It is currently Black History Month, which is a time to celebrate and learn about Black History. It is also a time when many people support Black-owned businesses, authors, and creators. If you are looking to read or purchase books by Black authors before the end of the month, here are a few of my favorites.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone is perhaps one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read, and while it is categorized as a young adult novel, I would recommend it to adults as well. I will say this book made me quite a bit emotional, so be forewarned about that. The story follows Justyce, a Black high school student who starts writing letters to the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. after he is thrown to the ground and handcuffed by a police officer. Justyce does this as a way to process his emotions about that event, as well as about his life as a whole. Justyce understandably struggles to cope with the experience while also dealing with factors of life during high school.
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo is about Emoni, a teen mom working and making her way through high school while living with her Dominican grandmother. Her favorite thing is to cook, so she is ecstatic when a culinary class is offered in her school. The story follows her throughout the school year as she grows in so many ways while juggling school, cooking, and motherhood. All the descriptions of food had me craving Emoni’s cooking the entire time. The relationship between Emoni and her grandmother was particularly beautiful, but I loved the way all the characters were written.
How to Survive Today by Tonya Ingram is a collection of poems and prompts that encourage us to live in the present and to notice the beauty of daily life. This collection feels like a warm huge or a cozy blanket, and this is why I loved it so much. It’s refreshing and revitalizing and doesn’t ignore the realities of life. I’m such a big fan of Tonya Ingram, and I love her poetry.
The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed is set in 1992 Los Angeles, during the Los Angeles riots. It follows Ashley Bennet, a Black high school student enjoying her senior year and planning out her summer with her closest friends, a couple of white girls. When the police officers who beat Rodney King are acquitted and the protests begin, Ashley first wants to continue with life as usual but soon realizes that she can’t. It’s a very gripping story that brings that historic time to life through the eyes of a teenage girl.
I’m Telling the Truth But I’m Lying by Bassy Ikpi is a collection of essays in which the author shares what it is like to live with bipolar II and anxiety and how these diagnoses have affected her. She also shares about what it is like to be a Nigerian American immigrant and how this identity has affected her life and her mental health journey. This book is deeply beautiful and difficult to read at the same time. Some of the essays were emotional, but this collection is so important because of the way it talks about mental illness and provides insight into what it’s like to live with a bipolar II diagnosis.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender follows a Black trans student who is enrolled in an arts high school and trying to learn more about who he is while dealing with a bully that sends him transphobic messages and publicly deadnames him. What I loved about this book was being inside Felix’s head as he struggled to figure himself out and hoped to find love. I truly loved Felix and wanted good things for him and had so much compassion for him. This book was so well done and I appreciated getting to read the experiences of someone with such different experiences from my own and feeling like I understood him.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid alternates between the perspectives of Emira, a Black woman in her twenties working as a babysitter, and Alix, the white woman she’s been working for. The story starts on a night when the babysitter is working late and is stopped by security at a grocery store because someone accuses her of having kidnapped the girl she is watching. After this incident, Alix realizes she hasn’t gotten to know Emira and becomes fixated on becoming her friend and essentially making it clear that she’s not racist. This was a poignant, timely story, and I very much appreciated it.
Helium by Rudy Francisco is perhaps one of my favorite poetry collections. Rudy Francisco just has such a beautiful way with words, and several of my favorite poems from him are included in this collection. His poetry so often feels personal and vulnerable, and I always feel so many emotions when I read his work.
As always, I would love to know if you read any of these! If you’re still looking for different books by Black authors, you can check out this list I made on my Bookshop.
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