10 Books on Race written by Black Authors in the 21st Century

In an attempt to broaden our reading lists beyond the mainstream White canon, the February prompt for our #2021DiversityReadingChallenge is to read a book written by a Black author in the 21st century, and we have a few suggestions just to get you started. Read on to find more, and let the decolonizing begin!

By Zinnia Sengupta:

In the striking words of Ibram X. Kendi, “Antiracism is a transformative concept that points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other.” Literature has always been a potent and proven means of understanding the world around you, especially the parts that you don’t quite understand yet.  
In an attempt to broaden our reading lists beyond the mainstream White canon, the February prompt for our #2021DiversityReadingChallenge is to read a book written by a Black author in the 21st century, and we have a few suggestions just to get you started. Read on, and let the decolonizing begin!  

  1. Citizen: An American Lyric

Author: Claudia Rankine

Publisher: Graywolf Press

Claudia Rankine’s bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media.  In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named “post-race” society.

  1. Tram 83

Author: Fiston Mwanza Mujila

Translator: Roland Glasser

Publisher: Deep Vellum Publishing

In an unnamed African city-state riven by civil war, profit-seekers of all languages and nationalities mix. They have only one desire: to make a fortune by exploiting the mineral wealth of the land. Tram 83 plunges the reader into a modern African gold rush as cynical as it is comic. A daring feat of narrative imagination and linguistic creativity, this stunning debut uses the rhythms of jazz to weave a darkly exuberant tale of human relationships, greed and excess in a world that has become a global village.

  1. How to Be an Anti-Racist

Author: Ibram X. Kendi

Publisher: One World

 In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi takes readers through a widening circle of antiracist ideas—from the most basic concepts to visionary possibilities—that will help readers see all forms of racism clearly, understand their poisonous consequences, and work to oppose them in our systems and in ourselves. This is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond the awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a just and equitable society.

  1. Kintu

Author: Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

Publisher: Transit Books

First published in Kenya in 2014 to critical and popular acclaim, Kintu is a modern classic, a multilayered narrative that reimagines the history of Uganda through the cursed bloodline of the Kintu clan. In an ambitious tale of a clan and a nation, Makumbi weaves together the stories of Kintu’s descendants as they seek to break from the burden of their shared past and reconcile the inheritance of tradition and the modern world that is their future.

  1. Black Girl, Call Home

Author: Jasmine Mans

Publisher: Penguin Random House

From spoken word poet Jasmine Mans comes an unforgettable poetry collection about race, feminism, and queer identity. Each poem explores what it means to be a daughter of Newark, and America—and the painful, joyous path to adulthood as a young, queer Black woman. Black Girl, Call Home is a love letter to the wandering Black girl and a vital companion to any woman on a journey to find truth, belonging, and healing.

  1. The Death of Vivek Oji

Author:  Akwaeke Emezi 

Publisher: Riverhead Books

One afternoon, in a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to discover her son’s body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. What follows is the tumultuous, heart-wrenching story of one family’s struggle to understand a child whose spirit is both gentle and mysterious. Propulsively readable, teeming with unforgettable characters, The Death of Vivek Oji is a novel of family and friendship that challenges expectations—a dramatic story of loss and transcendence that will move every reader.

  1. Black Is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine

Author: Emily Bernard

Publisher: Knopf

In these twelve deeply personal, connected essays, Bernard details the experience of growing up black in the south with a family name inherited from a white man, surviving a random stabbing at a New Haven coffee shop, marrying a white man from the North and bringing him home to her family, adopting two children from Ethiopia, and living and teaching in a primarily white New England college town. Each of these essays sets out to discover a new way of talking about race and of telling the truth as the author has lived it. 

  1. Blackass: A Novel

Author: A. Igoni Barrett

Publisher: Graywolf Press

Furo Wariboko, a young Nigerian, awakes the morning before a job interview to find that he’s been transformed into a white man. In this condition he plunges into the bustle of Lagos to make his fortune. A. Igoni Barrett’s Blackass is a fierce comic satire that touches on everything from race to social media while at the same time questioning the values society places on us simply by virtue of the way we look.

  1. Red at the Bone

Author: Jacqueline Woodson

Publisher: Riverhead Books

An unexpected teenage pregnancy pulls together two families from different social classes, and exposes the private hopes, disappointments, and longings that can bind or divide us from each other. Moving forward and backward in time, Jacqueline Woodson’s taut and powerful new novel uncovers the role that history and community have played in the experiences, decisions, and relationships of these families, and in the life of the new child.

  1.  The Office of Historical Corrections: A Novella and Stories

Author: Danielle Evans

Publisher: Riverhead Books

This award-winner author brings her signature voice and insight to the subjects of race, grief, apology, and American history. With The Office of Historical Corrections, Danielle Evans zooms in on particular moments and relationships in her characters’ lives in a way that allows them to speak to larger issues of race, culture, and history.

Let us know your suggestions and thoughts! Thank you for joining us on this journey of diversifying our bookshelves and minds!

Note: All images have been sourced from their respective publishing portals/digital marketplaces.

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