Books I’m Reading this Black History Month to #AmplifyBlackVoices: Fiction Edition
This Black History Month, as I do just about every year, I’ve put together a list of books by Black authors that I’d like to read to celebrate the rich and manifold stories that come from the past, present, and will continue to be written into the future. However, reading books by a diverse range of authors is good practice all year, not just in February. So whether you’re just getting into the incredible works written by Black authors, or are looking for books to add to your already diverse reading list, here are some book recommendations for you! The books are categorized by genre for convenience.
Science Fiction – Kindred by Octavia Butler
This incredible work written by the queen of speculative fiction herself, Octavia Butler, follows Dana, a Black woman in the 1970s, as she abruptly becomes entangled with an ancestor of hers… a white ancestor living in the antebellum South, who for some reason can call her across time to save him when his life is in danger. This novel grapples with an embodied experience of intergenerational trauma, the nuances of violation to the Black body, and the unsettling residual traces of anti-blackness that trips to the past reveal about Dana’s post-Civil Rights present. Butler’s gripping prose draws readers in and unsettles their assumptions about how connected we really are to the past.
YA Fantasy – This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron
Although I haven’t yet read this book, I have heard countless positive reviews. The main character, Briseis, has the power to grow plants with a single touch. When her aunt dies, she and her family go to visit her estate… and hopefully get Briseis’s powers more under control. Soon she discovers a deadly legacy of elixirs and poisons and meets a mysterious woman named Marie. Bri must learn to harness her magic to protect herself and her family from the dark secrets being unspooled. Plant magic, dark inheritances, and it’s queer! I cannot wait to read this book.
Realistic Fiction – Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
This is another book I’ve yet to read but have seen all over Bookstagram and BookTok (which are both great – and addicting – places to find book recommendations). Reid’s novel follows the divergence in the lives of Alix Chamberlain and Emira Tucker, one a successful businesswoman and one her child’s babysitter. When Emira, accompanying Alix’s white child at a supermarket at night, gets accused of kidnapping, the relationship between the women becomes complicated as they are faced with challenges to what they know about themselves and each other. This book delves into topics around making family, interracial dynamics, and being a grown-up. As someone transitioning into adulthood, and a white reader, I hope to laugh, cry, and learn with these two women as they navigate life.
Climate Fiction – Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Jesmyn Ward’s writings largely focus on blackness in the Southern United States – the community inheritances, the complicated and fiercely held together families, the disproportionate violence enacted upon Black people in this country – and this book is no exception. I was first introduced to Ward when I read Sing, Unburied, Sing, another of her novels (which I would also highly recommend), and was immediately captivated by the poetics of her writing style that make space for both deep love and discomfort. Salvage the Bones is a novel about Hurricane Katrina, but it centers itself around the main character, Esch, and her family. Most of the book illustrates the vibrant relationships and general lifestyle of the characters, which makes the arrival and absolute devastation of Katrina all the more shocking. The character-centrism of the novel works to disrupt many of the (whitewashed) narratives that surround Katrina and provides a moving, painful account of what it really means to be a Black family living in the wake of climate disaster.
Leave a Comment