African American Representation in Fiction Novels



In recent years, there has been an emergence of African American protagonists in nonfiction novels. This is a huge stepping stone for people of color because in the past, representation of African Americans in novels were severely lacking.

Writers such as Toni Morrison and James Baldwin have amazing works of art that highlight the struggles that many African Americans have faced, from slavery to present day. They touch upon deep rooted issues that those in African American community continue to face. These issues include European beauty standards effects on young African American girls, colorist, incest, lack of mental health awareness, drugs, “jezebels”, sexual assault, gangs, and poverty.

Novels written about these issues motivate the Black Lives Matter movement, encouraging African Americans to discover themselves, and to be proud of the skin that they were born in. It also allows people to not let their environments define who they are or determine how far in life they will go. However, I do not want to take away from the many talented authors who have been making African American characters their protagonists in nonfiction novels for many years but, I want to focus on the lack of African American characters in fiction novels.

Early this year, Angie Thomas published, ‘The Hate U Give,’ and it was a major hit. Many people, both African American and non-African Americans were able to relate to the story. The characters were going through things that many parents, teens, and young adults have seen currently on social media, or even have experienced first-hand. I loved reading every single page of it, but despite how successful the book was, I felt like something was missing.

The other day I was watching a YouTube video titled ‘Why representation in fiction matters: black history month discussion’ by littlewolfreads. She talked about a lot of things that she was proud of in regards to African American characters in novels.

You could tell that she was very passionate about what she was saying, and then she started to cry…you know when someone cries, you have no control over yourself and you start to cry too? Well, that’s what happened to me. I found myself crying while listening to her talk about what she was feeling. Please watch the video and come back when you’re done.

I have a love for books that developed from a very young age. It started out with Judy Bloom books, moved up to Nancy Grace, and the eventually I was hooked onto the Vampire Academy and Night World. It was these books that exposed me to the world of supernatural creatures and parallel universe.

Once I had my first taste of these novels, I could never go back to ordinary books. All I can find myself reading is dystopian and science fiction novels. You read about the creative, technologically advanced societies and imagine yourself in them, but can you really imagine yourself in them when time and time again, characters who look like you don’t exist? Or if they do, they’re never an important character in the novel.

I would love to see more novels with African American protagonists as wizards, witches, vampires, werewolves, villains, angels, shadowhunters, etc. I want to be able to see myself in these novels, I want my future kids to be able to see themselves in these novels. I don’t want to be reading a book crying because someone got raped, killed by the police, lives in a gang infested community. We see/hear about it all the time in the news. Sometimes we want a little escape, and books are our escape.

I want to see more novels similar to Black Panther. It is important that we start a movement to increase the representation of African American characters in Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Dystopian, and more. We live in a time where people want to see themselves represented, not hidden. If we want to see a change, we have to be this change.

If you’re a writer, please do something different. We already have novels like The Hunger Games, Twilight, Divergent, and Harry Potter where the protagonists are non-African American characters. Why don’t we write our novels with more representations of people of color? I also want to add that I’m not asking writers to only write about African American characters, I’m asking you all to make your novels more diverse.

The more diverse our books are, the more the younger generation will be more accepting of people who may not look the same as them. It’s a step to breaking racial barriers.