Walking through the bookstore, you’ll find that Black authors are incredibly underrepresented regarding promotional tables, endcap displays, and the number of copies available. It’s not a secret that White authors have predominantly dominated the publishing industry, and BIPOC authors have had difficulty distributing their manuscripts. Fortunately, these nine authors have been able to get their work fiction and non-fiction works into the hands of readers, receiving praise for their remarkable writing prowess, and are taking their genres by storm.
1. N.K. Jemisin – Science Fiction
In 2015, Jemisin released the first book of her The Broken Earth Trilogy, The Fifth Season. Each novel in the series won her the Hugo award, and the final novel, The Stone Sky, also won the Locus and Nebula Awards. Few authors have won the Hugo Award consecutively; only Jemisin has done so three years in a row. While encompassing the staples of the genre, the Broken Earth Trilogy is the first to represent the characters’ perspectives, despite their role, in a personal reflection to the reader that underscores humanity’s flawed nature. Jemisin not only tops the Sci-fi charts, she redefines the meaning of the genre.
2. Kennedy Ryan – Contemporary Romance
Ryan’s newest release, Before I Let Go, is a mature second-chance contemporary romance that includes themes of depression, loss, and co-parenting. With flawless representation, scintillating action, and tough-hitting topics, Ryan proves why she is at the top of this genre. Breaking the romance glass ceiling, she is one of two authors to receive RITA Awards.
3. Colson Whitehead – Historical Fiction
Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad is a stark, heart-wrenching novel that brings a more psychological perspective of the slave in the antebellum South. The 2016 publication won Whitehead the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award, among many other accolades. His Jim Crow-era novel, The Nickel Boys, won a Pulitzer in 2020. Colson Whitehead writes the history of Black Americans with a nuanced straightforward elegance that makes him a pillar of American writing.
4. Angie Thomas – Young Adult Fiction
Angie Thomas propelled her way to the top of YA fiction with her emotionally striking debut novel, The Hate U Give, about a girl balancing a split life among two vastly different worlds. Thomas’s award-winning in-your-face novel hits home amid the police brutality crisis that is devastating the Black community. The standalone sequel, On the Come Up, resolidifies Thomas’s position among the great writers of this genre.
5. Victor LaValle – Speculative Fiction
A master of reimagined literature, Victor LaVelle brilliantly encapsulates the ideas of his predecessors while skillfully crafting tales that better suit a modern mindset. Emulating H.P. Lovescraft’s “The Horror at Red Hook,” The Ballad of Black Tom is a hair-raising fantasy tale with insightful prose regarding racism and prejudice in 1920’s New York City. A few of the accolades for this author of Black voices include the Shirley Jackson Award, Nebula Award, and the Hugo Award.
6. Walter Mosley – Mystery/Thriller Fiction
Best known for his Easy Rawlins mystery series that debuted in 1990 with Devil in a Blue Dress, multipotentialite Walter Mosley has his fingers in many literary pies. A 2016 Grand Master recipient, Mosley also won an Edgar Award for his standalone crime novel, Down the River Unto the Sea. His stories delve into real-world issues of systemic racism, prejudice, and political corruption.
7. Thomas Glave – LGBTQ Fiction
Author and professor Thomas Glave won many awards for his prose, including the O. Henry Award and the Lambda Literary Award. The child of immigrant parents raised as American and Jamaican and a gay Black man, Thomas Glave has a unique perspective on the world around him. Dedicated to furthering the education of the public on the intricacies of sexuality and race, Glave’s Whose Song? and Other Stories is a remarkable interconnection of reality and fiction.
8. Tracy K. Smith – Poetry
You can look no further than Smith’s Amazon Bio to get the full breadth of her distinction as an artist and poet. Her collection of deeply personal poems, Life on Mars: Poems, spans the gauntlet of political, social, familial, and existential issues that will leave you contemplating your place in the world.
“Tracy K. Smith is the twenty-second Poet Laureate of the United States and recipient of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for Life on Mars. Duende, her second book, received the 2006 James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey.”— Amazon
9. Roxane Gay – Nonfiction
A modern voice for activism, Gay takes to the keyboard to support women, the LGBTQ community, and complex sociopolitical issues. She has an eloquence with words on tough-hitting subjects that stops both sides of a contentious issue in their tracks. Her 2014 collection of essays, Bad Feminist: Essays, describes the state of current cultural fragmentation that has been shaped by history. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, delves into her self-reflection on body image, food addiction, and self-care. Her work is candid, honest, and enlightening.
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