Books, in particular novels, are a wonderful way to explore and educate ourselves on experiences we have never and will never encounter. Whether they are set in history, another country or just altogether depict an existence unlike our own, brilliant fiction is the window to the world of others.
And as the Black Lives Matter movement continues to reveal racial injustices every day, it comes as no surprise that, just like any other industry, the publishing industry is stacked against black authors. The protests and conversations of the last few weeks, prompted by the brutal death of George Floyd, have resulted in non-fictions works such as Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race and Layla F Saad’s Me and White Supremacy to sell out around the world.
While these books are extremely informative and provide vital reading, fiction should not be forgotten about in times like these. While you can never fully understand an experience you have never had, novels by black authors can offer a unique perspective and the chance to read and learn about experiences unlike your own as a non-black person.
If you want to diversity your book shelf, here are just a few of our favourite novels by black authors to start with.
8 novels by black authors to add to your bookshelf
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020, Queenie is the debut novel from Candice Carty-Williams. Between her work, family, friendships and love life, it seems Queenie is struggling to get anything right, but it’s no wonder when no one seems to really understand her. Queenie is equal parts darkly humorous and heart-wrenchingly poignant, and Carty-Williams is especially good at commenting on mental health in the black community.
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
We could suggest any of Zadie Smith’s books here (and do), but Swing Time is her most recent novel to be released. It follows the push and pull relationship between an unnamed protagonist and her childhood best friend, a friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties as their lives go in very different directions. Zadie comments so poetically on themes of identity, race and class as the 2017 Man Booker Prize longlist novel flits between childhood and adulthood; north west London and West Africa.
Sula by Toni Morrison
The Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison wrote 11 novels in her lifetime before she sadly passed away last year. Other novels of hers such as Beloved are more well-known, but Sula is an equally breathtaking read. A story of two best friends, Nel and Sula, who grow up together in the mid-West before Sula runs away to follow her dreams in the city while Nel stays in their hometown to get married and raise a family.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Kiley Reid’s debut novel was published last year to explosive success. When Emira is apprehended at a supermarket for supposedly kidnapping the white child she is actually babysitting, a chain of events begin to unfold, including a surprising connection coming to light between Emira and her feminist blogger employer. Commenting on power dynamics, privilege, race and political correctness, Kiley Reid deftly navigates a number of complicated and explosive subjects.
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is a collection of short stories by the award-winning ZZ Packer that expertly showcases the writer’s talent. In one story we watch events unfold as a Brownie troop of black girls are confronted with a troop of white girls; in another a young man attends the Million Man March with his father.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love as teenagers in military-occupied Nigeria. But when Ifemelu leaves for America she encounters defeats and triumphs while being confronted with her race for the first time. A post-9/11 America makes it much harder for Obinze to join Efemelu in America and instead diverts to an undocumented life in London. Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2014, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie tells a powerful story of love, race and identity.
Ordinary People by Diana Evans
Diana Evans exquisitely tells the story or the lives of two married couples set against the backdrop of Barack Obama’s election victory. One couple is navigating the tribulations of a new baby, while the other is struggling through the messiness that is the grief of a dead parent. Both are navigating the landscape of black and mixed-race middle class domesticity, while Evans expertly weaves themes of identity, parenthood, sex, grief, friendship, ageing and the fragile architecture of love throughout.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2019, Girl, Woman, Other follows a cast of twelve character as they journey through Britain and the last hundred years. While their stories are vast, they all share one thing in common, thatchy are looking for something – a shared past, an unexpected future, a place to call home, somewhere to fit in, a lover, a missed mother, a lost father or even just a touch of hope.