Today’s post is going to be a little different. Instead of talking about writing, I’m sharing some book recommendations. February is Black History Month, and in honor of that, I’m reading books by authors of color.
If you, like me, want to celebrate talented people who aren’t often celebrated by mainstream media outlets, check out some of these book recommendations.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Young Adult Contemporary
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
My reaction: This book made me feel a million different things, and I bawled like a baby. Please read this book.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Adult Historical Fiction
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood – where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor – engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven – but the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.
My reaction: I love, love, love this novel. Colson Whitehead is going places. Read this book right now.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Adult Literary Fiction
An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing examines the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power – and limitations – of family bonds.
Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. His mother, Leonie, is in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is black and her children’s father is white. Embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances, she wants to be a better mother, but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use.
When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.
Rich with Ward’s distinctive, lyrical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first century America. It is a majestic new work from an extraordinary and singular author.
My reaction: Confession time: I have yet to read this book. Nevertheless, it’s at the top of my list.
Endangered by Lamar Giles
The one secret she cares about keeping—her identity—is about to be exposed. Unless Lauren “Panda” Daniels—an anonymous photoblogger who specializes in busting classmates and teachers in compromising positions—plays along with her blackmailer’s little game of Dare or . . . Dare.
But when the game turns deadly, Panda doesn’t know what to do. And she may need to step out of the shadows to save herself . . . and everyone else on the Admirer’s hit list.
My reaction: I couldn’t put this book down, and it kept me guessing the whole way through. If you like mysteries too, you don’t want to miss this one.
Of course, these are just some of the many fantastic books by black authors out there that deserve your consideration. For more books by authors of color, check out this list on Buzzfeed and this one from The Root.
What are your favorite black-authored books?
What are your favorite black-authored books? Check out some recs from @brimorganbooks. (Click to tweet)