Malcolm X once said that “I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity” — and at Word In Black, we agree. With book bans sweeping the nation, we’re reminded how our ancestors fought and died for the right to read. Nowadays, due to inequities in our school systems, many Black adults struggle with literacy, as do our children. That’s why we’re so committed to reading, and to highlighting the work of Black authors. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, if it tells the story of Black America and sheds light on our experience, we’re reading it — and sharing it with you.
This book list will be updated periodically, and be sure to follow us on Instagram where we shout out a new Black book every Friday!
1. Take My Hand – Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s “Take My Hand” tells the story of Civil Townsend, who is just starting her first nursing job in Montgomery, Alabama. The story follows her work with the town and then jumps to the future when she is ready to retire and leave the past behind. But certain stories can’t be forgotten.
2. It Was All a Dream: Biggie and the World That Made Him – ESPN journalist Justin Tinsley released this deeply reported biography in honor of what would have been Biggie’s 50th birthday. Through interviews with many people in his life, this book offers a new and fresh take on the life of Christopher Wallace.
3. Big Girl – Mecca Jamilah Sullivan’s “Big Girl” follows 8-year-old Malaya as she grows up in 90s-era Harlem. Malaya would much rather eat forbidden street foods with her dad than go to Weight Watchers meetings with her mom. Facing various pressures, she keeps gaining weight until a family tragedy makes her address the true source of her hunger.
4. The Changeling – Following one man’s thrilling journey through an enchanted world to find his wife who has disappeared after seemingly committing an unforgivable act of violence, Victor Lavalle’s “The Changeling” creates a complex world full of magic, love, loss, and mystery.
5. Rest Is Resistance – From the founder of The Nap Ministry, “Rest Is Resistance” is Tricia Hersey’s manifesto, written to help guide others through breaking free from the grips of grind culture. The book teaches readers that rest is an essential tool in reclaiming power and resisting systemic oppression.
6. Feeding the Soul (Because It’s My Business): Finding Our Way to Joy, Love, and Freedom – “Feeding the Soul” by vegan influencer and actress Tabitha Brown does exactly what it came to do — feed our souls. The memoir lets us in on some of Brown’s most precious moments, reveals the health challenges she’s faced, and how she became one of today’s most popular internet cooks. There’s so much wisdom baked into the book, and it is sprinkled with her unique humor and topped with tasty plant-based recipes!
7. Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions: A Novel in Interlocking Stories – This novel follows Nonso, Remi, Aisha, and Solape from their boarding school days in Nigeria through adulthood in America. Author Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi shares moving stories around loss, belonging, family, friendship, alienation, and silence.
8. My Government Means to Kill Me – By Author Rasheed Newson, this coming-of-age novel follows Earl “Trey” Singleton III as he leaves his wealthy Indianapolis upbringing and escapes to New York. Set in the mid-80s, Trey becomes a gay rights activist and seeks out “the meaning of life amid so much death.” Newson’s novel is fast-paced, funny, and vibrant.
9. Black Cake – After the death of their mother, two estranged siblings are forced to come back together to face their puzzling inheritance: a black cake from an old family recipe — and an hours-long voice recording full of secrets, mystery, and new truths. “Black Cake” is Charmaine Wilkerson’s debut novel.
10. Inciting Joy – Ross Gay considers the joy we incite when we care for each other, especially during life’s inevitable hardships. Throughout “Inciting Joy,” Gay explores how we can practice recognizing those connections, and how we can expand them.
11. South to America – Imani Perry’s novel weaves together stories of immigrant communities, contemporary artists, exploitative opportunists, enslaved peoples, and unsung heroes to take readers on a surprising journey through the history, rituals, and landscapes of the American South. “South to America” won Perry the 2022 National Book Award for nonfiction.
12. Legendborn – In part one of the Legendborn series, Tracy Deonn shares the story of Bree Matthews who learns of her unique magic and comes across a secrety society of students who hunt down magical creatures. Soon, she has to face the decision of taking down the secret society or joining the fight in the upcoming magical war.
