25 Amazing Books for Black History Month

Celebrate diverse stories, voices, and ideas with these Black History Month Book Picks!

 

ADULT FICTION

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
The Underground Railroad is a 2016 tells the story of Cora and Caesar, two slaves who make a bid for freedom from their Georgia plantations by following the Underground Railroad, which happens to be an actual underground subway.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Things Fall Apart tells two overlapping, intertwining stories, both of which center around Okonkwo, a man of an Ibo village in Nigeria.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

Out of Shadows by Jason Wallace
For Robert Jacklin – packed off without warning to boarding school in Zimbabwe – everything is terrifyingly new. Branded an outsider from the moment he opens his mouth and unable to decode the subtle power struggles of the classroom, he longs for the safety of his old life in England. And then he meets Ivan, who offers him not only friendship, but power. As Robert is drawn slowly into Ivan’s destructive web, he begins to question things he’d always held true and.

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
Abducted from Africa as a child and enslaved in South Carolina, Aminata Diallo thinks only of freedom―and of the knowledge she needs to get home. This captivating story of one woman’s remarkable experience spans six decades and three continents and brings to life a crucial chapter in world history.

Wash by Margaret Wrinkle
In this luminous debut, Margaret Wrinkle takes us on an unforgettable journey across continents and through time, from the burgeoning American South to West Africa and deep into the ancestral stories that reside in the soul.

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
A collection of stories of rare force and beauty, of hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and quirky and vexed human connection. The women in these stories live lives of privilege and of poverty, are in marriages both loving and haunted by past crimes or emotional blackmail.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett
The Mothers is a surprising story about young love, a big secret in a small community – and the things that ultimately haunt us most. It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, 17-year-old. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance – and the subsequent cover-up – will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Two girls dream of being dancers–but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, about what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It’s a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either.

God Help the Child by Toni Morrison
Spare and unsparing, God Help the Child—the first novel by Toni Morrison to be set in our current moment—weaves a tale about the way the sufferings of childhood can shape, and misshape, the life of the adult.

ADULT NONFICTION:

‘Membering by Austin Clarke
In ‘Membering, Clarke shares his own experiences growing up in Barbados and moving to Toronto to attend university in 1955 before becoming a journalist. With vivid realism he describes Harlem of the ’60s, meeting and interviewing Malcolm X, and writers Chinua Achebe and LeRoi Jones.

Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson
As the country grapples with racist division at a level not seen since the 1960s, one man’s voice soars above the rest with conviction and compassion. Michael Eric Dyson speaks out in Tears We Cannot Stop―a provocative and deeply personal call for change. Dyson argues that if we are to make real racial progress we must face difficult truths, including being honest about how black grievance has been ignored, dismissed, or discounted.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
With humor and levity, Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century—one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
From his passionate and deliberate breakdown of the concept of race itself to the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, Coates powerfully sums up the terrible history of the subjugation of black people in the United States. A timely work, this title will resonate with all teens–those who have experienced racism as well as those who have followed the recent news coverage on violence against people of color.

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
This powerful memoir follows Mock’s quest for identity, from an early, unwavering conviction about her gender to a turbulent adolescence in Honolulu that saw her transitioning during the tender years of high school, self-medicating with hormones at fifteen, and flying across the world alone for sex reassignment surgery at just eighteen. With unflinching honesty, Mock uses her own experience to impart vital insight about the unique challenges and vulnerabilities of trans youth and brave girls like herself.

Steal Away Home by Karolyn Smardz Frost
The story of a fifteen-year-old escaped slave named Cecelia Reynolds, who slips away to freedom in Canada while her Kentucky owners holiday at Niagara Falls. In this compelling work of narrative non-fiction, Governor General’s Award winner Karolyn Smardz Frost brings Cecelia’s story to life.

JUVENILE FICTION:

My Name is Phillis Wheatley: A Story of Slavery and Freedom by Afua Cooper
This is the remarkable story of Phillis Wheatley, who is born into an African family of griots, or storytellers, but captured by slave raiders and forced aboard a slave ship, where appalling conditions spell death for many of her companions.

Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson
As a seamstress in the Big House, Clara dreams of a reunion with her Momma, who lives on another plantation–and even of running away to freedom. Then she overhears two slaves talking about the Underground Railroad. In a flash of inspiration, Clara sees how she can use the cloth in her scrap bag to make a map of the land–a freedom quilt–that no master will ever suspect.

Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport
This picture-book biography is an excellent and accessible introduction for young readers to learn about one of the world’s most influential leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King.

JUVENILE NON-FICTION:

Martin and Mahalia: His Words, Her Song by Andrea Davis Pinkney
On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and his strong voice and powerful message were joined and lifted in song by world-renowned gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. It was a moment that changed the course of history and is imprinted in minds forever. Told through Andrea Davis Pinkney’s poetic prose and Brian Pinkney’s evocative illustration, the stories of these two powerful voices and lives are told side-by-side.

Oh, Freedom! Kids Talk about the Civil Rights Movement with the People Who Made it Happen by Casey King
31 interviews that cover three main areas of the movement: life under segregation, the nonviolent movement, and the black power movement. Everyone is here — regular, ordinary people who dedicated themselves to the cause of freedom and the fight for equality, and even a few of the better known people whose names we hear and associate with Martin Luther King, or with the Freedom Rides, or with other familiar aspects of the movement.

TEEN FICTION:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Angie Thomas’s searing debut about an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty.

The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks
In 1919, the 369th infantry regiment marched home triumphantly from World War I. They had spent more time in combat than any other American unit, never losing a foot of ground to the enemy, or a man to capture, and winning countless decorations. Though they returned as heroes, this African American unit faced tremendous discrimination, even from their own government.

Juba! by Walter Dean Myers
This engaging historical novel is based on the true story of the meteoric rise of an immensely talented young black dancer, William Henry Lane, who influenced today’s tap, jazz, and step dancing. With meticulous and intensive research, Walter Dean Myers has brought to life Juba’s story.

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