Every February, we are given a chance to pause and appreciate black culture and the history surrounding it. That celebration comes in countless forms, from buying from black-owned businesses to supporting community events that highlight all aspects of black culture. One of my favorite ways to appreciate black history throughout the entire year is by supporting black artists, particularly authors. I prioritize black and brown writers because I see myself in the stories they share.
Last year, I shared my list of greatest hits from black authors in celebration of Black History Month. For 2023, we’re back with a fresh list, including a book that is so beautifully written, I read it twice. I also noticed a theme as I put this list together. The voices I turned to more often than any others in 2022 were those of black women. That seems fitting as my goals for last year included several focused inward, prioritizing reflection, personal growth, and connection with myself. The books on this list helped with those aspects of my life in one way or another.
Without further ado, enjoy some of my favorites in appreciation of the black authors who deserve to have their voices and stories heard.
When They Call You a Terrorist – Patrisse Khan-Cullors
As one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, Patrisse Khan-Cullors powerfully weaves together a story – her story – of resistance and resilience in When They Call You a Terrorist. Her words bring together a powerful telling of how staunch activism and deep community connection can create and propel a lasting movement. A must-read.
Homecoming – Thema Bryant
In Homecoming, Dr. Thema Bryant provides a safe space to learn about and move through trauma and stress. She recounts some of her personal journey to healing throughout the book, offering insights on how to be more authentic in who we are from both spiritual and psychological perspectives.
Sister Outside: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde
This collection of works by Audre Lorde has been on my must-read list for some time, and it is a work I will read again and again. This collection of Lorde’s writing is profoundly insightful, tackling topics from sexism and racism to homophobia and class structure. Lorde’s works are both beautifully and directly written, offering a perfect balance between optimism for the future and a call to action in the present.
Somebody’s Daughter – Ashley Ford
This intimately personal telling of Ford’s coming-of-age story offers a glimpse into the complex and often confusing family dynamics of her childhood and early adulthood. With her father in prison, the author recounts her journey of finding herself while recognizing and embracing the roots she grew from. Somebody’s Daughter has a handful of intense and triggering themes, but it is well worth the read.
This Here Flesh – Cole Arthur Riley
This book permanently changed my definition of great writing. In her debut work, This Here Flesh, Cole Arthur Riley brings an unimaginable level of beauty and poignancy to each and every passage. She pushes the reader to dig deeper into the stories told to and by us about who we are and what we should be by potently recounting her experiences with similar narratives. It’s not often that a book moves me to tears in how intensely and purposefully the words on the page come together, but This Here Flesh will always have that effect.
Bad Fat Black Girl – Sesali Bowen
After reading Sister Outsider, I had a nagging pull to consume even more work on the evolving feminist landscape. Bad Fat Black Girl by Sesali Bowen was in a completely different vein than Lorde’s writings, but just as pointed and necessary. In her book, Bowen provides a feminist theory focused on pushing out respectability politics and embracing a more inclusive space. If you’re curious about how feminism intersects with hip-hop, this one is for you.
Finding Me – Viola Davis
The much-anticipated memoir from Viola Davis exceeded my expectations. Throughout Finding Me, Davis reflects on years of figuring herself out, weaving through stories of an upbringing where she did not always feel seen or heard. Her words scream that we are all deserving, regardless of where we came from and how we got here.
Rest is Resistance – Tricia Hersey
I wrote about the profound effect this book had on me toward the end of last year as I was gearing up to take some time off for the holiday season. Tricia Hersey in Rest is Resistance directly addresses how debilitating and stagnating it can be when capitalism and business rule the day. Her book encouraged me to reset my understanding of rest, highlighting it as a mechanism for resisting harmful narratives and perceived pressures from the outside world.
Gaining different perspectives by reading the experiences of other black and brown people is one of the best ways for me to reflect on my own life, expand my mind, and grow personally and professionally. My hope for the coming year is that I have more opportunities to indulge in reading these and other black authors’ works.
Loved this list? Don’t forget to check out last year’s suggestions, as well! And if you have any recommendations, we’d love to hear them — we’re always looking to add to our reading lists!