10 must-read books by black authors from around the world
As Black History Month 2019 draws to a close, check out these 10 books by writers from the African diaspora.
Children of Blood and Bone tells the story of Zélie, a young girl from a fantasy kingdom known as Orïsha where magic has been banned. Zélie's white hair is a sign that she possesses latent magical powers, but they can only be activated by a scroll that disappeared long ago. With the help of Princess Amari, Zélie embarks on an epic quest to bring magic back to her home and defy the genocidal monarchy that rules Orïsha. Children of Blood and Bone is a smart and riveting adventure novel, targeted to readers 14 and up, that deftly explores themes of power, race and colourism.
Oyinkan Braithwaite's debut novel My Sister, The Serial Killer, is about a woman named Korede and her younger sister Ayoola, who has an unfortunate habit of murdering her boyfriends. Every time Ayoola takes another life, Korede is there to clean things up. It's a very dark, but funny story that's already been optioned for a film by the producers of Baby Driver.
- Oyinkan Braithwaite stretches the idea of unconditional love to its extreme in My Sister, The Serial Killer
In Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Tracker, a well-respected hunter who always works alone, is hired to find a boy who has been missing for three years. He ends up joining a band of unusual characters, including a "shape-shifting man-animal" called Leopard, all engaged in the hunt. As they traverse ancient cities and forests and face deadly beasts, Tracker wonders why this boy is so special and finds himself caught in a web of lies. Marlon James won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings.
Narrated by a guardian spirit known as chi, An Orchestra of Minorities is a contemporary retelling of Homer's epic poem Odyssey. The novel tells the story of a poor poultry farmer named Chinonso, who saves the life of a young woman named Ndali by throwing two of his prized chickens into the river she is about to jump into. Ndali falls in love with Chinonso, but her wealthy family disapproves of his lack of education. An Orchestra of Minorities is Chigozie Obioma's follow-up to his critically acclaimed novel The Fisherman, which was a finalist for the 2015 Man Booker Prize.
As the daughter of an underground hip hop icon who died too young, 16-year-old Bri has aspirations to become the greatest rap artist of all time. But at school, she's considered a "hoodlum" and when her mom loses her job, Bri hits a breaking point. She releases a track that goes viral — but not in the way Bri might have hoped. On the Come Up is writer Angie Thomas's second novel after the runaway success of The Hate U Give.
American poet, essayist and culture critic Hanif Abdurraqib's third nonfiction book, Go Ahead in the Rain is a love letter to an era of hip-hop. Using critical essays and poetic language, Abdurraqib pays homage to A Tribe Called Quest and outlines what the rap quartet means to music as a whole.
In the essay collection Thick, American author and academic Tressie McMillan Cottom looks at social media, feminism, violence, body positivity and more through the lens of being a black woman. Cottom has her finger on the pulse of pop culture, politics and race relations.
Heavy is a collection of autobiographical essays that draws on Kiese Laymon's life growing up in the American South. Among many subjects, Laymon tackles what it was like to be a black teenager who struggled with obesity, describing with great honesty the cruelty he endured as a young man. Dedicated to his mother, who rose from poverty to become a political science professor, Laymon's book looks at his life through the lens of society's flawed value systems.
Toni Morrison is back with the nonfiction collection The Source of Self-Regard. The book's first part features a prayer for the dead of 9/11; the second is a meditation on Martin Luther King Jr., and the last offers a eulogy for James Baldwin. Morrison's commentary on today's social issues — including female empowerment, human rights and the black presence in American literature — holds relevance today more than ever.
Acclaimed novelist Zadie Smith writes an essay collection of cultural criticism that addresses the impact of past and present artists, from pop culture giants like Michael Jackson, Fred Astaire and Beyoncé to writers J.G. Ballard and Karl Ove Knausgaard. Written and published during the presidency of Barack Obama, Smith's essays connect popular culture with themes of freedom, identity, race and class.