What better way to celebrate Black History Month (and also Valentine’s Day) this February than by reading stories where Black love is at the forefront? The books in this list capture love’s power to repair wounds, cross boundaries, communicate the inexplicable, and so much more. While they grapple with tough issues, at heart these are hopeful stories with characters you won’t be able to resist falling in love with yourself.
Akwaeke Emezi is a superstar author who is constantly writing in new genres and reimagining them along the way. Their newest book comes out in May and breaks the norms of the romance genre, providing delightful twists for fans of love stories. Feyi is an artist still grieving a tragic loss and doesn’t know when she’ll be able to love again. Until Nasir arrives. Patient and adorably infatuated, Nasir slowly breaks down Feyi’s guard, and when he invites her to his family’s island estate, she’s just about ready to admit that she wants something more with him. But when she arrives, her fickle heart has other plans. This book comes out on May 24 so preorder now!
A New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and “one of our greatest living writers” (Shondaland) reimagines the love story in this fresh and seductive novel about a young woman seeking joy while healing from loss.
Feyi Adekola wants to learn how to be alive again.
It’s been five years since the accident that killed the love of her life and she’s almost a new person now—an artist with her own studio, and sharing a brownstone apartment with her ride-or-die best friend, Joy, who insists it’s time for Feyi to ease back into the dating scene. Feyi isn’t ready for anything serious, but a steamy encounter at a rooftop party cascades into a whirlwind summer she could have never imagined: a luxury trip to a tropical island, decadent meals in the glamorous home of a celebrity chef, and a major curator who wants to launch her art career.
She’s even started dating the perfect guy, but their new relationship might be sabotaged before it has a chance by the dangerous thrill Feyi feels every time she locks eyes with the one person in the house who is most definitely off-limits. This new life she asked for just got a lot more complicated, and Feyi must begin her search for real answers. Who is she ready to become? Can she release her past and honor her grief while still embracing her future? And, of course, there’s the biggest question of all—how far is she willing to go for a second chance at love?
Akwaeke Emezi’s vivid and passionate writing takes us deep into a world of possibility and healing, and the constant bravery of choosing love against all odds.
Tembi Locke’s memoir details another moving story of powering through grief with the memory of love. Early in their marriage Tembi’s chef husband Saro becomes ill with, and subsequently dies from, cancer. Struggling through her grief, Tembi flies with their young daughter from LA to her in-laws’ place in the Sicilian countryside. Though narrow-minded family members abound, and cultures clash, Tembi finds a quiet place in Italy to reflect on her love story with Saro—and ultimately over the course of three summers there she feels the healing currents of tradition, family acceptance, and community.
This Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick and New York Times bestseller is “a captivating story of love lost and found” (Kirkus Reviews) set in the lush Sicilian countryside, where one woman discovers the healing powers of food, family, and unexpected grace in her darkest hours.
It was love at first sight when actress Tembi met professional chef, Saro, on a street in Florence. There was just one problem: Saro’s traditional Sicilian family did not approve of his marrying a black American woman. However, the couple, heartbroken but undeterred, forged on. They built a happy life in Los Angeles, with fulfilling careers, deep friendships, and the love of their lives: a baby girl they adopted at birth. Eventually, they reconciled with Saro’s family just as he faced a formidable cancer that would consume all their dreams.
From Scratch chronicles three summers Tembi spends in Sicily with her daughter, Zoela, as she begins to piece together a life without her husband in his tiny hometown hamlet of farmers. Where once Tembi was estranged from Saro’s family, now she finds solace and nourishment—literally and spiritually—at her mother-in-law’s table. In the Sicilian countryside, she discovers the healing gifts of simple fresh food, the embrace of a close knit community, and timeless traditions and wisdom that light a path forward. All along the way she reflects on her and Saro’s romance—an incredible love story that leaps off the pages.
In Sicily, it is said that every story begins with a marriage or a death—in Tembi Locke’s case, it is both. “Locke’s raw and heartfelt memoir will uplift readers suffering from the loss of their own loved ones” (Publishers Weekly), but her story is also about love, finding a home, and chasing flavor as an act of remembrance. From Scratch is for anyone who has dared to reach for big love, fought for what mattered most, and those who needed a powerful reminder that life is...delicious.
There’s nothing quite like a good YA book to remind you of the sweetness of first love. Case in point: Ebony LaDelle’s LOVE RADIO, the charming story, publishing this May, of a teenage radio show host who gives out solid relationship advice despite never having been in love himself (yet). With a chronically ill mom and little brother to care for, Prince Jones doesn’t have time for dating, or so he thinks. Meeting his dream girl, Dani Ford, changes his mind in a hurry, but Dani has her own reasons for shying away from romantic entanglements. She agrees to give Prince three dates, and three dates only, to prove the feelings between them are real and worth the risk of potential heartbreak.
Hitch meets The Sun Is Also a Star in this witty and romantic teen novel about a self-professed teen love doctor with a popular radio segment who believes he can get a girl who hates all things romance to fall in love with him in only three dates.
Prince Jones is the guy with all the answers—or so it seems. After all, at seventeen, he has his own segment on Detroit’s popular hip-hop show, Love Radio, where he dishes out advice to the brokenhearted.
Prince has always dreamed of becoming a DJ and falling in love. But being the main caretaker for his mother, who has multiple sclerosis, and his little brother means his dreams will stay just that and the only romances in his life are the ones he hears about from his listeners.
Until he meets Dani Ford.
