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Book recommendations: Black representation
by TeenHelp October 13th 2021, 01:25 AM

Book recommendations: Black representation
Jenna (.:Bibliophile:.)

Traditionally published novels are not all that diverse. According to Lee and Low Books, 76% of authors that are published are white. The other 24% are split between the different ethnic groups. In recent years, there has been a call for more books to be published by People of Color (POC) and other diverse populations such as disabled and LGBTQIA+ individuals.

Over the years, I have read a lot and I have tried to work to be more mindful of the books that I am reading and who they are published by. I find that I own a number of books by POC but I do not read and review as many. For the beginning of this series I am going to focus on books by Black authors that I have read. In the future I will be focusing on anticipated releases/reads and nonfiction reads. The majority of these books are confirmed to have been written by POC; there are a few I was unsure about and was struggling to find out but they did have black main characters so I thought they'd be important to highlight.

Fantasy/Sci-fi:

Binti Bind Up by Nnedi Okorafor



This author has become quite popular. This series is one of her most famous. It is a novella series that deals with alien contact. They are making a bind up of all the novellas which is great for people who want to own all the books but don't want to have to pay for separate novellas.

I did not like this novella that much so never continued. I did not feel that it kept me engaged and even though it was short it felt never-ending. That being said, I do not read a lot of sci-fi and, as such, this one might not have been my type of sci-fi. I would recommend if you are a sci-fi reader as she is popular with sci-fi fans.

Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K Jemisin




This series is part fantasy and part Sci-fi. It is a bit of a dystopian novel with magic and fantastic character build up. There is a portion of the story that is told in second person and that can be odd but once you adjust to that it is amazing.

I do not typically reread books but this is a book that I will reread. It is about a mother that is part of a class of people who are hated in society. Her husband does not know and he only finds out after his son starts to show powers. The son is murdered by the father and he steals her daughter. There is some non PG-13 content. I read this many years ago and do not remember the content being too explicit but it is there. If you want to fall in love with characters I suggest this book.

Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope



I believe that going into this book blind is the best so I am going to refrain from giving one. I read this many years ago, back when it first released. I quite liked it but I never finished the series. Just added the other three books to my cart and will be working to continue it sometime soon.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland



Zombies during the civil war and it changes the nation forever. I loved the premise but didn't care for the execution and doubt that I will be continuing with the sequel. It definitely could have been amazing but I felt like some things were missing and I ended up feeling bored and didn't care about any of the characters.

Legacy of OrÔsha by Tomi Adeyami



This series is absolutely phenomenal. It takes place in a world where magic has died. A ruthless king comes into power and takes the magic away from the 'Maji'. Zelie is the main character who builds relationships and learns about herself throughout the two books.

The friendships that are built in this novel are amazing. There is a bit of a love story but I did not feel like it overpowered the novel. This was a debut series that has taken off. It is an all time favorite and as soon as there is a release date for the third one I will plan a reread for the first two books.

The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum



This is a Sci-fi novel about Ryann Bird who dreams about traveling across the universe. She meets Alexandria whose mom went on an expedition to space years ago and she was never able to meet. The two connect and form a friendship. There is more to the story.

I can say that I have read two books by this author and have not loved them. Many people rave about them so they are definitely books to take into consideration when choosing a book. I think, for me, the author's writing style is too simplistic and I end up bored. The author's books are quick reads which can be nice to add to you 'To Be Read' stack.

The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow



My biggest issue with this story is it ends on a cliffhanger and I have yet to hear anything about a sequel. I dislike when books aren't wrapped up and end on cliffhangers. It just makes my reading experience less enjoyable.

This is another alien contact novel in which aliens have taken over earth and forbid any type of art such as music, reading etc. Ellie Baker lends people books and ends up befriending one of the aliens. From there, they go on an adventure.

I do recommend this novel if you can handle the cliffhanger ending.

Kindred by Octavia Butler



This novel is triggering for mentions of rape, abuse, slavery, brutality. I mention this novel because it explores the impact and cruelty of slavery. While it handles a tough topic and is one that might trigger some, I felt that it was an important read. Yes, it makes you uncomfortable but sometimes books need to make you uncomfortable.

This is the only Octavia Butler I have read but I have heard great things about her other books. If this is not a book you want to read, it might be worth it to check out some of her other books while being mindful of triggers.

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne Brown



This was my first 5 star read of the year. This is a book I will forever rave about. It takes place in a matriarchal society in which a princess loses her mother and works to save her with magic. I don't want to say much more as I feel like you should read the book without prior knowledge of it in order to fully enjoy it. I read the synopsis and what happened in the synopsis did not happen for quite some time.

Phenomenal character development. They all felt so real. I felt what they were feeling. I rooted for them. I got angry with them and at them. It takes a lot to elicit this kind of response from me. I am excited to read the finale that came out August 31.

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko



A girl born and raised in isolation. Her mother has a plan for her that she is unaware of. She goes to a castle and befriends the prince that her mother hates and wants dead.

I read this during a slump and ended up not liking it. I think I am going to try and reread it or listen to it on audio and then make a decision about carrying on the series. Plenty of people are loving it though so still consider picking it up. Reading is subjective and just because I hate something doesn't mean you will too!

