One of the reading challenges I am taking on in 2020 is to read 52 books by women of color. I first saw this challenge on the Mocha Girls Read Facebook page and was excited to see how many other members were joining as well. But today I will focus on books that are near and dear to my heart. Showcased here are my all time favorite authors and new artists whose work really spoke to me.
Favorite Authors of All Time
Everyone has a favorite author. One whose work speaks to you. One who you can always count on to make you laugh or make you cry. I have always admired these women and their work. If you haven’t already read them I would suggest grabbing
one of their books all of their books ASAP.
J. California Cooper
- Homemade Love
- In Search of Satisfaction
- Life is Short But Wide
- The Matter is Life
- A Piece of Mine
- Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime
- Some People, Some Other Place
- Some Soul to Keep
- The Wake of the Wind
- Wild Stars Seeking Midnight Suns
- Does Your House Have Lions?
- Homegirls and Handgrenades
- I’ve Been a Woman
- Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums
- Morning Haiku
- Shake Loose My Skin
- Under a Soprano Sky
- We a BaddDDD People
- Wounded in the House of a Friend
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
From the blurb: Here is a book as joyous and painful, as mysterious and memorable, as childhood itself. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide.
Becoming, Michelle Obama
From the blurb: With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.
The BreakBeat Poets, Vol. 2: Black Girl Magic
From the blurb: Black Girl Magic continues and deepens the work of the first BreakBeat Poets anthology by focusing on some of the most exciting Black women writing today. This anthology breaks up the myth of hip-hop as a boys’ club, and asserts the truth that the cypher is a feminine form.
Grace: A Novel, Natashia Deon
Grace is an emotionally gripping novel. Set in the antebellum South through the Civil War and the early days of emancipation, it touches on the woman as captive. Not just in the literal sense but in the figurative sense as well. Though the novel focuses on the narrator Naomi and her daughter, Cynthia, the Jewish madam and Annie, the abandoned wife of a plantation owner also have their own crosses to bear.
A poetic tribute with many rich layers of meaning, Grace is narrated by the spirit of Naomi. Using this literary device, the novel is told in flashes over the course of both Naomi’s life and memorable, if sometimes, horrific moments of Josey’s.
It is easy to get swept away into this story. I found it hard to put the book down even for moments at a time. Truly an original voice, Deon captures the time period but makes the story timeless in a way that resounds with the reader. A definite must read.
Freshwater, Akwaeke Emezi
Freshwater is the semi-autobiographical account of a young woman suffering from multiple personality disorder after a traumatic event. Steeped in Igbo tradition the main character Ada lives a life straddling two worlds. As the daughter of the serpent goddess Ala, she is born with “one foot on the other side” occupying the liminal spaces between the spirit realm and the flesh. What is the cause of her fractured self? Is she possessed or is she mad? What is reality? Can we accept both of these as plausible explanations?
In this rich and mystical novel Emezi explores self-identity, human frailty, sacrifice and resurrection. Freshwater is such an innovative work, the majority of which is narrated by the spirits that inhabit Ada. It is not often that you come across a book that is written so eloquently, that it touches your soul in the deep parts and leaves you breathless.
SLAY, Brittney Morris
From the blurb: By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the “downfall of the Black man.”
But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for “anti-white discrimination.”
Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?
Fever Dream, Samanta Schweblin
Fever Dream is an unsettling novel – one of those books where you feel uncomfortable, yet compelled to keep moving forward.
Amanda lies in a hospital near death. By her bedside is David, a mere child. But is he an apparition? A malevolent presence? This is part of the mystery. In haunting fashion, David interrogates Amanda, steering her to some critical point in her recent past. His whispered questions urging her to some conclusion.
How did she get here? Where is her daughter?
What resonated the most with me about Fever Dream was the “rescue distance” that Amanda had with her daughter Nina. The idea that we as mothers have this physical tie to our children – bound as it were to keep them closest to us when we sense danger. Yet no matter how in tune with our children we are there are always those moments when they slip beyond our protective grasp. That feeling of helplessness when you see that danger lurking but can do nothing to stop it. Herein lies the horror story of Schweblin’s tale. As I read I kept envisioning Nina as my child – the sense of danger spilling off of the page and into my home. I found myself holding my youngest son tighter; calling my middle son to come closer.
Although there is no clear resolution to most of the threads within the story, Schweblin does an excellent job of using parental instinct to bring her reader into the darkness in order to drive home a pressing environmental issue. The format of the book is so unique. Told solely through the dialogue between the two main characters, Fever Dream is a series of flashbacks, a surreal journey that never leaves you.
The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas
From the blurb: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
Heads of the Colored People, Nafissa Thompson-Spires
From the blurb: A stunning new talent in literary fiction, Nafissa Thompson-Spires grapples with black identity and the contemporary middle class in these compelling, boundary-pushing vignettes.
Each captivating story plunges headfirst into the lives of new, utterly original characters. Some are darkly humorous—from two mothers exchanging snide remarks through notes in their kids’ backpacks, to the young girl contemplating how best to notify her Facebook friends of her impending suicide—while others are devastatingly poignant—a new mother and funeral singer who is driven to madness with grief for the young black boys who have fallen victim to gun violence, or the teen who struggles between her upper middle class upbringing and her desire to fully connect with black culture.
Thompson-Spires fearlessly shines a light on the simmering tensions and precariousness of black citizenship. Her stories are exquisitely rendered, satirical, and captivating in turn, engaging in the ongoing conversations about race and identity politics, as well as the vulnerability of the black body. Boldly resisting categorization and easy answers, Nafissa Thompson-Spires is an original and necessary voice in contemporary fiction.
A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara
From the blurb: When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity.
Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.