Honoring black writers: 25 books for your summer reading
The New York Times’ summer reading list left out a whole lotta blackness.
The Times list contained books written by exclusively white authors. There are amazing books that were written and published by black writers since 2013 and they deserve recognition.
Here’s 25 of those:
(The descriptions below are from the books’ Amazon pages)
• Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2014)
Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.
• An Untamed State by Roxane Gay (2014)
Mireille Duval Jameson is living a fairy tale. The strong-willed youngest daughter of one of Haiti’s richest sons, she has an adoring husband, a precocious infant son, by all appearances a perfect life. The fairy tale ends one day when Mireille is kidnapped in broad daylight by a gang of heavily armed men, in front of her father’s Port au Prince estate. Held captive by a man who calls himself The Commander, Mireille waits for her father to pay her ransom. As it becomes clear her father intends to resist the kidnappers, Mireille must endure the torments of a man who resents everything she represents.
• Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi (2015)
In the winter of 1953, Boy Novak arrives by chance in a small town in Massachusetts, looking, she believes, for beauty—the opposite of the life she’s left behind in New York. She marries a local widower and becomes stepmother to his winsome daughter, Snow Whitman. A wicked stepmother is a creature Boy never imagined she’d become, but elements of the familiar tale of aesthetic obsession begin to play themselves out when the birth of Boy’s daughter, Bird, exposes the Whitman family secret. Among them, Boy, Snow, and Bird confront the tyranny of the mirror to ask how much power surfaces really hold.
• Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (2014)
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.
• Buck: A Memoir by M.K. Asanta (2014)
A coming-of-age story about navigating the wilds of urban America and the shrapnel of a self-destructing family, Buck shares the story of a generation through one original and riveting voice. MK Asante was born in Zimbabwe to American parents: his mother a dancer, his father a revered professor. But as a teenager, MK was alone on the streets of North Philadelphia, swept up in a world of drugs, sex, and violence. MK’s memoir is an unforgettable tale of how one precocious, confused kid educated himself through gangs, rap, mystic cults, ghetto philosophy, and, eventually, books. It is an inspiring tribute to the power of literature to heal and redeem us.
• Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to-Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love by Demetria Lucas (2014)
Don’t Waste Your Pretty is the much-anticipated dating and relationships manifesto from author, life coach and award-winning blogger Demetria L. Lucas. Demetria has interviewed thousands of men, advised hundreds of clients, and answered more than 38,000 dating and relationship queries on her popular Ask.Fm page, where real women submit anonymous questions and receive professional advice — for free!
Demetria’s latest advice guide is a compilation of popular questions asked by clients and readers. Lucas delivers the advice in a fun, knowledgeable and blunt manner, quickly solving dating and relationships dilemmas.
• Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles Blow (2014)
New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow mines the compelling poetry of the out-of-time African-American Louisiana town where he grew up — a place where slavery’s legacy felt astonishingly close, reverberating in the elders’ stories and in the near-constant wash of violence. Blow’s attachment to his mother — a fiercely driven woman with five sons, brass knuckles in her glove box, a job plucking poultry at a nearby factory, a soon-to-be-ex husband, and a love of newspapers and learning — cannot protect him from secret abuse at the hands of an older cousin. It’s damage that triggers years of anger and searing self-questioning. Finally, Blow escapes to a nearby state university, where he joins a black fraternity after a passage of brutal hazing, and then enters a world of racial and sexual privilege that feels like everything he’s ever needed and wanted, until he’s called upon, himself, to become the one perpetuating the shocking abuse.
• God Help the Child by Toni Morrison (2015)
God Help the Child—the first novel by Toni Morrison to be set in our current moment—weaves a tale about the way the sufferings of childhood can shape, and misshape, the life of the adult. At the center: a young woman who calls herself Bride, whose stunning blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and confidence, her success in life, but which caused her light-skinned mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love. There is Booker, the man Bride loves, and loses to anger. Rain, the mysterious white child with whom she crosses paths. And finally, Bride’s mother herself, Sweetness, who takes a lifetime to come to understand that “what you do to children matters. And they might never forget.”
