I have not read a lot of books by black authors – this is something I will be consciously focusing on from here on out – but of the titles I have already read and loved, here are ten I really want to recommend:
- The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon – This is a YA novel that took me by surprise. I heard about it all over booktube for ages before ever picking it up, but am so glad I finally listened to the hype and gave it a shot because it’s now one of my favourite books of all time.
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker – A classic novel told via the medium of letters. Heartbreaking at various points (trigger warning for all kinds of abuse) but handled so wonderfully. The characters are so fleshed out, they read like real people. It tells you not just what it’s like to be black, but specifically a black woman, and someone who questions their sexuality too.
- Becoming by Michelle Obama – Memoir/non-fiction from the former first lady of the USA. I listened to this on audiobook, which is read by Michelle herself.
- My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal – The story of a mixed-race boy who gets taken into care alongside his baby brother but is separated from said brother because the baby is white and therefore more likely to be adopted. Again, heartbreaking, touching, and very human.
- Kumukanda by Kayo Chingonyi – A poetry pamphlet about belonging, masculinity, identity, and coming of age.
- Tree Trunks That Hide the Elephant and the Whale by Willetta Fleming – More poetry here, this time from a woman local to me here in Northern Ireland.
- Boys Don’t Cry by Malorie Blackman – When I first started thinking about this list, I knew for certain I’d have to include Malorie but I had a hard time picking one of her many, many titles (she’s so prolific and so well-loved, I’m actually gonna do a separate post all about her and her books in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for that). This YA novel (about a teenage boy who discovers his ex-girlfriend had a child by him and now expects him to raise the child) isn’t one of Malorie’s most well-known books, but it really touched me. There is also some queer representation.
- Unheard Voices – An Anthology of Stories and Poems to Commemorate the Bicentenary Anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade, edited [and including a powerful short story] by Malorie Blackman.
- My Name is Why by Lemn Sissay – This is a memoir about growing up in care, being abandoned, and finding yourself. When Lemn was taken from his mother, he didn’t even get to keep his real name. This is a startling look at what it’s like (or, at least, what it was like) to be raised within the ‘system’ in the UK, and how the system is (or was) so very broken.
- Terror Kid by Benjamin Zephaniah – Benjamin is primarily a poet, but this is one of his novels. It’s middle-grade (aimed at a slightly younger audience than YA), about a boy who is torn between wanting to address the injustices he sees around him and trying to stay out of trouble. Soon, he discovers, trouble finds him and he is thrust into a situation well beyond his handling. There are some important topics and issues raised in this book, my only wish is that explored them a little deeper.
Coming soon: a list of ten books by black authors I plan to read next. If you have more suggestions, please leave them in the comment section below.