Historical Fiction:

Angel of Greenwood by Randi Pink



This book takes place before, during and after the Greenwood Massacre in Tulsa. I enjoyed this book enough to pick up another book by the author. I loved how she showed how peaceful and normal Black American's lives could be if they did not have to deal with racism and hate. The exploration of a first relationship was essential to this story. At the heart it is a romance novel that takes place during a terrible time in history. I also picked up some non fiction books about this massacre in hopes I will read them.

This book did get slow in the middle and so it brought down my enjoyment. I still highly recommend it as long as you can cope with the trigger for racism, hate and death.

The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennet



This is a novel about colorism. Two black sisters who can pass as white. One day, one of them makes the decision to pretend to be white. Both sisters are separated and their lives go different routes.

This novel was phenomenal. I fell in love with the characters. I felt so much hatred for some of the characters and a ton of love for others. I think this novel explores what really makes us happy.

Beautiful novel and I shared it with my book club and they loved it too!

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid



This is a book about performative allyship; white savior syndrome. It is a novel about how performative allyship can be harmful. I think this is a good book for white people to read and reflect on. There were a few things towards the end that seemed to be giving white people a pass to say "I am not that bad" but I think it still shows the dangers of performative allyship. It shows why we have to recognize our own biases and desires before we can become allies to our black family, friends and neighbors.

Logan Family Saga, 9-book set by Mildred D. Taylor



I read many of these books when I was in junior high and they have always stuck with me. I think they were the first books that let me see what racism looks like. As a white presenting person, I have not experienced the racism that these characters face. I have experienced prejudice but the racism is completely different and the books show this. These books show how the racism comes from a place of power and an oppressor working to oppress those they deem less worthy.

These books center on the Logan family they can be narrated by different characters although Cassie is one of the more common narrators. I think The Land was my favorite of these and I hope to reread my old copy sometime soon.

Contemporary:

Angie Thomas



I cannot pick one Angie Thomas as they all have merit and they are all good. The Hate U Give is a novel that made her famous. Concrete Rose is a prequel to The Hate U Give. On The Come Up takes place in the same world as The Hate U Give but focuses on a different family.

What I love about Thomas is she makes the characters and the world come alive. I love her familial relationships. She shows how normal and affirming black families can be. I think her depictions of black families dealing with difficult things with support and love is so important. Too many times black families are portrayed a certain way and Angie Thomas shows that this perception is not the most accurate one. She takes that perception and turns it on its head.

Her books do deal with racism, miscarriage, police brutality and many other difficult topics but if you can get through those triggers they are worth it.

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callendar



Felix is a trans man who is learning and growing in life. He still faces some transphobia and deadnaming within his family. This book is about Felix learning to navigate life and deal with issues that pop up.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I have heard the trans representation is good but I cannot speak on that as I am not trans. It is definitely worth picking up. You're likely to fall in love with the characters.

Tiffany D. Jackson



Jackson deals with tough topics such as child abuse, child sexual abuse, mental illness, death of a child, pregnancy etc. She is a phenomenal writer who has a way of dealing with tough topics in an eloquent and thoughtful way.

Monday's Not Coming and Grown are my two favorites by her. I will continue picking up everything that she writes.

Horror:

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson



TW: Child sexual abuse, child abuse, blood, cult, religious zealotry

I picked this up on a whim and absolutely adored it. There are witches and a town full of overly religious people. I think going into this with only a vague awareness of what it is about is best. There is going to be a second novel.

Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon

This is a middle grade novel about an entity that takes children to its own world which is full of scary stuff. This book has trigger warnings for parent death but because it is middle grade it doesn't have a lot of triggers

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I don't typically like horror books and I fell in love and will continue to pick up what this author writes next.

Graphic Novels: These feature black characters but I could not determine if the authors were POC.

Motor Crush Vol. 1

I picked this up on a whim last year when I was in a bit of a slump. It pulled me out of the slump and I fell in love with the world. I still need to pick up Vol 2 and Vol 3 comes out sometime soon. If I had owned Vol 2 when I read it I would have automatically picked it up.

I think going into this graphic novel blind is important. The character development in this was phenomenal and I am worried that a character I loved in Vol 1 might have passed away.

I think the biggest trigger is that there can be violence.

Skyward Vol. 1

Story about an earth where gravity no longer exists. You do have to suspend disbelief but I enjoyed it. I also liked that it was a three book series so I was able to start and finish it last year. Some graphic novel series go on for ages and can be a commitment.

Bingo Love Vol. 1: Jackpot Edition

Sapphic love story. It is a short graphic novel series but exceptionally cute. It does deal with old age and death but I think it was an amazingly cute story.


If there are book recommendations that you are interested in, you can suggest them and I can either find some that I have read or find some that I am anticipating or have heard of. There are some recommendations that might be harder to find based on what is requested but I will do my best.


You can read more about diversity representation in books here: https://blog.leeandlow.com/2020/01/2...aselinesurvey/

[Image sources: Amazon and Goodreads]
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