Thanks to African American authors, we can all better understand the struggles and achievements of Black people in America.
And while Black History Month is observed every February, these works deserve to be celebrated all year long.
Best Books by Black Authors
Here is a list of some of the award-winning books written by African American authors:
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
This Newbery Award-winning coming-of-age novel follows Cassie Logan and her brothers as they experience first-hand the injustice and discrimination against African Americans in the cotton plantation towns of the South.
The story reaches its climax when a friend of theirs is accused of theft and murder.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
This 1988 winner of the American Book Award and 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction tells the story of an escaped slave named Sethe living in Ohio after the Civil War. She lives with her mother-in-law and her daughter, but is constantly haunted by the ghost of a baby girl she had and lost.
Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou
Set in the 1970s, this book won the 2018 Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for fiction. It tells the story of three orphans who escape from their orphanage and become a gang of thieves in Pointe-Noire, a busy port town in the Republic of the Congo.
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
This 2014 National Book Critics Award Circle finalist also won the Booker Prize and American Book Award in 2015. The book is a fictional oral history that tackles the characters and events around the attempted murder of Bob Marley in the late 1970s.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
National Book Award Winner for 2016, The Underground Railroad follows the adventures of Cora, a young slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia.
In her attempt to find freedom through the Undergound Railroad with a new friend named Caesar, she accidentally kills a young white boy, and the authorities end up hunting them down.
Delicious Foods by James Hannaham
Darlene is a widow who is lured away by a shady company which holds her captive as a hard laborer. In the midst of her drug addiction and captivity, she struggles to be reunited with her young son, whom she had left back home.
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
The National Book Awardee tells the horrific tale of Hurricane Katrina from the perspective of one family that struggles to survive amidst their own personal problems.
Fourteen-year-old Esch is pregnant, and her father is a hard drinker who is primarily absent and passive as a parent. This gives us a heart-wrenching glimpse of rural poverty.
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
A 2016 National Book Award Finalist, this coming-of-age story reveals glimpses of August’s childhood in Brooklyn.
It captures her relationships with her friends Angela, Gigi, and Sylvia, and with her brother and father, giving us a heartwarming tale of kinship and friendship.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Young People’s Literature National Book Award winner in 2014, Brown Girl Dreaming tells the story of Jacqueline Woodson’s childhood in poetry form. Using vivid verse, she tells about her experiences growing up as an African American around the Civil Rights movement.
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
This satire describes a young man’s upbringing and a trial that brings him to the Supreme Court, exploring issues related to the United States Constitution, the civil rights movement, racial inequality, and father-son relationships.
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
This 2013 National Book Award-winner tells the story of Henry Shackleford, a young slave in 1857 who joins the antislavery crusade by dressing as a girl. Throughout the months, Henry, nicknamed Little Onion, has to conceal his true identity to survive.
Blonde Faith by Walter Mosley
L.A. detective Easy Rawlins finds his friend Black’s daughter on his doorstep, giving him a clue that Black is likely dead. He investigates and uncovers connections to Vietnam that could help solve Black’s disappearance.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
This autobiography shares the author’s experience with rape and racism growing up in the South. She recounts her hardships, beginning with the rape that left her mute for five years. Eventually, she finds happiness in the birth of her son.
The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou
This 1981 memoir follows the author’s life over the course of several years: her son is now a teenager and she travels across continents, publishes her first book, and gets involved in the civil rights movement.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
This story follows Janie as she tells her friend Phoeby about her three marriages and her quest for love. Her grandmother had arranged her first marriage with Logan Killicks, who treats her like a child and expects blind submission.
Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston
In this autobiography, Zora Neale Hurston describes her childhood as a poor black female. The book portrays a dynamic woman who beats the odds to reach a liberated and rewarding destiny.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
The author’s first novel, published in 1958, has since been translated into over 50 languages and sold about 20 million copies. The story explores the struggles of Christian missionaries influencing African culture during Nigeria’s colonial years.
