I won’t lie, the social situation of today is scary…not only are we facing a new disease that is wreaking havoc on our ways of life and how we operate on a daily basis, but we are also paying witness to the rise of a new civil rights movement.
In case you have had as much issue facing the media over the past months as I have, all around the world we have seen multiple riots and protests kick up following the death of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis. These riots and protests have started new waves of demonstration featuring #BlackLivesMatter, and people are, to put it simply, split on the matter. If you would like to reach out for resources you can start your deep dive into modern racial inequality, I would be happy to provide you with some sources. I recommend that the best way to take a stance is to always educate yourself on the issues and the facts and opinions, from both sides of the aisle.
I won’t go into my beliefs or thoughts on the current social situation, although I will take a firm stance and say that that human rights are basic rights. We have seen throughout history issues of race, color, subjugation, sexism and multiple other injustices we recognize as fundamentally wrong. I am left, as a librarian, hoping that I can help add my voice to the advocacy that supports our fellow human beings, especially those from marginalized and denigrated societies.
So that’s what I’m aiming to do here; in the modern publishing world we have sadly witnessed a dearth of voice from POC (people of color). This is a widely-recognized fact within the book realm: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/9aex3p/read-between-the-racism-the-serious-lack-of-diversity-in-book-publishing. Think of the authors you most consistently see on the shelf at your local library- to name a few off today’s bestseller list: James Patterson, Nora Roberts, John Grisham, David Baldacci, and Jennifer Weiner: https://www.nytimes.com/books/best-sellers/2020/06/07/hardcover-fiction/.
What do we see? White (mostly male) authors who dominate the scene. Now, I’m not saying these authors don’t deserve bestseller status- they are excellent authors who continuously write big-name books that go on to top the charts for weeks on end.
What we need, however, is more diversity in the publishing realm, and on our shelves. As such, I’ve compiled a list below of these such writers who range across a variety of genres. I’ve noted where these are available through the library, and they are all available for pickup (since we’re now open for curbside at NOPL). I hope you take advantage and add some of these to your own TBR shelves.
Adult Literary Fiction
We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin
Let me just say that the premise of this book is just…wow. Talk about social commentary, folks. In the near future our society is plague by resurgent racism, segregation, expanding private prisons, and racial prejudice. Our narrator’s son is a biracial boy whose black birthmark grows larger every day, and his father is grows increasingly worried at what Nigel will potentially be subjected to. So he decides to put Nigel into an experimental program that turns people white…yes. You read that correctly.
Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
In the stories of Adjei-Brenyah’s debut, an amusement park lets players enter augmented reality to hunt terrorists or shoot intruders played by minority actors, a school shooting results in both the victim and gunman stuck in a shared purgatory, and an author sells his soul to a many-tongued god.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
The Vines twins will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later they are living completely separate lives, one with her daughter in the same community she grew up in, the other secretly passing as white and hoping her husband doesn’t find out. So what happens when their daughters stories intersect?
Get a Life Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s enlisted her hot super, Redford “Red,” Morgan to help her out. Can they break through their baggage together and be as happy as they want?
The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai
Rhiannon Hunter has revolutionized the tech dating scene, but now she finds herself working with a man who ghosted her in the past, pro-football star Samson Lima. IF you don’t know what ghosting is…good. Should Rhiannon give him a second chance?
An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
As the Civil War rages, former slave Ella Burns returns to the indignity of slavery to spy for the Union Army. There she meets Malcolm McCall, a detective for the Pinkertons who’s gone undercover to help infiltrate rebel enclave in Virginia. Together they share a common cause and a dangerous attraction.
Adult Historical Fiction
The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins
Servant and former slave Frannie Langton is accused of the double-murder of her employers. Crowds pack the courtroom, eagerly following every twist, while the newspapers print lurid theories about the killings and the mysterious woman being held in the Old Bailey. The testimonies against Frannie are damning. She is a seductress, a witch, a master manipulator, a whore. But Frannie claims she doesn’t remember anything from that evening. Instead her testimony tells her story of growing up a slave on a Jamaican sugar plantation, an apprenticeship under a debauched scientist, and what brought her to London and her dead employers.
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
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.
American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson
It’s 1986, the heart of the Cold War, and Marie Mitchell is an intelligence officer with the FBI. She’s brilliant, but she’s also a young black woman working in an old boys’ club. So when she’s given the opportunity to join a shadowy task force aimed at undermining Thomas Sankara, the charismatic, revolutionary president of Burkina Faso whose Communist ideology has made him a target for American intervention, she says yes.
How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones
Jones’ memoir on growing up a young, black, gay man from the South. Through a series of vignettes that chart a course across the American landscape, Jones draws readers into his boyhood and adolescence—into tumultuous relationships with his mother and grandmother, into passing flings with lovers, friends and strangers. Each piece builds into a larger examination of race and queerness, power and vulnerability, love and grief: a portrait of what we all do for one another—and to one another—as we fight to become ourselves.
Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
Today’s feminist movement has a glaring blind spot, and paradoxically, it is women. Mainstream feminists rarely talk about meeting basic needs as a feminist issue, argues Mikki Kendall, but food insecurity, access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, a living wage, and medical care are all feminist issues. Moreover, prominent white feminists broadly suffer from their own myopia with regard to how things like race, class, sexual orientation, and ability intersect with gender. How can we stand in solidarity as a movement, Kendall asks, when there is the distinct likelihood that some women are oppressing others?
Things that Make White People Uncomfortable by Michael Bennett
Super Bowl Champion and three-time Pro Bowler Michael Bennett is a fearless activist, a feminist, a grassroots philanthropist, an organizer, and a change maker. He’s also one of the most scathingly humorous athletes on the planet, and he wants to make you uncomfortable. Here he adds his unmistakable voice to discussions of racism and police violence, Black athletes and their relationship to powerful institutions like the NCAA and the NFL, the role of protest in history, and the responsibilities of athletes as role models to speak out against injustice.
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
A novel in verse that tells the story of two girls with the same father who didn’t know each other existed. They’re irreversibly connected, however, when the plane their papi was on crash lands…
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Felix, is black, queer, transgender, and has never been in love. When he begins receiving transphobic messages from a fellow student who publicly posts Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle.
All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M Johnson
A memoir that focuses on the narrative of being a young, queer man of color in the Northeast, discussing topics of gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy.
The Tradition by Jericho Brown
Pulitzer-prize-winning author Brown bring us poems of fatherhood, legacy, blackness, queerness, worship, and trauma as he details the normalization of evil and its history at the intersection of the past and the personal.
Magical Negro by Morgan Parker
This is is an archive of Black everydayness, a catalog of contemporary folk heroes, an ethnography of ancestral grief, and an inventory of figureheads, idioms, and customs. Focused primarily on depictions of Black womanhood alongside personal narratives, the collection tackles interior and exterior politics—of both the body and society, of both the individual and the collective experience.
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
Rankine’s bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV-everywhere, all the time.
I hope some of these books fill a niche you didn’t realize was missing in your life. I’ll leave you all with one last message as the daughter of a hippie mother… I wish you all peace and love.