hi everyone!! sorry I’ve been MIA recently. with everything going on in the Black Lives Matter movement I wanted to stay informed and educate myself, plus help in whatever way I could, so the blog wasn’t really a priority. (all my reviews that have gone up in the last 2 weeks were scheduled a while ago, so I actually haven’t sat down to write a blog post in a long time.) Twitter has been a tremendous resource for finding out about things that would’ve otherwise gone unacknowledged, plus getting really great firsthand info about BLM, so that’s where I’ve been spending a lot of my time.
I wanted to write this post as a way of promoting books by Black authors that might have gone unnoticed, or that deserve more hype than they’ve gotten. I’ve always valued diversity in the books I read, but I haven’t done much to actually seek out or promote diverse books, so I want this post to be the beginning of a series where I do exactly that; promote diverse books, and help others find out about them. It’ll be a mix of both books that I think are interesting but haven’t read, as well as books that I’ve read that I recommend.
That being said, this list is not just a list of diverse books, it’s a list of books by Black authors specifically. In the next couple of months I’ll hopefully be doing lists of books by POC authors, LGBTQIA+ authors, and any other authors whose books deal with a marginalized identity in any way (disability, mental health, etc.). It’s easy to say reading diverse books is important (because of course it is), but I want to actually make a more concerted effort to put that into action, so that’s what I’m going to be focusing on doing more consistently in my reading from now on.
I’ve linked to the Goodreads pages of all the books I’ve listed below, as well as included snippets of their synopses to give you a sense of what they’re about. some of these books have been released already, and some haven’t, but either way I’ve also included all their release dates in case you’re curious (I’ve also ordered them by release date).
The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole (January 7)
Month-by-month, Cole creates a comprehensive picture of entrenched, systemic inequality. Urgent, controversial, and unsparingly honest, The Skin We’re In is destined to become a vital text for anti-racist and social justice movements in Canada, as well as a potent antidote to the all-too-present complacency of many white Canadians.
The Skin We’re In is a nonfiction book about racism in Canada, racism that is often accompanied by, as the synopsis says, an “all-too-present complacency.” As a Canadian myself, I feel like this book is one that I need to read.
Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi (January 21)
Rooted in foundational loss and the hope that can live in anger, Riot Baby is both a global dystopian narrative an intimate family story with quietly devastating things to say about love, fury, and the black American experience.
This novella sounds amazing. I had a quick look at a sample of it just to get a feel for the writing and I was instantly hooked. It’s only 176 pages, too, so it’s sure to pack a punch. Tochi Onyebuchi also narrates the audiobook himself–beautifully might I add–so if you’re interested in checking this out in audiobook that’s a definite plus.
Real Life by Brandon Taylor (February 18)
A novel of startling intimacy, violence, and mercy among friends in a Midwestern university town, from an electric new voice.
[. . .] over the course of a late-summer weekend, a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with an ostensibly straight, white classmate, conspire to fracture Wallace’s defenses while exposing long-hidden currents of hostility and desire within their community.
Real Life is one of my favourite books of the year. I have a full review of it here but suffice to say: this is a sharp, character-focused novel all about the alternate tensions and intimacies of relationships. Brandon Taylor is such an excellent writer and definitely an author to look out for. I can’t wait for his next book, which is going to be a short story collection called Filthy Animals.
So We Can Glow by Leesa Cross-Smith (March 10)
A lush, glittering short story collection exploring female obsession and desire by an award-winning writer Roxane Gay calls “a consummate storyteller.”
Leesa Cross-Smith’s sensuous stories will drench readers in nostalgia for summer nights and sultry days, the intense friendships of teenage girls, and the innate bonds felt between women. She evokes the pangs of loss and motherhood, the headiness and destructive potential of desire, and the pure exhilaration of being female. The stories in So We Can Glow–some long, some gone in a flash, some told over text and emails–take the wild hearts of girls and women and hold them up so they can catch the light.
As with all the books in this list, So We Glow sounds SO GOOD. I also had a quick look at the first couple of pages of this and I honestly think it might be one of my favourites of the year. I love short story collections and the focus of this one especially–“female obsession and desire”–is so perfectly up my alley. Also, the glowing recommendation from Roxane Gay doesn’t hurt.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (June 2)
From The New York Times -bestselling author of The Mothers , a stunning new novel about twin sisters, inseparable as children, who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds, one black and one white.
I feel like I don’t need to say much about The Vanishing Half considering how much buzz it’s been getting recently. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this book, and the premise sounds so compelling. I read Brit Bennett’s The Mothers a few years back and didn’t love it, but I did really enjoy her writing so I’m feeling hopeful about this one!