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
This Nobel Prize winning novel is about the Seven Days, a group of black men who take justice into their own hands: for every murder of a black person that does not get served justice, they kill a white person in the same way.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
This story follows Pecola, a girl struggling as she grows up black in the years following the Great Depression. Because of her dark skin and mannerisms, people consistently label her “ugly,” and she wishes so much that she had blue eyes.
How We Fight for our Lives by Saeed Jones
This bestselling memoir follows the life of Saeed Jones as a young gay man growing up in the South. His poignant and transparent sharing gives us a glimpse into his struggles of navigating difficult relationships with lovers, friends, and family.
More Than Enough by Elaine Welteroth
Formerly the editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, Elaine Welteroth writes a candid memoir about her childhood in California as the daughter of interracial parents. She shares about her ambition and eventual foray into journalism, as well as important lessons she learned in her journey.
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
One of the bestsellers of 2019, this novel follows the life of a 25-year-old journalist in London, who struggles to bounce back from a serious breakup. She encounters challenges along her way to happiness, including second-guessed decisions and several men.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
This first book of a young adult fantasy series tells the story of Zélie. She has magical powers, but needs to hide them because an evil king who conquers the land is on a quest to kill those with these abilities. Zélie has an opportunity to bring magic back to the people and does whatever it takes to do so.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
This National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winner tells the story of resilient and courageous Celie, who grew up poor in rural Georgia. Her sister, Nettie, leaves their life of poverty to be a missionary in Africa, while Celie starts writing letters to God over a period of 20 years.
Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan
This New York Times bestselling novel follows the lives and relationships of Bernadine, Gloria, Robin, and Savannah, who are all in their mid-thirties. After being disappointed by the men in their lives, they turn to one another and find that they can finally pursue their dreams.
Getting to Happy by Terry McMillan
This sequel to Waiting to Exhale continues the story of the same four women, who, now in midlife, remain as vivid and sassy as ever. Savannah, Robin, Bernie, and Gloria grapple with difficult questions of love and loss while supporting each other as everything falls apart around them.
Bloodchild by Octavia Butler
This modern science fiction story takes place on a distant planet that houses human children being groomed to become the hosts for the alien Tlic’s offspring. The process sometimes goes off without a hitch, but other times, it does not go as harmlessly as expected.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
This Hugo Award-winning science fiction book is set on a planet made up of a single supercontinent, where a “Fifth Season” of extreme climate change takes place every few centuries.
The story starts with one of the powerful characters dividing this supercontinent, which threatens the worst Fifth Season in the planet’s history.
Not Without Laughter by Langston Hughes
This novel recounts the story of young Sandy Rogers, an intelligent but sensitive black boy in a small town in Kansas. It traces his childhood and adolescence with his grandmother in the center of his existence.
Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
This novel tells the story of John Grimes, a 14-year-old living in Harlem in 1935. The book uses flashblacks to provide insights into the lives of John’s parents, showing his link to a slave grandmother in the South generations earlier.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Written as a letter to the author’s 15-year-old son, Between the World and Me intertwines the author’s historical, intellectual, and personal development in his advice to his boy on how to live black in America.
Just Above My Head by James Baldwin
The novel traces the story of a group of friends during the civil rights movement in America. The expert storytelling explores issues of racism and homophobia, with one of the main characters being a homosexual who achieves worldwide fame.
Award-Winning Books by African American Authors
These books by African American authors can provide each of us with a broader worldview, which is just one reason why diversity in literature is so important.
Pick up one of these outstanding reads today to gain new perspectives and support diverse authors.
Which of these books would you like to add to your booklist this month? Share in the comments below.
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Yen Cabag is the Blog Writer of TCK Publishing. She is also a homeschooling mom, family coach, and speaker for the Charlotte Mason method, an educational philosophy that places great emphasis on classic literature and the masterpieces in art and music. She has also written several books, both fiction and nonfiction. Her passion is to see the next generation of children become lovers of reading and learning in the midst of short attention spans.