For Black Art, 2018 was a historic year. With Oscar-nominated films like Black Panther and If Beale Street Could Talk and widely-read fiction like Tayari Jones’s AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE, we’ll surely celebrate it during Black History Months to come. But 2018 was only the beginning of exciting fiction, poetry, and nonfiction to come. In 2019 buzz-worthy debuts like QUEENIE by Candice Carty-Williams, Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s WE CAST A SHADOW, and so many more, will be published along side beloved Black writers like Marlon James, Angie Thomas, and Colson Whitehead. Here are a few of the Black authors you should be reading this year.
Kiese Laymon’s fearless memoir has already garnered praise from Roxane Gay, Eve Ewing, and the audiobook has been honored as the 2018 Audible Audiobook of the Year. Once you dig into HEAVY, it’d be difficult not to see what all the fuss is about. HEAVY explores what the weight of a lifetime of secrets, lies, and deception does to a black body, a black family, and a nation teetering on the brink of moral collapse.
Between her art, poetry, and advocacy for a fairer public school system, there’s no reason Eve Ewing should not be on your radar. While we await her new book 1919—which explores the story of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919—revisit Ewing’s debut poetry collection. ELECTRIC ARCHES is an imaginative exploration of Black girlhood and womanhood through poetry, visual art, and narrative prose.
With her new short story collection, BLACK ENOUGH, and her PRIDE AND PREJUDICE remix, PRIDE, Ibi Zoboi is bound to end up on your 2019 TBR. Why not start with the National Book Award finalist AMERICAN STREET? In this stunning debut, Zoboi draws on her own experience as a Haitian immigrant to tell the story of Fabiola Toussaint, who must tolerate her loud American cousins as her mother has been detained by US immigration. When a dangerous proposition presents itself, Fabiola soon finds that freedom comes at a steep cost.
In the vein of Luvvie Ajayi’s I’M JUDGING YOU, Michael Arceneaux’s hilarious, soul-searching essay collection explores what it means to be black and gay in America. Spoiler alert: it hasn’t been easy for Michael Arceneaux. With the characteristic wit and candor that have made him one of today’s boldest writers on social issues, Arceneaux writes about coming out to his mother, being approached for the priesthood, and the persistent challenges of young people who feel marginalized and denied the chance to pursue their dreams.
It’s been a few years since the Pulitzer Prize–winning THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD stole the spotlight on our reading lists. With Colson Whitehead’s new novel, NICKEL BOYS, hitting bookshelves this summer, we recommend revisiting one of Whitehead’s earlier novels, SAG HARBOR. Every summer, Benji Cooper escapes his predominantly white neighborhood and high school to Sag Harbor—a small Hamptons-like community of African American professionals. And although he’s just as confused about this all-black refuge as he is about the white world he negotiates the rest of the year, he thinks that the summer of ’85 might be one for the ages.
Benji Cooper is one of the few black students at his elite Manhattan prep school. But every summer, Benji escapes to Sag Harbor, where a small community of African American professionals have built a world of their own in the Hamptons. And although he’s just as confused about this all-black refuge as he is about the white world he negotiates the rest of the year, he thinks that the summer of ’85 might be one for the ages.
Jasmine's Guillory's latest novel THE PROPOSAL was recently announced as the new Reese Witherspoon X Hello Sunshine Book Club pick! If you've yet to read her work, start with THE WEDDING DATE, a light and breezy romance perfect for fans of the Debra Messing film of the same name. On the eve of his ex’s wedding festivities, Drew Nichols is stranded in an elevator with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend, Alexa Monroe. For Alexa, it’s a strange proposition, but there’s something about Drew that’s hard to resist. If you wish to see Black people featured more prominently in rom-coms, take a hint from Reese, read more Jasmine Guillory.
In 2018 there was an explosion of science fiction and fantasy featuring Black characters! BINTI is a short novel but a satisfying read for fans of Afro-futuristic books by Octavia Butler and Colson Whitehead or fantasy set in Africa like Tomi Adeyemi’s bestselling novel CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE. Binti is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza, the finest university in the galaxy. But to accept the offer, she’ll have to give up her place in her family, travel among strangers, and place herself in the crosshairs of a deadly intergalactic war. Later this year, Okorfaor will carry on the story of beloved Black Panther character Shuri in SHURI: THE SEARCH FOR BLACK PANTHER.
Marlon James’s new novel, BLACK LEOPARD, RED WOLF, is the first of a fantastical trilogy that you should not miss this year. Before you immerse yourself in this new world, reread James’s fictional exploration of an unstable and dangerous era in Jamaica history. On December 3, 1976, just before the Jamaican general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica Concert to ease political tensions in Kingston, seven unnamed gunmen stormed the singer’s house, machine guns blazing.
Mitchell S. Jackson's forthcoming memoir SURVIVAL MATH will take us inside the award-winning author's Oregon upbringing—blighted by drugs, violence, poverty, and governmental neglect. In his autobiographical novel, THE RESIDUE YEARS, Jackson writes about coming of age in the '90s Portland Oregon through the eyes of a young man, Champ, and his mother.
This story of a mother trying to stay clean and her son, who begins selling crack to support his mom and siblings, is in part based on Mitchell S. Jackson’s experience growing up black in Portland, Oregon (also known as America’s whitest city). A commanding meditation on social judgment, THE RESIDUE YEARS is utterly commanding and a force to be reckoned with.
Glory Edim founded Well-Read Black Girl book club in the hopes of shining a light on Black women writers and readers. From Lena Waithe rocking a WRBG tee in her Vanity Fair profile the highly successful Well-Read Black Girl festival—the name and brand has practically become a standard of living among Black female readers and a hub of sisterhood. In her anthology WELL-READ BLACK GIRL, Edim gathers an astounding group of Black women—including Jesmyn Ward, Tayari Jones, Jacqueline Woodson, Morgan Jenkins and more—to share original essays on gender, race, religion and ability, and emphasize on the importance of finding ourselves in literature.