Recommendations to get you started
The catalogue of books by authors of the African Diaspora is HUGE. At the start of all this, someone suggested that I was limiting myself and my reading options by ONLY reading books by Black authors. What people fail to realize is that the books are out there, they just don't know about them. Once you do, then the next question I get is "where do I start?"
Regardless of why you're here, I've got you covered. Each section below has 6 titles to get you started. Of course this list is limited and just a primer. I've tried to include the most popular or prolific (note: easiest to find) titles. The sections are divided as such:
- Children/Young Adult
- Contemporary Adult
Kindred, Parable of the Sower, Wild Seed, Dawn
Women Race & Class, Freedom Is A Constant Struggle
The Fire Next Time, No Name in the Street, Just Above My Head
Between The World and Me, The Beautiful Struggle, We Were Eight Years In Power
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
From Amazon: "Published to unprecedented acclaim, The Color Purple established Alice Walker as a major voice in modern fiction. This is the story of two sisters one a missionary in Africa and the other a child wife living in the South who sustain their loyalty to and trust in each other across time, distance, and silence. Beautifully imagined and deeply compassionate, this classic novel of American literature is rich with passion, pain, inspiration, and an indomitable love of life.
The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes
From Amazon: "Spanning five decades and comprising 868 poems (nearly 300 of which have never before appeared in book form), this magnificent volume is the definitive sampling of a writer who has been called the poet laureate of African America--and perhaps our greatest popular poet since Walt Whitman. Here, for the first time, are all the poems that Langston Hughes published during his lifetime, arranged in the general order in which he wrote them and annotated by Arnold Rampersad and David Roessel."
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
From Amazon: The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of "the Brotherhood", and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be.
for colored girls who have considered suicide/When the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange
From Amazon: "Passionate and fearless, Shange’s words reveal what it meant to be of color and female in the twentieth century."
Native Son by Richard Wright
From Amazon "Right from the start, Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail. It could have been for assault or petty larceny; by chance, it was for murder and rape. Native Son tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Wright's powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America."
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston
From Amazon: "One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature."
Children and Young Adult
Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe
From Amazon: "This African tale evokes the Cinderella story in its portrayal of two sisters, spiteful Manyara and considerate Nyasha, and the young king who is searching for a bride. Steptoe has illustrated this modern fable with stunning paintings that glow with beauty, warmth, and internal vision of the land and people of his ancestors."
Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra by Andrea Davis Pinkey
From Amazon: "This is a most fitting tribute to a great man who proudly celebrated the history of African-Americans, from slavery to civil rights struggles.
The award-winning author/illustrator team of Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney - creators of the popular picture book "Alvin Ailey" - now present a swinging, vibrant audiobook about the jazz composer Edward Kennedy Ellington, better known as "Duke"."
The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton
From Amazon: "A fantasy tale of the slaves who possessed the ancient magic words that enabled them to literally fly away to freedom. And it is a moving tale of those who did not have the opportunity to “fly” away, who remained slaves with only their imaginations to set them free as they told and retold this tale.
Leo and Diane Dillon have created powerful new illustrations in full color for every page of this picture book presentation of Virginia Hamilton’s most beloved tale. The author’s original historical note as well as her previously unpublished notes are included."
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
From Amazon: "Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become."
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
From Amazon: "Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story's heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family."
The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
From Amazon: "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."
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
From Amazon: "The unforgettable New York Times best seller begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indeliably drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day."
Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
From Amazon: "Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward."
Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
From Amazon: "Award-winning author and powerhouse talent Roxane Gay burst onto the scene with An Untamed Stateand the New York Times bestselling essay collection Bad Feminist (Harper Perennial). Gay returns with Difficult Women, a collection of stories of rare force and beauty, of hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and quirky and vexed human connection."
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
From Amazon: "Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens."
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
From Amazon: "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."
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
From Amazon: "Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland."
Here are 4 other links to more lists!