23 New Books by Black Women You Should Add to Your Reading List
Black women are making meaning through story and rediscovery in 2019, as evidenced by the many memoirs, essay collections, and criticisms being published this year. Authors are revisiting their pasts with critical eyes and using the specificity of their experiences to illuminate larger truths and themes that affect us all. They're connecting the plight of black women to the human condition without sacrificing heritage, language, or voice. It's a great time to read work by black women, which is why we've rounded up the books we're most anticipating for 2019.
It Was All a Dream: A New Generation Confronts the Broken Promise to Black America by Reniqua Allen (released Jan. 8)
For many of us, the American Dream was packaged like sweet-smelling baked goods and then placed behind thick glass for us to admire but never attain. Reniqua Allen investigates this in It Was All a Dream: A New Generation Confronts the Broken Promise to Black America, in which she illuminates the stories of black millennials searching for success amid a racist system designed for them to fail. The book takes a hopeful position, however, and shares the innovative ways young black people are surviving and thriving despite the challenges they face.
Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America by Ibi Zoboi (released Jan. 8)
Edited by National Book Award finalist Ibi Zoboi, Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America is a collection of stories by some of the most celebrated authors writing about teens today. The collection covers a wide range of topics, from classism to sexuality and everything in between.
The Truths We Hold: An American Journey by Kamala Harris (released Jan. 8)
Senator Kamala Harris has blessed us with an insightful look into her life in The Truths We Hold: An American Journey, a book that explores her journey from young daughter of two immigrant civil rights activists to California attorney general and beyond. Now that she's thrown her hat into the ring for the 2020 presidential election, consider this necessary reading for the months ahead.
Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom (released Jan. 8)
Tressie McMillan Cottom marries criticism with wit in Thick: And Other Essays and adds a pinch of Black Twitter for good measure. In eight essays, she makes meaning of our everyday circumstances to illuminate a deeper understanding of the world around us.
The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers by Bridgett M. Davis (released Jan. 29)
An homage to her mother's numbers industriousness, The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother's Life in the Detroit Numbers recounts Fannie Davis's life as "part bookie, part banker" and her role as a mother and wife. The memoir paints the picture of a woman making a way out of no way and doing what she has to in order to make a life for her and her children. It's a testament to the resilience of black women and so suspenseful, it feels like fiction.
Golden Child: A Novel by Claire Adam (released Jan. 29)
The first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's imprint, SJP For Hogarth, Golden Child is a story of siblings — one of which is the "golden child," while the other one causes endless trouble. Set in modern-day Trinidad, the novel centers around twins Peter and Paul, who travel to Port of Spain every day for school. When one doesn't come home, their father, Clyde, goes looking for him and is forced to make an impossible choice once he realizes his fate.
Black Is the Body: Stories From My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine by Emily Bernard (released Jan. 29)
The memoir begins with the author being stabbed (along with six others) by a white man with a knife in a New England coffee shop. And while she wasn't stabbed because of her skin color, the metaphor of violence against the black body remains. The action turned metaphor, among other things Bernard experiences (like marrying a white man), is explored in Black Is the Body: Stories From My Grandmother's Time, My Mother's Time, and Mine, a collection of essays that use her life as the stage to investigate where blackness and whiteness intersect.
The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditation by Toni Morrison (coming Feb. 12)
No, this is not a drill: Toni Morrison is blessing us with a book. And not just any book, but a nonfiction collection of her essays, speeches, and meditations spanning the past four decades called The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditation. She offers commentary on her own work and that of others while also taking on social issues like female empowerment, "black matter(s)," and human rights.
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas (released Feb. 5)
The highly anticipated sophomore novel from The Hate U Give author Angie Thomas promises to be a treat. This time we'll be following the story of Bri, a 16-year-old who dreams of becoming one of the greatest rappers of all time. She has big shoes to fill as the daughter of an underground hip-hop legend, and her reputation at school isn't making it any easier. If Thomas's previous work is any indication of what's to come, On the Come Up will be one of the most talked-about books of the year.
The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray (coming Feb. 19)
When Althea, the eldest sister of the Butler family, is arrested alongside her husband, Proctor, it's shocking, to say the least. It plunges the family into uncertainty, and they go from being one of the most respected families in town to being a disgrace. The issue is no one's totally sure what happened, making The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls the kind of page-turning family drama you won't want to put down.
Magical Negro by Morgan Parker (released Feb. 5)
A catalog of black everydayness through verse, Magical Negro explores a wide range of topics, from ancestral trauma to grief and stereotypes about black Americans. Parker turns her attention to black womanhood specifically, creating a space to bear witness, point out patterns, and help black women find one another within its pages.
