In these dark, cold winter months, let us take comfort in the amazing things black people are doing in literature. 2018 is going to be lit, y’all.
Morgan Jerkins’ newly released debut essay collection, This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America, is, simply, incendiary. The Princeton-educated wunderkind pens a coming-of-age tale rooted in an analysis of race, gender and feminism.
Legendary Nigerian-American author Nnedi Okorafor releases Binti: The Night Masquerade, the third offering in her Binti trilogy. Here, Binti returns to her home planet, only to discover that all is not well and nothing is what it seems.
The picture-book version of Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly, is a perfect tool for inspiring young readers and teaching them about positive black history in science and technology.
The inspirational young writer and activist Marley Dias, who launched #1000BlackGirlBooks when she was in sixth grade, releases the wonderfully astute Marley Dias Gets It Done.
Ijeoma Oluo’s debut essay collection, So You Want to Talk About Race, is fascinating, real and necessary, a superb compendium reckoning with race, gender and identity in white America, and definitely worth a look.
Deborah Santana has compiled the anthology All the Women in My Family Sing: Women Write the World—Essays on Equality, Justice, and Freedom, consisting of essays from a diverse array of women. Santana, an author, activist and filmmaker, carefully showcases the depth and breadth of women’s voices on family, identity and culture.
When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele, is the story of Khan-Cullors’ pivotal role in co-founding the Black Lives Matter movement, and one of 2018’s most important nonfiction books.
Ilysah Shabazz and Renée Watson pen Betty Before X, an account of Betty Shabazz’s childhood. Here, an 11-year-old Betty comes of age, embedded in the church and activism.
Here is the reissue of Delores Phillips’ The Darkest Child, a powerful, desperate tale of childhood in the South in 1958 in which familial love is dependent upon one’s shade of blackness.
Black Ink: Literary Legends on the Peril, Power, and Pleasure of Reading and Writing, edited by Stephanie Stokes Oliver, is an important anthology of writings by black luminaries on the influence of the written language on their, and our, political, social and cultural experience.
Shomari Wills unearths important histories of forgotten black wealth in Black Fortunes: The Story of the First Six African Americans Who Escaped Slavery and Became Millionaires. An informative and inspiring read.
Haitian-American author Katia D. Ulysse’s Mouths Don’t Speak is the powerful story of home and identity centered on a woman who returns to Haiti after a 25-year absence when an earthquake kills her parents.
Naima Coster’s Halsey Street explores, in an engaging, relatable narrative, a fraught relationship between a mother who has returned home to the Dominican Republic and her adult daughter, who feels betrayed by her mother’s actions.
Seminal romance author Beverly Jenkins has released Tempest, a story of black love in the early days of the American West. Here, two lonely strangers prove that opposites do attract.
Mahogany L. Browne’s stand-alone poem has been released as Black Girl Magic: A Poem, with illustrations by artists Jess X. Snow. Browne crafts a beautiful ode to black-girl empowerment.
The formidable novelist and essayist Zadie Smith can’t help publishing a book every 16 months; the last one was Swing Time in November 2016. This month, she gives us her latest essay collection, Feel Free, a profound and engaging exploration of family, identity and culture.
Novelist, journalist and professor Sophronia Scott offers Love’s Long Line, a collection of essays pondering questions of race, motherhood and cultural events.
The great Tayari Jones published her masterly opus An American Marriage, and it is everything you want to read in a novel right now. In Jones’ interrogation of race and imprisonment in America, the lives of newlyweds Celestial and Roy are upended when Roy is imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit.
The multitalented Mat Johnson releases his gripping graphic novel Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery, a fictionalized recounting of Northern black journalists who went down South to investigate lynchings of black people in the early 20th century.
#WeNeedDiverseBooks co-founder Dhonielle Clayton unveils The Belles, a fascinating young-adult read set in the surrealist, fictional city of Orleans, where the business of beauty is a high-stakes life-and-death industry.
Mark Whitaker’s Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance is a much needed and engaging exploration of black Pittsburgh’s vibrant position as a mecca for black enterprise and culture from 1920 to 1960.
One of the most eagerly anticipated books of 2018 is Nigerian Akwaeke Emezi’s astonishing debut novel, Freshwater, an exploration of a young Nigerian woman’s fracturing of self in reaction to the trauma of violence in contemporary life.
Albert Murray: Collected Novels & Poems: Train Whistle Guitar/The Spyglass Tree/The Seven League Boots/The Magic Keys/Poems is a retrospective of the collected work of literary legend Albert Murray.