• Long Division by Kiese Laymon (2013)
Kiese Laymon’s debut novel is a Twain-esque exploration of celebrity, authorship, violence, religion, and coming of age in Post-Katrina Mississippi, written in a voice that’s alternately funny, lacerating, and wise. The book contains two interwoven stories. In the first, it’s 2013: after an on-stage meltdown during a nationally televised quiz contest, 14-year-old Citoyen “City” Coldson becomes an overnight YouTube celebrity. The next day, he’s sent to stay with his grandmother in the small coastal community of Melahatchie, where a young girl named Baize Shephard has recently disappeared. Before leaving, City is given a strange book without an author called “Long Division.” He learns that one of the book’s main characters is also named City Coldson—but “Long Division” is set in 1985. This 1985 City, along with his friend and love-object, Shalaya Crump, discovers a way to travel into the future, and steals a laptop and cellphone from an orphaned teenage rapper called…Baize Shephard. They ultimately take these with them all the way back to 1964, to help another time-traveler they meet protect his family from the Klan. City’s two stories ultimately converge in the mysterious work shed behind his grandmother’s, where he discovers the key to Baize’s disappearance.
• Loving Day by Mat Johnson (2015)
Warren Duffy has returned to America for all the worst reasons: His marriage to a beautiful Welsh woman has come apart; his comics shop in Cardiff has failed; and his Irish American father has died, bequeathing to Warren his last possession, a roofless, half-renovated mansion in the heart of black Philadelphia. On his first night in his new home, Warren spies two figures outside in the grass. When he screws up the nerve to confront them, they disappear. The next day he encounters ghosts of a different kind: In the face of a teenage girl he meets at a comics convention he sees the mingled features of his white father and his black mother, both now dead. The girl, Tal, is his daughter, and she’s been raised to think she’s white. Spinning from these revelations, Warren sets off to remake his life with a reluctant daughter he’s never known, in a haunted house with a history he knows too well. In their search for a new life, he and Tal struggle with ghosts, fall in with a utopian mixed-race cult, and ignite a riot on Loving Day, the unsung holiday for interracial lovers. A frequently hilarious, surprisingly moving story about blacks and whites, fathers and daughters, the living and the dead, Loving Day celebrates the wonders of opposites bound in love.
• Meaty by Samantha Irby (2013)
Samantha Irby explodes onto the printed page with her debut collection of brand-new essays about trying to laugh her way through failed relationships, being black, taco feasts, bouts with Crohn’s disease, and more. Every essay is crafted with the same scathing wit and poignant candor thousands of loyal readers have come to expect from visiting her notoriously hilarious blog, bitchesgottaeat.com.
• Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile (2015)
When Charley unexpectedly inherits eight hundred acres of sugarcane land, she and her eleven-year-old daughter say goodbye to smoggy Los Angeles and head to Louisiana. She soon learns, however, that cane farming is always going to be a white man’s business. As the sweltering summer unfolds, Charley struggles to balance the overwhelming challenges of a farm in decline with the demands of family and the startling desires of her own heart.
• Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, and So Much More by Janet Mock (2014)
With unflinching honesty and moving prose, Janet Mock relays her experiences of growing up young, multiracial, poor, and trans in America, offering readers accessible language while imparting vital insight about the unique challenges and vulnerabilities of a marginalized and misunderstood population. Though undoubtedly an account of one woman’s quest for self at all costs, Redefining Realness is a powerful vision of possibility and self-realization, pushing us all toward greater acceptance of one another—and of ourselves—showing as never before how to be unapologetic and real.
