Twenty Black Writers You Should be Reading

February is African American history month, and if you haven’t already started reading POC, it’s a great month to start. I know it’s near the end of the month but we really shouldn’t just read Black authors in February. So, I delayed posting this until the end of the month just so I can remind everyone to start reading these great authors. Then keep reading black authors, all year long.

Now, I decided on twenty authors, because it’s 2020, and so twenty is a great number. And a disclaimer, I haven’t read all of these authors. But adding all these amazing people to this list, I’ve added several books to my TBR. maybe we’ll read these writers for the first time at the same time? Cool, right?

And not all of these writers are YA Authors. Yes, a majority of them are but I’m going to recommend writers from across the genres. 

1. Tiffany D. Jackson

Jackson may be one of my very favorite YA authors. I was so privileged to hear and meet her in 2018 and then pick up my first read from her, Monday’s Not Coming. I knew I wanted to read her book but it really surprised me how much this story would just stay with me. It was riveting in a horrifying way and I just could not put it down or ever start to forget the story.

  

Jackson published Let Me Hear a Rhyme in 2019 and it was just very different from Monday’s Not Coming, but in a good way! And I just picked up Allegedly from the library – and I already know this book is going to give me chills. 

And Tiffany D. Jackson has a book coming out in 2020, and the cover alone gives me goosebumps. Jackson writes so poignantly and incisively on current events. Some of her books, like Monday’s Not coming, are thrillers. And I don’t normally read thrillers, but something about Jackson’s writing draws me back in. 

2. Nic Stone

Stone’s writing is the fun counterpart to Tiffany D. Jackson’s scary reality. And I say that in the kindest way possible – the way Jackson’s writing haunts me, Nic Stone’s writing humors me.

Her stories are quirky, realistic, and incredibly timely.

   

Also, when I searched Nic Stone’s name on goodreads, I realized she’s published more books than I knew about???!!! I’m very excited RIGHT now because I just found out Stone is published a sequel to Dear Martin in October called Dear Justyce. 

First, I’m sad no one told me??? But second, now I’m VERY excited because Dear Martin is incredibly good and I can imagine Nic Stone’s sequel will be BRILLIANT.

3. Angie Thomas

 the hate u give

And to round out this trio of three contemporary writers, is Angie Thomas. Thomas riveted the whole world with The Hate U Give – if you haven’t read THUG, I am kind of worried about why not.

And after THUG, Thomas delivered the most amazing second novel, On the Come Up. I actually liked On the Come Up even more – maybe because Bri is just incredibly scrappy and i loved the rap written through out the story.

Side by side, The Hate U Give and On the Come Up are two powerful stories of young black girls winning. Fighting against injustice and public hate and the hard stuff life throws at them and winning. Angie Thomas’s words are powerful because they’re rich with truth and hope.

I can’t word for the next story Thomas pens. Every hint she drops on twitters just fills me with more anticipation.

4. Tonya Bolden

Bolden writes historical fiction, and I’ve picked up one of her books from the library right now. She’s penned over twenty books, which is AMAZING. Just a quick scan of her writing shows that her books are full of names both familiar and forgotten.
And Bolden doesn’t just write YA historical fiction, her books include both middle grade, elementary and adult books.

 

I’ve heard of some of the folks Bolden writes about, W. E. B. Du Bois and Frederick Douglas being two examples. But i am absolutely confident I could learn more. I mean, couldn’t we all?

Now, I’m excited to read Inventing Victoria but also check out Tonya Bolden’s other books.

5. Ibi Zoboi

Zoboi writes such different kinds of novels, which is part of why i really enjoy delving into her books.

 

One of my favorite Zoboi books is a Harlem inspired Pride and Prejudice retelling, Pride. Since I love Elizabeth and Darcy’s character,  it’s really fun to read a modern, black retelling.

Now, a book I’ve been in the middle of reading for months is, American Street. I definitely want to finish reading this story – it’s timely and well-written. I just happened to start reading it at the wrong place in my life and haven’t picked it back up.

Zoboi has written a bunch of other books, as well as edited an anthology of stories from Black teens. Another volume I actually want to own and read soon.

6. K.e Ancrum

I was really excited to add K. Ancrum to this listen – somehow, I didn’t realize Ancrum was an author of color.

Anyway, I’ve read the second one of Ancrum’s books, the Weight of the Stars. Which is poetic story and heartbreaking and beautiful all at once.

Ancrum’s writing tackles deep and hard topics. I appreciate the fluid honesty and accurate depiction of mental health..

I’ll also always remember Ancrum’s kindness, she posted on twitter that if anyone wanted an ARC of her book and couldn’t afford a copy when it was released, to email her. Last year, I was on a very tight budget, I only bought three books all year long. I emailed her, and she sent me a copy. It was just such an incredible kindness from an author who genuinely cares about her readers.

