5 books by black authors to learn right now
What is the purpose of the story? Are stories important? And are there stories that we can read that could change the world?
Yes. Yes. And yes.
And today I want to celebrate five stories by black authors that are very important.
The power of history
I recently took part in a community meeting in response to George Floyd's murder. We have gathered to grieve, understand, and hear from black leaders what we can do to create a fairer world that reflects the truth that black life is important.
The word that kept coming up was empathy.
To understand the experiences of people who are different from us, we need to maintain empathy to take measures that really benefit black people.
There are so many nonfiction books that break down the historical context of today's reality for black people in America, and I've included links to find many of them later in this article.
But the incredible power of history is its ability to maintain empathy. To give us a window into someone else's experience. To transfer your thoughts and feelings into our own thoughts and hearts.
I believe that good stories can change lives. I suspect you might believe that too. Isn't that something that inspires you to write and share your stories with the world?
While the world is reacting to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many black people before them, stories about blacks and novels by black authors are worth reading.
5 books by black authors to read today
There is an enormous wealth of black literature to discover. If you are unsure of what to read, we recommend these books as a starting point. On this list you will find a children's book, two novels for young adults and two novels for adults, so there is something for everyone.
Here are five books by black authors that we recommend:
1. Penelope the pirate princess by Selah Thompson
When Selah Thompson noticed that many of her classmates were having difficulty reading in kindergarten, she knew she had to do something. Her passion for childhood literacy led her to write a book, found a nonprofit organization (the Empowered Readers Literacy Project), and lead a march (March to 20,000 books: A Children's March for Literacy).
With Penelope, the pirate princess: The search for the magical moon pearl, Selah hopes to inspire her colleagues to enjoy reading and telling their own stories.
Here you will find Penelope, the pirate princess.
2. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
2017 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winner.
The world of 16-year-old Starr Carter is turned upside down when Khalil, her childhood best friend, is fatally shot by the police. Starr is the only witness – and when Khalil's death gains national attention and protests, she has to decide what truth she can share and what risks she wants to take.
Angie Thomas & # 39; story about Starr and Khalil is fictional, but the cycle of police brutality against blacks and the nationwide pursuit of justice is not. The Hate U Give is a powerful insight into a community's experience of injustice and its passionate response.
Find The Hate U Give here.
3. Dear Martin from Nic Stone
Justyce McAllister is on his way to success, at the top of his class, and on his way to Yale. But when he is arrested (although he is later released without charge), he is deeply shaken. While sharing his experiences in letters to Dr. Processed Martin Luther King Jr., he explores his place in the world – a world that will soon be complicated by another devastating police encounter.
In Dear Martin, Nic Stone examines whether and how Dr. King's teachings apply today through the eyes of a black teenager, and see how his identity affects the way he can move around the world.
Find Dear Martin here.
4. The fifth season of N.K. Jemisin
Hugo Award 2016 winner.
Every few centuries on the Stillness continent there is a time of catastrophic climate change in which many or even most people die. To ward off these disasters, society relies on orrogens, people who can control seismic waves. However, the same orrogens are feared and discriminated against because of their immense power and the fact that when they are angry, they can accidentally kill living things. The story is about three women, all orrogens of different ages, struggling to survive, threatening the worst season in history.
N.K. Jemisin says in an interview that this story came to her in a dream when an angry woman came to her with a mountain behind her. "I remember being convinced. . . She would throw the mountain at me if I didn't find out why she was angry. "The fifth season is a fascinating exploration of discrimination, violence, hate and disaster.
Jemisin was the first African American and first colored woman to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel. The next book in the series also won an award.
Here you will find the fifth season.
5. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
NBCC John Leonard First Book Prize winner.
Effia and Esi are half sisters who were born in Ghana in the 18th century, but their lives take completely different paths. Effia becomes the wife of a rich English man in Ghana, while Esi is captured in America and sold into slavery. The novel accompanies the sisters and their descendants through seven generations and testifies to 250 years of history and the continuing effects of the slave trade in Ghana and America.
In Homegoing, her debut novel, Yaa Gyasi offers an exciting snapshot of black history, culminating in the descendants of Effia and Esi, who are trying to understand their legacy today.
Here you will find homegoing.
More to discover
This list is a suggestion where to start. It is certainly not the end! Bookstores and libraries are full of stories by black authors.
I personally love young adult literature. Afoma Umesi has put together an excellent list of 45 novels for young black adults to add to your TBR.
We need different books that – you guessed it – work for a wide range of voices in publishing, especially children's publishing. They have compiled a list of places where various books can be found, including books by black authors. They have also put together resources on race, justice, anti-racism and inclusion, including other book recommendations and black-owned bookstores.
And if you're looking for nonfiction recommendations, Ibram X. Kendi's anti-racist reading list is an excellent resource.
Support black authors and black owned companies
N.K. Jemisin was the first African American and the first colored woman to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel, one of the most prestigious science fiction awards. Here's what she had to say about this "first":
“People with color have always been here. Women have always been here. And for a genre that is supposedly proud to quote Gene Roddenberry, infinite variety in infinite combinations and more progressive than the rest of the world, though there are some who don't think we should be, for a genre that is proud It's just bizarre to never have awarded the best novel award to another black person. This also indicates a general trend in the literature. . . . If we don't strive for anti-racist and anti-oppressive thoughts alike, we won't be better than everyone else, and I'm happy that this changes. "
It's easy to fill our bookshelves with books by white authors. But the world of literature is huge and there are so many powerful stories told by black authors and other authors of colors. We are less without this rich variety of stories.
Wondering where to buy these books? You can support black authors and black-owned companies by shopping in a black-owned bookstore.
You can order online through their websites. If you don't have a book in stock, you can call and request it, and many will be happy to order it for you.
We Need Diverse Books has this list of black bookstores. You can find more stores on this and this list.
And if there is a black-owned bookstore in your community, they'll be happy to help you get your hands on great books!
Stories to change the world
People communicate through history. Stories are the way we share our experiences, pass on our values, remember our history and inform our identity.
The stories we tell each other are important. The stories we read are important.
That's the nice danger of stories: they shape us and change us.
Are you going to pick up a story from a black author and invite them to change you?
What are your favorite books by black authors? Let us know in the comments!
What story tells your identity? What story can you tell?
Take fifteen minutes to write about a personal experience that reflects or informs your interaction with the world.
Or create a fictional character based on this experience and write a scene about it.
When you're done, share your story in the comment section. Be sure to read and comment on the stories of three other authors and maintain empathy for one another.
Alice Sudlow has a keen eye for comma splicing, misplaced hyphens and well-rotated sentences, which she uses as the content editor of the literary magazine The Write Practice and Short Fiction Break. She loves helping writers improve their craft and bring their writing from good to excellent.