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9 Amazing #OwnVoices Books by BIPOC Authors to Read Now

Sienna Farris
January 25 2021
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I live my life by the mantra Always Be Reading. I am passionate about books, and I am even more passionate about making sure that diverse stories are heard and celebrated. In my new role at Simon & Schuster as the Vice President of Multicultural Marketing, I have been charged with identifying groundbreaking #OwnVoices BIPOC titles to champion each season, and I’m so excited to share these books with you. I connect with stories that intersect BIPOC lives—our identity, how we love and experience joy, and our unique perspective in this complex world.

Life After Death
by Sister Souljah

Superfans of Sister Souljah’s THE COLDEST WINTER EVER can rejoice, because one of the most infamous characters of the 1990s—Winter Santiaga—is back. For those of you not familiar with Winter, there’s still time to catch up and quickly read THE COLDEST WINTER EVER, so you are prepared for the sequel everyone will be talking about when it pubs in March. Winter Santiaga is the daughter of a prominent Brooklyn drug lord, and she is street savvy, conniving, and cold-blooded. For two decades, fans have begged for answers about what happened to Winter. Now all is revealed in Sister Souljah’s page-turning sequel, which is filled with everything Winter is famous for—her passion, flirting with danger, and adventure.

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Life After Death
Sister Souljah

The stunning and long-anticipated sequel to Sister Souljah’s million copy bestseller The Coldest Winter Ever.

Winter Santiaga is back.

Twenty years ago, Sister Souljah’s debut novel, The Coldest Winter Ever, became a bestselling cultural phenomenon. Fans fell in love with the unforgettable Winter Santiaga, daughter of a prominent Brooklyn drug-dealing family, who captivated her lovers, friends, and enemies with her sexy street smarts. For two decades, fans have begged for answers about what happened to Winter. Now all is revealed in Sister Souljah’s page-turning sequel, filled with her trademark passion, danger, temptation, and adventure. With her jail sentence coming to a close, Winter is ready to step back into the spotlight and reclaim her throne.

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MENTIONED IN:

Our 16 Most Anticipated New Reads of March

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 24, 2021

Staff Picks: 12 Books We’re Raving about This Black History Month

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 4, 2021

9 Amazing #OwnVoices Books by BIPOC Authors to Read Now

By Sienna Farris | January 25, 2021

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Yellow Wife
by Sadeqa Johnson

Pheby Delores Brown is a survivor. Every step of the way while reading YELLOW WIFE you will be rooting for Pheby—a mixed slave who has lived a relatively sheltered life on a plantation in Virginia. She has been promised to be freed on her 18th birthday and is looking forward to her emancipation and being able to marry her true love, Essex Henry. When her promise of freedom is stolen from her, she is forced to leave the plantation and finds herself at an infamous slave prison called the Devil’s Half Acre where she is slated to be sold to a new owner. Pheby attracts the eye of the sadistic Jailer, who wants Pheby for himself. She will have to figure out how to survive in this new environment, outwit the Jailer, and protect the ones she loves.

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Yellow Wife
Sadeqa Johnson

“A fully immersive, intricately crafted story inspired by the pages of history. In Pheby, Sadeqa Johnson has created a woman whose struggle to survive and to protect the ones she loves will have readers turning the pages as fast as their fingers can fly. Simply enthralling.” —Lisa Wingate, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours

Called "wholly engrossing" by New York Times bestselling author Kathleen Grissom, this harrowing story follows an enslaved woman forced to barter love and freedom while living in the most infamous slave jail in Virginia.

Born on a plantation in Charles City, Virginia, Pheby Delores Brown has lived a relatively sheltered life. Shielded by her mother’s position as the estate’s medicine woman and cherished by the Master’s sister, she is set apart from the others on the plantation, belonging to neither world.

