17 Books That Celebrate Black Voices

1
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

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Tensions within political, social, and racial discourse have only worsened in recent years. For some, relationships with family or friends haven’t survived the clash of opposing ideologies.

Enter So You Want to Talk About Race, a New York bestseller by Ijeoma Oluo that informs readers of all races how to navigate tumultuous subjects like systemic racism and white supremacy with clarity, honesty, and yes, even compassion.

2
The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae

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Actress, producer, and writer Issa Rae has condensed her sharp wit and wry humor into an easily-digestible collection of essays in The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. An airy-light and hilarious read, Misadventures documents the societal paradox of being awkward and Black.

Everyone feels like they’re the most awkward person on the planet. In reality, we’re all a bunch of weirdos—and Misadventures reminds us of that strange, comforting fact.

3
The Hill We Climb and Other Poems by Amanda Gorman

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This past January, Amanda Garman made history as the youngest inaugural poet with her powerful poem, The Hill We Climb. Her flowing prose and captivating performance underscored the day's intense emotions and cemented her place in the American poetry canon.

A printed version of The Hill We Climb is available now, but what we’re really itching to dig into is her upcoming collection of poems set to be published in September of this year.

4
The Truths We Hold: An American Journey by Kamala Harris

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The emotions of the 2021 inauguration were due in no small part to watching the first Black, South Asian, and female vice president being sworn in less than 60 years after women of color were granted the right to vote.

Kamala Harris’ new memoir, The Truths We Hold, tells the story of her rise from a young girl in Oakland, California, to becoming the first female vice president of the United States. Talk about goosebumps.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention the former First Lady Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, equally powerful, poignant, and full of “you go girl” inspiration.

5
How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House: A Novel by Cherie Jones

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Set in sunny Baxter Beach, Barbados, the brand new work of fiction by highly-anticipated author Cherie Jones tells the story of the strained relationship between affluent island transplants and native Barbadians who are often boxed into roles of servitude to the wealthy.

The grief, desperation, and inequality of One-Armed Sister are starker still when placed against the paradisial backdrop of the Caribbean, reminding the reader that a pleasing facade does not negate the possibility of rot underneath.

6
Red at the Bone: A Novel by Jacqueline Woodson

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Amid one’s own emotions, memories, and decisions, it can be easy to forget the significant impact familial experiences both near and far have on our own life paths.

Red at the Bone skips forward and backward through time to reveal the intricate way in which the choices of one generation mold the next, all the while navigating the minute nuances of sexual identity, gentrification, and parenthood.

7
I Can't Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I've Put My Faith in Beyoncé by Michael Arceneaux

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This book had us at “and other reasons I’ve put my faith in Beyoncé.” As an LGBTQ Black man, Michael Arceneaux can provide bold, refreshingly unapologetic insight into minority life.

The blunt humor and eye-opening testimonies presented in Arceneaux’s collection of essays makes for a voracious, can’t-put-it-down read. Once you’ve inevitably finished this book, move onto Arceneaux’s sophomore collection of essays, I Don’t Want to Die Poor.

8
The Office of Historical Corrections: A Novella and Stories by Danielle Evans

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Danielle Evans' blisteringly smart voice can be heard loud and clear in her recently released novella and short story collection, The Office of Historical Corrections.

Each new story focuses on a different character, from a woman trying to hide a racist photo gone viral to a Black scholar in DC who is unexpectedly drawn into a complex historical mystery. Evans' social commentary is masterfully interlaced into each story, making for a read that’s both easily digestible and thought-provoking.

9
Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals by Saidiya Hartman

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Award-winning author Saidiya V. Hartman revisits the stories of "riotous black girls, troublesome women, and queer radicals" of the early 20th century in her recent release, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments.

In this combination of history and literary imagination, Hartman takes a closer look at the often-forgotten stories of these "troublesome" individuals who laid the foundation for the sexually independent, self-sufficient cultural landscape today.

10
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

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Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man was first published in 1952 and was immediately regarded as a stunningly poignant and irresistibly sardonic addition to the American literary canon.

Ellison’s nameless protagonist carries the reader with him across the racial divide—through the streets of the Deep South to Communist rallies—highlighting the palpable ways in which bigotry affects both the victim and the perpetrator.

11
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

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Octavia E. Butler became the first Black woman to publish a science fiction novel with her 1979 release Kindred. Now a cornerstone of Black literature, Kindred is a captivating combination of slave memoirs, fantasy, and historical fiction.

Dana, a modern Black woman in 1976, is inexplicably thrown back in time to the antebellum South. This powerful novel closes the already narrow gap between present-day and the age of slavery, rebuking the notion, "that’s all in the past."

12
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Adapted from her highly popular TEDx talk of the same name, award-winning, bestselling author of Americanah Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie presents her own definition of 21st-century feminism, centered around inclusion and awareness. The exclusionary nature of modern-day feminism is often so disguised, so deeply integrated into the system, that its insidious nature is hidden to those perpetuating the movement’s imbalances.

This highly acclaimed, provocative New York Times bestseller is a short, but powerful read. We Should All Be Feminists serves up an eloquently-crafted cup of piping hot tea to feminists and non-feminists everywhere on what it means to be a woman today.

13
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

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First published in 1969, Maya Angelou’s debut memoir became an instant American classic, beautifully capturing the murky depths of childhood loneliness, the paralyzing sting of bigotry, and the enthralling journey of finding one’s own voice.

Angelou’s deep appreciation for wordsmiths like William Shakespeare is indicated clearly in her ability to express touching universal ideas of life, love, pain, and hope.

14
A Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story by Elaine Brown

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Elaine Brown became the first and only female leader of the Black Panther Party in August of 1974. Her memoir, A Taste of Power, recounts her rise to the Black Panthers' highest ranks and the time she spent at the top of this male-dominated, revolutionary organization.

Brown's memoir reflects on her childhood, adolescence, and time with the Panthers with humor, clarity, and honesty only time and hindsight can offer.

15
Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel by Zora Neale Hurston

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Zora Neale Hurston’s 1937 novel is now regarded as an American classic, named a PBS Great American Read Top 100 pick, but that was not always the case. Hurston’s proud, independent, Black protagonist was too ahead of her time, and the masses ultimately rejected the book.

The novel was then reissued in 1978 and has become one of the most widely read and highly acclaimed novels in the Black literature canon.

16
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

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Akwaeka Emezi, a National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" Honoree, created a remarkable, timeless work of fiction with her debut 2018 novel, Freshwater. Set in southern Nigeria, Freshwater follows a young, troubled protagonist, Ada, through her tumultuous childhood to her nearly 7,000-mile journey to America for college.

Ada herself fades away as her psyche divides into new, protective personalities that capture the reader’s attention and shine a revealing, fluorescent light on the notion of identity construction.

17
Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla Saad

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What started as an Instagram trend, #MeAndWhiteSupremacy turned into an anti-racism education workbook. A New York Times and USA Today bestseller Me and White Supremacy is by bestselling author, anti-racism educator, international speaker, and podcast host Layla F. Saad. Saad is an East African, Arab, British, Black, Muslim woman who offers a unique perspective on the topics of race, identity, leadership, personal transformation, and social change.

Her eye-opening book "challenges you to do the essential work of unpacking your biases and helps white people take action and dismantle the privilege within themselves so that you can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on people of color, and in turn, help other white people do better, too."