• Ruby by Cynthia Bond (2015)
Ephram Jennings has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long braids running through the piney woods of Liberty, their small East Texas town. Young Ruby Bell, “the kind of pretty it hurt to look at,” has suffered beyond imagining, so as soon as she can, she flees suffocating Liberty for the bright pull of 1950s New York. Ruby quickly winds her way into the ripe center of the city—the darkened piano bars and hidden alleyways of the Village—all the while hoping for a glimpse of the red hair and green eyes of her mother. When a telegram from her cousin forces her to return home, thirty-year-old Ruby finds herself reliving the devastating violence of her girlhood. With the terrifying realization that she might not be strong enough to fight her way back out again, Ruby struggles to survive her memories of the town’s dark past. Meanwhile, Ephram must choose between loyalty to the sister who raised him and the chance for a life with the woman he has loved since he was a boy.
• The Awesome Girl’s Guide to Dating Extraordinary Men by Ernessa Carter (2013)
The only things that Sharita, Thursday, Risa, and Tammy have in common are their disastrous love lives. But the year three of them turn 30 will be different, they swear!
Sharita, a plump and conservative accountant wants to make partner at her firm and find the man of her dreams. Thursday, the daughter of a formerly chart-topping political rapper, wants to stop being a serial one-month stander, and settle down into a stable life with a stable boyfriend. Risa, a skinny and audacious electronica punk rocker, wants to finally land an album deal, which she feels is the only way to win back the heart of her on-again of off-again closeted girlfriend. And after getting fired as the spokesmodel for her family’s hair company, sweet and gorgeous Tammy wants to prove that she has what it takes to make it on her own. None of these women get what they want, but over the course of two years, they get exactly what they need. And that proves to be the best thing after all.
• The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander (2015)
In THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD, Elizabeth Alexander finds herself at an existential crossroads after the sudden death of her husband. Channeling her poetic sensibilities into a rich, lucid price, Alexander tells a love story that is, itself, a story of loss. As she reflects on the beauty of her married life, the trauma resulting from her husband’s death, and the solace found in caring for her two teenage sons, Alexander universalizes a very personal quest for meaning and acceptance in the wake of loss.
• The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae (2015)
Being an introvert in a world that glorifies cool isn’t easy. But when Issa Rae, the creator of the Shorty Award–winning hit series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” is that introvert—whether she’s navigating love, work, friendships, or “rapping”—it sure is entertaining. Now, in this debut collection of essays written in her witty and self-deprecating voice, Rae covers everything from cybersexing in the early days of the Internet to deflecting unsolicited comments on weight gain, from navigating the perils of eating out alone and public displays of affection to learning to accept yourself—natural hair and all. A reflection on her own unique experiences as a cyber pioneer yet universally appealing, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl is a book no one—awkward or cool, black, white, or other—will want to miss.
• The Sellout by Paul Beatty (2015)
A biting satire about a young man’s isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, Paul Beatty’s The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. It challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and the holy grail of racial equality–the black Chinese restaurant.
• The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America by Tamara Winfrey Harris (2015)
The Sisters Are Alright exposes anti–black-woman propaganda and shows how real black women are pushing back against distorted cartoon versions of themselves. When African women arrived on American shores, the three-headed hydra—servile Mammy, angry Sapphire, and lascivious Jezebel—followed close behind. In the ’60s, the Matriarch, the willfully unmarried baby machine leeching off the state, joined them. These stereotypes persist to this day through newspaper headlines, Sunday sermons, social media memes, cable punditry, government policies, and hit song lyrics. Emancipation may have happened more than 150 years ago, but America still won’t let a sister be free from this coven of caricatures. Tamara Winfrey Harris delves into marriage, motherhood, health, sexuality, beauty, and more, taking sharp aim at pervasive stereotypes about black women. She counters warped prejudices with the straight-up truth about being a black woman in America. “We have facets like diamonds,” she writes. “The trouble is the people who refuse to see us sparkling.”