She’d been promised freedom on her eighteenth birthday, but instead of the idyllic life she imagined with her true love, Essex Henry, Pheby is forced to leave the only home she has ever known. She unexpectedly finds herself thrust into the bowels of slavery at the infamous Devil’s Half Acre, a jail in Richmond, Virginia, where the enslaved are broken, tortured, and sold every day. There, Pheby is exposed not just to her Jailer’s cruelty but also to his contradictions. To survive, Pheby will have to outwit him, and she soon faces the ultimate sacrifice.

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Aftershocks
by Nadia Owusu

This is a powerful, beautifully written memoir that deals with themes of identity, maternal abandonment, and depression. Nadia Owusu was raised by her Ghanaian father and her Tanzanian stepmother after her Armenian American mother abandoned Nadia and her sister when Nadia was only two years old. Her beloved father worked for the UN and the family lived all over Europe and Africa, leaving Nadia feeling adrift—the loving relationship she had with her father was the only thing that kept her anchored. He dies when she is thirteen and Nadia is left in the care of her stepmother, a woman she has a complicated relationship with. When her stepmother reveals a secret about her father’s death, Nadia’s world is shaken. Nadia finally finds a home in New York, but with all the uncertainty in her life, she becomes deeply depressed, and unsure how to survive on her own.

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Aftershocks
Nadia Owusu

In the tradition of The Glass Castle, a deeply felt memoir from Whiting Award–winner Nadia Owusu about the push and pull of belonging, the seismic emotional toll of family secrets, and the heart it takes to pull through.

Young Nadia Owusu followed her father, a United Nations official, from Europe to Africa and back again. Just as she and her family settled into a new home, her father would tell them it was time to say their goodbyes. The instability wrought by Nadia’s nomadic childhood was deepened by family secrets and fractures, both lived and inherited. Her Armenian American mother, who abandoned Nadia when she was two, would periodically reappear, only to vanish again. Her father, a Ghanaian, the great hero of her life, died when she was thirteen. After his passing, Nadia’s stepmother weighed her down with a revelation that was either a bombshell secret or a lie, rife with shaming innuendo.

With these and other ruptures, Nadia arrived in New York as a young woman feeling stateless, motherless, and uncertain about her future, yet eager to find her own identity. What followed, however, were periods of depression in which she struggled to hold herself and her siblings together.

Aftershocks is the way she hauled herself from the wreckage of her life’s perpetual quaking, the means by which she has finally come to understand that the only ground firm enough to count on is the one written into existence by her own hand.

Heralding a dazzling new writer, Aftershocks joins the likes of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight and William Styron’s Darkness Visible, and does for race identity what Maggie Nelson does for gender identity in The Argonauts.

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Black Sun
by Rebecca Roanhorse

Black Panther meets House of Cards is the best way to describe this speculative fiction powerhouse. It’s the first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy and draws upon history from the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas. The story is a fascinating mix of foreboding celestial prophecies, political intrigue and scandal, and the dark magical arts. BLACK SUN is set in the holy city of Tova during the time of the winter solstice, typically an occasion for celebration. However, residents are on edge because this is one of the rare occasions the solstice coincides with a solar eclipse, which the Sun Priest warns signifies the unbalancing of the world. BLACK SUN also tells the story of Xiala, a captain of a ship from a distant city that is bound for Tova. Her ship is set to arrive just in time for the solstice and carries only one passenger, a mysterious man who is blind, scarred, and supposed to be harmless. But Xiala has a strong sense that his intentions are anything but.

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Black Sun
Rebecca Roanhorse

From the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Resistance Reborn comes the first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic.

A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.

Crafted with unforgettable characters, Rebecca Roanhorse has created an epic adventure exploring the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in the most original series debut of the decade.

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Queenie
by Candice Carty-Williams

Queenie, a twenty-five-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, is trying her best to navigate between two worlds and finding it increasingly more challenging to find where she truly belongs. Her work life stagnates as she feels the pressure to compete with her white peers. And she and her long-term white boyfriend are on the rocks. This situation, a perfect storm, takes a hit on Queenie’s self-esteem, and she begins looking for “love” in all the wrong places. As Queenie makes one bad decision after the next, she relies on the support of her friends, family, and—ultimately—herself to find out who she really is.

