As Black History Month comes to a close, it’s important that we continue to celebrate and support blackness. In the literary world, black authors have made and continue to make wonderful contributions. As a result, we have collected up a few amazing black authors, from a variety of genres, whom we have enjoyed reading in the past.
1. Edwidge Danticat
The first thing I ever read by Edwidge Danticat was a short story called 1937 for one of my English classes in college. Safe to say, I fell in love almost immediately. In the matter of a few pages, Danticat managed to tell a story that was evocative, historical, magical realist, and steeped in the myth and folklore of the Caribbean. It’s unsurprising then that I went on to read multiple books by Danticat. None of them failed to impress me. Not only is Danticat a brilliant writer who delves deep into the psyche of her female protagonists, she writes about stories that are almost never present in popular literature. In 1937, Danticat wrote about the massacre of Haitians under Trujillo’s reign (something that she explored even more in depth in her amazing novel The Farming of Bones).
In the collection of stories that 1937 is from, entitled Krik? Krak! Danticat explores the multitudinous stories and histories of Haitians. She writes of the injustices they have faced in the past, of refugees, of pain, of love… and she does it all beautifully, in bite-sized pieces. Her other novels don’t fall short either. Breath, Eyes, Memory, which was chosen for Oprah’s Book Club, explores the immigrant experiences of a young Haitian family; how it can cause pain, suffering and distance. Her books often speak of the female experience; of motherhood and maternal lineages; along with Haitian experiences.
2. Jamaica Kincaid
Jamaica Kincaid is an Antiguan-born writer who has been critically acclaimed for her works. Her writing is both wonderful, and harrowing at the same time. Her books, such as Autobiography of My Mother, and At The Bottom of the River are disturbingly real, while still containing elements of magical realism.
Kincaid’s writing is not only beautiful and evocative, but it’s also angry and raw. She’s not afraid to be daring in the topics she writes about, and she’s not afraid to address issues that are otherwise ignored. She has faced a lot of criticism in the past due to this, but it has only made me admire her writing even more.
3. Roxane Gay
Roxane Gay is probably not in need of any introduction. She has been the talk of the town lately, not just because of her amazing new releases, but also because of her daring move with Simon & Schuster.
Gay’s writing can be quite heavy to read. There are times when, in the middle of her book, I’ve had to put it down and take a deep breath. But that’s probably one of the things that makes her a fantastic writer. She’s not afraid to write about difficult topics, and she always tackles them with nuance and thoughtfulness. In recent years, Gay has published a non-fiction book entitled Bad Feminist. She has also recently published Difficult Women (a book I’m currently dying to read), and will be releasing a memoir called Hunger in June.
4. Chigozie Obioma
I happened upon Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen by chance, as it was in the running for the Man Booker Prize. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect when I began. What I got was so much better than anything I could have expected.
The Fishermen is the weird and wonderful tale of three brothers in Nigeria whose family begins to fall apart after their town’s madman makes an odd prediction about them. It’s a story that at once captures childhood joy, with the terseness of growing up. Obioma somehow manages both of these brilliantly.
5. Langston Hughes
I only came across Langston Hughes in my second year of university, in a course called Modern American Literature. Until then, I didn’t realise what amazing, beautiful poetry, that evoked the rhythm of jazz, was missing from my life.
Hughes was an important writer during the Harlem renaissance, and his poetry often featured the strife and difficulties of black people in America. But why listen to me talk about his poetry, when you can listen to Hughes reading it?
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is probably best known for her amazing TedTalk (which was later made into a book) called We Should All Be Feminists. Along with being an eloquent speaker, Adichie is also a wonderful writer. She has authored books like Half of a Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus. Her novels are full of well-rounded characters and eloquent prose. Her writing so far has centred on the lives of Nigerians, whether they are living in Nigeria or in another country.
7. Phoebe Robinson
Last year, for some reason, I decided that I wanted to read a lot of essay-type memoirs. I was vastly disappointed by most of the ones that I read, but Phoebe Robinson’s You Can’t Touch My Hair was one of my favourites to read. It was hilarious, informative, but also downright depressing at times. Somehow, Robinson managed to find the balance between all of those things. As a result, I sped through the book in two days.
Robinson also has multiple podcasts, including one with Jessica Williams, called 2 Dope Queens. So if you’re tired from all the excellent black literature you’ll be reading, you can also check out Robinson’s great podcasts.
8. Nnedi Okorafor
It was only recently that I discovered Nnedi Okorafor. I had the pleasure of reading her Nebula and Hugo award-winning novella, Binti. It amazed me. In the matter of a few short pages, Okorafor manages to create an entire universe that is different from ours. Not only that, but she creates a strong, fearless character, Binti, who struggles with her decision to leave her people in order to go to university on a different planet.
9. Malorie Blackman
I discovered Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses series in my early teen years. It still remains one of my favourite series to this day. Recently, we discussed the series in the context of other YA dystopias on our podcast.
The Noughts and Crosses series is one of the most intense, and engaging, dystopias that I’ve had the pleasure of reading. It’s flipping of the race narratives is incredibly thorough and made me reconsider my outlook on many things.
Suggested by Adiba
10. David F. Walker
Although he has worked in the fields of film, television, film criticism, academia, and prose, David F. Walker is currently a high profile comic book writer. He has worked for DC (Cyborg), Dark Horse (Shaft), IDW (The Army of Dr. Monreau), and currently writes for Marvel comics. He is the current scribe on Power Man and Iron Fist, a revival of the 70s series starring a bulletproof black man and his well meaning best friend, as well as Occupy Avengers which follows a diverse group of heroes who try to solve problems not normally seen in superheroics, such as the profiteering of Indigenous lands by Western society.
Walker is a master of agenda based writing. He handles difficult topics with grace, crafting thoughtful narratives that bridge the divides between people. Although his messages are clear, he buries them in the story in clever ways so that they are not overbearing; in Power Man and Iron Fist: Sweet Christmas, he takes Santa Claus, the mascot of capitalism, and turns him into a defender of the poor and the young.
Suggested by Shaun