poems address tough topics such as sex, racism, classism, and homophobia. All of her inspirational poetry is collected in this book, which makes it the perfect addition to your personal library.
You might expect a great collection of poems from the Poet Laureate of the US, but this collection goes beyond what you would imagine. Combining music, space, and a questioning look at science fiction, Life on Mars paints a beautiful picture of the universe. Her space poems take a close look at the discoveries, failures, and oddities of human existence, while her earth poems discuss the realities of living today. This collection proves Smith is a poetic force to be reckoned with.
Winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize, Jericho Brown’s latest collection is stunning. The Tradition takes the tragedy of the world around us and plants it deep inside our body. His poems discuss the notion of how and why we are desensitized to terrible events and are focused on simply surviving. Topics of fatherhood, legacy, blackness, queerness, and religion become beautiful poems. Brown also created his own poetic form, the duplex, a combination of the ghazal, the sonnet, and the blues.
The Vignes sisters are identical twins, brought up the same, with the shared past of their life in a small southern town. However, after they run away at the age of 16, their lives start to look a bit different. One sister moves back to their hometown with their own young daughter. The other sister hides herself and her past. She passes as white with her white husband who knows nothing of her past. But what happens when the twin’s daughters meet? This multi-generational novel looks at how someone’s past can influence their present, and more importantly, their future.
What does it mean to be a modern woman today? Queenie Jenkins is a 25 and trying to figure that out. Every day Queenie spends her day writing articles for a national newspaper, which forces her to compare herself to her white middle-class peers. She is a Jamaican British woman and her experiences are very different. Everything comes crumbling down when her boyfriend dumps her and Queenie finds herself looking for comfort in all the wrong places. Now, she needs to ask herself what the hell is she doing? Carty-Williams weaves together a novel that feels like a modern version of Bridget Jones Diary, but even better.
Non-Fiction / Self-Help:
Austin Channing Brown says that her parents named her Austin so people would think her resume belonged to a white man. That was her first encounter with racialized America. She was seven. After that, she grew up in majority-white schools, organizations, and churches. This lead her on a journey of discovering what it means to truly love her blackness. Now a writer, speaker, and expert in inclusion, Channing Brown writes in detail about her personal journey to self-worth and the pitfalls that stop our attempts at social justice. I’m Still Here is a bold look at how our actions fall short of our words. This is a great book to better understand America’s race issues. Make sure to add it to your anit-racist reading list.
According to Issa Rae, “I’m awkward — and black. Someone once told me those were the two worst things anyone could be. That someone was right.” In this brilliant and witty book, Rae takes readers through her most awkward moments in life. As an introvert living in a world that praises “cool,” so there are sure to be plenty of awkward moments. Navigating love, friendship, and the workplace, Rae is honest, self-deprecating, and entertaining talking about everything from cyber sexting in the early days of the internet to her first flirtations with rapping. It doesn’t matter if you are cool or awkward, black or white, this book is too funny to put down.
The world is always changing. What if instead of steeling ourselves against the change, we adapted and changed with the flow? Emergent Strategy is a self-help book that focuses on the idea of our human relationship to change. But this book doesn’t just focus on self-help, but also society-help and planet-help. Given the state of the world, both culturally and environmentally, this is a must-read for anyone interested in social change and building a better future.
Daughters of Africa was published more than 25 years ago, collecting writings of more than 200 women writers of African descent. New Daughters of Africa is the modern companion collection. Like the first, this collection brings together the voices of hundreds of women writers of African descent from all across the world. Each piece in this collection brings an uplifting sense of sisterhood and addresses the common obstacles facing female writers of color. Compiling everything from memoirs, oral histories, speeches, letters, poetry, essays, and so much more, this book showcases the diversity and achievements of black women in the literary world.
Remember, this is just a small sample of the amazing works out there. Our list can only be so long. But next time you go looking for your next read, avoid the bestseller list, and diversify your shelves.
Do you like science fiction and fantasy? Read black authors. Do you like romance? Read black authors. If you like books on political theory or science or any genre, read black authors.