Last week I joined a Twitter chat, talking about the Black Lives Matter movement, which then evolved into talking about media by Black artists and creators. As we were discussing books, The Colour Purple by Alice Walker in particular, one member said something that stuck with me – to read books that focused on Black joy rather than simply trauma.
It got me thinking about all of the fantastic books I’ve read with Black protagonists living their lives. There are some in this list that deal with racism and police brutality but not all.
I’ve pulled together some books that I’ve enjoyed personally and that you will hopefully enjoy. If you have any more please do recommend them in the comments.
The Black Flamingo – Dean Atta
Dean Atta wrote a beautiful novel in verse about a young man growing up, exploring his sexuality and learning about drag culture. A quick read but one that’s incredibly well written. You can read a full review here.
Everything, Everything – Nicola Yoon
It’s been a long time since this came out but Nicola Yoon has a way for writing stories that involve romance that make you think about the bigger picture. The novel follows a teenager who has a rare medical condition meaning she can’t leave her home and her journey of falling in love with the boy next door. It’s adorable.
The Sun Is Also A Star – Nicola Yoon
Another romance but set over a day if I remember rightly between two young people who are trying to deal with forces outside their control. Natasha is fighting the deportation order against her family and Daniel is feeling the pressure from his parents standards. Another truly wonderful love story that will make you think about possibilities. You can read a review here.
With The Fire on High – Elizabeth Acevedo
The first Elizabeth Acevedo novel that I read and I devoured it as much as I wanted to devour the cooking that is described. It follows a young mother trying to juggle high school, caring for her daughter, her future dreams and career. A really wonderful book that you should not read on an empty stomach.
Clap When You Land – Elizabeth Acevedo
I was lucky enough to recieve an early copy of this book and it was absolutely brilliant. The story of two young women who lose their father in a plane crash. What they don’t know is that they have the same father, they didn’t know the other existed. This is probably one of my favourite reads of 2020 so far. Review here.
Dear Martin – Nic Stone
A story of police violence and the first I read (I think). Justyce begins to question the world around him after being faced with discrimination from a police officer. He begins writing letters to Martin Luther King jr as he tries to navigate being a young black man. A really interesting read and especially poignant. You can read a review here.
Tyler Johnson Was Here – Jay Coles
After Marvin’s twin brother is found dead after a house party he and his mother think that is bad enough, that is until a recording surfaces that changed everything. Tyler was murdered by a police officer. As his brother becomes a hashtag, he needs to pick up the pieces of a family left behind. Get your tissues for this one, review here.
Piecing Me Together – Renée Watson
I think this sentence from the blurb sums up this novel perfectly ‘Friendships, race, privilege, identity—this compelling and thoughtful story explores the issues young women face.’
Full Disclosure – Camryn Garett
Full Disclosure is about a young woman living with HIV and trying to live her life as a normal teenager, while also trying to keep her status a secret. It covers friendship, romance has LGBT characters and is about a topic I hadn’t read about before. It an incredible book you can read a review here.
We Will Not Be Erased: Our Stories About Growing Up As People Of Colour – Gal-Dem
I’m not entirely sure that this is YA but it is a really great read, especially for those of us who have grown up with White Privilege. The people who have written for this book identify as people of colour, but I would still include it in this list. I read this back in May and it was eye opening, I’d highly recommend picking it up.