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Queenie
Candice Carty-Williams

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The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
by Dawnie Walton

A fictional oral history of a cult rock duo whose rise to popularity peaked in 1970s New York, with a soon to be revealed secret about their past threatening to unravel a comeback tour. Opal is Afro-punk before Afro-punk existed, and with her unusual looks and raw talent, she is destined to be a star. When an aspiring British singer, Neville, discovers Opal at a bar’s amateur night in Detroit, she takes him up on his offer to make music together at up-and-coming record label Rivington Records. Opal and Nev’s career comes to an explosive halt after a shockingly violent event that has a long-lasting impact on all involved. Fast forward to 2016, Opal is mulling over a reunion with Nev, and music journalist Sunny (and daughter of Opal’s sometime lover and fellow musician) decides to publish an oral history about the duo. As Sunny interviews her sources for the piece, she uncovers a disturbing allegation that will change everything.

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The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
Dawnie Walton

A kaleidoscopic fictional oral history of the beloved rock ’n’ roll duo who shot to fame in 1970s New York, and the dark, fraught secret that lies at the peak of their stardom.

Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, Afro-punk before that term existed. Coming of age in Detroit, she can’t imagine settling for a 9-to-5 job—despite her unusual looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her at a bar’s amateur night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together for the fledgling Rivington Records.

In early seventies New York City, just as she’s finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and funky creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal’s bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially black women, who dare to speak their truth.

Decades later, as Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, music journalist S. Sunny Shelton seizes the chance to curate an oral history about her idols. Sunny thought she knew most of the stories leading up to the cult duo’s most politicized chapter. But as her interviews dig deeper, a nasty new allegation from an unexpected source threatens to blow up everything.

Provocative and chilling, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev features a backup chorus of unforgettable voices, a heroine the likes of which we’ve not seen in storytelling, and a daring structure, and introduces a bold new voice in contemporary fiction.

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House of Sticks
by Ly Tran

When Ly’s family immigrates to Queens from Vietnam in 1993, her mother, father, and three older brothers move into a run-down two-bedroom railroad apartment with inadequate heating. Her father is a former POW and they are able to relocate to the US as part of a humanitarian program. In order to survive, the whole family, including elementary-school-age Ly, sew ties and cummerbunds in their apartment. Ly struggles to fit into her new world, to be a model daughter to her parents, and to work after school doing various odd jobs, including helping translate for her mother at a nail salon in Brooklyn. Her schoolwork suffers because of her poor eyesight and her father’s refusal to allow her to get prescriptive glasses, thinking her diagnosis is just a government conspiracy. Ly is determined to grow into her own person, with attending college being her biggest dream, but her mental health suffers as she tries to figure out her place in diverging worlds. A poignant autobiography of refugee life and resilience.

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House of Sticks
Ly Tran

An intimate, beautifully written coming-of-age memoir recounting a young girls journey from war-torn Vietnam to Ridgewood, Queens, and her struggle to find her voice amid clashing cultural expectations.

Ly Tran is just a toddler in 1993 when she and her family immigrate from a small town along the Mekong river in Vietnam to a two-bedroom railroad apartment in Queens. Ly’s father, a former lieutenant in the South Vietnamese army, spent nearly a decade as a POW, and their resettlement is made possible through a humanitarian program run by the US government. Soon after they arrive, Ly joins her parents and three older brothers sewing ties and cummerbunds piece-meal on their living room floor to make ends meet.

As they navigate this new landscape, Ly finds herself torn between two worlds. She knows she must honor her parents’ Buddhist faith and contribute to the family livelihood, working long hours at home and eventually as a manicurist alongside her mother at a nail salon in Brownsville, Brooklyn, that her parents take over. But at school, Ly feels the mounting pressure to blend in.

