6 Books by Black authors you need to read

Faridah Iyimide

There are so many phenomenal Black writers publishing books today, from stories that allow you to escape into a different world to stories that hold up a mirror to our real one.  

Here are some incredible books by Black authors that should be on your radar…  

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson  

There are few young adult/teen romantic comedies that centre around the lives of dark-skinned Black girls, let alone queer Black girls.  

You Should See Me in a Crown follows a young Black girl named Liz who is forced to run for prom queen in order to receive financial aid for university. A hilarious and beautifully written story about love, identity and prom. Leah Johnson shows us that Black girls are never too poor, too queer, or too Black to be loved.  

 

And the Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando 

When it comes to discussing mental health and suicide, Black teens often get left out of the conversation. In a world where Black people are criminalised from an early age and abused by racist systems, mental health is so important to discuss, as well as how to deal with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.  

And The Stars Were Burning Brightly is about 15-year-old Nathan who finds out that his brother Al has died by suicide and has to both deal with the grief and guilt that comes with losing someone so close in this way, as well as what caused his brother so much pain in the first place. And The Stars Were Burning Brightly is a beautifully written story about love, loss and hope, as well as the impact of bullying on the mental health of teens everywhere.  

 

This Is My America by Kim Johnson  

The past few weeks has seen a global awakening as a result of the deaths of many Black Americans at the hands of police officers. Protests, petitions and bail funds have flooded timelines as many are searching for ways to help. In particular, petitions and Twitter threads have been surfacing about the unjust imprisonment and death penalty given to so many Black Americans. The latter—the death penalty—being a topic that isn’t discussed widely enough.  

This is My America is a powerful story about injustice, and it follows 17-year-old Tracy who writes letters to an organisation asking to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. The story deals with the school-to-prison pipeline, the justice system and how unfair it is; and it even has a mystery element. This is My America is an unflinching tale of how institutions such as prisons were created to kill Black people.  

 

 

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna  

Black Panther meets The Handmaid’s Tale in Namina Forna’s debut novel, The Gilded Ones, which follows 16-year-old Deka who lives in Otera, a deeply patriarchal ancient kingdom where a woman’s worth is tied to her purity.  

When Deka has to prove her purity by bleeding red, she fails, bleeding gold instead, and is sentenced to death as a result. This story is a profound exploration of sexism, and it deals with rape, colourism, and the way the humanity of women is perceived in societies heavily influenced by patriarchal traditions.  

 

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton  

What does it mean to be beautiful? A question many young adults ask themselves, especially Black girls and women who live in a world where beauty requires a proximity to whiteness.  

The Belles is a smart and layered examination of beauty standards and both white supremacy and the patriarchy’s role in the way girls perceive their bodies. In this rich world Clayton has imagined, belles control beauty, and are the only ones with the power to make people beautiful. The story follows a belle named Camellia Beauregard who in her pursuit for being the favourite belle, learns of the ugliness in her beautiful world.  

Like in the world of The Belles, in the real world, beauty is a powerful currency that Black girls often do not have access too. Clayton’s book is a powerful analogy that will have readers thinking deeply about why and what beauty is. 

 

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds  

A Christmas Carol meets The Hate U Give in Long Way Down. It’s a beautiful and haunting story written in verse, about a boy named William who loses his brother in a shooting and has to deal with the aftermath.  

Reynolds highlights the rules that are ingrained in young Black boys when they experience something traumatic. Don’t cry. Don’t snitch. Get revenge. Repeat the cycle. The story takes place within seconds, as Will takes the elevator down to go and seek revenge but meets the ghosts of the men in his life that have passed on.  

The story is not about what is good and what is bad, it doesn’t judge or dictate how to respond to trauma, Reynolds just writes a young Black boy who is in pain and shows that violence doesn’t start with the death of his brother, or of the other men in his family. It is the result of something bigger, something societal, that has little to do with Will and the ghosts he meets in the elevator, and a lot to do with white supremacy.  

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