Black History Month is a time to reflect on the achievements and progress of the black race, and it also serves as a reminder to never be complacent. We still have a long way to go, and what better way to honor the month than to self-educate by reading books from black authors that speak to the black experience?
This year in honor of BHM, I want to share 10 books that I've learned a great deal from. My list (in no particular order) includes both nonfiction and fiction. Please comment with your recommendations because I know I missed a lot of good ones!
Black Boy (1945)- Richard Wright
Black Boy is the honest autobiography of critically acclaimed author and poet, Richard Wright. Wright, who grew up in poverty in Mississippi tells a moving story of hunger, the Jim Crow South, crime, racial animosity, violence, and manhood.
No Disrespect (1994)- Sister Souljah
Author, activist, and recording artist Sister Souljah grabs readers in this poignant account of her life. Her autobiography isn’t only a raw story detailing her experiences as a woman coming of age—she educates her audience on love and relationships, domestic violence, the welfare system, female sexuality, the black family, equality, accountability, beauty standards, and more.
Manchild in the Promised Land (1965)- Claude Brown
Claude Brown tells a story of overcoming a life of violence and crime amid the social climate of 1940s and 1950s Harlem. In his widely praised autobiography, Brown accurately portrays the characters of the neighborhood from the pimps and prostitutes to the drug dealers and addicts.
Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America (1994)- Nathan McCall
As the subtitle suggests, Makes Me Wanna Holler is about the black make experience in America. McCall details how racism, profiling, the criminal justice system, peer pressure, and thug culture among other factors contribute to the demise of black youth. In his jarring autobiography, McCall shows how he went from incarceration in Virginia to respected journalist at the Washington Post.
Native Son (1940)- Richard Wright
Wright’s novel Native Son stunned audiences with the story of Bigger Thomas, a young man who is so crippled with fear about his black body that he accidentally kills a white woman. This story addresses a larger truth about what it means to be black in America in the 1930’s.
Some People, Some Other Place (2004)- J California Cooper
Narrated by the voice of a yet-to-be-born baby, Some People, Some Other Place tells a mesmeric story about desperate hope for freedom, hard work, motherhood, love, and loss, all while portraying a complicated relationship between a black woman and white woman.
The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey (2010)- Walter Mosley
Like J California Cooper, Walter Mosley writes a prolific novel—a gem in the fiction genre. In this mysterious story about love, the audience is drawn to the main characters, untrusting 90-year-old Ptolemy and vivacious 17-year-old Robyn.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1987)- as told to Alex Haley
Malcolm X, one of our most radical leaders in recent American history, effectively touches the audience with stories from his past, capturing rage and redemption in his 1987 autobiography.
The Bluest Eye (1970)- Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye exposes young Pecola Breedlove’s perception of her own beauty. Pecola wants to be beautiful, and for her that means to have blond hair, light skin, and blue eyes. In a cultural phenomenon that still exists today with the concepts of “good hair” and light skin, The Bluest Eye is a painful read and reminder of the necessity of self-love and self-acceptance.
Invisible Life (1994)- E. Lynn Harris
Through the perspective of character Raymond Tyler, E. Lynn Harris writes an engrossing novel about the black gay community and educates the audience on the topics of race, self-acceptance, love, trust, bisexuality, and HIV/AIDS.
That’s all for my list! Have you read any of the books I mentioned? Comment with your book recommendations below! How are you celebrating Black History Month this year?