The House of Erzulie, the third novel by Kirsten Imani Kasai, is the haunting, Gothic story of a contemporary historian who uncovers a mystery set in the South of the 1850s with ramifications that echo outward into the present.
Author, activist and professor Brittney Cooper’s Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower is a fearless, phenomenal memoir of finding her voice as a black woman.
Walter Mosley is black America’s quintessential mystery author, well known as much for his prolific production as for the reliably stellar quality of his books. Down the River Unto the Sea is typical Mosley: a strong mystery with strong, hard-boiled detectives and a strong storytelling voice.
Keisha N. Blain’s Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom (Politics and Culture in Modern America) is a powerful, in-depth exploration of the work of black female activists between 1920 and 1960.
One of three books Princeton professor of African-American studies Imani Perry has coming out in 2018, May We Forever Stand: A History of the Black National Anthem is a timely and meticulous addition to black history.
Of special note is Wrestling With the Devil: A Prison Memoir, by the legendary Kenyan writer and African literary theorist Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. Here, Thiong’o recounts the year he spent in a Kenyan maximum security prison in 1977 without charge or trial as he wrote his novel Devil on the Cross on toilet paper in an attempt to survive the brutal prison conditions. Wrestling With the Devil is an important and haunting addition to the author’s legacy.
Victor LaValle masterfully reimagines Shelley’s Frankenstein for the modern era in his graphic novel Destroyer, a timely and powerful read that re-energizes the Gothic genre.
Speak No Evil, penned by Nigerian-American writer Uzodinma Iweala, author of Beasts of No Nation, is a timely and important story of young Niru, who tries to come out to his conservative parents in anti-gay Nigeria.
Scottish-Sierra Leone writer Aminatta Forna gives us Happiness, a poignant story of family, chance and West African immigrants in London.
Deemed the “black Harry Potter,” 23-year-old Tomi Adeyemi’s imaginative and vivid Children of Blood and Bone has already been optioned for film and is sure to excite science fiction and fantasy fans.
Empire actor and activist Grace Byers publishes I Am Enough, an inspiring and uplifting children’s book that is an ode to black girlhood.
For young readers, Sherri Winston releases the third book in her popular and engaging Brianna Justice series—President of the Whole Sixth Grade: Girl Code— which is sure to delight eager fans everywhere.
Novelist John Edgar Wideman, a giant of American literature, unveils American Histories, a detailed exploration of the making of self and the world around us.
The Parking Lot Attendant, by Nafkote Tamirat, is an innovative and engaging story of an Ethiopian girl’s coming of age in Boston and on an unnamed island commune; an original, exciting read.
Anthony Groom’s exquisitely crafted The Vain Conversation is a fictionalized account of the true story of two black couples lynched in 1946 America that stuns with the detail of its crafting.
Leesa Cross-Smith releases her poignant and heartfelt debut novel, Whiskey & Ribbons, the story of a young mother struggling to raise her newborn baby after the death of her husband.
Be sure not to miss M Archive: After the End of the World, a riveting experimental sci-fi/fantasy read from Black Girl Dangerous creator Alexis Pauline Gumbs.
Brother, by David Chariandy, is a heartwarming coming-of-age story of the sons of Trinidadian immigrants.
In Cydney Rax’s A Sister’s Secret—a contemporary romance grounded in black women’s friendship—lifelong friends try to balance telling enough truth to be a good girlfriend with not telling the truths that no one wants to hear.
Zimbabwean poet Bernard Farai Matambo’s Stray, winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, explores the nature of identity in relation to the experiences of the African Diaspora.
Cape Verdean Blues, the latest haunting poetry collection by Shauna Barbosa, explores identity, nationalism and the nature of home.
Former NBA player Etan Thomas releases the timely and necessary We Matter: Athletes and Activism, in order to add useful, relevant words to the conversation on athletes and their activism.
The sharp brilliance of Tracy K. Smith’s latest poetry collection, Wade in the Water, is sure to be on everyone’s awards and best-of lists. There is a reason the Pulitzer Prize winner is the poet laureate of the United States. Start with her stunning erasure poem “Declaration.” Read and be amazed.
Brown, by the great Kevin Young—director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and poetry editor of the New Yorker—is grounded in Young’s black Kansas boyhood. It masterfully reckons with questions of identity and culture.
