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Black Voices

A selection of fiction and nonfiction books written by Black authors for readers of all ages.

This list is far from exhaustive and we are always open to including new titles. If you have recommendations for books by Black authors to add, please contact us.

Many of the titles present here are about race and racism, however this list is intended to showcase Black voices across a whole range of subjects and genres. For more books about race and racism specifically, please see our Antiracist Reading list.


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Such a Fun Age

- Kiley Reid

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A Best Book of the Year:
The Washington Post o Chicago Tribune NPR o Vogue Elle o Real Simple InStyle Good Housekeeping o Parade o Slate o Vox o Kirkus Reviews Library Journal o BookPage

Longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize

An Instant New York Times Bestseller

A Reese's Book Club Pick 

"The most provocative page-turner of the year." --Entertainment Weekly

"I urge you to read Such a Fun Age." --NPR

A striking and surprising debut novel from an exhilarating new voice, Such a Fun Age is a page-turning and big-hearted story about race and privilege, set around a young black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both.


Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains' toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store's security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right.

But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix's desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix's past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.

With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone "family," and the complicated reality of being a grown up. It is a searing debut for our times.

They Said This Would Be Fun

- Eternity Martis

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER
 
Winner of the Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Nonfiction
Nominated for the Evergreen Award

A powerful, moving memoir about what it's like to be a student of colour on a predominantly white campus.


A booksmart kid from Toronto, Eternity Martis was excited to move away to Western University for her undergraduate degree. But as one of the few Black students there, she soon discovered that the campus experiences she'd seen in movies were far more complex in reality. Over the next four years, Eternity learned more about what someone like her brought out in other people than she did about herself. She was confronted by white students in blackface at parties, dealt with being the only person of colour in class and was tokenized by her romantic partners. She heard racial slurs in bars, on the street, and during lectures. And she gathered labels she never asked for: Abuse survivor. Token. Bad feminist. But, by graduation, she found an unshakeable sense of self--and a support network of other women of colour.

Using her award-winning reporting skills, Eternity connects her own experience to the systemic issues plaguing students today. It's a memoir of pain, but also resilience.

Gutter Child

- Jael Richardson

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER

Finalist for the Amazon Canada First Novel Award

Cityline Book Club Pick 

"A deep, unflinching yet loving look at injustice and power." --Chatelaine 

"A powerful and unforgettable novel" (Quill and Quire, starred review) about a young woman who must find the courage to secure her freedom and determine her own future

Set in an imagined world in which the most vulnerable are forced to buy their freedom by working off their debt to society, Gutter Child uncovers a nation divided into the privileged Mainland and the policed Gutter. As part of a social experiment led by the Mainland government, Elimina Dubois is one of just one hundred babies taken from the Gutter and raised in the land of opportunity.

But when her Mainland mother dies, Elimina finds herself alone, a teenager forced into an unfamiliar life of servitude, unsure of who she is and where she belongs. Sent to an academy with new rules and expectations, Elimina befriends children who are making their own way through the Gutter System in whatever way they know how. But when her life takes yet another unexpected turn, Elimina will discover that what she needs more than anything may not be the freedom she longed for after all.

Gutter Child reveals one young woman's journey through a fractured world of heartbreaking disadvantages and shocking injustices. As a modern heroine in an altered but all-too-recognizable reality, Elimina must find the strength within herself to forge her future in defiance of a system that tries to shape her destiny.

The Water Dancer

- Ta-Nehisi Coates

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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER o OPRAH'S BOOK CLUB PICK o From the National Book Award-winning author of Between the World and Me, a boldly conjured debut novel about a magical gift, a devastating loss, and an underground war for freedom.

"This potent book about America's most disgraceful sin establishes [Ta-Nehisi Coates] as a first-rate novelist."--San Francisco Chronicle

IN DEVELOPMENT AS A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE o Adapted by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Kamilah Forbes, directed by Nia DaCosta, and produced by MGM, Plan B, and Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Films

NOMINATED FOR THE NAACP IMAGE AWARD o NAMED ONE OF PASTE'S BEST NOVELS OF THE DECADE o NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Time o NPR o The Washington Post o Chicago Tribune o Vanity Fair o Esquire o Good Housekeeping o Paste o Town & Country o The New York Public Library o Kirkus Reviews o Library Journal


Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her--but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he's ever known.

