During Black History Month, it’s essential to read books that confront the realities of racism, prejudice and suffering black people have endured. But there are times when it is critical to highlight for everyone, including black people, where black characters are praised for being who they are or having a happy ending. It’s lovely to see black people just living their lives and being great at things, and we are not defined by the suffering we endured.
So if you are looking for books that celebrate the joys and tribulations of being black, then the following books are an excellent way for you to get started:
Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold by Bolu Babalola
A high-born Nigerian goddess, who has been beaten down and unappreciated by her gregarious lover, longs to be truly seen. A young businesswoman attempts a great leap in her company, and an even greater one in her love life. A powerful Ghanaian spokeswoman is forced to decide whether she should uphold her family’s politics or be true to her heart.
In her debut collection, internationally acclaimed writer Bolu Babalola retells the most beautiful love stories from history and mythology with incredible new detail and vivacity. Focusing on the magical folktales of West Africa, Babalola also reimagines Greek myths, ancient legends from the Middle East, and stories from long-erased places.
With an eye towards decolonizing tropes inherent in our favorite tales of love, Babalola has created captivating stories that traverse across perspectives, continents, and genres. Love in Color is a celebration of romance in all its many splendid forms. (Credit: William Morrow & Company)
The Banned Bookshop of Maggie Banks by Shauna Robinson
I, Maggie Banks, solemnly swear to uphold the rules of Cobblestone Books. If only, I, Maggie Banks, believed in following the rules.
When Maggie Banks arrives in Bell River to run her best friend’s struggling bookstore, she expects to sell bestsellers to her small-town clientele. But running a bookstore in a town with a famously bookish history isn’t easy. Bell River’s literary society insists on keeping the bookstore stuck in the past, and Maggie is banned from selling anything written this century. So, when a series of mishaps suddenly tip the bookstore toward ruin, Maggie will have to get creative to keep the shop afloat.
And in Maggie’s world, book rules are made to be broken.
To help save the store, Maggie starts an underground book club, running a series of events celebrating the books readers actually love. But keeping the club quiet, selling forbidden books, and dodging the literary society is nearly impossible. Especially when Maggie unearths a town secret that could upend everything.
Maggie will have to decide what’s more important: the books that formed a small town’s history, or the stories poised to change it all. (Credit: Sourcebooks Landmark)
American Royalty by Tracey Livesay
Sexy, driven rapper Danielle “Duchess” Nelson is on the verge of signing a deal that’ll make her one of the richest women in hip hop. More importantly, it’ll grant her control over her life, something she’s craved for years. But an incident with a rising pop star has gone viral, unfairly putting her deal in jeopardy. Concerned about her image, she’s instructed to work on generating some positive publicity… or else.
A brilliant professor and reclusive royal, Prince Jameson prefers life out of the spotlight, only leaving his ivory tower to attend weddings or funerals. But with the Queen’s children involved in one scandal after another, and Parliament questioning the viability of the monarchy, the Queen is desperate. In a quest for good press, she puts Jameson in charge of a tribute concert in her late husband’s honor. Out of his depth, and resentful of being called to service, he takes the advice of a student. After all, what’s more appropriate for a royal concert than a performer named “Duchess”?
Too late, Jameson discovers the American rapper is popular, sexy, raunchy and not what the Queen wanted, although he’s having an entirely different reaction. Dani knows this is the good exposure she needs to cement her deal and it doesn’t hurt that the royal running things is fine as hell. Thrown together, they give in to the explosive attraction flaring between them. But as the glare of the limelight intensifies and outside forces try to interfere, will the Prince and Duchess be a fairy tale romance for the ages or a disaster of palatial proportions?
Wash Day Diaries by Jamila Rowser and Robyn Smith
Wash Day Diaries tells the story of four best friends–Kim, Tanisha, Davene, and Cookie–through five connected short story comics that follow these young women through the ups and downs of their daily lives in the Bronx.
The book takes its title from the wash day experience shared by Black women everywhere of setting aside all plans and responsibilities for a full day of washing, conditioning, and nourishing their hair. Each short story uses hair routines as a window into these four characters’ everyday lives and how they care for each other.
Jamila Rowser and Robyn Smith originally kickstarted their critically acclaimed, award-winning slice of life mini comic, Wash Day, inspired by Rowser’s own wash day ritual and their shared desire to see more comics featuring the daily lived experiences of young Black women. Wash Day Diaries includes an updated, full color version of this original comic–which follows Kim, a 26-year-old woman living in the Bronx–as the book’s first chapter and expands into a graphic novel with short stories about these vibrant and relatable new characters.
