Almost everyday for the past few weeks, I’ve woken up with a sense of dread wonder, what, if any, events unfolded overnight related to the global Black Lives Matter movement and calls for justice, equality and an end to systemic racism in all its forms. Did something happen that would create yet another dramatic shift but this time in a horrible way, causing things to slip so far backwards in time that it will be hell to put the pieces back together again and move forward? Or, will there be some awesome news that will leave me filled with hope? or will things be relatively quiet but still moving steadily forward? I just didn’t know and this was stressful.
To be expected, I’ve found myself, like many of you guys, having to work that much harder to cope and to find moments of optimism and lightness throughout out days. Seeking out little moments of gratitude and joy while still leaving the space to just feel all the feelings.
Little things like seeing all the wonderful booklist of Black authors that’s being shared all over social media along with an encouragement to buy these books from Black-owned bookshops and independent bookstores. This makes me happy and super excited about my reading list!
And since sharing is caring, I’m sharing with you guys seven fiction books that I’ve read and enjoyed, if you’re looking for fiction reads this summer. A few are newer while others are classics.
One caveat, although reading is my fave pastime and I can easily lose hours caught up in a good book, I don’t pretend to be a book critic, reviewer or bibliophile. I read for the pleasure it brings me. I love the way a well told story can make me feel, whether it stirs my soul by being so beautifully written that I’m left in awe (read anything by Toni Morrison!), or the characters are so vivid they jump off the page and are unforgettable. I simply love a book that makes me feel something long after I put it down – no dissecting or deep analysis needed. But if you fancy that kind of thang, then, yes, all of the books listed below, in my opinion – and Oprah’s – are book club, deep discussion, second read worthy novels.
With that, here are my picks for 7 awesome books by Black author that you should add to your reading list!
1. Girl, Woman Other by Bernardine Evaristo (2019)
Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, about the interconnected lives of 12 black characters in the UK over several decades, shared the Booker Prize win in 2019 with Margaret Atwood’s Testaments. Evaristo also became the first Black British woman to by number one on the UK paperback fiction chart. She speaks about this here
2. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017)
Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give is a young adult fiction novel that was adapted into a movie in 2018. I haven’t seen the movie yet but enjoyed this book a lot – appreciated the old R&B music references! The issues raised in the book are also very relevant now as in 2017 when the novel was published in terms of Black Lives Matter movement and the hard and necessary conversations about the black experience and racism that we are having today.
3. The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2019)
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ debut novel The Water Dancer was one of Oprah’s Book Club reads. The Water Dancer is set in the time of slavery (deep South and freedom in the North) but with a twist, the protagonist possess mysterious powers he must seek to understand and draw upon to fight for freedom not only for himself but for others.
At the time of writing this, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ non-fiction work Between the World and Me is currently topping the New York Times best seller list.
4. Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan (2011) (Canadian)
Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues is a Giller Prize winner set in pre-war Berlin and Paris and follows two aging jazz musicians in pre-war Berlin who return to Paris in search of their friend and trumpeter who was arrested during the Nazi occupation of France.
This novel was her debut and won or was nominated for every literary prize in Canada and celebrated internationally when it debuted in 2011 even Oprah called it one of the best books of the year and it was praised by the New York Times.
5. The Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrison (1970)
I absolutely love Toni Morrison, well who doesn’t? She’s just, wow! She’s also both a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner.
The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison’s debut novel turned 50 this year. It’s about a young, black girl praying for blue eyes so she could be beautiful when her life is anything but. I hesitate in listing this one because it’s a tough one to get through – in terms of gut- wrenching sadness. But it’s a classic that’s still powerful and relevant 50 years on.
6. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937)
Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is a classic and set in Harlem Renaissance of the1920s.
7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1969)
Now I know this is not fiction but a memoir but I felt to compelled to include it. I know Why the Caged Bird Sings was Dr. Maya Angelou’s debut novel and was published in 1969. It’s the first of a series of seven books and has become a classic.
If you’re really want to get to goods on book recommendations, visit Well Read Black Girl because she knows what she’s talking about!
If you’re support Black authors, also try to support small, independent bookstores, like A Different Booklist in Toronto, if you can. It will make a difference.