Black History Month Reading Recs

Literature offers a path to understanding different worlds, places, people, and experiences; it has the ability to inform, connect, and spark empathy. As humans, we have the responsibility to seek understanding of other perspectives and do what we can to make the world better. We have to listen to the experiences of others, and I believe it can all start with a book. 

For Black History Month, I wanted to provide lists of books – primarily organized by genre – that I have personally read or that others have recommended to me. These lists certainly only skim the top of what is available for each genre, but hopefully this provides a start to selecting a book.

Please remember that we should read and amplify Black authors and perspectives all year round, not simply during a single month. 

** (Each book title is linked to Goodreads where you can better explore the summary, author, reviews, and other similar suggestions. Just click on it!)

Fiction – Literary and/or Contemporary

  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – A Nigerian immigrant navigates the complexities of modern American culture in her blog, while wondering if she made the right choice to leave her home and former love.
  • Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue – A Cameroonian, immigrant family struggles to find their place in modern America as it approaches and enters the Obama administration era.
  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid – A wealthy, white blogger and her Black babysitter learn about privilege as they navigate their friendship.
  • Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi – A young woman grapples with the addictions and mental health struggles of her loved ones by searching science for answers and also reconnecting with her faith in God.

Historical Fiction

  • Kindred by Octavia Butler (elements of Magical Realism) – A Black woman finds herself unintentionally time-travelling back to the Antebellum era to help a white boy, but she is unsure why; Kindred is famous for being the first science fiction novel written by a Black, female author.
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead  (elements of Magical Realism) – Slaves go on an adventure to escape north, except in this novel the underground railroad is literal.
  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett – Identical twin sisters live very different lives that are influenced by decades of personal decisions and systemic racism of places like the Deep South between the 1950s to the 1990s.
  • Washington Black by Esi Edugyan – A young field slave working a Barbados plantation develops a meaningful relationship with his master, who is willing to risk his life flying across the world to keep him safe.
  • Deacon King Kong by James McBride – Gives perspectives of multiple groups within a community affected by a shooting that happens in a 1969 housing project in New York.
  • The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead – About a Black boy trying to survive in a reform school in 1960s Tennessee.

Queer Fiction

  • The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr. (Historical Fiction) – About a forbidden love between two male slaves on a plantation in the South, and their fight for their lives and their love.
  • Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers (Contemporary Fiction) – A millennial woman must reconsider her life’s path after waking up in Vegas married to a woman she just met.
  • All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson (Memoir) – Personal essays that explore moments of the author’s life as a Black, queer boy becoming an adult.
  • Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender (YA) – Felix – a Black, transgender teen – faces homophobia from his peers as he searches for love and acceptance.

Fantasy

  • Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James – An adventure to find a missing child mixed with African mythology and history.
  • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (YA) – A girl fights with her special powers to reclaim her home from an evil king, as well as the stolen magic.
  • The Deep by Rivers Solomon – Mermaid-like descendants from pregnant African slaves – thrown off ships by their slave owners – create their own society underwater and push the memories of the past away; however, pushing away the past cannot last forever.

Young Adult (YA) Fiction

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – About a 16-year-old girl that lives in poverty and attends a wealthy, prep school. She must cope with the social pressures of these environments, while grieving the loss of a friend who is shot by a police officer.
  • Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson – Enchanted is questioned for the death of a famous singer she met, but she is unsure whether or not she was the one that murdered him.
  • Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson – A teen girl notices that her best friend, Monday, goes missing. So, she takes the search into her own hands.
  • Color Me In by Natasha Diaz – A biracial girl struggles with her identity as Jewish and Black, as well as being pulled between two social classes of separated parents.

Nonfiction

Classics

  • Beloved by Toni Morrison – A Black woman is haunted by her past, including her experience as a slave and the death of her baby.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston – A Black woman’s experience exploring relationships and her identity during the Harlem Renaissance.
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (memoir) – Angelou’s experience as a young Black girl coping with the deep prejudices of the South, as well as sexual assault, and learning to overcome.
  • A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (play) – About the struggles of a Black, working class family in South Chicago dealing with what it means to be Black in the mid-twentieth century.

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