So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia's proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the Deep South to dangerously idealistic movements in the North. Even as he's enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram's resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures.

This is the dramatic story of an atrocity inflicted on generations of women, men, and children--the violent and capricious separation of families--and the war they waged to simply make lives with the people they loved. Written by one of today's most exciting thinkers and writers, The Water Dancer is a propulsive, transcendent work that restores the humanity of those from whom everything was stolen.

Praise for The Water Dancer

"Ta-Nehisi Coates is the most important essayist in a generation and a writer who changed the national political conversation about race with his 2015 memoir, Between the World and Me. So naturally his debut novel comes with slightly unrealistic expectations--and then proceeds to exceed them. The Water Dancer . . . is a work of both staggering imagination and rich historical significance. . . . What's most powerful is the way Coates enlists his notions of the fantastic, as well as his fluid prose, to probe a wound that never seems to heal. . . . Timeless and instantly canon-worthy."--Rolling Stone

A Promised Land

- Barack Obama

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A riveting, deeply personal account of history in the making--from the president who inspired us to believe in the power of democracy

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER o NAACP IMAGE AWARD NOMINEE o NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Washington Post o Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times o NPR o The Guardian o Marie Claire

 
In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency--a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.

Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation's highest office.

Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy. Obama brings readers inside the Oval Office and the White House Situation Room, and to Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, and points beyond. We are privy to his thoughts as he assembles his cabinet, wrestles with a global financial crisis, takes the measure of Vladimir Putin, overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to secure passage of the Affordable Care Act, clashes with generals about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, tackles Wall Street reform, responds to the devastating Deepwater Horizon blowout, and authorizes Operation Neptune's Spear, which leads to the death of Osama bin Laden.

A Promised Land is extraordinarily intimate and introspective--the story of one man's bet with history, the faith of a community organizer tested on the world stage. Obama is candid about the balancing act of running for office as a Black American, bearing the expectations of a generation buoyed by messages of "hope and change," and meeting the moral challenges of high-stakes decision-making. He is frank about the forces that opposed him at home and abroad, open about how living in the White House affected his wife and daughters, and unafraid to reveal self-doubt and disappointment. Yet he never wavers from his belief that inside the great, ongoing American experiment, progress is always possible.

This beautifully written and powerful book captures Barack Obama's conviction that democracy is not a gift from on high but something founded on empathy and common understanding and built together, day by day.

Deacon King Kong

- James McBride

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Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction
 
Winner of the Gotham Book Prize

One of Barack Obama's "Favorite Books of the Year"

Oprah's Book Club Pick

Named one of the Top Ten Books of the Year by the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly and TIME Magazine

Washington Post Notable Novel

From the author of the National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird and the bestselling modern classic The Color of Water, comes one of the most celebrated novels of the year.


In September 1969, a fumbling, cranky old church deacon known as Sportcoat shuffles into the courtyard of the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn, pulls a .38 from his pocket, and, in front of everybody, shoots the project's drug dealer at point-blank range.

The reasons for this desperate burst of violence and the consequences that spring from it lie at the heart of Deacon King Kong, James McBride's funny, moving novel and his first since his National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird. In Deacon King Kong, McBride brings to vivid life the people affected by the shooting: the victim, the African-American and Latinx residents who witnessed it, the white neighbors, the local cops assigned to investigate, the members of the Five Ends Baptist Church where Sportcoat was deacon, the neighborhood's Italian mobsters, and Sportcoat himself.

As the story deepens, it becomes clear that the lives of the characters--caught in the tumultuous swirl of 1960s New York--overlap in unexpected ways. When the truth does emerge, McBride shows us that not all secrets are meant to be hidden, that the best way to grow is to face change without fear, and that the seeds of love lie in hope and compassion.

Bringing to these pages both his masterly storytelling skills and his abiding faith in humanity, James McBride has written a novel every bit as involving as The Good Lord Bird and as emotionally honest as The Color of Water. Told with insight and wit, Deacon King Kong demonstrates that love and faith live in all of us.


