Looking to diversify your reading list? Here are eight black authors to add to your bookcase…
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A writer from Nigeria, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a modern treasure in the literary world. She is the author of Half of a Yellow Sun, We Should All be Feminists and Americanah. Americanah made waves with its release in 2013 and tells the story of a young woman named Ifemelu who moves to America. It’s a book that takes on many big themes – from emigration to immigration, race, politics, love and all those complex feelings around belonging.
A Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize winning author, Toni Morrison is author of a ton of amazing books. Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, and so many more. Beloved is considered to be her magnum opus and is an ethereal and haunting story that follows a woman after the civil war. It deals with the trauma of a terrible past and the spectre of slavery. Its brutal, complex, beautifully penned, taut and a must-read.
Born in Harlem in the 1920s, James Baldwin spent much of his life living away from the USA in an attempt to escape prejudices. While living in Paris he wrote Go Tell It on the Mountain, a semi-autobiographical coming of age novel about race, sexuality, and identity. Penned with lyrical passion, Baldwin also wrote Giovanni’s Room, The Fire Next Time, and If Beale Street Could Talk.
Sing Unburied Sing and Salvage the Bones are two titles that Jesmyn Ward is best known for. Salvage the Bones takes place in Mississippi days before a devastating hurricane and follows a family scrabbling to survive. Sing Unburied Sing also delves deep into Mississippi and has been hailed as a slow apocalypse depiction of modern black America. Both Jesmyn Ward’s big hit novels are prize winners. She also wrote a memoir called Men We Reaped.
Born in Mississippi in the early 20th century, Richard Wright is best known for his titles Black Boy and Native Son. His novel Black Boy is an account of life growing up in the South before his eventual move to Chicago and then to Paris. He was one of the first writers in America to protest against the treatment of black people by whites through his writing.
A professor and best-selling writer, Roxanne Gay is best known for her essay collections Bad Feminist and It’s Not That Bad – Dispatches from Rape Culture. She is also the author of Hunger, Difficult Women, and the novel – An Untamed State. Bad Feminist is a great jumping-off point for those who want to read her funny and insightful essays that capture everything from pop culture to unraveling her own beliefs about what it is to be a feminist. In a time when it's important to seek out voices that go beyond the whitewashed experience, Roxanne Gay is a glorious choice.
Author of Brown Girl Dreaming, Another Brooklyn, and Red at the Bone, Jacqueline Woodson crafts incredible stories. Brown Girl Dreaming is an eloquent autobiography served up in verse and explores what it was like to grow up in America in the ’60s and ’70s. Her most recent novel Red at the Bone traces the story of an African American family and how history, community, and the aim to overcome expectations have shaped their life. It deals with themes of race, class, gentrification, and the life-altering aspects of parenthood.
A self-described ‘black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet’, Audre Lorde has dedicated her life work to tackling and tearing down social injustices towards race, gender, sexuality, and identity. Her famous quote ‘the master's tool will never dismantle the master's house’ and ‘your silence will not protect you’ have granted people hope, courage and resilience around the world. Sister Outsider is one of her best-known collections of essays and speeches and is a great starting point for delving deep into her work.
Which authors do you want to add to this list? Share in the comments.