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12 Must-Read Books by Black Female Authors
Novels by black female authors
For years, Literature has been an authentic space for black communities to tell their stories.
From Literary Icon Toni Morrison to fresh talent Yaa Gyasi, readers have embraced the works of Black American authors wholeheartedly!
In this post, I have compiled some great works of African-American authors. These works of literature can guide us to understand the profundity of the struggles of black people in America and around the world!
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
A remarkable memoir of the renowned poet Maya Angelou.
Blurb from Goodreads: Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.”
At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age—and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.
“Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.” – Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Notable works of Maya Angelou:
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
Story of a superheroic black woman! Butler’s writing is beguiling and intelligent!
Blurb from Goodreads: The first science fiction written by a black woman, Kindred has become a cornerstone of black American literature. This combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction is a novel of rich literary complexity. Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into antebellum Maryland. After saving a drowning white boy there, she finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun and is transported back to the present just in time to save her life. During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she’s been given.
“Repressive societies always seemed to understand the danger of “wrong” ideas.” – Octavia E. Butler, Kindred
Notable works of Octavia E. Butler
American Marriage by Tayari Jones
A realistic writing about the institution of marriage!
Blurb from Goodreads: Newlyweds, Celestial and Roy, are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. They are settling into the routine of their life together when they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.
This stirring love story is a deeply insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward- with hope and pain- into the future
“But home isn’t where you land; home is where you launch. You can’t pick your home any more than you can choose your family. In poker, you get five cards. Three of them you can swap out, but two are yours to keep: family and native land.” – Tayari Jones , American Marriage
Notable works of Tayari Jones
The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
One of the best contemporary fiction that elucidates the “black lives matter” movement!
Blurb from Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterwards, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.” –Angie Thomas, The Hate You Gave
Notable works of Angie Thomas
Home Going by Yaa Gyasi
An astounding debut novel about slavery; heart-wrenching and intense!
Blurb from Goodreads: Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.
“The family is like the forest: if you are outside it is dense; if you are inside you see that each tree has its own position.” – Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing
Notable works of Yaa Gyasi
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
In this New York Times Bestseller, Jacqueline Woodson shares what it was like to be growing up as an African American in the 60s and 70s!
Blurb from Goodreads: Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.
“Even the silence
has a story to tell you.
Just listen. Listen.” –Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming
Notable works of Jacqueline Woodson
Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim
A wonderful collection of inspiring essays by black women writers, curated by the founder of the popular book club “Well-Read Black Girl”! Definitely a must-read for all bookworms.
Blurb from Goodreads:Remember that moment when you first encountered a character who seemed to be written just for you? That feeling of belonging remains with readers the rest of their lives—but not everyone regularly sees themselves in the pages of a book. In this timely anthology, Glory Edim brings together original essays by some of our best black women writers to shine a light on how important it is that we all—regardless of gender, race, religion, or ability—have the opportunity to find ourselves in literature. Contributors include Jesmyn Ward (Sing, Unburied, Sing), Lynn Nottage (Sweat), Jacqueline Woodson (Another Brooklyn), Gabourey Sidibe (This Is Just My Face), Morgan Jerkins (This Will Be My Undoing), Tayari Jones (An American Marriage), Rebecca Walker (Black, White and Jewish), and Barbara Smith (Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology)
“Black girls could not be too confident, too loud, too smart. Fat girls could be cute but not beautiful, could be the funny sidekick or wise truth-teller in school plays, never the leading role or love interest.”–Glory Edim, Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves
The Girl With The Louding Voice by Abi Daré
A spell-bounding novel of a young girl’s dreams and ambition. A book that’s absolutely awe-inspiring!
Blurb from Goodreads: Adunni is a fourteen-year-old Nigerian girl who knows what she wants: an education. This, her mother has told her, is the only way to get a “louding voice”—the ability to speak for herself and decide her own future. But instead, Adunni’s father sells her to be the third wife of a local man who is eager for her to bear him a son and heir.
When Adunni runs away to the city, hoping to make a better life, she finds that the only other option before her is servitude to a wealthy family. As a yielding daughter, a subservient wife, and a powerless slave, Adunni is told, by words and deeds, that she is nothing.
But while misfortunes might muffle her voice for a time, they cannot mute it. And when she realizes that she must stand up not only for herself, but for other girls, for the ones who came before her and were lost, and for the next girls, who will inevitably follow; she finds the resolve to speak, however she can—in a whisper, in song, in broken English—until she is heard
“you must do good for other peoples, even if you are not well, even if the whole world around you is not well.” –Abi Daré, The Girl with the Louding Voice
Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Jayne Allen
This debut novel is an absolute page-turner. A story that dives into the contemporary life of a woman of color!
Blurb from Goodreads:An unexpected doctor’s diagnosis awakens Tabitha to an unperceived culprit, threatening the one thing that has always mattered most – having a family of her own. Stress has caused a premature burnout of Tabitha’s egg reserve, and time is running out on her options to become a wife and mother. With the help of her best friends, the irreverent and headstrong Laila and Alexis, the former “Sexy Lexi,” Tabitha must explore the reaches of modern medicine and test the limits of her relationships. Will she risk every comfort to address the complications of her dysfunctionally-blended family and the uncertainty of a future with Marc?
Tabitha’s journey brings into view the internal experience of race, relationships, and generational patterns, and how each contributed to this crossroads. She must leverage the power of laughter, love, and courageous self-care to bring a healing stronger than she ever imagined – before the phrase “black girls must die exhausted” takes on a new and unwanted meaning in her own life.
“Love comes in many forms—self-love, love between friends, familial love and romantic love, amongst them. In fact, this book itself is my love letter—to you, to black women, to women and to all those who understand the beauty that comes through struggle and the benefit of doing their own work to heal, to understand, to grow, and most importantly, to love more fully.” –Jayne Allen, Black Girls Must Die Exhausted
The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
A beautifully written love story that’ll stay with you forever! The Sun Is Also A Star, is an emotionally complex book that will grip you from the first page!
Blurb from Goodreads:Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.
Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.
The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?
“The universe stops and waits for us.” – Nicola Yoon, The Sun Is Also a Star
Notable works of Nicola Yoon
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
In the award-winning young adult novel, Afro-Dominican Elizabeth Acevedo narrates the story of a young girl who struggles to find her own place in a male-dominated Dominican society! A powerful book that all women should definitely read at least once!
Blurb from Goodreads: Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.
But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.
With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.
Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
“She knew since she was little, the world would not sing her triumphs, but she took all of the stereotypes and put them in a chokehold until they breathed out the truth.”- Elizabeth Acevedo, The Poet X
Notable works of Elizabeth Acevedo
Queenie by Candice Carty Williams
The Hilarious and heart whelming story of a millennial!
Blurb from Goodreads: Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle-class peers. After a messy break-up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth.
As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”—all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her. With “fresh and honest” (Jojo Moyes) prose, Queenie is a remarkably relatable exploration of what it means to be a modern woman searching for meaning in today’s world.
“The road to recovery is not linear. It’s not straight. It’s a bumpy path, with lots of twists and turns. But you’re on the right track.”-Candice Carty-Williams, Queenie
Time For Your action:
What are some of the great books by black authors that influenced you? Let me know in the comments
Always curious to hear from you,
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