Twisted by Emma Dabiri (June 23)
From Guardian contributor and prominent BBC race correspondent Emma Dabiri comes a timely and resonant essay collection exploring the ways in which black hair has been appropriated and stigmatized throughout history, with ruminations on body politics, race, pop culture, and Dabiri’s own journey to loving her hair.
Twisted is the North American edition of Emma Dabiri’s Don’t Touch My Hair, which was initially released in the U.K. last year, though I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I just love Emma Dabiri–I follow her on Twitter and have watched a bunch of videos where she talks about researching this book and Black hair culture more broadly, and so I can’t wait to see how it’s all come together in this book.
Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud (August 4)
An electrifying novel of love in its messiest forms–a complicated marriage, an unconventional family, and the shocking secrets that unite them–from an award-winning Trinidadian author.
Love After Love is an “expansive, modern family story” set in Trinidad that “questions who and how we love, the obligations of family, and the consequences of choices made in desperation.” I mean, that’s really all I need to know. It also comes highly recommended by Marlon James, who called it an “unforgettable symphony of love and loss, heartache and guilt, and the secrets and lies that pull us together, and tear us apart.” Sold.
Luster by Raven Leilani (August 4)
Sharp, comic, disruptive, tender, Raven Leilani’s debut novel, Luster, sees a young black woman fall into art and someone else’s open marriage
Razor sharp, darkly comic, sexually charged, socially disruptive, Luster is a portrait of a young woman trying to make her sense of her life in a tumultuous era. It is also a haunting, aching description of how hard it is to believe in your own talent and the unexpected influences that bring us into ourselves along the way.
Luster has been blurbed by Zadie Smith (“exacting, hilarious, and deadly”), Ling Ma (“a beguiling fever dream of a novel”), and Brit Bennett (“a beautiful, bighearted story”). And though I didn’t love this story, I think a lot of people will. It’s very psychologically focused, with a Black female protagonist who works in publishing and is also a painter, two things which really made it stand out to me, especially in the way that Leilani chooses to comment on those two things throughout her novel.
Love in Colour by Bolu Babalola (August 20)
Join Bolu Babalola as she retells the most beautiful love stories from history and mythology in this stunning collection. From the homoromantic Greek myths, to magical Nigerian folktales, to the ancient stories of South Asia, Bolu brings new life to tales that truly show the vibrance and colours of love around the world.
I’ve been following Bolu on Twitter for a while now and I just love her tweets. I would’ve been interested in any book she’d decided to write regardless of its subject matter, but this one sounds so good. “The anthology is a step towards decolonising tropes of love, and celebrates in the wildly beautiful and astonishingly diverse tales of romance and desire that already exist in so many cultures and communities” ??!! Yes please. I cannot wait for this one.
Memorial by Bryan Washington (October 6)
A funny, sexy, profound dramedy about two young people at a crossroads in their relationship and the limits of love.
Both men will change in ways that will either make them stronger together, or fracture everything they’ve ever known. And just maybe they’ll all be okay in the end. Memorial is a funny and profound story about family in all its strange forms, joyful and hard-won vulnerability, becoming who you’re supposed to be, and the limits of love.
Memorial is a novel that, like many on this list, comes highly recommended by a lot of big names, including Ocean Vuong, Mira Jacob, and Tommy Orange. I also read this novel recently and really enjoyed it. Its two main characters are both gay, one of whom is Black and HIV-positive and one of whom is Japanese and grew up working class. (It’s also ownvoices for both the Black and the queer representation!!) As such, the novel talks a lot about intersections of marginalized identities in both romantic and familial relationships.
PS: if you have an Edelweiss account you can download an e-copy of Memorial without having to request it (i.e. it’s available to download immediately!!)
The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans (November 10)
With The Office of Historical Corrections, Evans zooms in on particular moments and relationships in her characters’ lives in a way that allows them to speak to larger issues of race, culture, and history. She introduces us to Black and multiracial characters who are experiencing the universal confusions of lust and love, and getting walloped by grief—all while exploring how history haunts us, personally and collectively. Ultimately, she provokes us to think about the truths of American history—about who gets to tell them, and the cost of setting the record straight.
Last but not least is this short story collection that I found out about from none other than Brandon Taylor. I trust his opinion, and frankly this collection sounds amazing. Also, it comes highly recommended by Roxane Gay. I can’t wait for this one. Since it doesn’t come out till later this year, I might read Evans’s previous collection, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, first just to get a feel for her writing.
Those are all the recs I have for y’all today. I find out about new book releases as the year goes on, so I’ll try to make an updated version of this list once I’ve gathered a bit more books.
Please let me know if there are any 2020 releases by Black authors that you think I should read or that you recommend, especially literary fiction releases, since that’s the genre I tend to read the most of.