My Favorite Books Written By Black Authors
This list is not exhaustive. I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch that I’ve read. And there’s so many more books written by Black Authors that I need to read. So please leave me your favorites in the comments.
Assata, Assata Shakur
The US government was threatened by Assata Shakur, a leader in the Black Panther Party/Black Liberation Army, they charged her with multiple violent crimes that were eventually dismissed. Eventually she was wrongfully convicted of killing a state trooper. And she escaped prison. Which is probably why we (white people) don’t learn about her during Black History Month. But we should. We absolutely should. Her story is heartbreaking and inspiring. Her story beautifully illustrates her experience of living as a Black Woman in America. She wrote this in 1987, when she was 40, so I can only imagine how much more she has to share with us and how much more we have to learn from her. Assata is now living in Cuba under political asylum.
Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
One of my favorite books of all time. This book started as a letter Coates wrote to his son, after hearing him sob in his bedroom after a grand jury chose not to try the police officer who murdered Michael Brown. Coates’ writing is absolutely breathtaking and heartbreaking. I cried. My heart raced. My stomach was sick. My head spun. I’ve never had so many physical reactions while reading a book, which is relatively short, and I think is a sign of the most beautiful and poignant writing. I truly believe this one of the most important books that will be written in my lifetime.
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
I read this in high school, for my English class, “Literature of the American South”. So, I don’t remember a lot. But I know I fucking loved it. And there is a line at the end of one of the first chapters that has always stuck with me: “Janie's first dream was dead, so she became a woman.”
Another one I read in high school and don’t remember a lot about. But I know, at seventeen years old, it changed the way I thought about race. McBride tells the life story of his mother, a white Jewish woman, while also telling us of his own experiences being biracial in America. It’s very beautiful and I want to reread it this month.
Year of Yes, Shonda Rimes
I read this in one day when I was in Nicaragua, solo on the beach. It’s great! Super inspirational and fun. Shonda inspired me to take more chances in life. Put myself out there when I want something. Not work all of the time. Year of Yes was a big influence in all of the changes I made in 2016.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley, Malcolm X & Alex Haley
One of my top three favorite books. Malcom X’s autobiography is an important read for everyone not only because of his important role in the civil rights movement. Throughout his life, Malcolm X changes his life and who he is, and even his name many times.
Growing up Malcolm X was influenced by his parent’s activism in the Marcus Garvey movement. As a teenager he became “Detroit Red”, was active in committing crimes and was eventually sent to prison for burglaries, where he found Islam. He rises up in the Nation of Islam, becoming Malcolm X. While he was known for advocating for black supremacy and the separation of black and white Americans, he again changed his point of view after a trip to Mecca, eventually separating from the Nation of Islam.
I loved this book when I read it in college, but I think it was reading another book a few years later, helped me identify why I loved it so much, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention.
Malcolm X taught me that we can all change. I loved the idea that who you are today does not have to be who you always are. However many times you want until you find the one that you love.
You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain, Phoebe Robinson
I read this back in 2016, so I don’t remember a lot of details. But I know I read this one-day while on the beach in Nicaragua (yes, I read a lot on that trip - four books in my four-day vacation.) Comic, Phoebe Robinson, is hilarious and smart in this book of essays. She covers everything from politics, to pop culture, to dating, to work, and so much more.
Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, Barack Obama
Similar to Color of Water, Dreams From My Father changed the way I thought about racial identity. Especially for Black men. (Side note: I’ve read a lot of memoirs about racial identity from the perspective black or biracial men, all of which are so interesting and powerful – but I’m realizing that I have not read a book like this from a biracial or Black woman. Anyone have good recommendations?)
One passage that always stuck with me, Obama explaining a night with a white girlfriend:
“One night I took her to see a new play by a black playwright. It was a very angry play, but very funny. Typical black American humor. The audience was mostly black, and everybody was laughing and clapping and hollering like they were in church. After the play was over, my friend started talking about why black people were so angry all the time. I said it was a matter of remembering—nobody asks why Jews remember the Holocaust, I think I said—and she said that’s different, and I said it wasn’t, and she said that anger was just a dead end. We had a big fight, right in front of the theater. When we got back to the car she started crying. She couldn’t be black, she said. She would if she could, but she couldn’t. She could only be herself, and wasn’t that enough.”
As a white woman, who has dated multiple Black men, and tend to be attracted to Black men over other races, this felt like a punch in the stomach. But it was (and is) a pain I needed to feel so that I could truly understand that I will never truly understand. Even if I’m the best ally in the world, which I’m not even close, there’s a lot I will never understand about being black. But that’s not my job. My job is to listen and be empathetic.
Not by a black author but is beautiful/tragic story about race
Jeff Hobbs’ tribute to his former Yale roommate, Robert Peace. Robert was born in Orange, New Jersey. Not long after he was born, his father was sent to prison. His mother earned less than $15,000 a year. “Robert carried with him the difficult dual nature of his existence, trying to fit in at Yale, and at home on breaks.
A compelling and honest portrait of Robert’s relationships—with his struggling mother, with his incarcerated father, with his teachers and friends—The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace encompasses the most enduring conflicts in America: race, class, drugs, community, imprisonment, education, family, friendship, and love. It’s about the collision of two fiercely insular worlds—the ivy-covered campus of Yale University and the slums of Newark, New Jersey, and the difficulty of going from one to the other and then back again. It’s about trying to live a decent life in America.” (Amazon description)
On My Night Stand
Becoming, by Michelle Obama
Everything is Trash, But it’s Okay by Phoebe Robinson
On My Amazon Wishlist
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Bryan Stevenson