Have I Ever Told You Black Lives Matter

- Shani Mahiri King, Bobby C Martin Jr

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A tender and powerful affirmation that Black lives have always mattered.
Black lives matter. That message would be self--evident in a just world, but in this world and this America, all children need to hear it again and again, and not just to hear it but to feel and know it.
This book affirms the message repeatedly, tenderly, with cumulative power and shared pride. Celebrating Black accomplishments in music, art, literature, journalism, politics, law, science, medicine, entertainment, and sports, Shani King summons a magnificent historical and contemporary context for honoring the fortitude of Black role models, women and men, who have achieved greatness despite the grinding political and social constraints on Black life. Frederick Douglass, Toni Morrison, Sojourner Truth, John Lewis, Langston Hughes, Louis Armstrong, Maya Angelou, Aretha Franklin, and many more pass through these pages. An America without their struggles, aspirations, and contributions would be a shadow of the country we know. A hundred life sketches augment the narrative, opening a hundred doors to lives and thinking that aren't included in many history books. James Baldwin's challenge is here: "We are responsible for the world in which we find ourselves, if only because we are the only sentient force which can change it." Actress Viola Davis's words are here, too: "When I was younger, I did not exert my voice because I did not feel worthy of having a voice. I was taught so many things that didn't include me. Where was I? What were people like me doing?"
This book tells children what people like Viola were and are doing, and it assures Black children that they are, indisputably, worthy of having a voice.
Have I Ever Told You Black Lives Matter? is a book for this time and always. It is time for all children to live and breathe the certainty that Black lives matter.

The Nickel Boys

- Colson Whitehead

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
Winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Winner of the 2019 Kirkus Prize for Fiction
Finalist for the 2019 National Book Critics Circle Award
Finalist for the 2021 DUBLIN Literary Awards
Longlisted for the 2019 National Book Awards
Longlisted for the 2020 Orwell Prize for Political Fiction

In this bravura follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize-and National Book Award-winning #1 New York Times bestseller The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead brilliantly dramatizes another strand of American history through the story of two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida.

 
As the Civil Rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to heart: He is "as good as anyone." Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grand-mother, Elwood is a high school senior about to start classes at a local college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South of the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, whose mission statement says it provides "physical, intellectual, and moral training" so that the delinquent boys in its charge can become "honorable and honest men."
 
In reality, the Nickel Academy is a grotesque chamber of horrors where the sadistic staff beats and sexually abuses the students, corrupt officials and locals steal food and supplies, and any boy who resists is likely to disappear "out back." Stunned to find himself in such a vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold on to Dr. King's ringing assertion "Throw us in jail and we will still love you." His friend Turner thinks that Elwood is worse than naive, that the world is crooked, and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble.
 
The tension between Elwood's ideals and Turner's skepticism leads to a decision with repercussions that will echo down the decades. Formed in the crucible of the evils Jim Crow wrought, the boys' fates will be determined by what they endured at the Nickel Academy.
 
Based on the real story of a reform school in Florida that operated for 111 years and warped the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative that showcases a great American novelist writing at the height of his powers.

Parable of the Sower

- Octavia E Butler

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This acclaimed post-apocalyptic novel of hope and terror from an award-winning author "pairs well with 1984 or The Handmaid's Tale" and includes a foreword by N. K. Jemisin (John Green, New York Times).

When global climate change and economic crises lead to social chaos in the early 2020s, California becomes full of dangers, from pervasive water shortage to masses of vagabonds who will do anything to live to see another day. Fifteen-year-old Lauren Olamina lives inside a gated community with her preacher father, family, and neighbors, sheltered from the surrounding anarchy. In a society where any vulnerability is a risk, she suffers from hyperempathy, a debilitating sensitivity to others' emotions.

Precocious and clear-eyed, Lauren must make her voice heard in order to protect her loved ones from the imminent disasters her small community stubbornly ignores. But what begins as a fight for survival soon leads to something much more: the birth of a new faith . . . and a startling vision of human destiny.

Let Me Hear a Rhyme

- Tiffany D Jackson

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In this striking new novel by the critically acclaimed author of Allegedly and Monday's Not Coming, Tiffany D. Jackson tells the story of three Brooklyn teens who plot to turn their murdered friend into a major rap star by pretending he's still alive.

Brooklyn, 1998. Biggie Smalls was right: Things done changed. But that doesn't mean that Quadir and Jarrell are cool letting their best friend Steph's music lie forgotten under his bed after he's murdered--not when his rhymes could turn any Bed Stuy corner into a party.

