15 Books By Black Authors You Should Read No Matter The Month

From classic literary fiction to inspiring memoirs.

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The House of Eve by Sadeqa Johnson

Set in the 1950s, this novel follows Ruby Pearsall, who’s on track to become the first in her family to attend college, despite having an emotionally, and oftentimes physically, absent mother. But an unexpected and forbidden love encounter is threatening to keep her from attaining everything she’s working so hard for. Meanwhile, Eleanor Quarles is a student at Howard University who falls in love with William Pride, who’s a part of a wealthy, well-respected Black family. Even with William’s unwavering love and care, Eleanor struggles to fit in with his family. An unexpected pregnancy only adds fuel to the fire. Told through alternating POVs with quite a few heart-dropping moments, this story shows how the two protagonists, faced with life-altering decisions, dream and strive to become more than what their environments make of them. 

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Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood by bell hooks

In this poetic memoir, hooks recounts her childhood upbringing as the family pariah who found solace and comfort in books, leading to her adulthood as the pivotal writer, theorist, and feminist many know her as. hooks reflects on girlhood and how although there was sizeable joy and trauma, and how every experience and feeling was vital for her development. The writer’s ideas on love, marriage, race, gender dynamics in society, the role and vulnerability of children, female creativity, and more are intertwined in this book of memories.

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Behind Her Lives by Briana Cole

Deven’s life shatters when the police arrive at her apartment to inform her that her younger sister, Kennedy, was found dead by suicide. But when she goes to view and confirm the body, she doesn’t recognize the body. DNA tests reveal the body is Kennedy’s, but Deven knows deep down something is off. She goes on a search to figure out what happened to Kennedy, but nothing could ever prepare Deven for the shocking and life-altering things she learns in the process. This story is absolutely a thrilling page-turner, but it’s also an honest look at grief and how dangerous it can be when not properly dealt with.

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Sometimes I Trip on How Happy We Could Be by Nichole Perkins

Through a series of essays, Perkins, a former BuzzFeed contributor, uniquely uses humor, vulnerability, personal experiences, and pop culture to dissect what life is like for a Black woman in the South. This memoir is a tell-all from a writer who uses her obsession with pop culture to discuss how its power can be just as damaging as it is entertaining, especially for Black women. Perkins reflects on dating, desirability, feminism, childhood, natural hair, and so much more. 

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River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer

On a Barbados plantation named Providence, an enslaver gathers the enslaved people who work there to inform them that slavery has ended; however, they are not allowed to leave for the next six years. Rachel flees, and it isn’t until later that she realizes she’s running to find her stolen children. She doesn’t know what awaits her, what lurks in the dark, or whether her children are even alive. The journey is dangerous, without a doubt, but a mother’s love — and the hunger for true freedom — is strong enough to conquer all.

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Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

Lorde’s collection of essays and speeches tackles a myriad of social issues, from sexism, racism, classism, and homophobia, while also offering messages of hope and resilience. 

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On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

In this YA ode to hip-hop, Bri is 16 years old and the daughter of a local underground rap legend who died just before he made it big. She dreams of following in his footsteps and has the skills for it, with hopes of becoming one of the greatest rappers of all time. When her mom loses her job, she’s convinced this dream has to happen, not only for herself but for her family. Her first song goes viral in an infamous way, and she’s stuck between defeating the media's misleading portrayal of her or embracing it to make her dream a reality. 

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Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

This fictional work follows former high school valedictorian, 22-year-old Darren Vender, who is content with his simple life — a Starbucks barista who lives with his mother. He bumps into the CEO of New York City’s hottest tech startup, Sumwun, who invites him to join the sales team. He soon learns he’s the only Black person there; his white colleagues rename him “Buck,” and his life begins to change more quickly than he can handle. He’s invited to appear on talk shows but also dabbles in some dark habits. He almost completely loses himself. He sets out to strategize a plan to help more young people of color infiltrate corporate America as he maneuvers through the racist and toxic work environment of Sumwun, not fully aware of what's threatening him.

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All Black Errythang by Chanel Murray

This book of poetry uses carefully crafted metaphors, lyrical rhyme schemes, and storytelling imagery to write about Blackness. It does so in seven sections and mentions everything from resistance to language usage to body autonomy to showing up unapologetically to celebrating Black hair. It’s truly an ode to all things Black. 

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Seven Days in June by Tia Williams

Eva Mercy and Shane Hall are successful writers, and past lovers, who have secretly used their work to communicate with each other after a major incident separated them for 15 years. A Brooklyn literary event brings the two together, and they spend a week filled with love and passion, but also vulnerability and heartbreaking truths.

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Gone Like Yesterday by Janelle M. Williams

Contemporary fiction and magical realism meet in this story that follows Zahra and Sammie. Zahra is a Stanford graduate who works as a college prep coach in New York City. She meets Trey, her Uber driver, and offers to help his niece, Sammie, a budding activist who is applying to colleges. Although her usual clients are wealthy, Zahra feels compelled to help Sammie free of charge. Zahra has been hearing the songs of gypsy moths, their voices belonging to her ancestors — unknowingly to her, Sammie has moths, too. Zahra’s brother has a strong connection with the spiritual world and has slowly drifted away from his family. When he goes missing, Zahra and Sammie journey from New York to Atlanta in search of him and to uncover what their ancestors and the moths want from them.

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Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

In this 1937 classic, Janie Crawford sets out on her own and enters a journey of independence, liberation, and heartache. Readers follow Janie through three marriages where there are bouts of love, deception, jubilation, and tribulation. She experiences life’s good and bad, and society's heavy influence of race and gender roles, on her quest for identity.

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The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Baldwin reflects on his early life in Harlem and the effects of racial injustice. He writes about religion and how necessary it is that Americans fight against racism. Baldwin elaborates his ideas in two moving essays: “My Dungeon Shook: Letter to My Nephew on the One-Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation” and “Down at the Cross: Letter From a Region of My Mind.”

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Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

This literary classic follows a nameless narrator whose story begins after being invited to deliver his high school graduation speech to a group of white authorities but is first subjected to public humiliation and degradation in a gruesome way for entertainment. After delivering his speech, he’s gifted a briefcase that he’s told holds a scholarship only to discover there’s no scholarship but a racist and demoralizing note. Readers follow him from his time growing up in the South to being expelled from college to j becoming a noted spokesperson for a political organization called the Brotherhood— all while being subjected to violence, racism, manipulation, and other detrimental forces. His ongoing struggle to survive and battle with feeling invisible is what makes this story as groundbreaking as it is.

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