Books With a Strong Black Lead That Everyone Should Read

Treat yourself to a good book this Black History Month.

1. Things Fall Apart

BY CHINUA ACHEBE

A classic if there ever was one. First published in 1958, this story shares familial love, abuse, patriarchy, colonialism and honor in a true-to-life depiction during the colonization of Nigeria. Wrestling champion Okonkwo of the fictional tribe Umuofia battles with a changing world and tradition. You will love and hate all the characters and the depth of each of their personified figures. This is for sure a must read.

2. The Other Wes Moore

BY WES MOORE

This is a humbling and intriguing true story of two young Black boys that share the same name and neighborhood. Born blocks apart the dichotomy between their life stories is astounding. One grew up to become an author, attended college and is a decorated veteran while the other was convicted of murder and is serving a life sentence. This story shows the raw truth of just how fine a line it is between being a successful Black person and marginalized by a system built against you.

 

 

3. Chains

BY LAURIE HALSE ANDERSON

Following a thirteen-year-old slave named Isable and her sister, Ruth, in New York City during the American Revolution. They are owned by a malicious couple who are against the uprising of the colonies, but in a twist of fate Isabel turns spy for the patriots and embarks on the dangerous task of informing on her owners. In a desperate quest for freedom this book will depict how far a pair of sisters will go to break their chains.

4. Elijah of Buxton

BY CHRISTOPHER PAUL CURTIS

This is an incredible story that will make you laugh, cry, and has an ending you never will have seen coming. It follows eleven-year-old Elijah Freeman, the first child born to freedom in a small ex-slave settlement in Buxton, Canada. While he was once known in his town for being the child who threw up on Frederick Douglass, Elijah must grow up or die as he learns of the world that his parents so desperately wanted to escape, and he had never known. This may be labeled as a children’s book but there is graphic content that might sting the heart of any age.

5. Citizen: An American Lyric

BY CLAUDIA RANKINE

This is an amazingly composed series of poetry that tells the story of racism and microaggressions in America. In eloquent turn of phrase and astoundingly accurate sentiments which could only have been drawn from real experiences will draw on the emotions of ‘those who know’ and help elaborate on questions of etiquette for ‘those who don’t.’ An advanced read, you could analyze one page for weeks, but the points are so clear you could read it in a day.

6. Teaching for Black Lives

BY DYAN WATSON, JESSE HAGOPIAN AND WAYNE AU

For all the educators out there, or anyone who wishes to understand the dire restraints placed on the educational system which target and perpetuate institutional racism, this is your book. It outlines, in a clear and well-researched fashion, how individuals can make a change and what needs to be addressed about the education system to create a fair and equitable foundation for the future of Black children.

7. Ghost Boys

BY JEWELL PARKER RHODES

This story follows the ghost of a twelve-year-old named Jerome, who was the most recent victim of police brutality. Mistaking his toy for a gun he was murdered and came back as a ghost to observe his community. This book tackles the emotional and complex truths about how families must cope in a racist society.

8. The Hate U Give

BY ANGIE THOMAS

Banned by school officials in Texas for “inappropriate language” that features police brutality, profanity, racism, drug use and violence this is a book everyone should have on their shelf. It is a coming-of-age story that follows sixteen-year-old, Starr Carter, who must try to do what she thinks in right through a bout with the criminal justice system. Taking part in a trial when an officer murdered her childhood best friend right in front of her. This book tackles what it looks like to face the justice system from the eyes of a Black girl.

9. We Are Never Meeting in Real Life

BY SAMANTHA IRBY

This hilarious series of essays talks about romance, dating, sex and random thoughts from her life. If you need a laugh or something to lighten any mood, this is the book for you.

10. Hunger

BY ROXANE GAY

The writing in this book is phenomenal with inspirational wit and inventive turn-of-phrase. Her memoir from the perspective of a Haitian American queer author about body positivity, sexual assault, commentary on society and firsthand experiences.

11. Americanah

BY CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE

This is the story of how two people who fell in love separated to find a better life in America from a military ruled Nigeria. Ifemelu moves to America and sees what it means to be Black and a foreigner in another country. While Obinze must remain to stay in London as an undocumented citizen and can’t re-unite with Ifemelu because of newly imposed 9/11 restrictions.

12. The Color of Law

BY RICHARD ROTHSTEIN

This is a brilliantly reported novel about how U.S. governments in the twentieth century deliberately imposed racial segregation on cities and towns nation-wide. It does not hold punches as it dives into gerrymandering, public housing, tax exemptions, support for violent resistance to Black people who move into historically white neighborhoods and how police and prosecutors perpetuate these institutions which are still in place to this day. This is a thorough and hard-hitting investigation into the very institutions that uphold this country.

13. Becoming

BY MICHELLE OBAMA

Of course, we cannot forget the recent release of Michelle Obama’s book! From her dedication to charity to her prowess and charge of any situation, she can inspire anyone by just being her. Her autobiography explores her time before during and after being the First Lady during Barak Obama’s time in office. The strain on her marriage, pressures from the nation and what she thinks needs to be done about the hardest issues facing our country.

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