In expanding the story of Kim and her friends, the authors pay tribute to Black sisterhood through portraits of shared, yet deeply personal experiences of Black hair care. From self-care to spilling the tea at an hours-long salon appointment to healing family rifts, the stories are brought to life through beautifully drawn characters and different color palettes reflecting the mood in each story.
At times touching, quiet, triumphant, and laugh out loud funny, the stories of Wash Day Diaries pay a loving tribute to Black joy and the resilience of Black women. (Credit: Chronicle Books)
A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
Between grad school and multiple jobs, Naledi Smith doesn’t have time for fairy tales…or patience for the constant e-mails claiming she’s betrothed to an African prince. Sure. Right. Delete! As a former foster kid, she’s learned that the only things she can depend on are herself and the scientific method, and a silly e-mail won’t convince her otherwise.
Prince Thabiso is the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo, shouldering the hopes of his parents and his people. At the top of their list? His marriage. Ever dutiful, he tracks down his missing betrothed. When Naledi mistakes the prince for a pauper, Thabiso can’t resist the chance to experience life–and love–without the burden of his crown.
The chemistry between them is instant and irresistible, and flirty friendship quickly evolves into passionate nights. But when the truth is revealed, can a princess in theory become a princess ever after? (Credit: Avon Books)
Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood edited by Kwame Mbalia
Picking out a fresh first-day-of-school outfit.
Saving the universe in an epic intergalactic race.
Finding your voice–and your rhymes–during tough times.
Flying on your skateboard like nobody’s watching.
And more! From seventeen acclaimed Black male and non-binary authors comes a vibrant collection of stories, comics, and poems about the power of joy and the wonders of Black boyhood.
Contributors include B. B. Alston, Dean Atta, P. Djèlí Clark, Jay Coles, Jerry Craft, Lamar Giles, Don P. Hooper, George M. Johnson, Varian Johnson, Kwame Mbalia, Suyi Davies Okungbowa, Tochi Onyebuchi, Julian Randall, Jason Reynolds, Justin Reynolds, DaVaun Sanders, and Julian Winters
Hey You!: An Empowering Celebration of Growing Up Black by Dapo Adeola
Remember to dream your own dreams
Love your beautiful skin
You always have a choice.
This book addresses–honestly, yet hopefully–the experiences Black children face growing up with systemic racism, as well as providing hope for the future and delivering a message of empowerment to a new generation of dreamers. It’s a message that is both urgent and timeless–and offers a rich and rewarding reading experience for every child. To mirror the rich variety of the Black diaspora, this book showcases artwork from Dapo Adeola and eighteen more incredible Black illustrators in one remarkable and cohesive reading experience. (Credit: Nancy Paulsen Books)
Love In Winter Wonderland by Abiola Bello
Trey Anderson is popular and handsome, and he works at his family’s beloved Black-owned bookshop, Wonderland. Ariel Spencer is quirky, creative, and in need of a holiday temp job to cover her tuition for The Artists’ Studio. An opening at Wonderland is the answer . . . and the start of a hate-to-love journey for Trey and Ariel. When Trey and Ariel learn that Wonderland is on the brink of shutting down, can they get over their differences and team up to stop the doors from closing before the Christmas Eve deadline?
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost–but not quite–dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?
- Enjoy a drunken night out.
- Ride a motorcycle.
- Go camping.
- Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
- Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
- And… do something bad.
But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.
Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.
But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior… (Credit: Avon Books)
Black Joy edited by Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff and Timi Sotire
Black joy is . . .
The babble and buzz of the barber shop.
Chicken and chips after school with your girls.
Stepping foot in your mother country for the very first time.
Feeling at one with nature.
Learning to cook souse with your mum.
Connecting with the only other Black colleague in your workplace.
Loving and finding complete happiness in your fatness.
Joy surrounds us. It can be found it in the day to day. It’s what we live for. So why do we so rarely allow ourselves to revel in it? This must-read anthology is your invitation to do so – and is a true celebration of Black British culture in all its glory.