7. Elizabeth Acevedo

I could literally scream about Acevedo’s writing for the rest of my life. Her books hit me HARD with emotional punches that won’t ever stop hurting.

her spoken word poetry novel stirred me deeply and left me sitting on the floor of my dorm room, paralyzed by the richness of the story. Acevedo narrates her debut novel and you really just need to take an afternoon and listen to this story. 

And then! If that weren’t all, Elizabeth Acevedo continues her rich writing tradition With The Fire On High. Enveloping paragraphs, realistic setting and amazing food descriptions. Acevedo’s books are MUST READS.

The world is ALSO luck because Acevedo has another book coming out in May this year. I don’t need to really dig deep into the description to know that Clap When You Land will also make me wipe away tears.
Also, just take a real look at her book covers, true beauty. 

8. Camyrn Garrett

oh my goodness, I’m so happy and proud to include Camyrn Garrett on my list! Garrett’s debut novel, Full Disclosure hit shelves in fall 2019. Full Disclosure is raw and real in a way only Garrett can write.

Garrett was only 17 when she sold her debut novel – so you should start supporting her right now. Also, Garrett is humorous and always on point on twitter, so go follow her for more cool things. 

9. Roxanne Gay

Another writer I follow on twitter, Roxanne Gay. Gay is one of the top ten best people on my twitter timelines, and I say that without any reservations.

 

And the sad thing is, i’ve never read her book, Hunger. I need to go to the library and get it ASAP.

Gay writes about her experience as both a Women of Color and diagnosed obese person. In doing so, Gay explores living an embodied life and the medical industry and our entire culture that hates fat people. Especially fat black people.

Gay also has edited and authored several books on rape culture and feminism.

I’ve read many of Gay’s online essays, so i need to go check out all her books. Because she has written a lot. 

10. Michelle and Barack Obama

I’m going to list the Obama’s together because they’ve both published incredible books and their writing is intertwined in their lives they’ve lived together. 

 

I’ve actually never read Barack Obama’s books but I read Michelle Obama’s Becoming this past January. It makes me sad that my childhood family wasn’t celebratory of Barack Obama during his political career and that I didn’t read Barack Obama’s memoir before he ran for office.

My earliest memory of Barack Obama is walking in Springfield, Illinois shortly after he announced his candidacy. There was a newspaper box, with Barack Obama’s name and picture on the front page. My mom sneered at the headline, a man with that name, that skin color running for president? Impossible.

Nine months later, he was elected. and I saw him on tv for the first time. My family didn’t own a television, and I’d never heard Barack Obama speak until election night when i watched his victory speech at the local republican party election night watch party. Even then I don’t remember him – but I do remember the exuberant hope in the crowd. it mesmerized me. 

I was twelve when the Obama’s moved into the White House – and I’ll always think of them as my childhood president. Because I barely remember George W. Bush outside of 9/11 – and definitely don’t remember anything of the Clintons. But I remember Barack Obama’s poise, his speeches, and ideas, and Michelle’s graciousness and energy.

Sadly, I also can’t forget the casual racism I saw towards the Obamas. It’s bittersweet and frustrating. One day, I’ll read the Audacity of Hope and grieve again for the fact that 12 year old me didn’t know what Barack Obama’s election meant for US history.

11. Michelle Alexander

now, this is an author I have yet to read and very much NEED to read. Actually, that entire statement fits the next whole set of authors.

Alexander is a civil rights lawyer, and she published a book on what she witnessed every day – The New Jim Crow. Alexander’s book explores how race and mass incarceration interact. Her book shows that black people face higher rates of incarceration, longer prison sentences, and inequality before the law.

Weirdly, i think I quote facts from this book in reference to legal and racial problems in the United States but i haven’t read it. That’s to my shame.

Michelle Alexander has also written several other books on incarceration though the New Jim Crow is her most famous work.

12. Langston Hughes

To learn about Hughes, I spent quite a few minutes on his wikipedia page. Langston Hughes was an African American poet who was one of the main poets from the Harlem Renaissance.

I’ve actually never been a huge poetry read – I am one of those folks who reads poems in a regular novel, and thinks wow, that’s nice. But one of my 2020 ideas was to try and read poetry collections.

And since I haven’t read Langston Hughes – i think I’ll try to pick up his collection of poems.

I also read that he wrote a weekly column in a Chicago newspaper during the Civil Rights era. I would LOVE to find some of those columns and read his thoughts as the Civil Rights fights were in full force.

13. Maya Angelou

Another African American poet, I have yet to read, Maya Angelou. I wrote her name down as a writer I’m determined to read in 2020.