A growing inability to see the blackboard presents new challenges, especially when her father forbids her from getting glasses, calling her diagnosis of poor vision a government conspiracy. His frightening temper and paranoia leave an indelible mark on Ly’s sense of self. Who is she outside of everything her family expects of her?

Told in a spare, evocative voice that, with flashes of humor, weaves together her family’s immigration experience with her own fraught and courageous coming of age, House of Sticks is a timely and powerful portrait of one girl’s struggle to reckon with her heritage and forge her own path.

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Black Nerd Problems
by William Evans and Omar Holmon

William Evans and Omar Holmon are founders of Black Nerd Problems, a site that covers pop culture through the lens of owned voices. They cover all the things that Blerds crave information on, from comic books to video games to topics about social justice. In this essay collection, they address a wide range of topics with the perfect blend of humor and intellect—an unabashed celebration of all things nerdy.

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Black Nerd Problems
William Evans and Omar Holmon

The creators of the popular website Black Nerd Problems bring their witty and unflinching insight to this engaging collection of pop culture essays on everything from Mario Kart and The Wire to issues of representation and police brutality across media.

When William Evans and Omar Holmon founded Black Nerd Problems, they had no idea whether anyone beyond their small circle of friends would be interested in their little corner of the internet. But soon after launching, they were surprised to find out that there was a wide community of people who hungered for fresh perspectives on all things nerdy, from the perspective of owned voices.

In the years since, Evans and Holmon have built a large, dedicated fanbase eager for their brand of cultural critique, whether in the form of a laugh-out-loud, raucous Game of Thrones episode recap or an eloquent essay on dealing with grief through stand-up comedy. Now, they are ready to take the next step with this vibrant and hilarious essay collection, which covers everything from X-Men to Breonna Taylor with insight and intelligence.

A much needed and fresh pop culture critique from the perspective of people of color, Black Nerd Problems is the ultimate celebration for anyone who loves a blend of nerd and social commentary, and unafraid to admit that they love all things nerdy.

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MENTIONED IN:

9 Amazing #OwnVoices Books by BIPOC Authors to Read Now

By Sienna Farris | January 25, 2021

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The Startup Wife
by Tahmima Anam

Coder Asha Ray and her husband Cyrus Jones are the founders of a groundbreaking new social platform that revolves around creating new rituals for living—weddings, funerals, and ceremonies based on personalized interests. They work together side by side at an exclusive tech incubator called Utopia. When the platform goes viral with millions of users seeking personalized rituals, the stress of running the site causes rifts in Cyrus and Asha’s marriage. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for Asha to be married to someone who everyone is calling the new messiah, when she is the one who has actually written the algorithm for the site. Can their marriage survive the misogynistic culture and pressure cooker of startup life?

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The Startup Wife
Tahmima Anam

“Tahmima Anam deftly uses humor to explore both start-up culture and the institution of marriage in an utterly charming and genuinely thoughtful way.” —Rumaan Alam, author of Leave the World Behind

Newlyweds Asha and Cyrus build an app that replaces religious rituals and soon find themselves running one of the most popular social media platforms in the world.

Meet Asha Ray.

Brilliant coder and possessor of a Pi tattoo, Asha is poised to revolutionize artificial intelligence when she is reunited with her high school crush, Cyrus Jones.

Cyrus inspires Asha to write a new algorithm. Before she knows it, she’s abandoned her PhD program, they’ve exchanged vows, and gone to work at an exclusive tech incubator called Utopia.

The platform creates a sensation, with millions of users seeking personalized rituals every day. Will Cyrus and Asha’s marriage survive the pressures of sudden fame, or will she become overshadowed by the man everyone is calling the new messiah?

In this gripping, blistering novel, award-winning author Tahmima Anam takes on faith and the future with a gimlet eye and a deft touch. Come for the radical vision of human connection, stay for the wickedly funny feminist look at startup culture and modern partnership. Can technology—with all its limits and possibilities—disrupt love?

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