Hello everyone! I’m back with a list of 10 recommendations, this time of some backlist books by Black authors!!
These books are from a variety of genres, so whatever genre you tend to read, there should be something here for you. There’s literary fiction (Delicious Foods, Small Island, Mr Loverman), science fiction/fantasy (We Cast a Shadow, Tram Car of 015), non fiction (Wayward Lives, Busted in New York, Thick), and short story collections (Frying Plantain, The Loss of all Lost Things). Hopefully you find something that interests you in this list!
I’ve only read Mr Loverman and Wayward Lives from this list, but I can HIGHLY recommend both of them; Mr Loverman is an endearing and hilarious novel with an unforgettable narrator and Wayward Lives is a beautifully written, extensively researched, and one-of-a-kind piece of narrative nonfiction.
#1: Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid-Benta
A rich and unforgettable portrait of growing up between worlds, Frying Plantain shows how, in one charged moment, friendship and love can turn to enmity and hate, well-meaning protection can become control, and teasing play can turn to something much darker. In her brilliantly incisive debut, Zalika Reid-Benta artfully depicts the tensions between mothers and daughters, second-generation Canadians and first-generation cultural expectations, and Black identity and predominately white society.
#2: Delicious Goods by James Hannaham
Delicious Foods tells the gripping story of three unforgettable characters: a mother, her son, and the drug that threatens to destroy them. In Darlene’s haunted struggle to reunite with Eddie, and in the efforts of both to triumph over those who would enslave them, Hannaham’s daring and shape-shifting prose not only infuses their desperate circumstances with grace and humor, but also wrestles with timeless questions of love and freedom.
#3: The Loss of All Lost Things by Amina Gautier
The fifteen stories in The Loss of All Lost Things explore the unpredictable ways in which characters negotiate, experience, and manage various forms of loss. These characters lose loved ones; they lose their security and self-worth; they lose children; they lose their ability to hide and shield their emotions; they lose their reputations, their careers, their hometowns, and their life savings. Often depicting the awkward moments when characters are torn between decision and outcome, The Loss of All Lost Things focuses on moments of regret and yearning.
#4: Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom
Smart, humorous, and strikingly original thoughts on race, beauty, money, and more—by one of today’s most intrepid public intellectuals
Tressie McMillan Cottom, the writer, professor, and acclaimed author of Lower Ed, now brilliantly shifts gears from running regression analyses on college data to unleashing another identity: a purveyor of wit, wisdom—and of course Black Twitter snark—about all that is right and much that is so very wrong about this thing we call society. In the bestselling tradition of bell hooks and Roxane Gay, McMillan Cottom’s freshman collection illuminates a particular trait of her tribe: being thick. In form, and in substance.
This bold compendium, likely to find its place on shelves alongside Lindy West, Rebecca Solnit, and Maggie Nelson, dissects everything from beauty to Obama to pumpkin spice lattes. Yet Thick will also fill a void on those very shelves: a modern black American female voice waxing poetic on self and society, serving up a healthy portion of clever prose and southern aphorisms in a style uniquely her own.
#5: Wayward Lives by Saidiya Hartman
Beautifully written and deeply researched, Wayward Lives recreates the experience of young urban black women who desired an existence qualitatively different than the one that had been scripted for them—domestic service, second-class citizenship, and respectable poverty—and whose intimate revolution was apprehended as crime and pathology. For the first time, young black women are credited with shaping a cultural movement that transformed the urban landscape. Through a melding of history and literary imagination, Wayward Lives recovers their radical aspirations and insurgent desires.
#6: Tram Car of 015 by P. Djèlí Clark
The Haunting of Tram Car 015 returns to the alternate Cairo of Clark’s short fiction, where humans live and work alongside otherworldly beings; the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities handles the issues that can arise between the magical and the mundane. Senior Agent Hamed al-Nasr shows his new partner Agent Onsi the ropes of investigation when they are called to subdue a dangerous, possessed tram car. What starts off as a simple matter of exorcism, however, becomes more complicated as the origins of the demon inside are revealed.
#7: We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin
A bold, provocative debut for fans of Get Out and Paul Beatty’s The Sellout , about a father who will do anything to protect his son–even if it means turning him white.
How far would you go to protect your child?
Our narrator faces an impossible decision. Like any father, he just wants the best for his son Nigel, a biracial boy whose black birthmark is growing larger by the day. In this near-future society plagued by resurgent racism, segregation, and expanding private prisons, our narrator knows Nigel might not survive. Having watched the world take away his own father, he is determined to stop history from repeating itself.
This electrifying, suspenseful novel is at once a razor-sharp satire of surviving racism in America and a profoundly moving family story. Writing in the tradition of Ralph Ellison and Franz Kafka, Maurice Carlos Ruffin fearlessly shines a light on the violence we inherit, and on the desperate things we do for the ones we love.
#8: Busted in New York by Darryl Pinckney
A collection of essays that blend the personal and the social, from the celebrated literary critic and novelist
In these twenty-five essays, Darryl Pinckney has given us a view of our recent racial history that blends the social and the personal and wonders how we arrived at our current moment. Pinckney reminds us that “white supremacy isn’t back; it never went away.” It is this impulse to see historically that is at the core of Busted in New York and Other Essays, which traces the lineage of black intellectual history from Booker T. Washington through the Harlem Renaissance, to the Black Panther Party and the turbulent sixties, to today’s Afro-pessimists, and celebrated and neglected thinkers in between.
These are capacious essays whose topics range from the grassroots of protest in Ferguson, Missouri, to the eighteenth-century Guadeloupian composer Joseph Bologne, from an unsparing portrait of Louis Farrakhan to the enduring legacy of James Baldwin, the unexpected story of black people experiencing Russia, Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight, and the painter Kara Walker. The essays themselves are a kind of record, many of them written in real-time, as Pinckney witnesses the Million Man March, feels and experiences the highs and lows of Obama’s first presidential campaign, explores the literary black diaspora, and reflects on the surprising and severe lesson he learned firsthand about the changing urban fabric of New York.
#9: Mr Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo
(you can find my full review here)
Mr Loverman is a groundbreaking exploration of Britain’s older Caribbean community, which explodes cultural myths and fallacies, and shows how deep and far-reaching the consequences of prejudice and fear can be. It is also a warm-hearted, funny and life-affirming story about a character as mischievous, cheeky and downright lovable as any you’ll ever meet.
#10: Small Island by Andrea Levy
It’s 1948, and England is recovering from a war. But at 21 Nevern Street, London, the conflict has only just begun. Queenie Bligh’s neighbours don’t approve when she agrees to take in Jamaican lodgers, but Queenie doesn’t know when, or even if, her husband will return. What else can she do?
Gilbert Joseph was one of the many Jamaican men who joined the RAF to fight Hitler. But when he returns to England as a civilian he doesn’t receive the welcome he was expecting, and it’s desperation that drives him to knock at Queenie’s door.
Gilbert’s wife Hortense, who for years has longed for a better life in England, soon joins him. But London is far from the golden city of her dreams, and even Gilbert is not the man she thought he was…