REVIEW: 10 unforgettable books by Black female authors

Celebrating Black excellence

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Estefany Nuñez’s diverse selection of book recommendations include a graphic novel, young adult, nonfiction and contemporary. Book covers by Riverhead Books, Doubleday Books, Amistad, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Quill Tree Books and St. Martin’s Press. Estefany Nuñez

Estefany Nuñez

Last year, I was able to read 150 books thanks to digital library audiobooks and e-book borrows. Out of the 150 books I read, 114 were written by women and 20 were #OwnVoices, meaning the author comes from a marginalized background or the LGBT+ community.

It’s important to diversify our reading selections to not only broaden our horizons, but to also support diverse authors. It’s frankly very difficult for me to pick up a book written by a white man because it’s the only demographic I’ve ever been presented in all my years in school.

In honor of celebrating Black History Month, I’ve compiled a list of the books that have left a lasting impression. 

1. “Clap When You Land” by Elizabeth Acevedo

Book cover by Quill Tree Books.

I have read and devoured everything Acevedo has ever written, and she has yet to disappoint. She’s a popular #OwnVoices writer with Afro-Latinx central characters in her books. This story follows the dual lives of two half sisters who unfortunately found out about their dad’s double life in the Dominician Republic and in Miami/New York. The entire book is written in her signature style of storytelling through limericks and poems.

2. “Lakewood” by Megan Giddings

Book cover by Amistad.

This disturbing read will trigger the same eerie feeling you get while watching Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” except it’s worse. I read this in March 2020 and I still get shivers thinking about this debut. In order to relieve her family’s financial burden, the main character enrolls herself in the Lakewood Project, where they’re taking advantage of Black, brown and Indigenous people of color. It’s thought-provoking, chilling and will not leave you afterward. 

3. “God Help the Child” by Toni Morrison

Book cover by Knopf.

This short story was my first time reading a book by Morrison, and it was such a profound read. The reader gets to follow along as Bride navigates a world after suffering a difficult upbringing as a result of having very dark skin. Morrison effortlessly shifts from one eclectic character to another to depict the different nuances of colorism. 

4. “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett

Book cover by Riverhead Books.

Everything you’ve heard and read about this book’s hype is absolutely true. After reading her book “The Mothers,” I was not surprised to see a mega studio auction battle occur to win the rights of the novel. Bennett tackles the topics of colorism, shame and identity while balancing a beautiful story of sisterhood and female relationships. Seriously, read it. 

5. “Such a Fun Age” by Kiley Reid

Book cover by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

What happens when a young, Black babysitter in care of a white toddler gets accused of kidnapping the child by a supermarket security guard? While this book was quick and enjoyable to read through, it is Reid’s ability to display the downfalls of performative activism and “woke” culture that really pushes the story forward. This contemporary fiction novel should definitely be on your radar if it isn’t already. 

6. “Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism” by Safiya Umoja Noble 

Book cover by by New York University Press.

After Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle spoke about this book, I knew I was going to be fed some insightful information about our trusted search engine tool, Google. As a result, I’ve drastically decreased my social media dependability. Noble accessibley breaks down how the implicit bias that exists in Silicon Valley, coding and algorithms affects the rest of society. It’s extremely relevant to our climate today. 

7. “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir” by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele

Book cover by St. Martin’s Press.

Khan-Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, details how police injustice continuously fails Black Americans and goes as far as to paint activists as terrorists. Bandele’s deeply personal reflection is nothing short of outstanding either. These women do not shy away from any gritty detail in this powerful memoir. 

8. “My sister, the Serial Killer” by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Book cover by Doubleday Books.

The book’s title alone promises an enticing and captivating story about a woman’s sister ending up being a serial killer. Set in Lagos, Nigeria, the narrative is one of the most original stories I’ve ever read before. It’s unique, dark and especially fascinating to read the complex dynamic between the sisters. 

9. “Luster” by Raven Leilani

Book cover by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Things get peculiar and dark when a young 23-year-old Black woman finds herself moving in with a white man, his wife and their adopted Black daughter. Once you get over the sordid open marriage plotline – if you ever do –  the candid writing does offer an oddly comforting perspective on loneliness in your twenties. In its best moments, the book is also funny in its own way. Although the book is less than 250 pages, it definitely leaves a lasting impression. 

10. “Check, Please! Book 1: # Hockey” by Ngozi Ukazu

Book cover by First Second.

I originally read this comic series when it was available to read through online. This heartwarming LGBT+ graphic novel is about Bitty, a freshmen joining the university hockey team, and his fear of checking. It’s quick to get through, and the cast of characters are hilarious. I don’t know anything about hockey, but it’s still a delightful read.