Literature continues to be one of the most powerful forms of expression, allowing writers to authentically share their lived experiences in their own words.
However, the literary canon has remained exclusive; home to mostly upper-class, white people and leaving little room for anyone else.
In memory of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the countless other Black men and women that have lost their lives to hate, and in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, here’s a short list of amazing works by Black writers.
At the bottom of the page, you’ll also find a list of places you can donate to help.
I hope this will be helpful to some of you, but please bear in mind this is a very, very brief list based only on what I (a white woman) have read myself. The books on this list aren’t necessarily tools for being ‘anti-racist’, but are just excellent works by Black authors that deserve far more recognition.
Along with the works I’ve listed here, there are thousands of brilliant works by Black authors, poets, artists, essayists and playwrights that can educate us. There is far more to learn and far more to be read, so please have a look online for more reading lists – @idealbookshelf on insta has a great one.
As always, please let me know if you have any recommendations <3
Small Island (2004)- Andrea Levy
We’re in London, it’s 1948 and Hortense and Gilbert have come to England from Jamaica in search of a better life. However, the reality of life in the UK is far different from what they imagine. Levy gives us an insight into what life was actually like for the Windrush generation.
Cultures In Babylon (1999) – Hazel V. Carby
Hazel Carby is one of the most influential writers of modern times. She’s also a Professor at Yale. Her essays are engaging, informative and essential for anyone wanting to find out more about multiculturalism in the UK and America.
Selected Poems (2002)- Linton Kwesi Johnson
Linton Kwesi Johnson reinvented poetry in the English language. Through a combination of Jamaican Patois verse and reggae rhythm, this really is poetry as you’ve never heard it before.
Girl, Woman, Other (2019) – Bernardine Evaristo
Following the lives of twelve completely different women from all over the UK, Evaristo’s award-winning novel gives a snapshot of modern life for black women. Not a shock that I’ve included this, I’m obsessed. For a spoiler-free review, click here.
Americanah (2013) – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Fleeing war-torn Nigeria and split between the UK and America, the relationship between Ifemelu and Obineze proves to be far more than a high school romance. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel looks at race from transatlantic perspective, while remaining a beautiful love story.
Second-Class Citizen (1974) – Buchi Emecheta
Adah travels from Nigeria to live with her husband in England in the 1960s, but things drastically begin to change between them the moment they step foot on British soil. This semi-autobiographical story of race and gender is gripping and heartbreaking. Emecheta’s novel is hugely important.
Such a Fun Age (2019)- Kiley Reid
When Emira is nearly arrested while doing her job – babysitting a white child – the strange relationship between her and her employer comes to a head. Again, I couldn’t not put this in – I reviewed it here. Reid’s writing is excellent, it’s no surprise that Such a Fun Age has been one of the biggest selling novels of the last year.
Places you can donate now:
- The Family of George Floyd: https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd
- The LA chapter of Black Lives Matter: https://www.blmla.org
- The Minnesota Freedom Fund:https://minnesotafreedomfund.org
- Campaign Zero: https://www.joincampaignzero.org/solutions#solutionsoverview
- Black Visions Collective: https://www.blackvisionsmn.org/about
- National Bail Fund: https://www.communityjusticeexchange.org/nbfn-directory
Lots of love,