On Reading Black Authors: I Need to do Better

Last week I took a step back from Arub Unwritten, to focus on sharing awareness about the Black Lives Matter movement, signing petitions, donating where I could. (This site outlining ways to help is a great place to start.) While I cannot understand what it’s like to grow up as a black person, let alone in America, I think most POC growing up in the West are aware of structural racism. And those who are privileged enough to just be waking up to this, please do go and educate yourselves. There are so many recommendations on books which educate on systemic racism, imperial history, the experience of black people. One I’d recommend is Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race as we often forget how much racism exists the UK too. Reading books is one of many ways to educate ourselves (asking black friends to teach you to be less racist on the other hand is not).

I wasn’t conscious about the authors I was reading for a long time. And I’ve read a lot of white authors. Part of that is because publishing has always favoured white authors and that’s what was out there, part of that was age – you don’t think a lot about what you’re reading , just whether you enjoy it. The first time I read about a character who wasn’t white was in a Malorie Blackman book and it had never occurred to me that a character could be brown. I used to write stories all of the time as a child but none of my protagonists reflected my skin tone. Being white as a central, universal experience is made the norm through stories.

I can excuse the fact that my reading choices weren’t so diverse in the past. I have no excuse anymore.

Sure, I read black authors at uni but there is a gap between reading something academically versus the number of books I have read on my own (and truly loved). Once the media hype dies down, we need to continue supporting black people, including authors. But to limit our reading to ‘black’ issues also places people in a limited narrative defined only by suffering and victimhood. We need to read about people of colour as people.

One of my resolutions this year was to read more Asian authors (after a not so successful YARC last year) and to read more books by women of colour. I have not been very successful so far. So here’s a mid-year resolution reminder to myself and a pledge to do better when it comes to black authors too 

So here is a list of books by black authors from my TBR that I am determined to prioritise going forward.

Flourish

Sci-Fi

Kindred

Kindred – Octavia E. Butler

The first sci-fi book by a black woman and notably *not* included in my very white sci-fi module at uni. Follows an African-American woman who is wrenched through time and finds herself in the Antebellum South where she is a slave before jumping back to the present.

Binti – Nnedi Okorafur

A novella following Binti, the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at the prestigious intergalactic Oomza University. She is on her way when her ship is hijacked. (I bought the ebook last week so no excuses not to read it!) 

The Fifth Season – N.K. Jemisin

The first in the Broken Earth series, true to its name it begins as the empire collapses, citizens are murdered, a great red rift is town into the heart of the earth.

New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color – Nisi Shawl (ed.)

Pretty much summed up by the title I think and, an opportunity to find multiple new POC authors. 

Mirage – Somaiya Daud
Royal courts, in space ft. politics, love and a Middle Eastern world. Lush.

Fantasy

Children of Virtue and Vengeance – Tomi Adeyemi

The sequel to Children of Blood and Bone, set in the African-inspired land of Orïsha where tiders, burners, reapers are amongst the magical folk whose power has been stamped out by the magic-fearing monarchy. With a cliffhanger ending on Book 1, I really should get round to reading it.

Kingdom of Souls – Rena Barron
Witchdoctors, demons and deadly deals involving with your soul – yes, I am intrigued.

Historical

The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead

This book takes the metaphorical Underground Railroad that was used to help free slaves in America and makes it real, adding a fantastical element to this historical fiction.

Dread Nation – Justina Ireland

Zombies x American Civil War x badass female protagonist. This is one of the few combinations that makes a war story intriguing for me.

Contemporary

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

Following the shooting of an unarmed black boy, this book embodies the reality of the Black Lives Matter movement perfectly and is very relevant right now. I’ve seen the film and need to get round to the book . 

Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi

This book spans generations, initially following the story of two sisters and how their lives are changed because of the slave trade with one sold to slavery and the other becoming a slave trader’s wife. 

Non-Fiction

Becoming

BecomingMichelle Obama

I’m not a big biography person but Michelle Obama is such an inspiring figure, I am sure that this book will be amazing. Plus, rave reviews.

Flourish

Okay, so those are some of the books on my TBR at the moment by black authors. Have you read any of these books? Which should I read first?

I would love to hear suggestions, if you have any (particularly SF and fantasy) that I can add to my TBR. We need to make a conscious effort to read black authors until we reach a point where we don’t have to. 

2 thoughts on “On Reading Black Authors: I Need to do Better

  1. Such a good list! I would recommend starting with The Hate U Give cause there’s really no one quite like Angie Thomas out there. You will fall in love with Starr’s family so hard!

    I need to read some Octavia Butler too. All I hear is how incredible she is

    Liked by 1 person

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