9 Incredible Novels by Black Writers
With the current conversation surrounding the #BlackLivesMatter movement, many people - myself included - are searching for ways to better their knowledge, and to introduce themselves to a more diverse range of voices in the things they read and watch; I wanted to share some of my favourite fiction novels by Black writers that I've enjoyed over the past few years.
At the bottom of this article, you'll find links to some helpful resources to read and funds you can donate to, in order to support the cause!
The Color Purple
Written in 1982, and set within the backdrop of rural Georgia in the early 1900s, The Color Purple tells the story of Celie. When she is 14, she is abused by her father; after falling pregnant by him twice, he arranges for her to marry a man referred to only as 'Mister' - sadly, he also abuses her verbally and physically. When Celie meets her husband's mistress Shug Avery, a charming jazz and blues singer, the two women fall in love, both deciding to leave and move together to Tennessee. The book is a wonderfully-written story focusing upon the lives of African-American women in 1930s USA, and has since been adapted into both a successful film and a musical.
The Hate U Give
Angie Thomas (@angiethomas)
This contemporary novel was written by Angie Thomas in 2017, and while originally intended as a young adult novel, has been widely celebrated and well-received since its release, topping the New York Times' young adult bestseller list for 50 weeks following its debut. The Hate U Give follows the life of Starr Carter: a 16-year old Black girl who attends a private school in an affluent, predominantly white part of the city. Towards the beginning of the novel, Starr tragically witnesses her childhood best friend being shot by a white policeman; the rest of the novel is centred around the importance of speaking out against police brutality.
Girl, Woman, Other
Bernardine Evaristo (@bernardineevaristowriter)
Bernardine Evaristo's latest novel currently sits on a number of prestigious prize lists - and for good reason. Girl, Woman, Other is a book which well represents modern-day Britain, exploring the lives of 12 different characters - most of whom are Black and female. All of these characters all seem to intertwine in some way, the book itself a seamless patchwork of voices and narratives. From playwrights and politicians to students and consultants, Evaristo's characters are each well-developed, the writing itself spellbinding.
The inspiring, hard-hitting debut novel of author Sapphire, Push tells the story of Precious Jones, a young woman who lives in Harlem with her mother. As well as being celebrated for its content, and for its incredible storytelling, Push is well-regarded also for its unique narrative style. Told from the perspective of the protagonist, who is functionally illiterate at the beginning of the novel, the language used evolves as Precious herself learns to write and, in doing so, finds her voice.
Push has been adapted into a film entitled Precious, which won two Academy Awards.
An American Marriage
Tayari Jones (@tayari)
Arguably one of the most talked-about novels of the past few years, and the winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, An American Marriage tells the story of newlyweds Celestial and Roy, whose marriage finds itself under great strain when Roy is wrongfully convicted and consequently jailed. The narrative switches between Roy, Celestial, and, later, their friend Andre. A hugely thought-provoking read from this acclaimed novelist, you’ll be captivated by the way the couple attempt to rebuild both their individual lives and their marriage after such a gross miscarriage of justice.
Centered around the friendship between Archie and Samad, this 2000 novel by Zadie Smith has been awarded a number of prizes, and continues to be an important work of British fiction today. White Teeth is told from the perspective of 10 different characters, each with differing backgrounds and lifestyles. A novel about friendship, family, love and war, Smith also explores the long-lasting effects of colonisation on contemporary British culture. White Teeth is funny, heartwarming and incredibly well-written
Half of a Yellow Sun
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (@chimamanda_adichie)
Set in Nigeria during and prior to the civil war in the late 1960s, Half of a Yellow Sun focuses primarily upon the themes of moral responsibility, class, and the end of colonialism, through the voices of three different characters. Ugwu is a houseboy employed by a professor, who is greatly in support of the revolution. The professor's mistress, Olanna, has left her life in Lagos behind in order to follow him; Englishman Richard is in love with Olanna's mysterious, charming twin sister. As war breaks out, the characters must run for their lives, testing their loyalties to one another.
Half of a Yellow Sun has also been adapted into a film.
Noughts and Crosses
Malorie Blackman (@malorie_blackman)
An iconic young adult and speculative fiction novel for teenagers growing up in 2010s Britain, Noughts and Crosses is a uniquely gripping tale from the mind of Malorie Blackman. Set in an alternative 21st-century UK, and the first of a five-novel series, this book is centered around the love story of Sephy and Callum: childhood friends who later realise that their feelings run much deeper than just friendship. Sephy is a 'Cross' and Callum a 'nought', meaning their relationship will be condemned by society, with potentially devastating consequences for them both.
Noughts and Crosses was recently adapted into a 6-episode BBC series.
Teju Cole (@_tejucole)
Praised for its unusual, diary-like structure and its lack of punctuation, Open City is a novel by Teju Cole, set in New York . A Nigerian doctor who has recently broken up with his girlfriend wanders the streets of the city, giving himself time to process the break-up and to reflect upon his own identity; the novel reads as Julius' thought process. Along the way, he meets a number of people who prompt him to consider themes such as race, liberty, loneliness and loss.