Even though I feel like I’m still recovering from 2018, a month of 2019 has already gone by! That means that, here in the U.S., it’s Black History Month. While, of course, our TBR piles should feature diverse authors and characters all year long, this month gives extra motivation to celebrate books by and about black people. Here are the books I recommend or plan on reading!
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
I’m in the middle of this gorgeously written book and loving it. Set just before and during the 2008 financial crisis, it tells the story of an immigrant family from Cameroon and how their lives intertwine with those of an American family with a dark secret about the recession.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
This was one of the most talked-about books in 2018…and I still haven’t read it. ~hides in shame~ It’s at the top of my TBR though! Why, you ask? It’s the story of a strong, teenage girl fighting to bring back magic after it’s been banned, while also fighting her feelings for her enemy. Um, yes please!
Becoming by Michelle Obama
This was such a wonderfully told story that dives much deeper than politics or DC drama. Starting with her childhood growing up in Chicago, Michelle Obama weaves a narrative of triumph and loss in a compelling way that made me eager to see what happens next–even though I know how the story ends!
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Back in the summer of 2017, I took a Buzzfeed quiz that told me the book I should read that fall was Sing, Unburied, Sing. And I totally ignored it. Now, a year and a half later, I’m finally getting caught up and can’t wait to read this critically acclaimed story of young Jojo trying to navigate becoming a man in light of the varying quality of his father figures, from his strong Black grandfather to his White father just released from prison.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
This was never assigned to me in high school or any of my English major classes in college, which is an outright travesty (and a symptom of a larger problem in education, but that’s a whole different post). So I took it upon myself to read this classic about a black woman’s quest to find her identity and be her own person–no small ask in the 1930s
The Hate U Give and On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
The Hate U Give is the incredible story of Starr, a teenager who navigates her life switching between the poor, mostly-black neighborhood where she lives and the fancy, mostly-white prep school she attends. When she becomes the single witness to a police shooting of her childhood friend, these worlds threaten to collide. This amazing book was turned into a movie in 2018, and Angie Thomas’ newest release comes out this month. I wasn’t able to get my hands on an advanced copy, but I’m sure it’s going to be just as fantastic as her debut novel.
Talking Back, Talking Black by John McWhorter
John McWhorter is a professor at Columbia, and also the host of the wonderful podcast, Lexicon Valley (guess which one I know him from?). Ever since starting his podcast, I’ve been meaning to read any of the several books he has published, but this one especially captures my attention. Talking Back, Talking Black examines the false assumptions and controversies that still surround Black English, despite linguists’ best efforts to show how it is separate from “Standard” English, not a degradation of it. McWhorter explores this concept in his podcast occasionally, and I’m eager to explore it in more depth in his book.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
I’m not gonna lie: when I first heard about this book, I totally thought it was non-fiction about the Civil War and slavery. And my first reaction was no thank you. Thankfully, I have been corrected, and now I’m excited to read this story of Cora, a slave who feels outcast from even other African Americans, and embarks on a harrowing journey to seek freedom, along the Underground Railroad, a literal secret network of tracks and tunnels operated by engineers and conductors to get slaves to freedom.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie
This is the only book of Chimimanda Adichie’s that I’ve actually read, which is why I’m listing it here, but she has no shortage of books to choose from! This short non-fiction book is adapted from her TEDx Talk, which I also highly recommend. Adichi is a powerful speaker and writer with a masterful command of language to convey her point, whether it is fiction or not.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
This is another book I’ve heard lots of buzz about, but haven’t gotten around to reading it–yet. Homegoing is a multi-generational story that begins with two half sisters in Ghana and follows how sharply the fates of their descendants diverge from each other when one sister is married off to an Englishman while the other is enslaved and shipped to America. It is a dynamite debut novel, and I cannot wait to read it.
(FYI–This post includes affiliate links. I promise to never recommend anything that I haven’t loved and think you should try!)
Have you read any of these books? What other books do you plan to read to celebrate Black History Month? Let me know in the comments!
Originally published at chelseapenningtonauthor.com on February 5, 2019.