Powerful Black Novels That Capture The Spirit of Kwanzaa

This week’s Three to Read is a chance to celebrate Kwanzaa with some powerful Black voices that embody the holiday’s core principles.

Fiction Recommendations Three To Read
Three black fiction book covers on a winter background for Kwanzaa

For this week’s Three to Read, we’re honoring African American culture with three books that capture the spirit of Kwanzaa. From December 26th to January 1st, Kwanzaa is a nonsecular holiday celebrating African American culture in the United States. Kwanzaa is founded on seven principles that comprise the philosophy of the holiday. Kwanzaa celebrations have decreased in recent years, but the empowerment of African Americans and the betterment of Black communities throughout the United States is a year-round effort that authors like the ones below contribute to.

Hot Pick

Chain Gang All Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Book cover for Chain Gang All Stars" by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah.


Loretta Thurwar and Hamara “Hurricane Staxxx” Stacker are fan favorite fights in the Criminal Action Penal Entertainment (CAPE)’s Chain-Gang All Stars, a profit-raising brawl program in America’s private prison system. Thurwar is close to getting out, but as she prepares to leave, she thinks of ways to humanize her fellow fighters, the Links, that she leaves behind. But CAPE isn’t ready to break the status quo that benefits it so well, and fighting against the system may cost Thurwar everything.


Adjei-Brenyah’s highly anticipated debut takes a hard look at the American prison system, including how it benefits from prevailing racism, capitalism, and mass incarceration. The book’s dystopian genre provides a startling perspective on current features of our society that often go ignored. Most importantly, Chain Gang All Stars centers on the same people that the American prison system takes advantage of the most. 

Coffee Shop

Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Jayne Allen

Book cover for "Black Girls Must Die Exhausted" by Jayne Allen.


Tabitha Walker’s life is going perfectly, with her career, relationships, and social life falling into place. But an unexpected diagnosis brings Tabby’s perfect life crashing down, threatening to take away her ability to have kids. Tabby will have to lean on her friends, family, and community as she tests the lengths of modern medicine. The fight against her diagnosis and the strain of holding onto her relationships are all-consuming and threaten a harsh reality check for everyone in Tabby’s life.


Tabitha’s journey with her diagnosis — and her journey to coming to terms with it — highlights Black womanhood and the importance of community. This is the first in a trilogy of books that explore how building and maintaining a community creates solutions to personal problems.

Dark Horse

The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter and Other Essential Ghosts by Soraya Palmer

Book cover for "The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter and Other Essential Ghosts" by Soraya Palmer.


In a sweeping tale that intertwines folktales and spirit, two sisters divided by trauma must come together when they learn a family secret. In the face of their father’s violence and their mother’s declining health, Zora escapes to her journal while Sasha explores sex and chest binding as she gets closer to her new girlfriend. Two opposing forces, Zora and Sasha must come together to answer an ancient and powerful force, all while reckoning with a buried family secret.


Although they start divided, the Porter family must try to unite themselves to overcome their individual struggles. Palmer’s debut traces how the problems that feel isolating actually tie a family together because of how they reverberate through all of them.

Thanks for tuning in to this week’s article; check out last week’s Three to Read on cozy Black winter romances here.

Browse these books and more on our Bookstr Three to Read Bookshop.org bookshelf.