13. Last Summer on State Street – In “Last Summer on State Street,” Toya Wolfe describes a fateful summer where a Chicago neighborhood falls apart around Felicia “Fe Fe” Stevens, and her friendships go with it. As Fe Fe reflects on the summer years later, Wolfe tells an era-defining story of finding home in yourself and your history.
14. Finding La Negrita -Natasha Gordon-Chipembere introduces readers to a famed African sculptor who is stolen into slavery and must buy his freedom to reunite with his newborn daughter in this retelling of the Black Madonna narrative. “Finding La Negrita” spans time and space, freedom and enslavement.
15. Nightcrawling – Kiara is just trying to pay rent so she and her brother don’t get evicted. After a drunken misunderstanding with a stranger, Kiara enters the world of nightcrawling, and she becomes a key witness in a huge scandal involving the Oakland Police Department. “Nightcrawling,” Leila Mottley’s debut novel, was selected as an Oprah’s Book Club pick.
16. Ghetto Gastro Presents Black Power Kitchen – This cookbook/manifesto was created with big Bronx energy by Jon Gray, Pierre Serrao, and Lester Walker. The book features 75 mostly plant-based recipes, and each recipe is flavored with storytelling, diverse voices, and beautiful photographs.
17. Black Boy Smile: A Memoir in Moments – In his coming-of-age memoir, D. Watkins — now a prominent author, college professor, and editor-at-large of Salon.com — tells the story of what it was like to be nine years old in Baltimore at the height of the crack epidemic. He talks about his relationships with his father and brother, explores manhood, and details his pursuit of redemption.
18. People Person – In “People Person,” Candice Carty-Williams tells the story of 30-year-old Dimple Pennington, whose life isn’t going anywhere. But one day, a dramatic event brings her and her four estranged half-siblings together and forces them to reconnect with the absent father they never really knew. Things get complicated.
19. In Every Mirror She’s Black – Told from three different perspectives, Lola Akinmade Åkerström’s “In Every Mirror She’s Black” follows three Black women who are all linked to the same white man in Stockholm. Through each of their viewpoints, the story touches on racism, classism, fetishization, tokenism, and what it means to be a Black woman navigating a white-dominated society.
20. Moonrise Over New Jessup – In 1957, Alice Young leaves the only home she’s ever known to live in New Jessup, Alabama, an all-Black town where residents rejected integration as the means for Black social advancement. She falls in love with Raymond Campbell, who is secretly organizing activities that challenge the town’s status quo and could lead to the couple’s expulsion — or worse. In Jamila Minnicks’ “Moonrise over New Jessup,” Alice seeks to find a way to balance her support for Raymond with her desire to protect New Jessup.
21. Relations: An Anthology of African and Diaspora Voices – Nana Brew-Hammond’s “Relations” features stories, poems, and essays by African and diaspora writers that embrace the diversity of Blackness. Both new and established writers dive into the truth of shared humanity despite differences of language, identity, class, gender, and beyond.
22. Queenie: Godmother of Harlem – This graphic novel follows the life of Stephanie Saint-Clair, the infamous criminal from 1930s Harlem. She rose up through poverty and extreme racism to become the queen of Harlem’s mafia and a defender of the Black community. But as Prohibition comes to end, and under threat of Italian mobsters who want to take over her operation, she launched a war to save both her territory and her skin. “Queenie: Godmother of Harlem,” by Elizabeth Colomba and Aurélie Lévy, tells the story of a genius woman forgotten by history.
23. Wade in the Water – Ella is an unloved and precocious 11-year-old living in racially divided Ricksville, Mississippi in 1982. A mysterious white woman from Princeton, Ms. St. James, appears in the community for some research and soon befriends Ella, who is willing to risk everything to keep her friend in a town that doesn’t want her there. Nyani Nkrumah’s “Wade in the Water” tells the story of this unlikely friendship that, while loving and funny, becomes fraught and complex as Ella pushes Ms. St. James’ carefully constructed boundaries.