Updated: Jul 2
We’re diving into the most fiercely written books in a variety of genres by contemporary Black women authors that we’ve read over the past year. They all play a role in Black history and culture, highlighting unique characters with experiences that reflect on the impact of systemic injustice and the Black identity.
Don’t just read these books, but get to know the authors behind the stories. Each of these women’s contributions to the literary community spans far beyond the books they’ve written.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The story follows Ifemelu and her lover, Obinze, who separately flee military-ruled Nigeria to head West. Once Ifemelu arrives at her destination, she is faced with the harsh reality of being Black in America. Obinze, on the other hand, is forced to settle in London where a dangerous path awaits him. When the two reunite 15 years later back in Nigeria, sparks fly once more, though things are vastly different. Will their love survive all that has changed? The novel won the 2013 U.S. National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a critically acclaimed Nigerian writer of multiple genres. Her manifesto, Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, should not be overlooked, either. It’s an insightful, bold, honest, and essential piece of literature.
Ashley C. Ford
In this poignant and honest New York Times best-selling memoir, Ashley C. Ford discusses her complex, impoverished childhood in Indiana with an incarcerated father and an emotionally detached mother. The book covers Ford’s journey to self-acceptance, trying to navigate a world that offered her little support in her most formative years. The prose is descriptive, heavy, and skillfully written with challenging topics from abuse and rape to loss and financial hardship.
Desiree and Stella are twin sisters with totally different identities. Both light-skinned, Black young women, Stella takes on a white-passing identity and Desiree chooses to embrace her Black identity. The book unravels the layers of their varying human experiences, and how the choices they make will impact the generations to follow. Told from multiple points of view, Bennett masterfully writes compelling characters whose psyche is explored beyond the scope of race and acceptance but complex familial ties and the relationships between women and the men that surround them.
Hard-hitting and awe-inspiring, in this book you’ll meet the courageous and resilient Adunni, a young Nigerian woman who wants nothing more than to earn an education and get out of poverty. But when her father sells her to an older man for marriage, she escapes only to become a housemaid to a rich family who mistreats her. The story exposes difficult truths about how women in Nigeria are viewed, all while remaining authentic and honoring the culture. Adunni never loses hope for a better future and refuses to stop fighting no matter what comes her way.
Lola Akinmade Åkerström
This Good Morning America Book Club Buzz Pick follows three Black women connected only through one influential white man in Stockholm. Prominently focusing on the Black woman’s experience in a mostly white society, it covers themes from sexism and racism to mental health and sexuality. The story does well to give us complex, imperfect characters who must overcome inherent challenges and obstacles in a flawed society.
A haunting ghost story with rich, dimensional characters and hypnotizing writing, in this book you’ll meet a young bi-racial boy named Jojo and his dysfunctional family. With a drug-addicted mother, a grandmother dying of cancer, a three-year-old innocent little sister, and a father about to come out of prison, Jojo grows up all too quickly amidst his small town in poor, rural, Mississippi. This poetically written novel is told through multiple perspectives that bring to light a family in crisis and a racist, unforgiving society.
Just when you think you have it all… Celestial and Roy are newlyweds whose lives are turned upside down when Roy goes to prison for a crime they swear he didn’t commit. But when Celestial takes comfort in Roy’s best friend while he’s away, life becomes even more complex when he’s released. This intimate, juicy story does more than give us passion and drama. It discusses the intricacies of marriage, loyalty, and how the injustices of Black men in America impact the entire family.
This witty, hilarious collection of essays dives right into the core of Issa’s awkward, anxiety-ridden life experiences with no holds barred. A creative, entrepreneurial Black woman, Issa’s honesty about the struggles to uncover her authentic sense of individuality is relatable to anyone. She’s not afraid to admit all of her failed attempts to “be cool” in a world where she feared being herself. It’s fun and comedic with serious undertones about the stereotypes of Black people and what it means to embrace one’s Black identity.
Written as a collection of essays, this saga gives voice to a round-up of complex characters in two families from Ghana to New York City across centuries in time. Told by two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, one captures the truths of an enslaved America, and the other tells of the grinding warfare in Ghana. Each chapter introduces a new descendant of one of the sisters, unweaving a gut-wrenching depiction of their experiences in segregated cultures over the span of 250 years.
A coming-of-age tale like no other, this generational family drama brings you Melody, a Black young woman from Brooklyn whose 16th birthday ceremony stirs up memories of a complicated family history. A raw telling of how the choices we make as young people follow us into adulthood with themes of gentrification, class, racism, and teen pregnancy. This urban family offers an emotionally captivating story as you find out how they got to where they are today.
Christine Weimer is a New York City-based content writer, award-winning author, and publishing advisor whose work has been published in various anthologies and literary journals. She holds an MFA in English and is the co-founder of a woman-owned and operated press, Our Galaxy Publishing, an educational and service-based platform championing inclusivity and diversity in publishing. She can mostly be found sharing her introspections on her Instagram as they ebb and flow. If lost, check the crevices of Washington Square Park—look for the disheveled lady with toddler in tow.
Our Galaxy Publishing is a New York City-based, women-owned, and operated independent press with a nationwide team serving aspiring authors the tools to write and publish. Our seamless publishing experience focuses on action-based tools and resources to publish, exploration of all core storytelling elements, and empowering an entrepreneurial mindset. Whether seeking to self-publish a book or find a traditional publisher, work with us for book publishing, book editing, book marketing, and writing mentorship to publish a successful book.