New-Generation African Poets: A Clapbook Box Set—Tano, the annual groundbreaking and necessary anthology of work by emerging African poets, is co-edited by Ghanian-Jamaican poet Kwame Dawes and Nigerian-British author Chris Abani. It is a wonderful way to discover important contemporary poets of the global African Diaspora.
Kwame Alexander’s deliciously lyrical Rebound, a young-adult novel-in-verse, jumps onto the scene and is sure to please fans of his earlier two novels-in-verse: The Crossover and Booked.
For young readers who have questions about serious topics, Jewell Parker Rhodes’ Ghost Boys is a fictional ode to black boys killed by police violence.
An unmissable debut short story collection, Jamel Brinkley’s poignant A Lucky Man is revelatory in its crafting of prose and language. A wonderful read.
Nafissa Thompson-Spires’ exquisitely original Heads of the Colored People is fresh, inventive and sure not to disappoint. Each short story starts in the familiar and then leads to unexpected and compelling revelations.
Of particular note is the anthology edited by Mahogany L. Browne, Idrissa Simmonds and Jamila Woods: The BreakBeat Poets, Volume 2: Black Girl Magic, an anthology exploring the beauty of black women.
Notable in nonfiction is the timely anthology, edited by the incomparable Roxane Gay, Not That Bad: Dispatches From Rape Culture, showcasing important, necessary reflections from a diverse cross section of authors.
When Barracoon, a powerful account of slavery by Zora Neale Hurston, is released, we will have access to a previously unpublished work by one of the most groundbreaking and visionary voices in African-American literature.
L. Penelope’s page-turning apocalyptic epic Song of Blood & Stone does what fantasy does best: provide epic plots, epic world-building and epic myth. A rewarding, carefully crafted read.
Activist-scholar-writer Darnell L. Moore’s No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black & Free in America is a heart-wrenching memoir of triumphing over the racial violence he experienced throughout his life.
MEM, by Bethany C. Morrow, is a fantastic science fiction novel exploring memory and identity, set in the glamorous early 1900s. An inventive, fast-paced narrative.
National Endowment for the Arts Award winner Renee Simms publishes her debut short story collection, Meet Behind Mars, and it is a lovely, vivid read.
As part of the Zane Presents series, romance author Ruth P. Watson releases Strawberry Spring, set in the 1920s South, that explores the importance of family and legacy.
National Book Award winner Terrance Hayes releases the much anticipated American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, reckoning with masculinity and violence against black Americans.
Nnedi Okorafor becomes the newest writer to settle into Wakanda with Black Panther: Long Live the King.
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ wonderful Black Panther Book 5: Avengers of the New World, Part 2 is sure to excite fans everywhere.
Denene Millner’s new children’s imprint at Agate Publishing will release the board book What Is Light? by Markette Sheppard, a joyful celebration of the world and space occupied by black children.
A not-to-be-missed fiction anthology edited by Chris Abani, Lagos Noir features Nigeria’s most compelling writers on the darker side of Lagos. A must-read for literary fans of all kinds.
This month sees the release of South African writer Kopano Matlwa’s Evening Primrose, the journey of a young woman navigating family and career in postapartheid South Africa within the lingering xenophobia of the culture.
Ivelisse Rodriguez’s Love War Stories explores the lives of young black girls growing up in Puerto Rico and reckons with questions of home and identity.
The Mournable Body is the sequel to Tsitsi Dangaremba’s acclaimed debut novel, Nervous Conditions, which explores the lives of contemporary Zimbabwean women.
Novelist-filmmaker Mitchell Jackson gives us his gripping second book, Survival Math: Notes on an All-American, a nonfiction account of family, race and institutional racism.
Fresh Ink: An Anthology, a compendium of diverse stories for young adults by writers of color, is edited by Lamar Giles and includes a new play by Walter Dean Myers.
Of special note is the reissue of Little Man, Little Man: A Story of Childhood, James Baldwin’s only children’s book, which has been out of print since 1975. Read and enjoy.
Everyday People: The Color of Live—A Short Story Anthology is a much needed anthology, edited by Jennifer Baker, that brings together some of today’s most compelling writers of color, spanning a diversity of subject matter and style.
The second of three books published in 2018 by Imani Perry is Vexy Thing: On Gender and Liberation. Here, the Princeton professor analyzes gender issues in both contemporary and historical contexts.
The last of three books published by Imani Perry in 2018 is Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry. Here, Hansberry’s life is excavated to provide a deeper portrayal of the seminal artist.