Black Lives Matter: Books by Black authors I’m reading this month

Hello party people. It has, once again, been a very long time since I’ve posted here.

It probably would have been even longer, if I’m honest, except for the fact that I want to use whatever voice I have to amplify the voices of others. Which is why I’m abandoning the half-baked TBR I had lightly considered for this month in favor of focusing on books by Black authors.

I don’t want to spend a ton of time in this talking about myself and cracking dumb jokes (first time for everything), so before we get into it, three things:

  1. If you can afford to drop money on books for your own pleasure and you have not donated to Black causes, you are part of the problem.
  2. If you are feeling healthy and you are able to protest, GO PROTEST. If you can’t, sign petitions. Have conversations (even the hard ones you don’t want to have). Educate yourself and spread that information.
  3. Black Lives Matter. No justice, no peace.

And above all realize, if you are a white person, your place is to LISTEN AND LEARN, not speak.

(I’m going to stop speaking and just post the books now.)

Update: If you are looking for a place to buy these (or other) books from, here is a list of Black-owned online bookstores! Thank you Jess!

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MY OWNED TBR

Amazon.com: The Stars and the Blackness Between Them ...

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus

Synopsis

Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.

Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels–about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.

Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.

Genre: YA, romance, contemporary, LGBT

Goodreads | Indiebound


All Boys Aren't Blue

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

Synopsis

In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.

Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren’t Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.

Genre: nonfiction, LGBT, autobiography/memoir

Goodreads | Indiebound


Sing, Unburied, Sing

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Synopsis

Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.

Sing, Unburied, Sing grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations, of the bonds of family. Rich with Ward’s distinctive, musical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an essential contribution to American literature.

Genre: contemporary fiction, literary fiction, magical realism

Goodreads | Indiebound


Piecing Me Together

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson

Synopsis

Jade believes she must get out of her neighborhood if she’s ever going to succeed. Her mother says she has to take every opportunity. She has. She accepted a scholarship to a mostly-white private school and even Saturday morning test prep opportunities. But some opportunities feel more demeaning than helpful. Like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. Except really, it’s for black girls. From “bad” neighborhoods.

But Jade doesn’t need support. And just because her mentor is black doesn’t mean she understands Jade. And maybe there are some things Jade could show these successful women about the real world and finding ways to make a real difference.

Genre: young adult, contemporary

Goodreads | Indiebound


The Weight of the Stars

The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum

Synopsis

Ryann Bird dreams of traveling across the stars. But a career in space isn’t an option for a girl who lives in a trailer park on the wrong side of town. So Ryann becomes her circumstances and settles for acting out and skipping school to hang out with her delinquent friends.

One day she meets Alexandria: a furious loner who spurns Ryann’s offer of friendship. After a horrific accident leaves Alexandria with a broken arm, the two misfits are brought together despite themselves—and Ryann learns her secret: Alexandria’s mother is an astronaut who volunteered for a one-way trip to the edge of the solar system.

Every night without fail, Alexandria waits to catch radio signals from her mother. And its up to Ryann to lift her onto the roof day after day until the silence between them grows into friendship, and eventually something more . . .

Genre: YA, LGBT, science fiction, contemporary

Goodreads | Indiebound


The Sellout

The Sellout by Paul Beatty

Synopsis

Born in the “agrarian ghetto” of Dickens―on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles―the narrator of The Sellout resigns himself to the fate of lower-middle-class Californians: “I’d die in the same bedroom I’d grown up in, looking up at the cracks in the stucco ceiling that’ve been there since ’68 quake.” Raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist, he spent his childhood as the subject in racially charged psychological studies. He is led to believe that his father’s pioneering work will result in a memoir that will solve his family’s financial woes. But when his father is killed in a police shoot-out, he realizes there never was a memoir. All that’s left is the bill for a drive-thru funeral.

Fueled by this deceit and the general disrepair of his hometown, the narrator sets out to right another wrong: Dickens has literally been removed from the map to save California from further embarrassment. Enlisting the help of the town’s most famous resident―the last surviving Little Rascal, Hominy Jenkins―he initiates the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court.

Genre: fiction, humor

Goodreads | Indiebound


Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Synopsis

In 2014, award-winning journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote about her frustration with the way that discussions of race and racism in Britain were being led by those who weren’t affected by it. She posted a piece on her blog, entitled: ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ that led to this book.

Exploring issues from eradicated black history to the political purpose of white dominance, whitewashed feminism to the inextricable link between class and race, Reni Eddo-Lodge offers a timely and essential new framework for how to see, acknowledge and counter racism. It is a searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary exploration of what it is to be a person of colour in Britain today.

