BY KAMDYN ROHER
With Black History Month coming to a close, it is imperative that Black authors get their well-deserved recognition every day of the year, not just during the month of February. Being exposed to different points of view is vital in becoming a well-rounded individual and these books are a great place to start. Here is an unranked list of some of the best novels authored by Black Americans:
“Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi
Inspired by West African mythology, “Children of Blood and Bone” is the first novel in Adeyemi’s “Legacy of Orïsha” trilogy. The land of Orïsha used to be ripe with magic until one day, it suddenly disappeared. The cutthroat king had ordered all magic-bearers, the maji, to be slaughtered. Protagonist Zélie Adebola remembers what it was like before fear and hopelessness blanketed the world and she is determined to get it back. Striking against the monarchy with the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must evade the crown prince who is all too eager to eradicate magic for good. This young adult high fantasy novel is perfect for fans of “Harry Potter” and “An Ember in the Ashes,” as it is similarly full of magic, mystery and darkness. Drawing on themes of slavery, oppression and racism, “Children of Blood and Bone” is a beautiful novel that puts our world into a new perspective.
“The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett
Following the lives of the Vignes twins, Desiree and Stella, “The Vanishing Half” explores American history through the eyes of two extremely different women. At sixteen, the twins ran away from their southern Black community. Years later, their lives have gone in completely separate directions. Desiree has returned to their community, raising her daughter in the same town she tried to escape. Across the nation, Stella has reinvented herself as a white woman. Married to a white man who knows nothing of her past, Stella, too, raises a daughter of her own. However, no matter how many miles separate the twins, fate keeps them clutched tightly in its grasp. Their intertwining paths create an emotional and heartbreaking story that considers the impact of our past decisions on our lives forever. This is more than just a book about what it means to be a passing Black woman—it is a book about what it means to be human.
“Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body” by Roxane Gay
In her soul-wrenching memoir, Gay dives into her violent and saddening past head-on. After a traumatic experience at 12 years old, Gay sought to protect herself and her body. She thought that the bigger she was, the safer she would be. This collection of essays utilizes her own psychological and physical experiences as a means to explore pleasure, consumption, appearance and health in a vulnerable and real manner. Such a powerful novel may be unsuitable for some readers as difficult topics regarding rape, racism, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), body-shaming and feminism are all touched upon throughout Gay’s journey of self-discovery. Nevertheless, “Hunger” is a heartbreaking and inspirational story that all readers should experience.
“Salvage the Bones” by Jesmyn Ward
“Salvage the Bones” is a raw, eye-opening work of fiction that illustrates the troubling time of the days before and during Hurricane Katrina. Taking place in Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, the novel follows Esch Batiste, her brothers and her alcoholic father. Already struggling financially, the Batiste family can’t seem to catch a break and the hurricane on its way is not helping. At fourteen, Esch is pregnant. Even though they are stockpiling food, Esch’s brother is sneaking some away to feed his prized pitbull and her new pups. Her younger brothers are just trying to experience that family dynamic that they are missing. Beautifully written, “Salvage the Bones” gives readers a glimpse into the lives of many poor American families. Family, sacrifice and love make this book extremely heartfelt and even dark at times in a poetic manner that brings the story to life.
“The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead
As the title suggests, “The Underground Railroad” is exactly about that—except with a creative twist. Cora is a slave on a cotton field and her life is a living hell. When she meets Caesar and he tells her of the Railroad, she takes the risk and begins her journey to freedom. Pursued by slave hunters, Cora accidentally kills a young white boy who intended to capture her. Always on the move, Cora flees state to state in hope of finding solace for herself. Facing countless obstacles, Cora’s determination and will keep her moving forward. Horrific and tragic, “The Underground Railroad” is a gruesome tale of slavery that educates readers in a unique and fresh way.
Photo by Emma Huerta