Every February in the United States is Black History Month, where we are encouraged to celebrate the achievements of Black people and recognize their central role in shaping U.S. history. During this time, one of the best ways to honor Black voices in literature is to pick up a book (or 15) written by Black authors.
While many people should be familiar with the works of classic authors such as Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Octavia Butler, and Zadie Smith, Distractify has a list of 15 fiction books written by contemporary Black authors for your next TBR. Keep in mind this list is by no means exhaustive!
'The Hate U Give' by Angie Thomas (Young Adult)
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is a bestselling young adult novel about Starr Carter, a 16-year-old Black student from a poor neighborhood attending a predominantly white private school. After Starr witnesses the police murder her friend Khalil, she decides to speak out about the shooting and draws national attention to ongoing police brutality. The book was also adapted for film in 2017.
'The Vanishing Half' by Brit Bennett
Brit Bennett's 2020 hit The Vanishing Half follows the lives of twin sisters Desiree and Estelle "Stella" Vignes and their daughters, Jude and Kennedy. As children, Desiree and Stella are light-skinned Black sisters living in Louisiana. After witnessing their father's lynching in the 1940s, the sisters run away to New Orleans, with Stella disappearing after to live life as a white woman. The novel tracks their separate lives through the 1990s and the contrasts between their lived experiences.
'Get a Life, Chloe Brown' by Talia Hibbert
TikTok sensation Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert is a not-to-miss romance. After almost dying, chronically ill Chloe is determined to step outside her comfort zone and "get a life" outside her family's mansion. When she enlists local handyman Redford "Red" Morgan to accomplish her goals, the two embark on a journey of self-discovery, rebelliousness, and love.
'Legendborn' by Tracy Deonn (Young Adult)
Bestselling fantasy novel Legendborn by Tracy Deonn follows 16-year-old Briana "Bree" Matthews as she attends a pre-college program at NC Chapel Hill following the death of her mother. Bree soon discovers a secret society called the Order of the Round Table dedicated to fighting demons and keeping the legends of King Arthur very much alive. When Bree discovers a connection between her mother's death and the Order, she decides to investigate — and discovers her powerful family history in the process.
'The Water Dancer' by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates follows Hiram Walker, an enslaved young man living on a Virginia plantation called Lockless. His mother is sold and sent away from him. Hiram later discovers that his memories of her trigger teleportation abilities, called "conduction," a gift he uses to help the enslaved to freedom as part of the Underground Railroad. Hiram decides to escape Virginia and rescue his family, all while navigating an uphill battle in the Antebellum South.
'The Black Flamingo' by Dean Atta (Young Adult)
The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta is a coming-of-age novel in verse about Michael, a mixed-race gay teen living in London. As he gets older and discovers the Drag Society, Michael becomes "The Black Flamingo" and embarks on a journey of identity and self-discovery.
'The Underground Railroad' by Colson Whitehead
Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead takes place in an alternate Civil War reality, where the Underground Railroad is a literal railroad underground. The story's protagonist, Cora, is an enslaved woman born on a Georgia plantation to a mother who abandoned her in pursuit of freedom. When Caesar, a new arrival, confides in Cora he plans to escape, the two embark on their own path to freedom.
'We Deserve Monuments' by Jas Hammonds (Young Adult)
In Jas Hammonds's We Deserve Monuments, 17-year-old Avery Anderson is furious to be uprooted from her life in D.C. and forced to move in with her terminally ill grandmother, Mama Letty. The tension between her mother and Mama Letty gives way to buried family secrets, but after befriending the next-door neighbor, Simone Cole, and Jade Oliver, who is mourning her mother's murder, Avery finds that digging for the truth often uncovers a lot more.
'Black Leopard, Red Wolf' by Marlon James
National Book Award Finalist Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James blends mythology and history in his "Dark Star" trilogy. Tracker is renowned for his skills as a hunter, but when he is sent to find a boy who disappeared three years earlier, he finds himself part of a group that is also searching for the boy. Amongst the group is a shapeshifter who goes by the name of Leopard.
'The Other Black Girl' by Zakiya Dalila Harris
In the thriller The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris, 26-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is fed up with being the only Black employee at her publishing house. She's delighted when Hazel, another young Black woman, moves into the cubicle next to hers. But when a series of events elevate Hazel to office darling and leave Nella with threatening notes, she begins to question her career — and her coworkers.
'This Poison Heart' by Kalynn Bayron (Young Adult)
This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron follows teen Briseis, a Brooklynite who moves to rural New York after her aunt dies and wills her a crumbling estate. But Bri has a gift: She can grow plants with a touch. Hoping that the change of pace will help her master her abilities, Bri soon realizes her new home comes with an apothecary that still has plenty of customers. When Bri befriends Marie, a member of the surrounding community, she realizes there's more to her family history than meets the eye.
'Jackal' by Erin E. Adams
In Erin E. Adams's debut thriller Jackal, Liz Rocher returns to her hometown in Pennsylvania to attend her best friend's wedding. When her goddaughter, Caroline, goes missing in the woods, Liz, one of the few Black students in her school, realizes that young Black women have been disappearing (and dying) in the woods for much longer than she ever knew. Determined to solve the case before it's too late, Liz starts investigating on her own to unmask the monster in the shadows.
'Wild Women and the Blues' by Denny S. Bryce
Wild Women and the Blues by Denny S. Bryce follows Honoree Dalcour, an ambitious dancer at the celebrity-studded Dreamland Café in 1925. In 2015, 110-year-old Honoree is visited by film student Sawyer Hayes, who hopes to ask Honoree about Black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. But as Honoree reveals her secrets, Sawyer discovers different links between his research as the past meets the present.
'As You Walk on By' by Julian Winters (Young Adult)
Award-winning author Julian Winters's As You Walk on By follows 17-year-old Theo Wright, who believes he has life after high school on lock. When he asks his crush, Chloe, to prom at a house party, the proposal goes epically wrong, leading Theo to seek refuge from the party in an empty bedroom where he meets several other new acquaintances.
'Pride' by Ibi Zoboi (Young Adult)
In this remix of Pride & Prejudice, Ibi Zoboi's Pride follows Zuri Benitez, who is quick to dismiss the wealthy Darcy family moving in across the street of her native Brooklyn. Zuri is proud of her roots and particularly loathes arrogant Darius Darcy. But between college applications, boy trouble, and saving her Bushwick neighborhood from gentrification, Zuri discovers that she and Darius have more in common than they thought.