8 contemporary black novelists to read now

Fill Your Summer Reading List With Some of These Leading Black Voices in Fiction

In times of stress, I have always turned to reading, but recently it has become more difficult.

Author James McBride and his new book, Deacon King Kong | Credit: Associated Press/PBS NewsHour

When I sit on my porch and open a book, an immediate guilt washes over me. This leads me to pick up my phone, quickly refreshing apps to keep me informed.

To become the best versions of ourselves, we all need to pause and take a break from scrolling on our phones. The best way to do this is to put the phone on airplane mode and sink into a good book.

The Rise of the Anti-Racism Reading List

But what should you read now? According to Instagram stories and Amazon’s top 10 list, you should read books about race in America.

Immediately following the global protests following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, there was an outpouring of “anti-racism book listswhich primarily feature non-fiction works about race in America.

I soon noticed that these important works were often missing (and I implore my white friends to read as many as they can get their hands on) thrillers.

There are so many black authors who tell us complex, layered stories with unforgettable black characters.

Now, more than ever, I believe in the importance of contemporary Black voices in fiction. There are so many black authors who tell us complex, layered stories with unforgettable black characters. These books are just as powerful as these (important) books on racism for white people.

Here are eight novels by black authors to add to your ever-growing summer reading pile:

The Succulent World of Jasmine Guillory

Looking for something light to counteract this harsh reality? Turn to Jasmine Guillory, a novelist who has produced five delicious novels in two years, each one better than the other. They all feature black female protagonists and are incredibly addictive.

This spring, I snuggled up to his fourth novel, royal holidays. Inspired by our own princess Meghan Markle’s mother, the story centers on Vivian Forrest, a social worker in her fifties who follows her designer daughter to England and finds herself swept away by the Queen’s right-hand man, Malcolm. Guillory’s last, Group of two, was released on June 23.

A one-way trip from Earth

After lifting my spirits with the romance, I turned to a good old-fashioned fantasy escape. i ran through by Tomi Adeyemi Children of Blood and Bones and I have already ordered the sequel. This series is filled with the kind of magic and mystery that I would have killed to have in my preteen years.

Children of Blood and Bones follows Zélie Adebola as she travels the kingdom of Orïsha to restore magic and fight against the savage reign of King Saran, and tackles themes of fate, colorism and prejudice.

Surrendering to this story before going to bed every night helped me reconnect with hope and reminded me that even now there is magic to be found if we are willing to search hard enough. . Next up for me is NK Jemisin’s new sci-fi adventure The city we have become.

Looking back (through history)

If you are unfamiliar with Brit Bennett, click on her now and order her latest novel, The evanescent half. After his marvelous debut as an adult, The mothers, Bennett returns with a gorgeous story spanning five decades in the lives of twin sisters – one who secretly passes for white and the other who doesn’t.

After devouring Bennett’s book, I was hungry for more historical fiction and turned to James McBride’s latest, Deacon King Kong , to fill this gap. The last choice of Oprah’s book club, this is sure to be one of the biggest books of the summer.

To end this list, there is another author that I like, Yaa Gyasi. His amazing beginnings, Back home, traces the legacy of two sisters in 18th century Ghana. One sister is sold to the Gold Coast slave trade and the other marries an Englishman. Her second novel, transcendent realm, comes out this fall.

Coming of age (queer)

All Black lives matter, and so do all black stories; be sure to take the opportunity to read the works of our black LGBTQ writers.

by Brandon Taylor Real life is yet another first novel that brings me comfort right now. The story follows Wallace, a queer black man from Alabama, as he navigates his Midwestern college town. I was looking forward to getting my hands on this book and wish I could read it again for the first time. The next LGBTQ book on my radar is The death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi, which debuts in August.

Why Fiction?

Reading is simply a must for me. It provides balance and keeps me sane. Fiction illuminates what lies deep within us, forcing us to consider our own humanity at the turn of each page, to dig deep into what connects us and, more importantly, what separates us. Take the time to read black fiction. It will do you good.

(Editor’s Note: This is a condensed version of an article recently published on Rewiring.)