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.
24. Driving the Green Book: A Road Trip Through the Living History of Black Resistance – Author Alvin Hall drove from New York to Detroit to New Orleans to revisit the world of The Green Book, visiting motels, restaurants, shops, and stores where Black Americans once found a friendly welcome. “Driving the Green Book” features historical and cultural landmarks, as well as memories from some of the last living witnesses for whom The Green Book meant survival.
25. Daughter in Exile – Bisi Adjapon’s “Daughter in Exile” follows 21-year-old Lola, who leaves Senegal when she falls in love with an American Marine. The story tells of her struggles to make a life in the U.S., the challenges she must overcome, love, and what defines us all.
26. Choosing Family: A Memoir of Queer Motherhood and Black Resistance – Told against the backdrop of Chicago’s North and South Sides, “Choosing Family” is a memoir of chosen family and chosen heritage. Francesca T. Royster focuses on herself, her white wife, and the Black daughter they adopted later in life. The memoir chronicles the journey of motherhood, as well as the complexities of adopting and parenthood from a Black, queer, and feminist perspective.
27. The Humanity Archive – Jermaine Fowler’s “The Humanity Archive” uses storytelling techniques to make history come alive and uncover the truth behind America’s whitewashed history. Fowler goes outside the textbooks, connects current issues with the heroic struggles of those who came before us, and brings hidden history to light.
28. Rules of Engagement – Written under pen name Selena Montgomery, Stacey Abrams’ “Rules of Engagement” tells the story of Dr. Raleigh Foster, an operative for a top-secret intelligence organization. Paired with an alluring partner, Raleigh needs to stay focused on the mission while being distracted by mounting tension between them.
29. I Can’t Save You – As a self-described “not white, mostly Black, and questionably Asian man,” Dr. Anthony Chin-Quee shares stories from his life and career in his harrowing, hilarious, honest, and human memoir “I Can’t Save You.”
30. On the Rooftop – In “On the Rooftop,” Margaret Wilkerson Sexton tells the story of a mother trying to launch her three reluctant daughters into stardom as their 1950s-era San Fransisco changes around them.
31. Real Friends Talk About Race – In Real Friends Talk About Race, friends Yseult P. Mukantabana and Hannah Summerhill share their perspectives on the ways culture, history, and white supremacy prevent us from having the skills to build trust and healthy relationships across race. The essential guide is for those who want to have stronger interracial relationships — whether it’s with friends, colleagues, or loved ones.
32. The Black Three – Grayville High School in Grayville, Tennessee, a “sundown town” prior to the mid-sixties, never had a Black basketball player. After a Nigerian doctor moves to town with his sons, the GHS basketball team gets its first three Black players. “The Black Three,” by Gene Skipworth, chronicles the realities the boys encountered.
33. The People of Ostrich Mountain – In “The People of Ostrich Mountain,” it’s 1950, and Kenya’s Mau Mau war is breaking out. Wambũi, a 14-year-old, travels across the country to a prestigious boarding school where she learns of her unique mathematical skills. She forms a lifelong friendship with her teacher that must withstand the powerful forces of race and nationality that strain to pull them apart.
34. The Suvivalists – In “The Survivalists,” Kashana Cauley tells the story of a single Black lawyer who puts her career and moral code at risk when she moves in with her coffee entrepreneur boyfriend and his doomsday-prepping roommates. The novel is full of dark humor, tension, and curiosity.
35. Travel North Black Girl – “Travel North Black Girl” is the unlikely story of finding one’s power. Olivia Hill’s memoir addresses the complexity of race, gender, generational trauma, and powerful healing through humor, adventure, and painful reckoning that speaks to us all.
36. The House of Eve – Set in the 1950s, Sadeqa Johnson’s “The House of Eve” is a daring and redemptive novel that explores what it means to be a woman and a mother, and how much one is willing to sacrifice to achieve her greatest goal.
37. Symphony of Secrets – Brendan Slocumb’s “Symphony of Secrets” tells the story of a professor who uncovers a shocking secret: the most famous American composer of all time stole music from a young Black composer named Josephine Reed. Bern Hendricks is determined to uncover the truth and right history’s wrongs.
38. Rising – In her memoir “Rising,” Graci Harkema shares her experience growing up as an adoptee from the Congo in Michigan. She details claiming and living her own story, becoming a successful consultant on diversity, equity, inclusion, racial justice, LGBTQ+ equality, and women in business.
39. A Dash of Salt and Pepper – Xavier Reynolds has to move back to his hometown (population 9,000) and work as a prep chef in a kitchen run by Logan O’Hare. Their work styles are not compatible — but are they? Find out in Kosoko Jackon’s “A Dash of Salt and Pepper.”
40. We See Each Other: A Black, Trans Journey Through TV and Film – In “We See Each Other,“ journalist and podcast host Tre’vell Anderson writes a part-memoir, part-history of trans visibility in TV and culture. As Anderson goes through the history of on-screen representation, they connect these moments to their own formative experiences as a Black, trans journalist.