The big day is finally here people…Juneteenth! For those who are unaware, Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Unfortunately, I’m not hosting a barbecue but let’s celebrate a different way. Due to the racial injustices plaguing America, Americans (of all races) have had a thirst for black literature; black literature depicting black joy, black experiences, black culture and ultimately black storytelling. As a black woman, this hunger for black literature make my heart full and makes for a pretty awesome Juneteenth! So let’s look at some amazing black authors that shaped my life and the conversation happening right now!
- We’re Going to Need More Wine
This book should be a holy grail for every black girl, for every woman out there. I’ve been stanning Gabrielle since I don’t know, my entire life so her book was everything I needed to hear and more. Union touches stories from her successful career as a black woman in Hollywood, but she also dives into topics like colorism, assimilation, sexual assault, infertility and more. It felt like having a much need talk and glass of wine with your famous big sister.
- The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl
I knew when I saw Issa Rae in hit HBO show Insecure that we were meant to be friends, after reading her book it only confirmed my beliefs. Often times in television, movies, and books, black girls are shown as cool, graceful beings who always know the latest trends and flourish in social settings. However, growing up an awkward black girl that couldn’t be anymore opposite from my truth. Issa shines on a light on the awkward black girls in the world and our struggles. Seeing everything she endured to get to where she is now, not only makes me proud, but forever rooting for everybody black.
- Citizen: An American Lyric
If there’s one book from this category that’s extremely relevant right now, it’s this one. Rankine’s poetry is flawless and pulls you into the racial aggressions the black community is facing. Even though it was published in 2014, it sounds like it was written yesterday. It’s truly a book that stays with you forever.
- The Water Dancer
The Water Dancer is unlike any fantasy novel I’ve ever read before; no there aren’t any dragons or trolls, but trust me it doesn’t lack in the fantasy department. The book is about young Hiram Walker, who was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her—but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known. Telling this incredible story not only adds diversity to fantasy, but reminds readers of the painful history too often brushed aside.
- The Hate U Give
You’ve seen this book and heard of it’s praises, but then again who hasn’t? Angie Thomas’ book isn’t a great book about race, it’s a great book period. Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
- With the Fire on High
My fellow bookworms, allow me to introduce another hit from the brilliant Elizabeth Acevedo. Acevedo knocked The Poet X out of the park and her second act didn’t disappoint. Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions—doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.
Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything. Lupita Nyong’o reminds us again what an amazing storyteller she is.
- I am Enough
Grace Byers (a.k.a. boo boo kitty for all my Empire lovers) created an amazing book; a book where little black girls can see themselves and feel represented. It showcases the importance of loving yourself, respecting each other and being kind.
- Hair Love
We’re ending on a high note people, Hair Love is utterly heart warming. I wish I had this book (frankly any of these kids books) growing up, it would’ve made a huge impact on me. Tender and empowering, Hair Love is an ode to loving your natural hair — and a celebration of daddies and daughters everywhere. I’m happy little black girls have books like this to look to and celebrate.
I hope this craving for black literature won’t be just a trend, I hope individuals keep investing and indulging in black literature. These voices are too powerful to lose; Happy Juneteenth and happy reading!
Feature Image via Facebook