10 Books By Black Authors That Should Be Required Reading In 2020

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10 Books By Black Authors That Should Be Required Reading In 2020

The support for Black Lives Matter has been great to see, especially the new-found support from the white community. While everyone is eagerly reading up on how to be a Black ally, we should also be sharing and reading stories by Black authors.

Recognizing that the Black experience is more than trauma is something that we often fail to consider. Thinking of white literature, we heap praise on authors for their ability to transport us into a narrative, but what about Black authors?

It is important to read, share, and uplift Black stories and commit to supporting the Black community. I cannot emphasize the importance of literature enough. To read Black authors is to celebrate Black authors.

Of course, reading essays and books on anti-Black racism is tremendously essential; it helps people understand systemic racism and its role in society. However, reading books by Black authors contributes to the understanding of Black perspectives. Black authors contribute to revealing the racial disparities between white and Black people, and reading them can share the magic of Black narratives, and most importantly of all, it supports those authors whose books are being read.

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1. How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi explores the concept of racism, how it has evolved, and finally, he explores anti-racist actions that individuals can do, and systemic changes within our broken system.

Not only did this book debut to positive reviews, but it has also become a best seller. More importantly, reading this book is important in acknowledging the role we play in racism, how engrained it is in our society, and what ways we can change.

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2. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

The Fire Next Time is a non-fiction book containing two essays, “My Dungeon Shook” and “Down at the Cross.” The first essay is written as a letter to Baldwin’s nephew. It discusses race in America and urges his nephew to redirect his anger into action. The second essay deals with Christianity in the Black community, and the effects it has upon Black people.

The Fire Next Time is deeply emotional. “My Dungeon Shook” frankly describes the treatment endured by Black men in America, and America’s ability to destroy the Black community. It is raw and passionate, and it forces us to confront the truth about our treatment of Black men.

“Down at the Cross” takes a close look at religion, and how it can repress the experiences of those within the church. As a teen pastor, Baldwin has an enlightening view on religion, and the oppression it creates.

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3. Beloved by Toni Morrison

Without giving the plot away, Beloved, written in 1987, deals with the lives of former slaves living in a haunted house. The book is so much more than that, but I don’t want to spoil it!

Morrison is a brilliant author. This book deals with multiple themes, including motherhood, slavery, memory, community and home. Beloved captures the cruelty of slavery in painful detail, familial bonds and the communities created by former slaves. It’s an incredible read and stands the test of time.

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4. Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

Sister Outsider is a collection of essays and speeches by Audre Lorde. This book deals with Audre Lorde’s experiences as a Black woman, lesbian, poet, activist, mother, cancer survivor, and feminist author.

Lorde’s book was groundbreaking for its intersectionality. As discussed in the introduction, exploring different perspectives is the key to learning and development. This book makes some uncomfortable, but that is the beauty. Sister Outsider questions privilege and complicity, something we all should be doing.

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5. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vanishing Half, published in 2020, is centered on twin sisters; light skinned Black women. The sisters split up, and this novel looks at their lives thereafter.

This book is a definite page turner — I haven’t put it down since I began it a few days ago. The themes of intergenerational trauma, racial identity, bigotry, and secrets keeps the reader engaged, and pushes them to think diligently about the issues it presents.

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6. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

This book might be the oldest on the list. Written in the Harlem Renaissance, this novel is another intergenerational novel, spanning the lives of three Black women. It’s hard to break down the plot of this novel as so much happens, but the main focus is the life of Janie.

This book examines gender roles, masculinity, and silence.

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7. Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim

Well-Read Black Girl is an anthology of essays from various Black female authors.

This anthology gives a voice to Black women and allows them to shine. Black literature is uplifted and given power, something that is lacking in traditional literature circles. This book is a great way to read many Black female authors!

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8. Our Sister Killjoy by Ama Ata Aidoo

Our Sister Killjoy is the story of an African woman Sissie and her experiences with European education.

I read this book early in my English career. I remember how poignant and powerful it was. The biggest reason to read this book is the theme of colonization of the mind. Aidoo succinctly shows the effects of colonization on the minds of Africans. Aside from the great story, the novel is written beautifully, in verse and prose.

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9. I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

Austin Channing Brown’s memoir explores what is like to grow up Black, Christian, and female in white America.

As Penguin Random House explains, “I’m Still Here is an illuminating look at how white, middle-class, Evangelicalism has participated in an era of rising racial hostility, inviting the reader to confront apathy, recognize God’s ongoing work in the world, and discover how blackness — if we let it — can save us all.”

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10. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

This book is a science fiction book about time travel, with a twist. Dana, the protagonist, finds herself traveling from 1976 Los Angeles to pre-Civil War Maryland. 

Kindred features realistic depictions of slavery and slave communities, critiques American history, confronts intergenerational trauma, race, femininity and master-slave power dynamics. It's creative, and powerful.

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Rachel Reed is a writer and editorial Intern with interests in news, culture, self, and relationships.

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