There’s no shortage of fantastic Black female authors to add to your book list. From both the 20th and 21st centuries, these amazing authors have shaped the way we read literature.
This list of books and authors is not in any way comprehensive. There are hundreds of other books, stories, and histories by Black female authors essential to literature, but these are just a few of our favorites.
1. The Bluest Eye—Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye is one of my favorite books from author Toni Morrison. Set in the 1940s, the book tells the story of Pecola, a young girl who frequently gets put down and called “ugly” for her mannerisms and her dark skin. This leads to her constant desire in her life for blue eyes throughout the book, something she equates with “whiteness.”
2. Americanah—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book Americanah tells the story of Ifemelu, a young Nigerian woman who attends university in the United States, where she struggles with racism for the first time. The book looks at Ifemelu’s life in both the U.S. and Nigeria and how her new life affects relationship with her high school love, Obinze.
3. The Hate U Give—Angie Thomas
The Black Lives Matter movement inspired author Angie Thomas to write her book, The Hate U Give. The book tells the story of Starr and her movement between the poor neighborhood she lives in and the suburban prep school she attends. But everything changes when she witnesses a police officer fatally shoot her childhood best friend, Khalil. In the book, his death sparks national outrage, leaving the community broken. Starr’s next steps throughout the book could further rock her community but could also endanger her life.
4. The Vanishing Half—Brit Bennett
Author Brit Bennett’s book, The Vanishing Half, examines how the past can shape decisions, desires, and expectations in a person’s life. In the book, we follow the Vignes twins who grew up in a small, southern Black community that they ran away from at sixteen. Ten years later, one twin lives with her daughter in that same town while the other twin secretly passes for white. Throughout the book, we see how the twins’ lives are still intertwined. The book explores the history of “passing” in America and why people can feel compelled to live as something other than who they are.
5. The Color Purple—Alice Walker
Author Alice Walker’s book, The Color Purple, focuses on the life of Celie, but also the position of Black women in the southern U.S. during the 1930s. The book shows how Celie survives abuse at the hands of her father and later her husband. Throughout the book, the thing that gets Celie through everything is the hope that one day she will reunite with her sister in Africa.
6. Such a Fun Age—Kiley Reid
Author Kiley Reid’s bookx Such a Fun Age, looks at how good intentions can be mismanaged and do more harm than good. The book follows Alix Chamberlain, a white blogger who asks her Black babysitter Emira to take her toddler to the local market for a distraction. At the market, a security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping the child. Throughout the book, Alix’s attempts at rectifying the situation don’t turn out as planned.
7. An American Marriage—Tayari Jones
Author Tayari Jones’ book, An American Marriage, was featured in Oprah’s Book Club in 2018. The book follows newlyweds Celestial and Roy as they create a new life together. Unexpectedly, Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime that Celestial knows he did not commit. During his time in prison, she takes comfort in Andre, her childhood best friend and best man at their wedding. But when Roy’s conviction is overturned after five years, their life together is not the same as it was when they first married.