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Black Authors Slowly Rise in the Publishing Industry


Many of us don't choose our books by the author. Sure, we all have our favorites. But in general, we look for genres we enjoy, storylines that entice us, or (come on, let's admit it) covers that look intriguing. That said, publishing has a serious diversity problem. According to the most recent Diversity Baseline Study conducted in 2019, 79 percent of respondents identified as white, 78 percent as women, 88 percent as straight, and 92 percent as non-disabled. This is a problem because the people who work in publishing serve as the gatekeepers who decide what voices get amplified, which stories get told, and which experiences readers see reflected. And that matters, both for marginalized populations to get their voices heard and for those of us who come from a place of privilege to learn about experiences that aren't our own.

Reading broadens our perspectives. It lets other voices inside our heads, and gives credence to those stories. We can push back against that lack of diversity by supporting Black, POC, and otherwise marginalized authors. Even the most far-fetched fantasies come from someone's lived experience, and it's beyond time to make sure our bookshelves are as diverse as our world. To that end, we've gathered a list of some of our favorite Black authors. There's a new favorite here for everyone, guaranteed. The Water Dancer ONE WORLD

TA-NEHISI COATES

Hiram Walker is born into slavery, but after his mother gets sold away, he loses his memory of her but receives a mysterious power in return. When that same power saves him from drowning years later, he's spurred to escape and try and rescue his family. So starts a harrowing journey. The Nickel Boys

DOUBLEDAY

COLSON WHITEHEAD

This searing book, based on a true story, takes readers into The Nickel Academy, a reform school for boys that commits devastating atrocities against boys of color. When resident Elwood Curtis meets Turner, his new friend challenges his ideals of how the world should work, with repercussions that echo through the ages. How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir

SIMON & SCHUSTER

SAEED JONES

Cataloguing his life growing up as a gay Black man in the South, this coming-of-age memoir will break your heart wide open. It's a story of one individual journey, but it's also a broader examination of love and power, queerness and identity, and what it means to carve out a place in the world. Such a Fun Age

G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS

KILEY REID

Emira Tucker is a cash-strapped babysitter doing her client Alix Chamberlain a favor when she takes her daughter to a grocery store in the dead of night. But when Emira gets racially profiled by a security guard and the interaction is leaked to the press, she and Alix both have to figure out how to handle it.

We Should All Be Feminists

ANCHOR BOOKS

CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE

Based on a TEDx Talk by the same name, this book introduces a new concept of what feminism means in the 21st century. It draws on the author's own experiences to illustrate why our feminism needs to be inclusive and intersectional. Just try and read it without getting fired up. Salvage the Bones

BLOOMSBURY

JESMYN WARD

With the quivering tension that comes with anticipating a gathering storm, this National Book Award winner takes place in the days before a devastating Mississippi hurricane. Esh is 14 years old and pregnant, and her alcoholic father isn't much help as she and her brothers scrabble to survive and prepare, despite almost zero resources and a running clock.

Invisible Man

VINTAGE

RALPH ELLISON

In this seminal work of American fiction, a nameless narrator grows up in a Southern Black community, gets expelled from a Black college, and moves to Harlem to become a voice of a Black nationalist movement. It's a portrait of our history that extends into the present day. Black Leopard, Red Wolf

RIVERHEAD BOOKS

MARLON JAMES

Calling all fantasy fans: This gripping epic has been called the "African Game of Thrones," in the way it honors African mythology with the same sense of adventure and mystery as the popular series. It's part of a planned trilogy and has already been optioned for film rights, so read it before it hits the silver screen. Grand Union: Stories

PENGUIN PRESS

ZADIE SMITH

In this collection of poignant short stories, Smith explores what life is like in the modern world in all its complexity, wry wit, and sorrow. Moving through time and place, genre, and perspective, it's like an 11-course meal in written form. Red at the Bone

RIVERHEAD BOOKS

JACQUELINE WOODSON

Moving back and forth through time, this exploration of class, race, and the binds of family introduces us to teenage Melody on the eve of her coming-0f-age ceremony. As the story unfolds, we learn the prices paid by members of Melody's family to bring them to that moment, as well as how history reaches through generations. Beloved

VINTAGE

TONI MORRISON

You can't go wrong with Toni Morrison, and this suspenseful story of Sethe, an escaped slave who can't shake off the shackles of her memories, is one of her most well-known. It's a heartbreaking story of love, loss, and the long arm of trauma that every one of us needs to hear. The Hate U Give


BALZER & BRAY

ANGIE THOMAS

Starr Carter is caught between two worlds: The poor neighborhood where she lives and her mostly-white prep school. When she witnesses the fatal shooting of her unarmed friend at the hands of police, she has to make an impossible choice between her own safety and speaking out. This story feels especially familiar at the present moment, and it's a must-read for teens and adults alike.