And I mentioned Angelou to my mom, telling my mother that I was disappointed that I didn’t read such a prolific black writer in all 20+ years I was in school.

My mom’s response was what one could call an example of the problem of people’s attitude to white privilege in education, “But you’re white, so it makes sense that you read white authors in school?”

Makes sense isn’t good enough, especially when it doesn’t exactly make sense. 😒

14. Isabel Wilkerson

Wilkerson’s written an extensive history on the Great Migration North –  a time when thousands of black people fled the American South. 

I’ve read a Dear America Diary set during this time – but I haven’t read an actual history book. And I know about the Great Migration North – but haven’t picked up an in depth book on the subject.

And like any good historical narrative, Wilkerson tells the real stories of people who lived the Great Migration North. Just reading the back copy of this book gave me goosebumps. One of the stories she writes is about a women born into Jim Crow Mississippi, a living hell, who fled north and years later voted for Barack Obama. This is the kind of story that makes me cry.

Isabel Wilkerson has also contributed to several essay collections. I’m actually very excited to check out her books for the first time in 2020.

15. Jacqueline Woodson

Somehow, I’d never heard of Jacqueline Woodson before starting to compile this list. I wish I had, but I’ve added her books to my reading list.

 

Woodson’s books explore life for African American families – moving both forward and backward in time. Her novels fall in both young adult, adult and middle grade categories.

I think I’m most excited to pick up Woodson’s poetry book, Brown Girl Dreaming – because it’s her memoir of her life split between New York and North Carolina.

Also, her book covers? Grippingly beautiful.

16. Charles M. Blow

I think I might have heard of Charles M. Blow before, he’s a columnist for the New York Times. And when i was reading his memoir’s cover, it sounds vaguely familiar. Maybe I read a book review for his story? Maybe? Not really sure.

What I am sure of – I’ve not read his memoir. Charles M. Blow grew up in Louisiana and he tells the story of poverty, racism, and abuse that made up a significant part of his childhood. 

I look froward to reading his story, though it sounds very hard. One of those books that I’ll need to read slowly and process a bit at a time.

17. Tomi Adeyemi

After listing quite a few writers that I haven’t read, i’m excited to say that I have actually read Tomi Adeyemi. yay! 

Adeyemi writes fantasy that’s driven from African folklore and her own imagination. Her debut novel Children of Blood and Bone is rich and fast paced – one of those stories that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat.

Also, Beyonce gave a shout out to Adeyemi’s book – and it was on The Today Show and Jimmy Fallon’s reading list. It’s a GOOD book and I am excited to pick up the next book in the series, Children of Virtue and Vengeance.

18. Claire Kann

I’ve had Claire Kann’s books on my radar for a while, so I’m kind of surprised I haven’t picked either of these books up yet?

Kann has published two YA Contemporary novels, which may be my favorite genre right now. Anyway, both of her stories feature girls in the summer. Basically, the perfect novels to add to my TBR.

And just look at those covers? I feel like I could really read both of these books on a Friday night after a long week of hard newsroom work.

19. Dhonielle Clayton

Dhonielle Clayton has written one of the lushest fantasies I’ve read in a long while! The Belles is set in a fantasy world similar to pre-revolution France. There’s beauty, awful regimes, and magic.

All of that sounds fun, and while yes, The Belles is YA, it really delves deeply into societal expectations of beauty and work. 

Clayton has also contributed to essay collections, including the collection edited by Ibi Zoboi. And somehow in the middle of all the writing, Dhonielle has managed to help co-found a literary agency that’s devoted to publishing diverse voices. Wow.

20. Marlon James

Somehow, i’d never heard of Marlon James before putting this list together. James is a prolific writer – he’s written many novels. And he recently published the first book in a fantasy series. 

One thing I’ve noticed, this list is full of black female authors who’ve written both non-fiction and fiction. But the black men tend to be all non-fiction. I can’t diagnose why this is, and maybe I just didn’t dig enough in looking up folks to add to my list.

but Marlon James’ books are fiction and I definitely want to check them out. His new fantasy book, Black Leopard, Red Wolf sounds VERY interesting so i’m going to request it from the library asap. 

Now, i want to link a couple articles that were extremely helpful in putting together this list of authors. Combined these two articles list over fifty African-American writers, so if you’ve read everyone on my list, be sure and check out the longer lists I’ve linked. 🙂

lets chat

Have you read many of the authors on this list? Do you have a favorite Black Author you always recommend? 

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2 Comments

  1. March 4, 2020 / 12:40 pm

    Amazing list with amazing authors! I love Angie Thomas and Elizabeth Acevedo! I’m definitely going to be checking out the other authors on this list.

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