With the help of Steph's younger sister Jasmine, they come up with a plan to promote Steph's music under a new rap name: the Architect. Soon, everyone wants a piece of him. When his demo catches the attention of a hotheaded music label rep, the trio must prove Steph's talent from beyond the grave.

As the pressure of keeping their secret grows, Quadir, Jarrell, and Jasmine are forced to confront the truth about what happened to Steph. Only, each has something to hide. And with everything riding on Steph's fame, they need to decide what they stand for or lose all that they've worked so hard to hold on to--including each other.

"Jackson scores a bullseye with her passionate homage to Black city life in the late '90s." (Publishers Weekly, "An Anti-Racist Children's and YA Reading List")

Queenie

- Candice Carty-Williams

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ONE OF TIME'S 100 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
ONE OF NPR'S BEST BOOKS OF 2019

NAMED ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2019 BY WOMAN'S DAY, NEWSDAY, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, BUSTLE, AND BOOK RIOT!

"[B]rilliant, timely, funny, heartbreaking." --Jojo Moyes, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You

For fans of Luster and I May Destroy You, a disarmingly honest, unapologetically black, and undeniably witty debut novel that will speak to those who have gone looking for love and found something very different in its place.

Queenie Jenkins is a twenty-five-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she's constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places...including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth.

As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, "What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?"--all of the questions today's woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her.

With "fresh and honest" (Jojo Moyes) prose, Queenie is a remarkably relatable exploration of what it means to be a modern woman searching for meaning in today's world.

The Illegal

- Lawrence Hill

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From the beloved author of the national bestseller The Book of Negroes comes "a book for our times" (Maclean's) about family, identity and the strength of the human spirit

Keita Ali is on the run. Like every boy on the mountainous island of Zantoroland, running is all Keita's ever wanted to do. In one of the poorest nations in the world, running means respect. Running means riches--until Keita is targeted for his father's outspoken political views and discovers he must run for his family's survival.

He signs on with notorious marathon agent Anton Hamm, but when Keita fails to place among the top finishers in his first race, he escapes into Freedom State--a wealthy island nation that has elected a government bent on deporting the refugees living within its borders in the community of AfricTown. Keita can stay safe only if he keeps moving and eludes Hamm and the officials who would deport him to his own country, where he would face almost certain death.

This is the new underground: a place where tens of thousands of people deemed to be "illegal" live below the radar of the police and government officials. Keita's very existence in Freedom State is illegal. As he trains in secret, eluding capture, the stakes keep getting higher. Soon, he is running not only for his life, but for his sister's life, too.

Fast moving and compelling, The Illegal casts a satirical eye on people who have turned their backs on undocumented refugees struggling to survive in a nation that does not want them. Hill's depiction of life on the borderlands of society urges us to consider the plight of the unseen and the forgotten who live among us.

The Stone Sky

- N K Jemisin

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Humanity will finally be saved or destroyed in the shattering conclusion to the post-apocalyptic and highly acclaimed NYT bestselling trilogy that won the Hugo Award three years in a row.

The Moon will soon return. Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women.

Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe.

For Nassun, her mother's mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world, and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed.

The Obelisk Gate

- N K Jemisin

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Essun's missing daughter grows more powerful every day, and her choices may destroy the world in this "magnificent" Hugo Award winner and NYT Notable Book. (NPR)

The season of endings grows darker, as civilization fades into the long cold night.

Essun -- once Damaya, once Syenite, now avenger -- has found shelter, but not her daughter. Instead there is Alabaster Tenring, destroyer of the world, with a request. But if Essun does what he asks, it would seal the fate of the Stillness forever.

Far away, her daughter Nassun is growing in power -- and her choices will break the world.

N. K. Jemisin's award winning trilogy continues in the sequel to The Fifth Season.

The Inheritance Trilogy

- N K Jemisin

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After her mother's death, a young woman is summoned to the floating city of Sky to claim a royal inheritance she never knew existed in this epic fantasy trilogy from the NYT bestselling author of The Fifth Season.

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle.

The Inheritance Trilogy omnibus includes the novels: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms, The Kingdom of Gods, and a brand new novella set in the same world: The Awakened Kingdom.

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