10 Contemporary Books to Read During Black History Month

by Brittney Reed-Saltz

Looking for a way to celebrate Black History Month? Reading books by Black authors is a great place to start! This list includes ten recent and relevant titles that cover everything from essays to young adult fiction, from poetry to romance novels, and more.

All of them are available from your local RCLS branch, so check them out today!
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We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates
This essay collection examines the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency, extending from the Oval Office to include the wider culture at the time. It includes essays that Coates published during the Obama years, as well as new material.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Winner of the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction, this character-driven family saga deals with race, incarceration, drug use, and ghosts.

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race by various authors, edited by Jesmyn Ward
This nonfiction collection draws its inspiration from James Baldwin’s classic The Fire Next Time and features writing by Kevin Young, Claudia Rankine, Natasha Trethewey,  Edwidge Danticat, and more.
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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
When sixteen-year-old Starr witnesses a white police officer fatally shoot her childhood friend Kahlil, she is thrust into a complicated morass of grief, publicity, and conflicting senses of loyalty. Read this essential YA novel before the movie hits theaters.

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours: Stories by Helen Oyeyemi
Helen Oyeyemi has been hailed as an original and dynamic voice in fiction. In this collection, keys and locks provide a means for examining the “boundaries between coexisting realities.”

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasicontemporary 2
Beginning in Eighteenth Century Ghana, this novel follows the different fates of two half-sisters, one of whom marries an Englishman while the other is sold into slavery in America.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith
The latest novel from acclaimed author examines the fraught friendship between two girls who share the ambition to become dancers, but only one of whom has the talent to achieve that goal.

Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire
You might be familiar with Warsan Shire through Beyoncé’s use of her poetry in the Lemonade visual album. Though this collection is slim, it packs so much into its poetry contemporary 4about race and the refugee experience.

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
Alyssa Cole expands what historical romance novels are capable of doing in terms of race, honesty about history, and whose stories are told. This is the first of her Loyal League series, and it follows a former slave who uses her eidetic memory to spy for the Union during the Civil War.

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert
Suzette returns to her home in Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England and must contend with supporting her step-brother through his mental illness while developing romantic feelings for the same girl he is in love with.

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