Genre: nonfiction, essays

Goodreads 


Let's Talk About Love

Let’s Talk about Love by Claire Kann

Synopsis

Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting–working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating–no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.

But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).

When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.

Genre: YA, contemporary, romance, LGBT

Goodreads | Indiebound

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LIBRARY REQUESTS / PURCHASES

Homegoing

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Synopsis

Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

Generation after generation, Yaa Gyasi’s magisterial first novel sets the fate of the individual against the obliterating movements of time, delivering unforgettable characters whose lives were shaped by historical forces beyond their control. Homegoing is a tremendous reading experience, not to be missed, by an astonishingly gifted young writer.

Genre: historical fiction, literary fiction

Goodreads | Indiebound


The Water Dancer

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Synopsis

Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her — but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known.

So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the deep South to dangerously utopic movements in the North. Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram’s resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures.

Genre: historical fiction, magical realism, literary fiction

Goodreads | Indiebound


Queenie

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Synopsis

Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth.

As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”—all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her.

Genre: contemporary fiction, literary fiction

Goodreads | Indiebound


The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Synopsis

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell 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—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. 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. And 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.
Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. 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.

Genre: historical fiction

Goodreads | Indiebound


An American Marriage

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Synopsis

As the book opens in 2001, it is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody’s coming of age ceremony in her grandparents’ Brooklyn brownstone. Watched lovingly by her relatives and friends, making her entrance to the music of Prince, she wears a special custom-made dress. But the event is not without poignancy. Sixteen years earlier, that very dress was measured and sewn for a different wearer: Melody’s mother, for her own ceremony– a celebration that ultimately never took place.

Unfurling the history of Melody’s parents and grandparents to show how they all arrived at this moment, Woodson considers not just their ambitions and successes but also the costs, the tolls they’ve paid for striving to overcome expectations and escape the pull of history. As it explores sexual desire and identity, ambition, gentrification, education, class and status, and the life-altering facts of parenthood, Red at the Bone most strikingly looks at the ways in which young people must so often make long-lasting decisions about their lives–even before they have begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be.

Genre: contemporary fiction, literary fiction

Goodreads | Indiebound


Red at the Bone

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

Synopsis

As the book opens in 2001, it is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody’s coming of age ceremony in her grandparents’ Brooklyn brownstone. Watched lovingly by her relatives and friends, making her entrance to the music of Prince, she wears a special custom-made dress. But the event is not without poignancy. Sixteen years earlier, that very dress was measured and sewn for a different wearer: Melody’s mother, for her own ceremony– a celebration that ultimately never took place.

Unfurling the history of Melody’s parents and grandparents to show how they all arrived at this moment, Woodson considers not just their ambitions and successes but also the costs, the tolls they’ve paid for striving to overcome expectations and escape the pull of history. As it explores sexual desire and identity, ambition, gentrification, education, class and status, and the life-altering facts of parenthood, Red at the Bone most strikingly looks at the ways in which young people must so often make long-lasting decisions about their lives–even before they have begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be.

Genre: historical fiction, literary fiction

Goodreads | Indiebound


The Nickel Boys

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Synopsis

As the Civil Rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King to heart: He is “as good as anyone.” Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother, Elwood is a high school senior about to start classes at a local college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South of the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, whose mission statement says it provides “physical, intellectual and moral training” so the delinquent boys in their charge can become “honorable and honest men.”

In reality, the Nickel Academy is a grotesque chamber of horrors. Stunned to find himself in such a vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold onto Dr. King’s ringing assertion “Throw us in jail and we will still love you.” His friend Turner thinks Elwood is worse than naive, that the world is crooked, and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble.

The tension between Elwood’s ideals and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision with repercussions that will echo down the decades. Formed in the crucible of the evils Jim Crow wrought, the boys’ fates will be determined by what they endured at the Nickel Academy.

Genre: historical fiction, literary fiction

Goodreads | Indiebound


Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Synopsis

With astonishing empathy and the effortless grace of a natural storyteller, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie weaves together the lives of three characters swept up in the turbulence of the decade. Thirteen-year-old Ugwu is employed as a houseboy for a university professor full of revolutionary zeal. Olanna is the professor’s beautiful mistress, who has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos for a dusty university town and the charisma of her new lover. And Richard is a shy young Englishman in thrall to Olanna’s twin sister, an enigmatic figure who refuses to belong to anyone. As Nigerian troops advance and the three must run for their lives, their ideals are severely tested, as are their loyalties to one another.

