reading recommendations: black authors

Hi friends and readers,

Like pretty much everyone on this earth right now, I have been processing these recent events of great upheaval and trauma: the global pandemic and the recent BLM protests following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. I am not qualified to speak thoughtfully about the pandemic as it’s happening, nor about the specific anguish felt by Black communities. Instead, here is a list of Black writers I’ve enjoyed reading in the past few years, with the intent to amplify their talent and voices. I wish this list were longer and welcome recommendations.


Lauren Alleyne – Honeyfish (2018, poetry); Difficult Fruit (2014, poetry)

Chimamanda Adichie – The Thing Around Your Neck (2010, short stories)

Samuel Delany – The Jewel Hinged Jaw: Notes on the Language of Science Fiction (2011 new edition, essays) (If you’re a fan of 60s SF New Wave, I also recommend Delany’s novels)

Percival Everett – I Am Not Sydney Poitier (2009, novel)

Yaa Gyasi – Homegoing (2016, novel)

Monica Hand – Me and Nina (2012, poetry); DaVida (2018, poetry, LGBT lit)

Terrence Hayes – American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin (2018, poetry); (Here are some excerpted poems.)

Nalo Hopkinson – Midnight Robber (2000, novel, SF)

Marlon James – Black Leopard, Red Wolf (2019, novel, fantasy) (First of the Dark Star Trilogy)

N. K. Jemisin – The Fifth Season (2015, novel, fantasy) (First of the Broken Earth Trilogy)

Victor LaValle – The Ballad of Black Tom (2016, novella, horror) The Changeling (2018, novel, horror)

Kamilah Aisha Moon – She Has a Name (2013, poetry) (This one is especially touching to me as it’s about Moon’s sister, who has autism.)

Nate Marshall – The Wild Hundreds (2015, poetry)

Nnedi Okorafor – Akata Witch (2011, fiction, fantasy, YA)

Chinelo Okparanta – Under the Udala Trees (2017, novel, LGBT lit)

Z. Z. Packer – Drinking Coffee Elsewhere (2004, short stories)

Suzan-Lori Parks – Topdog/Underdog(2001, drama)

Anand Prahlad – The Secret Life of a Black Aspie (2017, nonfiction, memoir)

Jennifer Maritza McCauley – Scar On / Scar Off (2017, poetry)

Shane McCrae – The Animal Too Big to Kill (2015, poetry)

Zadie Smith – Feel Free (2018, nonfiction, essays)

Sheree Renee Thomas – Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (2000, SF anthology), Shotgun Lullabies: Short Stories & Poems (2011)

Colson Whitehead – Zone One (2012, fiction, SF), The Underground Railroad (2016, fiction)


Note: there may be alternative purchasing venues for many of these if you have moral qualms about Amazon; it was just easier to link to the big A in most cases. Also, I have limited this list to work published in the 21st century (w/ the exception of Delany’s essay collection), but I also recommend anything by James Baldwin, Octavia Butler, Charles Johnson, Edward P. Jones, Adrienne Kennedy, Reginald McKnight, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker. I have a blind spot when it comes to 20th century Black authors and only in the past couple years picked up Morrison. It was a joy to experience the beauty of her writing for the first time.

Here, lastly, is a New York Magazine article with a list of links to donate to victims of police violence and to the efforts of BLM protesters, both locally and nationally.

Stay safe out there, friends.


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