Their Eyes Were Watching God


HARPER PERENNIAL

ZORA NEALE HURSTON

Originally published in 1937, this story follows Janie Crawford as she tries to assert her independence through three marriages. It's a classic for a reason so if you haven't read it yet, there's no time like the present. Bad Feminist


HARPER PERENNIAL

ROXANE GAY

This essay collection spans politics, culture, and feminism in a series that's sometimes funny, sometimes touching, and totally absorbing. It looks at the author's own journey using cultural touchstones from Sweet Valley High to The Help and so many others, calling us to do better as a society and as individuals. The Worst Best Man

AVON BOOKS

MIA SOSA

Fans of Jasmine Guillory, Sally Thorne, and Helen Hoang, have we got a romp for you. A wedding planner was left at the altar (I know, right?) and when she's offered a career-making opportunity, she's got to jump for it. One issue: She has to work with her ex-fiancee's best man. Is revenge a dish best served at work? You'll have to read to find out. Notes of a Native Son

BEACON PRESS

JAMES BALDWIN

Written during the 1940s and 50s, these essays provide valuable insight into the Civil Rights movement in Harlem, the role of the protest novel, and what it means to be a black man in America and abroad. Baldwin's pointed criticism and social commentary feels just as pertinent today — maybe more than ever. Deacon King Kong

RIVERHEAD BOOKS

JAMES MCBRIDE

After a cranky Brooklyn deacon shoots a neighborhood drug dealer point-blank, this funny and moving novel reveals the consequences of his actions for the victim, the witnesses, the cops assigned to the case, his church, and the neighborhood at large. It shows us how interconnected the characters' stories really are, the importance of compassion, and the way secrets can live and grow if left hidden. The City We Became ORBIT

N. K. JEMISIN

In this disturbingly apt dystopian fantasy, an infection is raging across New York City that seeks to destroy it. But the city itself is made up of five beating hearts, who must come together to fight bigotry, racism, and the forces that would divide us. It hits very close to home these days, but will renew your faith in the city's resilience and humanity, as a whole. It's Not All Downhill from Here

BALLANTINE BOOKS

TERRY MCMILLAN

At 68, Loretha Curry has it all: A husband who still gets her engine going, a successful business, and a group of ride-or-die pals. But when tragedy befalls her and Loretha's inner strength begins to falter, those same friends must step in to show Loretha how much her support system really means. Thick: And Other Essays

NEW PRESS

TRESSIE MCMILLAN COTTOM

In eight analyses of beauty, media, money, whiteness as the default, and other aspects of society in which we all participate, Cottom takes critical aim through the lens of personal experience. Queenie

GALLERY/SCOUT PRESS

CANDICE CARTY-WILLIAMS

Queenie Jenkins is a Jamaican woman living in London and looking for love in all the wrong places. This book that delves into identity politics, relationships, and one woman's search for belonging will resonate with anyone who's ever grappled with their own place in the world.

The Vanishing Half

RIVERHEAD BOOKS

BRIT BENNETT

Twin sisters run away from the small town where they were raised. One decides to live her life passing as a white woman. Another returns, bringing her daughter home to a town that looks down on her for the color of her skin. Weaving together multiple generations and their stories, this riveting book explores how our


backgrounds follow us, no matter how far we try to go.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race MARGOT LEE SHETTERLY

Did you know that three Black female mathematicians did the calculations that helped launch NASA astronauts into space? If not, you're far from alone. Read about these women and their amazing contributions from World War II right on through the Cold War and the Space Race, even as they dealt with segregation and racism along the way.

The Girl With the Louding Voice

DUTTON BOOKS

ABI DARÉ

All a 14-year-old Nigerian girl named Adunni wants is an education, the only way her mother says she can get a "louding voice," or a say in her own future. But instead, her father sells her to be the third wife of a local man. Adunni runs away to the city, but finds herself serving a wealthy family to survive. Through it all, her voice won't stay silent. She finds a way to speak, and her struggle is powerful inspiration for girls everywhere.

The Sun Is Also a Star

EMBER

NICOLA YOON

Now a major motion picture, this beautiful story follows two people who meet at the worst possible time. One is just hours away from her family getting deported back to Jamaica, the other is the golden child who never steps a toe over the line. But when they start to fall in love, everything else falls away — or comes into sharper focus.


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