February is Black History Month, so I wanted to use this as an opportunity to highlight both historically influential and up-and-coming black authors and their works. Some of the books are educational, some are biographies, and some are fun fictional reads. While I have read many of the books in this post, I’ve also included books by authors I haven’t read yet, but are on my “must-read” list due to positive reviews and intriguing topics. I also wanted to highlight contemporary authors in particular, to support living individuals and their modern voices. I hope this list helps support black and minority authors and gives readers a different perspective and education.
Classic and Iconic Authors:
- Toni Morrison – winner of the Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize, this accomplished author is famous for iconic works such as The Bluest Eye (1970), Sula (1973), Song of Solomon (1977), and Beloved (1987). I have read a few of her works and definitely want to continue delving into more of her novels. They are powerfully written works that I encourage everyone to read.
- Dr. Maya Angelou – I’m sure everyone is familiar with one of her most famous works, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, but she has also written The Heart of a Woman and I Shall Not Be Moved, equally powerful works. I highly recommend reading through a collection of her poetry.
- Langston Hughes – Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He depicted powerful portrayals of Black life in America in the early 20th century and was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance. His notable works include Shakespeare in Harlem, Montage of a Dream Deferred, and The Weary Blues.
- James Baldwin – Baldwin is well known for his part in the Civil Rights movement and was a renowned novelist, essayist, and playwright. His works include Go Tell It on the Mountain, Another Country, and Just Above My Head.
- Zora Neale Hurston – I first read Their Eyes Were Watching God in high school and immediately fell in love with Hurston’s prose and nuanced characters. I want to delve into her short short fiction works more!
- W.E.B. Du Bois – was an influential African American rights activist during the early 20th century. He was the first black man to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard, co-founded the NAACP and published the first case study of an African American community: The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study. He is also known for his collection of essays: ‘The Souls of Black Folk.
- Kiley Reid – Such a Fun Age: This instant NYT bestseller AND Reese’s Book Club pick drew me in immediately! The story focuses on race, class, and gender relations between a babysitter and a young mom. The book perfectly balances cringe-worthy moments with sympathetic instances that make you rethink your assumptions and interactions.
- Akwaeke Emezi – Pet: This YA novel delves into what truly makes someone a “monster.” In a utopic society free from evil individuals, Jam unintentionally calls a beast into existence that’s a monster-hunter. Part mystery, part commentary on hidden evils, this book was a pleasure to read! I also love that the protagonist is a trans girl of color and the author is LGBT themselves!
- Phoebe Robinson – You Can’t Touch My Hair : And Other Things I Still Have to Explain: Part hilarious social commentary, part serious look at society and culture in American, Robinson takes race relations and gender in her inquisitive, comedic style that had me digging deep and cracking up.
- Jeffrey Blount – The Emancipation of Evan Wells: My friend’s father wrote this book and I can’t wait to read it! Evan Wells is a terrified soon-to-be-father who reminisces about his own childhood growing up black in Virginia during the turbulent 1960s and how he aimed to overcome the racism and class status imposed on blacks.
- Ta Nehisi Coates – The Water Dancer: I’ve only heard incredible things about this NYT bestseller and Oprah’s Book Club pick. This fiction novel is the story of Hiram Walker, who was born into slavery on a Virginia plantation and gifted with a photographic memory. This novel mixes magic with realism for a compelling read that I can’t wait to dive into!
- Tomi Adeyemi – Children of Virtue and Vengeance: This fantasy YA series has been receiving rave reviews and keeps popping up on my “recommended books” list on Goodreads. A combination of magic, political intrigue, and the impending threat of war are what the main characters are faced with – no big deal.
- Tanisha C. Ford –Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl’s Love Letter to the Power of Fashion: This memoir explores the connections between Black style and the Black struggle.
- Karamo Brown – Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing, and Hope: This memoir from one of the iconic Queer Eye cast members is candid and inspiring and gives insight into how he became the lovable Netflix icon we all know!
- Mikki Kendall – Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot: An in-depth critique of the blind spots in today’s feminist movement and provides Black feminism with a new voice for this generation.
- Jesmyn Ward – Sing, Unburied, Sing: This book won the 2017 National Book Award. This story takes place in Mississippi and focuses on a family dealing with external and internal struggles.
- Elaine Welteroth – More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say): This book follow’s Welteroth’s journey as she breaks ground as a black girl throughout her life. It’s a call to action to pursue your dreams and follow your calling, no matter how many people say you can’t or you shouldn’t! Welteroth also broke new ground as the youngest person and the second African-American to ever hold this title of editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue.
This is by no means a list encompassing all of the talented black authors of the past or present, rather ones that I’ve read or want to read. I hope this list gives you interesting and insightful options to add into your reading list and expand your horizons! Happy reading!