The month of February is regarded as Black History month and I began to wonder. How many books have I read written by contemporary black women authors?
The answer is- very few.
I’ve consciously tried to read more such books because I believe, what sets these authors apart is that one gets to experience a spectrum of emotions through their works. In this list, I’ve tried to include books written by some fierce women that everyone should read.
Read these not just because they are written by black people but because they are incredible writers.
17 Books by Black Women Authors
1.Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Wand
First on the list is Sing, Unburied, Sing. It’s the story about Jojo, a 13-yr-old kid who lives with his sister, grandparents, and drug-addicted mother Leonie, a black woman. His father Michael, a white man, is about to be released from Parchman prison. Soon, Leonie packs her stuff and her kids to a place across the state.
This book brings to light the various social issues like racism and privilege. You’d be cringe at the incidents mentioned on slavery and the struggles African-American families had had to endure. With a brilliant writing style, it’s a must-read.
2. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
In the first instance, Americanah is a teenage love story of Ifemelu and Obinze. Upon the military dictatorship in Nigeria, Ifemelu departs to the US for further studies but Obinze is denied a visa post 9/11. Despite her academic success, Ifemelu is faced with racism. She starts a blog penning down her experience in racial discrimination in America.
The author doesn’t shy away from letting the reader know about the intricate details of racism, issues with immigration and interracial relationships. Oh, and even hair can be a social issue!
3. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Emira is an African American college graduate who works as a baby sitter for a white family. One night, while at a grocery store, she is accused of stealing the white child she cares for, purely because of her race. The incident is filmed by a man named Kelley Copeland. This sets off a chain of events where both Emira and Alix will find out about the past and about what they want for the future.
While the book deals with complex issues, the author has kept the book light and engaging.
4. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Everyone knows about her work as a poet and civil rights activist. Her memoir is truly cherished ~I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, her work is required reading in many schools across the States.
5. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Having been featured on Oprah’s and Barrack Obama’s Must-Reads, I waited breathlessly to read this book. But man, was it expensive! However, it was definitely worth the wait.
An American Marriage is a story of Roy and Celestial, a newlywed black couple. Roy is a successful businessman but gets sentenced to 12 years of prison time for a crime he hasn’t committed. As years pass by, the love fades and Celestial’s childhood friend and Roy’s best man Andre comes into the picture. The past and present collide and the trio tries to find a way to live in concord.
The best part of the book is how the story progresses through their letters. The narration in the three character’s POVs makes it engaging.
6. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
When you say Shonda Rhimes, I go back to Grey’s Anatomy. The popular medical drama series practically defined my college days. Through this poignant, hilarious and deeply intimate call to arms, the mega-talented creator reveals how saying YES changed her life – and how it can change yours too.
7. My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and Man Booker Prize Longlist 2019, the Serial Killer grabbed eyeballs.
Our main protagonist is Korede who works in a local hospital in Lagos as a nurse. One night, her dinner is interrupted when she gets a phone call from her younger sister Ayoola. Because guess what! She has done it again – killing her boyfriend and claiming it as a move of self-defense. And this is the third time! Korede loves her sister so much that she lets it go until Ayoola starts dating the doctor at her hospital – the one who Korede has secretly been in love with for long. No, Korede cannot knowingly let him be the next victim. But to save one would mean sacrificing another.
The sparse writing style and humor are the main highlights of the book.
| Read my complete review of My Sister, The Serial Killer.
Get My Sister, the Serial Killer on your Kindle
8. Becoming by Michelle Obama
Next on my list of contemporary black women authors is none other than the former FLOTUS who has penned down her beautiful memoir. It was in rage even before its release in early 2019. A soul-stirring phenomenal book, it has everything we know of her – her elegance, poise, morals, honor, duty, and kindness brimming in each and every page of the book.
9. The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
This book is inspired by the #BlackLivesMatter movement, where sixteen-year-old Starr witnesses her best friend, an unarmed black boy, being killed by a police officer. Starr is scared to speak up because there never really is any justice for these heartless killings.
A powerful book with characters that leave a lasting impression, it is one of those books that you should pick up right away. It’s so well written – beginning to end. When the story mainly highlights about racism and violence, the narration simply grabs your attention. THUG makes you uncomfortable and you’ll feel your blood boiling. Pick this book NOW!
10. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s second book and it is about Bri. Bri lives with her mother- a recovering addict and her older brother. Her father, a once successful rapper, was gunned down in the streets, a victim of gang violence. Bri wants to a rapper like her father but in her own way. She has a lot of pressure and difficult choices to make. Now that her mother has lost her job, times are even harder.
Angie Thomas’ second is a completely different story but there are many beautiful moments in this book. Soon to be made into a movie, it has the same amazing writing! The author has just come up with the cover reveal of her third book and the fans are going crazy.
11. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Homegoing follows the parallel paths of two sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation.
12. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyami
This was honestly, a dry read and I wanted to DNF it so badly. But when I read the epilogue, I realized I should’ve read it with a fresh perspective.
With a Nigerian inspired setting and all-black characters, the author aimed to portray police brutality and their abusive power towards the African American community in a fantasy land called Odisha.
| Read my honest review of Children of Blood and Bone
Get Children of Blood and Bone on your Kindle (for Rs.93)
13. More Than Enough by Elaine Welteroth
Part-manifesto, part-memoir, from the revolutionary editor who infused social consciousness into the pages of Teen Vogue, an exploration of what it means to come into your own—on your own terms. As a young boss and often the only Black woman in the room, she’s had enough of the world telling her—and all women—they’re not enough. As she learns to rely on herself by looking both inward and upward, we’re ultimately reminded that we’re more than enough.
14. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Poet X is on my to-read list since I saw it on Bookstagram two years ago. I plan on reading it for sure this year. Narrated in verses, the book explores the angst a teenage girl experiences about her as her body grows into curves. Xiomara Batista feels unheard and has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook.
15. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
I picked up this book because of its gorgeous cover and dived straight into it without any expectations. Man, wasn’t I impressed! And how!
With her daughter to care for and her Abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make some tough decisions. She dreams of someday working in a real kitchen for she has a flair of cooking and everything she touches turns out sumptuous. Eboni doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain.
Winner of the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2019, the book is beautiful and so is the prose.
16. Beloved by Toni Morrison
I’ll be straight-forward. Toni Morrisson is not everyone’s cup of tea. Her language is difficult to comprehend and she has a distinct style of writing. Ever since her demise last year (RIP Toni Morrisson), the bookstagram world has taken to reading her spectacular works and I tried too.
This epic, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is about murder, guilt, ghosts and the brutal, complex physical and psychological legacy of slavery. It is the brutal truth, horrific and brilliantly written.
17. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Color Purple depicts the lives of African American women in early twentieth-century rural Georgia. Separated as girls, sisters Celie and Nettie sustain their loyalty to and hope in each other across time, distance and silence. The story moves forward through a series of letters spanning twenty years.
The Color Purple spoke bravely of domestic and sexual abuse, narrating the lives of women through their pain and struggle, companionship and growth, resilience and bravery. Deeply compassionate and beautifully imagined, Alice Walker’s epic carries readers on a spirit-affirming journey towards redemption and love.
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Have you read any of these books written by black women authors? Or do you have any more to add to this list? I’d love to read your recommendations.
My theme for the A to Z Challenge this year is ‘Celebrating the Bibliophile in me’, where I will be sharing the books, authors and fictional characters that I love, loathe and tolerate.
Ah, there could be more!
You can follow me on my Bookstagram at Muffytales.
- A as in Anita Nair Books
- B as in Books by Contemporary Black Authors