Dani isn’t checking for anybody. She’s focused on her plan: ace senior year, score a scholarship, and move to New York City to become a famous author. But her college essay keeps tripping her up and acknowledging what’s blocking her means dealing with what happened at that party a few months ago.
And that’s one thing Dani can’t do.
When the romantic DJ meets the ambitious writer, sparks fly. Prince is smitten, but Dani’s not looking to get derailed. She gives Prince just three dates to convince her that he’s worth falling for.
Three dates for the love expert to take his own advice, and just maybe change two lives forever.
When you want something cozy and heartwarming to read, pick up REAL MEN KNIT. This romance novel by Kwana Jackson revolves around a Harlem knitting shop and the legacy of its recently departed shop owner, Mama Joy, who, as an adoptive mother, raised four boys into men there. One of those men, Jesse, wants nothing more than to keep Mama Joy’s neighborhood store alive, and recruits the help of Kerry, his childhood friend and an employee of the knitting shop. As they work side by side to reopen the business, Kerry realizes her years-long crush on Jesse hasn’t gone anywhere, at the same time that Jesse slowly wakes up to the realization that Kerry may be The One for him….
This is a poignant rom-com that doesn’t dodge the difficult conversations. Eva Mercy is an erotica writer and Shane Hall is a literary author, and their intense weeklong fling from 15 years ago has always been on both their minds; it even snuck its way into several of their novels. When they run into each other again at a New York literary event, the old feelings rush to the surface, accompanied by explorations of betrayal, Black culture, motherhood, and more.
While most of these books have come out within the past few years, we’re now throwing it back to a classic published more than twenty-five years ago—GOOD HAIR by Benilde Little. Newark journalist Alice Andrews’s life transforms after meeting Jack, a wealthy and entitled doctor. Suddenly, Alice is thrust into the lives of Black elites of Manhattan. As she and Jack fall in love, Alice’s insecurities and childhood traumas begin to surface and her working-class background clashes with Jack’s well-off family members. This is an absorbing Black love story that explores class differences and other powerful themes.
Another powerful form of love that’s not to be forgotten for Valentine’s Day and Black history month—self-love! Tracey M. Lewis-Giggetts’s newest, just-published essay collection provides an homage to Black joy and the ability of joy to empower and fuel yourself. Throughout the book the author explores her personal evolution to joy, provides examples of joy in Black culture, and examines the dynamic narratives within the Black experience that recognize the constant balance between trauma and happiness.
A timely collection of deeply personal, uplifting, and powerful essays that celebrate the redemptive strength of Black joy—in the vein of Black Girls Rock, You Are Your Best Thing, and I Really Needed This Today.
When Tracey M. Lewis-Giggetts wrote an essay on Black joy for The Washington Post, she had no idea just how deeply it would resonate. But the outpouring of responses affirmed her own lived experience: that Black joy is not just a weapon of resistance, it is a tool for resilience.
With this book, Tracey aims to gift her community with a collection of lyrical essays about the way joy has evolved, even in the midst of trauma, in her own life. Detailing these instances of joy in the context of Black culture allows us to recognize the power of Black joy as a resource to draw upon, and to challenge the one-note narratives of Black life as solely comprised of trauma and hardship.
Black Joy is a collection that will recharge you. It is the kind of book that is passed between friends and offers both challenge and comfort at the end of a long day. It is an answer for anyone who needs confirmation that they are not alone and a brave place to quiet their mind and heal their soul.
You wouldn’t expect a novel about enslaved Black people in the mid-19th century to be filled with love, but YONDER is just such a story—balancing the good with the bad. Using language as a means of redefining identities, in the world of YONDER, slavers are called Thieves and the enslaved are called Stolen. And as the book follows the perspectives of four Stolen characters, we learn that the elders gave them their identities in seven words before they were named. These seven words come to define each of them as they keep love and hope alive, even in the direness of their circumstances.
The Water Dancer meets The Prophets in this spare, gripping, and beautifully rendered novel exploring love and friendship among a group of enslaved Black strivers in the mid-19th century.
They call themselves the Stolen. Their owners call them captives. They are taught their captors’ tongues and their beliefs but they have a language and rituals all their own.
In a world that would be allegorical if it weren’t saturated in harsh truths, Cato and William meet at Placid Hall, a plantation in an unspecified part of the American South. Subject to the whims of their tyrannical and eccentric captor, Cannonball Greene, they never know what harm may befall them: inhumane physical toil in the plantation’s quarry by day, a beating by night, or the sale of a loved one at any moment. It’s that cruel practice—the wanton destruction of love, the belief that Black people aren’t even capable of loving—that hurts the most.
It hurts the reserved and stubborn William, who finds himself falling for Margaret, a small but mighty woman with self-possession beyond her years. And it hurts Cato, whose first love, Iris, was sold off with no forewarning. He now finds solace in his hearty band of friends, including William, who is like a brother; Margaret; Little Zander; and Milton, a gifted artist. There is also Pandora, with thick braids and long limbs, whose beauty calls to him.
Their relationships begin to fray when a visiting minister with a mysterious past starts to fill their heads with ideas about independence. He tells them that with freedom comes the right to choose the small things—when to dine, when to begin and end work—as well as the big things, such as whom and how to love. Do they follow the preacher and pursue the unknown? Confined in a landscape marked by deceit and uncertainty, who can they trust?
In an elegant work of monumental imagination that will reorient how we think of the legacy of America’s shameful past, Jabari Asim presents a beautiful, powerful, and elegiac novel that examines intimacy and longing in the quarters while asking a vital question: What would happen if an enslaved person risked everything for love?
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