Edited by award-winning journalist, and former gal-dem editor-in-chief, Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff and up-and-coming talent Timi Sotire, twenty-eight iconic voices speak on what Black joy means to them in this uplifting and empowering anthology. (Credit: Penguin Random House Children’s UK)
It’s Always Been Ours: Rewriting the Story of Black Women’s Bodies by Jessica Wilson
In It’s Always Been Ours eating disorder specialist and storyteller Jessica Wilson challenges us to rethink what having a “good” body means in contemporary society. By centering the bodies of Black women in her cultural discussions of body image, food, health, and wellness, Wilson argues that we can interrogate white supremacy’s hold on us and reimagine the ways we think about, discuss, and tend to our bodies.
A narrative that spans the year of racial reckoning (that wasn’t), It’s Always Been Ours is an incisive blend of historical documents, contemporary writing, and narratives of clients, friends, and celebrities that examines the politics of body liberation. Wilson argues that our culture’s fixation on thin, white women reinscribes racist ideas about Black women’s bodies and ways of being in the world as “too much.” For Wilson, this white supremacist, capitalist undergirding in wellness movements perpetuates a culture of respectability and restriction that force Black women to perform unhealthy forms of resilience and strength at the expense of their physical and psychological needs.
With just the right mix of wit, levity, and wisdom, Wilson shows us how a radical reimagining of body narratives is a prerequisite to well-being. It’s Always Been Ours is a love letter that celebrates Black women’s bodies and shows us a radical and essential path forward to rediscovering their vulnerability and joy. (Credit: Hachette Go)
Maame by Jessica George
It’s fair to say that Maddie’s life in London is far from rewarding. With a mother who spends most of her time in Ghana (yet still somehow manages to be overbearing), Maddie is the primary caretaker for her father, who suffers from advanced stage Parkinson’s. At work, her boss is a nightmare and Maddie is tired of always being the only Black person in every meeting.
When her mum returns from her latest trip to Ghana, Maddie leaps at the chance to get out of the family home and finally start living. A self-acknowledged late bloomer, she’s ready to experience some important “firsts” She finds a flat share, says yes to after-work drinks, pushes for more recognition in her career, and throws herself into the bewildering world of internet dating. But it’s not long before tragedy strikes, forcing Maddie to face the true nature of her unconventional family, and the perils–and rewards–of putting her heart on the line. (Credit: St. Martin’s Press)
Black Oak: Odes Celebrating Powerful Black Men by Harold Green III
Black men are changing society and the world through mastery, innovation, and inspiration at a pace never seen before. In awe of the myriad ways in which Black men are using their vision and power to remake culture and society, spoken word artist Harold Green began writing odes recognizing the extraordinary accomplishments of a series of Black men, which heshared on his Instagram account–tributes that went viral and became a social media sensation. Black Oak brings together many of these popular odes with original works written for this collection.
Divided into five sections–bravehearts, champions, dreamers, guardians, and humanitarians–Black Oak features iconic men who are spearheading movements, fighting for equality, challenging the status quo, embracing fatherhood, providing a transformative model of masculinity for our children, inspiring a new generation of creators, and more. Through these beautifully written verses, Harold does not simply place the Black men in this book on a pedestal, he transcends even the most positive stereotypes to view these men and their accomplishments in a new light, and creates meaningful connections between these beloved figures and the lives and experiences of readers of all backgrounds. (Credit: Harper Design)
Self-Care for Black Women: 150 Ways to Radically Accept & Prioritize Your Mind, Body, & Soul by Oludara Adeeyo
Between micro- and macro-aggressions at school, at work, and everywhere in between, it’s tough to prioritize physical and mental wellness as a Black woman, especially with a constant news cycle highlighting Black trauma. Now, with The Self-Care for Black Women you’ll find more than 150 exercises that will help you radically choose to put yourself first. Whether you need a quick pick-me-up in the middle of the day, you’re working through feelings of burnout, or you need to process a microaggression, this book has everything you need to feel more at peace.
You’ll find prompts like:
-Map out your feelings about a microaggression
-Make a list of your safe spaces
-Detail out an entire day dedicated to your self-care
It’s time to put yourself first and prioritize your self-care once and for all–and this book is here to help you do just that. (Credit: Adams Media Corporation)
Who’s Loving You: Love Stories by Women of Colour by Sareeta Domingo
Who’s Loving You is a collection of short stories celebrating desire and love in all its guises, written by and reflecting the experiences of women of colour in an authentic way.
The stories are authored by some of the best storytellers working in the UK today, with the full line-up of contributors to be announced shortly.
WHO’S LOVING US? LET US SHOW YOU…(Credit: Trapeze)
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