Genre: historical fiction, literary fiction

Goodreads | Indiebound

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There we have it. I’m going to try to get to as many of those 16 books as I can this month (hopefully all but I doubt my library requests will all come through).

I’m going to take my time reading these, for once, so I may not read as much this month, but regardless – if you think there is a book by a Black author I should read, please recommend it to me below.

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Will you join me this month in reading books by Black authors?

Do you have a recommendation for books by Black authors that I should read?

46 thoughts on “Black Lives Matter: Books by Black authors I’m reading this month

  1. Faith @ Pages Left Unread says:

    I’m so excited for The Stars and the Blackness Between Them, hope you love it!! I’ve heard so much great things about All Boys Aren’t Blue and it seems so hard-hitting, but also such an important story. I’m so happy you’re reading The Weight of the Stars! It was my favorite book of last year. I hope you get to read all of the books on your TBR!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      thank you so much!! i have copies of all three of those already, so i can say definitely (okay, definitely i HOPE) that i’ll get to them!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Linda @ flourishreader says:

    I have actually met Colson Whitehead at the Frankfurt Bookfair last year when he talked about his book the Nickel boys and about the BLM in general and it was a really enlightening experience! I read The Hate U Give last year and I thought that it was a thought-provoking and excellent read. // Thank you for sharing your tbr with us!!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Tanisha says:

    All of these sound absolutely lovely; I’ll have to get a hold of them soon. Half of a Yellow Sun is absolutely fantastic, as is pretty much everything written by Adichie. Glad to see you’re supporting BLM and black authors, we all need to step it up and do more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      Americanah by Adichie has been one of like 4 books i’ve 5 starred this year, so i am SO excited to read more from her!! thank you – i couldn’t agree more!

      Like

  4. Silvia says:

    I’m currently reading Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race and it’s really good and important! Before that I just finished reading Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi and I highly recommend it too, it’s also very short but effective!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Literary Elephant says:

    Great post! I absolutely loved Homegoing, and really liked The Underground Railroad, Queenie, An American Marriage, and Sing Unburied Sing. Several others here are on my TBR, I’m also looking to increase my reading of Black authored books this month (and beyond). I hope you find some new favorites among your list! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ele says:

    Great list, and I hope you enjoy them all. Thank you for giving your voice to to support black voices instead of making assumptions or bigotry!

    My favourite black-authored books are Mirage by Somaiya Daud and The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (who is disgustingly white washed by history). The books I’m most determined to read are Clotel by William Wells Brown, A Phoenix First Must Burn, Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann, How Long ‘Til Black Future Month by N K Jemsin, and most of all A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne Brown.

    Liked by 1 person

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      thank you!! i had no idea that Dumas was Black and now i’m mad about it (and very motivated to read Three Musketeers). i hope we both love Let’s Talk about Love!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ele says:

        I hope we both enjoy it too! ❤️ The Three Musketeers is glorious, it’s what all historical fiction novels SHOULD be – with healthy amounts of adventure AND historical details. That he is so heavily white-washed just because he is a classic European author is just the upsetting (Pushkin was also mixed-race but because he’s Russian people assume he must be entirely white).

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Sofii @ A Book. A Thought. says:

    I’m dying to read The Weight of the Stars, I’ve heard the best things & I’ve read Let’s Talk about Love and it’s adorable, I hope you like it a lot. ❤️✨
    You have an incredible list here, so I’m sure you’ll have many stories to enjoy 🥰

    Liked by 1 person

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      i got a copy of it from the publisher a bit ago and have been meaning to get to it forever!!! excited to finally get there !

      Like

  8. It’s Lu Again says:

    THE STARS AND THE BLACKNESS BETWEEN THEMMMMM. (and why im no longer talking to white people about race yesss,,, let’s talk about love omgggg) SO many great books on here that im super hyped to read, GREAT POST, i hope that you love them ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ruby Rae Reads says:

    Love this post!!

    Ahh I really want to read Let’s Talk About Love too.

    And ahh I’ve been listening to All Boys Aren’t Blue on audiobook because its narrated by the author and its SUPER GOOD!! <3<3

    I usually don't read non-fiction but I'm so with you on trying to better educate myself more and I had Me And White Supremacy (also on audio) and want to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. May @ Forever and Everly says:

    i’m late commenting on this post but i love this post and i love you!! i’m still very happy that you enjoyed the stars and the blackness between them, and i cannot wait for you to read the weight of the stars too!! one book by a Black author i really need to pick back up again is the fifth season by nk jemisin but… i’m feeling slumpy and high fantasy is not the best for that :/

    Liked by 1 person

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