theGrio’s Top 50 books to read this summer: ‘Fiction from the Diaspora’

Black identity is complex and transcends borders. Our reading lists should too.

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Black identity is complex and transcends borders. Our reading lists should too. Like their authors, these stories represent cultures and perspectives from all over the Black diaspora: the United Kingdom, West Africa, the Caribbean and more. We should always be reading broadly, but while the pandemic is raging especially, there’s no better time to expand your horizons without leaving the house. 

Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World by Bolu Babalola (Romantic fiction)

A joyous option for the summer or any time of year. This British-Nigerian author searched the globe to find a radically diverse group of stories about love—from magical folktales of West Africa to iconic Greek myths and ancient legends from the Middle East. Babalola’s evocative and vivid writing infuses old stories with new life. 

Popisho by Leone Ross (Literary fiction)

Leone Ross’s acclaimed new novel takes place in a Caribbean community, which has several things in common with the islands I know best— broken politics, a stunning natural landscape, and an indelible sense of mystery and mischief. That’s all common enough. But in this fictional archipelago of Popisho, magic is ubiquitous too: “Everyone in Popisho was born with a little something-something, boy, a little something extra. The local name was cors. Magic, but more than magic. A gift, nah? Yes. From the gods: a thing so inexpressibly your own.” Jamaican author Kellie Magnus (@KellieMagnus) says, “Come for the Caribbean humour and insider’s eye the title promises. Stay for Ross’ lavish and lovingly rendered details of setting, characters and community.” 

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones (Literary Fiction/Suspense)

There’s a crime at the center of this novel, but it isn’t a story about crime. It’s an affecting story about Caribbean people as well as race, class, and compounding intergenerational trauma. It begins with a young woman’s act of defiance against her grandmother and a botched burglary of a wealthy British visitor. How those two events are connected is revealed at a slower pace even though a series of related tragedies pile up in quick succession. A 2021 Women’s Prize nominee. 

Sugar Town Queens by Malla Nunn (YA Fiction)

In this suspenseful and emotional novel by award-winning author Malla Nunn, a teen tries to unravel deep and dangerous family secrets and what happened long ago to her shell-shocked mom. Bright and uber-responsible Amandla lives with her unstable and strangely elegant white mother in a one-room shack in a township on the outskirts of Durban, South Africa. In a role reversal, Amandla manages their household and her mother. She worries about how to make their food money last while getting good grades, nursing a first crush and trying to keep up with her friend. It’s a precarious existence, but she loves her mom, and they generally make it work. Then one day Amandla finds a mysterious note and a very large stash of cash among her mother’s belongings and decides to investigate what her mother’s been hiding for so long. 

Return to TheGrio Top 50 Books of Summer Main Page 

More theGrio Top 50 Book picks: Family Ties | American Art and Ideas | LGBTQ+ Pride | Black Love and Black Glamour | Spreading Our Wings | Crime and Consciousness | Historical Reckoning | Nonfiction | Thrills and Chills: Mystery/Suspense/ThrillerLove and Romance | Historical Fiction | Fiction from the Diaspora | Contemporary Fiction

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