Do you sometimes pay attention to the author’s race when choosing a book to read? Probably not. I don’t think most of us do. We usually gravitate to particular genres and read stories that we can relate to. However, by seeking diversity in the books we read is important.
What we read is another way to diversify our lives. It is not good if the books we consume, whether fiction or non-fiction, all speak of a race or class of people. We often turn to non-fiction to expand our knowledge, but fiction also offers the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the stories of others.
Since February is Black History Month, there’s no better time to start diversifying your library with black stories. So here is a list of fiction books written by black women that you should definitely add to your reading list.
In this multigenerational novel, Brit Bennett beautifully weaves several stories to tell the tale of black twins Stella and Desiree. The story begins in the small town of Mallard, Louisiana, but at sixteen the twins escape to New Orleans and begin two very different lives. One chooses to “pass” as a white woman and marries a white man and the other marries the darkest man she can find. Bennett shares their side stories and tackles issues of race, colorism, and class in 20th century America.
Kiley Reid’s debut novel is fast, funny, and engaging read. The two main characters are white blogger and business owner Alix Chamberlain and her black babysitter, Emira. Looking at Alix’s daughter, Emira is racially profiled and accused of kidnapping her from a grocery store. The incident is filmed and throws Alex and Emira into the limelight, forever changing their relationship. This book is quick to read but still manages to shed light on big issues like racial profiling, micro-aggression and the “white savior” complex.
Gyasi’s “Homegoing” is a beautifully written story that spans continents and generations. The story begins with half-sisters Effia and Esi who were born in two different villages in 18th century Ghana. One marries a British slave owner and the other is sold into slavery and shipped to America. Structured like a family tree, the story unfolds generation by generation, showing the effects of the paths each sister took not only on themselves but on generations to come. And Gyasi manages to involve you equally in the history of each generation.
If you’ve been bitten by the Bridgerton virus and are looking for historical romance novels, “An Extraordinary Union” should definitely be on your reading list. This is the first of three books in The Loyal League Series by novelist Alyssa Cole. It’s an interracial love story between two spies that takes place during the Civil War. This book contains espionage, suspense, and sex and is wrapped in a well-written novel with some historical substance.
Terry Mcmillan is not new to the scene. She has written successful books which have turned into blockbuster movies like “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” and “Waiting to Exhale. McMillan has a knack for telling the stories of mature black women and she doesn’t fail us in “It’s Not All Downhill From Here.” This book tells the story of Loretha, 68. She has a successful business and is fortunately married, but an unexpected loss turns her world upside down as she has to figure out what to do with the rest of her life.
If you’re a crime drama fan, Attica Locke’s second book in her Highway 59 series is for you. In this exciting sequel to “Bluebird, Bluebird, “ Texas Ranger Darren Matthews searches for a missing child in the racially tense East Texas setting. The combination of mystery and family drama makes him a true page turner, but it is recommended that you read the first installment in the series before getting carried away by this one.
You might need a box of tissues for this touching first film from writer Anissa Gray. This novel shares the literal and figurative ordeals that turn the lives of sisters Althea, Viola and Lillian upside down. It’s not a happy story, but it shows a family’s raw and realistic journey to healing and forgiveness.
Don’t worry, science fiction readers, you have not been forgotten. “The City We Became” is the first book in a new trilogy by award-winning author Hugo NK Jemisin. In this ode to New York, five avatars are chosen to protect the city. They must find a way to unite against a beast from another dimension. Jemisin builds a masterful world and uses the sci-fi genre to explore racism and gentrification.
Rom-com lovers, this book is for you. This really cute romance story begins with meeting strangers Alexa Monroe and Drew Nichols while they are trapped in an elevator. Alexa spontaneously agrees to be Drew’s date for his ex-girlfriend’s wedding dates. And you can probably guess the sparks are flying from there.
Set in Nigeria, “The Girl With The Louding Voice” is the coming-of-age story of 14-year-old Adunni. She’s trapped in a life she doesn’t want for herself and fights for her dream of getting an education under what seem like impossible circumstances. Abi Daré uses this heart-wrenching but inspiring story to address women’s inequality issues and the effects of a patriarchal society.
And no, you shouldn’t be reading these books just because the authors are black and female, but also because they are talented writers who have diverse stories to share. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find a new favorite author or even broaden your own perspective after reading one of these fiction books written by black women.