During Black History Month, book lists all over will tell you to “diversify your To Be Read list this month,” but the featured stories are often repeated. There are plenty of newer stories written in celebration of Black culture, accomplishments, love, mythology, joy and experiences. Here are 10 books and Black authors who showcase these narratives.
Don’t Cry For Me by Daniel Black
Daniel Black writes a novel of empathy and forgiveness between a dying father and his gay son. Jacob, the father, writes letters to his son Isaac about his family history in rural Arkansas, his relationship with Isaac’s mother and the lifelong shame he carries. Through the letters from Jacob’s deathbed, the two grow to reconcile and find peace. This novel reconsiders the lenses surrounding Black fathers and queer sons.
God is a Black Woman by Christena Cleveland
Christena Cleveland, an activist, social psychologist and theologian, goes on a trek to redefine Christianity without white patriarchal culture overshadowing it. Through her time of study and preaching, Cleveland grew more disenchanted with the “whitemalegod” she was told to worship her whole life. In the memoir, she argues how and why God is neither male nor white, with spiritual practices to accompany the Sacred Black Feminine she explores.
Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen
Bowen immerses the classic “Little Mermaid” tale in West African mythology to write this novel. Set in 1400’s West Africa, Simidele is one of the seven blessed mermaids, the Mami Wata, who guides the souls of those who die while at sea to their afterlife. But when she breaks an ancient law and saves a man from death, she must reverse the damage and start on a treacherous journey. Defying gods, fighting monsters and forbidden love — a trifecta of tropes to intrigue any reader.
Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas
In this novel, Angie Thomas explores boyhood and manhood as a Black man in America.
The prequel to “The Hate U Give” revisits the setting of Garden Heights to explore the life of Starr’s father, Maverick Carter. In order to take care of his family, Maverick deals for the infamous King Lords. When he finds himself facing fatherhood, he takes the opportunity to straighten his life out for his family.
Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko
Tarisai has always wanted to belong. Her mother, the absent and powerful woman known as The Lady, is sending her to join the Crown Prince’s Council of Eleven. To join the council and become one of the Ray is to be a part of a bond deeper than blood. However, her mother has other plans for her daughter: Tarisai is to fulfill her mother’s magical wish to gain the trust of the prince and kill him. This is the first in the finished duology set to be adapted into a limited series on Netflix.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
A solitary mercenary, known as Tracker, must work with a group to find a boy who’s been missing for three years. Not only is he a missing child, but he is the child the fate of the kingdom rests upon. The mismatched group sets off to find him while discovering secrets of their own. Based on African mythology and history, filled with demons, shapeshifters and riddles, the first installment in Marlon James’ trilogy is sure to enthrall.
For All Time by Shanna Miles
What does it mean to be destined for someone? What if that destiny draws you together in every lifetime? Tamar and Fayard have a love story in every lifetime, both future and past. No matter the time, whether in 1325 or 2260 and no matter the setting, whether in space or present day South Carolina, their love story and struggle to stay together is their only constant. You’ll find the lovers trying to find the ending their love story has never had before.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Inseparable twins, Desiree and Stella, born in a southern Black community, run away at age 16. When they are separated, they follow radically different paths. Stella “passes” for white with an unsuspecting white husband. Desiree lives in the same town she once ran away from with her Black daughter. However, their lives meet once again as their daughters’ lives intertwine. This novel not only discusses “passing,” but also familial relations and the importance and consequences of the past.
Real Life by Brandon Taylor
A biochemistry student from Alabama seeking to leave behind the life he once had. Wallace is introverted, Black, queer and wearily attending a predominately white institution in the Midwest. In order to keep his shadows at bay, he’s enforcing a distance with his “new friends.” After a series of confrontations with said “friends,” colleagues and a seemingly straight, white classmate, Wallace begins to reconsider the walls holding back his degrees of yearning and conflict toward his surrounding community.
The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story by Nikole Hannah-Jones
This Pulitzer Prize winning long-form journalism reframes the United States’ history by marking, 400 years later, the first time enslaved Africans were brought onto American soil. In re-examining the history of slavery, starting in 1619, the project claims U.S. history starts with the arrival of slaves, not with the pilgrims or the Declaration of Independence. It also shows how slavery and Black Americans built the U.S. of today and how its effects can be found in everything: art, politics, capitalism, religion, traffic, democracy and more.