Since the killing of George Floyd and arrests of the four officers involved, thousands of people across the country and the world are protesting for the Black Lives Matter movement. Many companies—including Her Campus and HC at Geneseo—are speaking up for Black individuals who still face racism from many people and police officers. In addition to speaking up, the best thing we all can do is educate ourselves. One way to do this is by reading books by Black authors.
Black voices and experiences deserve to be heard, so we decided to share some titles we have read by Black authors. We did not intend to leave out men, but these were the first books that came to our minds. We encourage people to buy these books and research even more from Black-owned bookstores. We are also continuously looking for more books to read and educate ourselves on anti-racism.
In no particular order, here are eight books that we have read by Black female authors and recommend you check out.
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
In her debut novel, Morrison has readers examine a young black girl and how her idea of what beauty and ways in which she can be accepted by society are manipulated based on what she experiences because of the color of her skin and the opportunities that she and her family are given as a result. Beauty, cleanliness and success are equated with whiteness while being black is associated with the opposite. In establishing the dichotomy of society, Morrison creates an environment that is truly thought-provoking on American societal norms (Emily).
- The Long Song by Andrea Levy
I was introduced to Levy freshman year by an amazing professor. Sadly, Levy has since passed, but her amazing stories and poems live on. The Long Song was the first full length book that I read from her. It is a historical neo-slave novel set in Jamaica about the life of a young slave named July. The book is an incredible work of metafiction, which means that the narrator reminds herself and the reader that they are reading a story. This book highlights the struggles of Black individuals during slavery far beyond the borders of this country. I am hoping to read more of Levy’s work as soon as I can (Rebecca).
- Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
I read this novel for class this past semester, and the professor had prefaced our reading of it by telling us how eerie it would feel reading it in the midst of a pandemic even though it takes place several years in the future. It was chilling, and now after the death of George Floyd and the events that occur in response, the stories that happen in the book and the experiences the characters have feel all too real to be a science-fiction novel. I am looking forward to reading Butler’s sequel, Parable of the Talents, as soon as I can get my hands on it (Emily).
- Becoming by Michelle Obama
I knew I had to read this book the second it came out. Former President Barack Obama is amazing, but many people do not know how incredible Michelle is too. Becoming is a memoir of her entire life—not just her time as former first lady—split into three sections. This book is important because it highlights the powerful work Michelle has done with her life even as she struggled to find her voice and place in society. It is a true story of a strong Black woman who came from little and became a fantastic mother, wife, advocate, and a person (Rebecca).
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
This book is one of my favorites that I have read for class as the storytelling Gyasi constructs is magical. It is told in a multi-generational format through the points of view of two families—one whose ancestors were involved in the slave trade and the other whose ancestors were enslaved. It left me with a greater understanding of the slave trade, slavery and the effects not only on those directly affected but also on the generations that come after them (Emily).
- Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Smith is another author that was introduced to me by my amazing professor. The plot features two bi-racial girls growing up in England who love to dance. Our unnamed narrator seems to feel overshadowed by her friend, Tracey; however, both grow into adulthood and move onto different things that allow them to shine in their own ways. This book is a powerful story that takes place across three continents and highlights the difficulties of having a Black and a White parent. It is the classic coming-of-age story reimagined, and I felt connected to our narrator through every twist and turn (Rebecca).
- Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
Since June is also Pride Month, I thought it was important to point to this beautifully told story about a young Nigerian woman in the midst of the Biafran War as she comes of age and realizes that she is attracted to women. Due to laws in Nigeria, she must keep this hidden out of fear of being imprisoned or killed. I loved Okparanta’s writing and found the novel incredibly informative on the experiences that women may have in Nigeria (Emily).
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Hate U Give was a powerful book first before it became a movie, and there are many nuanced scenes that do not make the film. The basic plot is that Starr, a young girl black girl, witnesses her unarmed best friend be murdered by a white police officer. The characters are extremely developed, and the language is beautiful. This book is a symbol of finding your voice when there is injustice. It also reflects the current climate and Black Lives Matter movements around the world (Rebecca).
This list is by no means finished, and there are many Black male authors such as Fred D’Aguiar, and James Baldwin that we have read too. We would love to hear about more books that we can read to educate ourselves and support Black authors.
Reading is just one way that people can help Black individuals during this time. There are many other resources to read, petitions to sign, representatives to email, ways to volunteer and places to donate. In addition, people can register to vote and let your voices be heard.