American Spy: A Novel by Lauren Wilkinson (coming Feb. 12)
A black spy operating during the heart of the Cold War? Sign us up. The novel centers around Marie Mitchell, a US intelligence officer sent to Burkina Faso to undermine Thomas Sankara, a revolutionary president with communist ideologies. She spends a year getting close to the president, but what she finds out in the process surprises her. American Spy promises to be a riveting thriller — one you won't be able to put down.
Queen Bey: A Celebration of the Power and Creativity of Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, edited by Veronica Chambers (coming March 5)
In a post-Beychella world, it's only right that there's a book devoted to the genius that is Beyoncé, whose name now auto-corrects on iPhones everywhere. She's sold over 100 million records and won 22 Grammys, and she's the most nominated woman of the award. Queen Bey: A Celebration of the Power and Creativity of Beyoncé Knowles-Carter celebrates this, with pieces written by everyone from director and producer Lena Waithe to British Vogue Editor in Chief Edward Enninful.
The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton (coming March 5)
The second installment in the Belles series, The Everlasting Rose picks up with Camellia Beauregard trying to help Princess Charlotte and restore her rightful place as queen of Orléans. Together with the Iron Ladies, a society that rejects beauty treatments entirely, she uses her powers and connections to restore peace to the kingdom . . . and has to make sacrifices along the way.
Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi (coming March 5)
Fans of Helen Oyeyemi know that whatever the author has up her sleeve, it's sure to be a little magical and surreal. Such is the case with Gingerbread, a novel inspired by the symbolism of gingerbread in classic children's stories. The book centers around Perdita and Harriet Lee, who seem normal on the surface but live in a gold-painted seventh-floor walk-up and have talkative plants. Oh, and then there's the gingerbread, which earns mixed reviews in London but is very popular in the (possibly fictional) land of Druhástrana. It's a surprising and satisfying tale and a must-read for old and new fans alike.
The White Card by Claudia Rankine (coming March 19)
The first published play from Citizen author Claudia Rankine, The White Card poses the question of whether American society can progress if whiteness remains invisible. Explored over the course of a one-act play, the drama finds meaning in the white spaces (both literally and figuratively), leaving the reader to navigate where they stand.
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams (coming March 19)
Queenie follows a 20-something Jamaican-British woman living in London and facing the very real pressure of being black in the workplace while still navigating newly single life. You'll likely feel seen while reading this (yes, it's that relatable), an example of what happens when you go looking for love and find something else instead.
The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell (coming March 26)
If you're a fan of epic stories that are set off by one seemingly small action, then The Old Drift is a must for your TBR stack. Beginning in 1904, an old drifter ties the fates of an Italian hotelier and an African busboy, and the rest is history (and Afronauts, microdrones, and viral vaccines).
New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Writing by Women of African Descent by Margaret Busby (coming May 7)
Twenty-five years after Margaret Busby published Daughters of Africa, a collection considered "the ultimate reference guide" by The Washington Post at the time of publication, comes New Daughters of Africa, an anthology comprised of some of the most influential voices of our time. Spanning the globe, Busby includes authors from Antigua to Zimbabwe, Angola, and the United States too. You'll likely find a few familiar faces within its pages, like Yrsa Daley-Ward and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and discover much, much more.
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (coming May 7)
From the author of National Book Award longlist title The Poet X comes With the Fire on High, a novel about Emoni Santiago, a teen mother who makes magic in the kitchen. Even though becoming a full-time chef seems like the impossible, Emoni has a gift she can't ignore, forcing her to make a choice about what comes next.
Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn (coming June 4)
When Patsy gets her visa to America, she's thrilled to join her friend and secret love, Cicely. America turns out to be different from what she anticipates, and she's forced to do what she has to in order to survive as an undocumented immigrant, including working as a nanny and bathroom attendant. Meanwhile, back in Jamaica, her daughter, Tru, struggles with her own sexuality, as well as feeling abandoned by a mother who has no intention of coming back. Patsy is the second book from powerhouse Nicole Dennis-Benn, and it promises to be a searing and memorable read.
Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi (coming June 4)
The second book in the Children of Blood and Bone series, Children of Virtue and Vengeance promises to be as page-turning as the first. (Warning: spoilers ahead!) At the outset of the book, magic is back in Orisha, and not just for the maji. Whether they find a way to come together or plunge deeper into unrest remains to be seen, but if the first book is any indication of what's to come, your heart will be racing until the very last page.
1919 by Eve Ewing (coming June 4)
Award-winning poet Eve L. Ewing turns her attention to the Chicago Race Riots of 1919 in 1919, exploring the violence of the event through poems and stories of everyday people trying to survive. Her work illuminates the thin line between past and present while also casting a daring look toward the future.