• The Truth about Awiti by CP Patrick (2015)
There is a commonly held belief the tropical storms and hurricanes that form off the coast of West Africa are not natural disasters, but rather they are retaliation by restless spirits impacted by one of the darkest chapters of world history—the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Awiti’s destiny was forever changed the day the slave raiders arrived at her village. She made a life-altering decision with the hope of being reunited with her family, only to discover her effort was in vain. For centuries, her sadness raged within the winds and rain, resulting in tropical storms that devastated the South. But there is more to Awiti than creating hurricanes, as those who have encountered her love and wrath will attest. The truth is, there is so much more. Follow Awiti’s story from mid-15th-century Africa to 21st-century New Orleans in this historical fantasy that will leave you questioning the impact of the trans–Atlantic slave trade on the physical and spiritual realms.
• The Turner House by Angela Flournoy (2015)
The Turners have lived on Yarrow Street for over fifty years. Their house has seen thirteen children grown and gone—and some returned; it has seen the arrival of grandchildren, the fall of Detroit’s East Side, and the loss of a father. The house still stands despite abandoned lots, an embattled city, and the inevitable shift outward to the suburbs. But now, as ailing matriarch Viola finds herself forced to leave her home and move in with her eldest son, the family discovers that the house is worth just a tenth of its mortgage. The Turner children are called home to decide its fate and to reckon with how each of their pasts haunts—and shapes—their family’s future.
• Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lies, Lessons, and Love Affairs by Pearl Cleage (2014)
In this revelatory and deeply personal work, Cleage takes readers back to the 1970s and ’80s, retracing her struggles to hone her craft amid personal and professional tumult. Though born and raised in Detroit, it was in Atlanta that Cleage encountered the forces that would most shape her experience. At the time, married to Michael Lomax, now head of the United Negro College Fund, she worked with Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first African-American mayor. Things I Should Have Told My Daughter charts not only the political fights but also the pull she began to feel on her own passions—a pull that led her away from Lomax as she grappled with ideas of feminism and self-fulfillment. This fascinating memoir follows her journey from a columnist for a local weekly to a playwright and Hollywood scriptwriter whose circle came to include luminaries Richard Pryor, Avery Brooks, Phylicia Rashad, Shirley Franklin, and Jesse Jackson.
• Vintage Black Glamour by Nichelle Gainer (2015)
Using rarely accessed photographic archives and private collections, inspired by her family history, Nichelle Gainer has unearthed a revealing treasure trove of historic photographs of famous actors, dancers, writers and entertainers who worked in the 20th-century entertainment business, but who rarely appeared in the same publications as their white counterparts. Alongside the familiar images and stories of renowned performers such as Eartha Kitt, Lena Horne and Aretha Franklin are those of less well-remembered figures such as Bricktop, Pearl Primus, Diana Sands and many, many more.
• Prelude to Bruise by Saeed Jones (2014)
“Inside each hunger, each desire, speaks the voice of a boy that admits ‘I’ve always wanted to be dangerous.’ This is not a threat but a promise to break away from the affliction of silence, to make audible the stories that trouble the dimensions of masculinity and discomfort the polite conversations about race. With impressive grace, Saeed Jones situates the queer black body at the center, where his visibility and vulnerability nurture emotional strength and the irrepressible energy to claim those spaces that were once denied or withheld from him. Prelude to a Bruise is a daring debut.”—Rigoberto González
• Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi (2014)
Electric, exhilarating, and beautifully crafted, Ghana Must Go introduces the world to Taiye Selasi, a novelist of extraordinary talent. In a sweeping narrative that takes readers from Accra to Lagos to London to New York, it is at once a portrait of a modern family and an exploration of the importance of where we come from to who we are. A renowned surgeon and failed husband, Kweku Sai dies suddenly at dawn outside his home in suburban Accra. The news of his death sends a ripple around the world, bringing together the family he abandoned years before. Moving with great elegance through time and place, Ghana Must Go charts their circuitous journey to one another and, along the way, teaches us that the truths we speak can heal the wounds we hide.
Kim Weathersby holds an MBA and is a Corporate Accountant in the financial industry. She is a wife, mother, and advocate for individuals living with autoimmune diseases. She is passionate about life, love, and high heeled shoes. Follow her on twitter @kimweathersby.