Black female authors are often lumped in the “urban” category. While noting is wrong with those books they often contain obscene amounts of sexual content, black female and male stereotypes, and are often written poorly. It’s not my cup of tea per say but, I respect people for delving into their own creative realms. This post is going to be my Top 10 books my black authors. I’ve read all of these books and these women inspire my writing too much. I’m grateful that I’ve found all of these women in my teen years and now that I’m entering into adulthood I realized how much each of them has shaped me and increased my intellectual capabilities over the years.
10. Teenage Love Affair by Ni-Ni Simone
Ni-Ni Simone was perfect for me when I first started reading young adult literature. The characters were normal high school kids with interesting lives and what captivated me so much with Ni-Ni Simone was the fact that she always kept up with the times from our music to style and how we spoke it kept me so interested over the years and she held it down with dope books until I was a senior in high school. Teenage Love Affair is one of my all time favorites by her it’s about a 17-year-old girl named Zsa-Zsa (her characters have the cutest names BTW) and she’s dating this guy who abuses her occasionally and it becomes a direct reflection of her growing up and watching her mother being abused. Her childhood crush comes back in her life and witnesses what Zsa-Zsa is going through, she loses friends, and for a while herself. In the end having a strong family, friends who truly care for you, and a view on what a healthy relationship is Zsa-Zsa eventually realizes what’s best for her. It had enough drama without being overbearing and there was an innocence in Zsa-Zsa that was something anyone could connect with.
9. There Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
You can’t do a list of black authors without including one of the women who inspired every black female author. She embodies the strength of being a female writer. Hurston was shunned by black male writers during the Harlem Renaissance because the writing style was for entertainment not educational purposes. Though There Eyes Were Watching God in my opinion the fact that it was the first of its kind was educational in its self. It opened up a new writing style that was foreign . The book is written about an adolescent named Janie and her growing up and growing into who she is. Throughout the book Janie is married three times and each time is another circumstance. What inspired me so much about the main character was her wit and strength. People were always judging her and so against her and I think anyone can relate to that especially black women. We walk in a room and often feel like the sore thumb. Janie embraces who she is and she shows it with pride. I read this when I was 17 and at the time the writing style as far as dialect goes I didn’t quite understand it.Nonetheless, I appreciate this story and it’s a key read in my collection.
8. Culture Clash by L.Divine
There is no possible way I could write this list without including L. Divine. I have a memory of standing in the children’s section in middle school and feeling so over all of it. I literally felt like I read every book in the children’s section then my mom walks up holding three books and one of them was Vol. 1 of her series and I felt so grown up because I wasn’t in the children’s section anymore. I read that book in a night and it’s still to this day one of my favorite memories. L. Divine is such a powerful writer and hold her on such a high pedestal. The series follows a teenager and priestess in training named Jayd. Jayd is who I am so much this is one of the books on this list that I will say that I felt like the main character was my best friend. She was passionate, stylish, intelligent, powerful, and talented; Jayd is an iconic character. Culture Clash out of the entire series remains my favorite in this novel Jayd is upset with how her school is handling Cultural Awareness Day she forms the African Student Union on her campus. Jayd has a new crush and after just getting her license she found a new obsession for drag racing against her grandmother/ high priestess grandmothers wishes. Jayd shows growth in this novel she proves that her passion isn’t anger and that she’ll use her passion in a positive way and that’s something we can all admire.
7. The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake
This book tackles colorism in this eyes of our youth. This book is especially important in my eyes being a darker women I felt this book on such an emotional level and this is a book that I recommend to someone of all ages and all backgrounds. Colorism is often seen a small section of a big problem but this was head on. The Skin I’m In is about a 7th grader named Maleeka and her skin could be described as “blue-black” . Growing up she was extremely proud of her skin color. Her father passes away and she loses sight of her own beauty and her mother copes with his death by poorly hand sewing all of her clothes causing attention from other kids. She befriends a mean girl doing her homework in exchange for cooler clothes and protection from other kids torment but not the torment she receives from her new crowd. A new teacher comes and tries to prove to Maleeka how intelligent she actually is and encourages her to be more studious. This is when she discovers her passion for writing and she begins to gain her self-confidence back. The beautiful thing about this book is that after she realized that she was beautiful and talented the kids didn’t stop bullying her but she stopped caring if they did because in her eyes she was a great person. I read this book in the 7th grade and the impact it had on me was tremendous. Prior to that year I wasn’t comfortable or happy in my own skin and it made feel special.
6. Eva’s Man by Gayl Jones
This novel shows the nature of men and women particularly black women and men. Gayl Jones is a skilled writer and I admire her approach for complex plot lines that can often be written into oblivion. Eva’s Man is about a women named Eva who is arrested and sent to a criminal institution for poisoning and castrating a man she loved. The book is broken into for parts starting with her arrest and then flashbacks of her early life. Throughout the novel Eva is objectified and abused males in her neighborhood, family, and close male friends. She is often viewed as an object by men and the man she loves locks her in a room only to come in for sexual purposes. In the she kills representing how fed up she became with the treatment she receives from men. It was too late for her to re-invent herself because of the path of insanity she took. The lesson I took from this story was to be more understanding of circumstances that people go to. It was too late for Eva but it shows you to leave before it is too late.
5. Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah
I couldn’t make a list about books by black female authors if I didn’t include this one. It’s one of those books that if you didn’t read it by now… then what are you waiting for. This novel is fast paced, heartbreaking, and crafted perfectly. Urban books now cannot compare to Coldest Winter Ever this was the first of its kind and made reaching this level of craft near impossible. The story follows Winter in the projects of Brooklyn while she and her family live in harsh part of town they live lavishly. Winter uses money and her manipulative ways to get her way in every situation. Her father is eventually arrested for his illegal empire and she is sent to a group home. Winter’s hustling nature earns her money at the group home by selling clothes and cigarettes. The story continues to go into a spiral when Winter is pregnant by a fake hip hop star and eventually she’s arrested. The story wraps up with her attending her Mother’s funeral. I condensed that novel down so much but it was so entertaining and it gave me such a wow factor.
4. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
This is a very complex novel and I read this my freshmen year in college and although I read Eva’s Man and other works from women in the 70’s this plot was sort of hard for me to grasp. It’s a harder read and I recommend analyzing along the way if you decide to read it. However, the plot is beautiful and it’s crafted to perfection. Toni Morrison is iconic and inspirational in her own right. In my eyes she is one of the best authors and this book pushed my intellectual capabilities. Now I’m going to try my absolute best to give a good synopsis on a novel that does not deserve to be broken down. Two young girls (Claudia and Frieda) parents take in tenants in their Ohio home. The tenants are Mr. Henry, a foster child named Pecola, and Cholly. Pecola is the assumed protagonist of the novel and she is seen as passive and seemed to have a hard life. She is verbally abused by her parents and is constantly reminded of her ugliness. She wishes to be a white girl with blue eyes. Throughout the novel flashbacks are shown about Pecola’s early life and her families struggles as blacks in a white area. Pecola is raped by Cholly which is seen out of love and hate. He leaves her pregnant and her baby dies prematurely. Claudia in ,the ending narrator, states that she believe Pecola was the communities way of escaping. It was much deeper than that but it’s something to be interpreted.
3. The Wedding Gift by Marlen Suyapa Bodden
Ironically this is the only book in this series that the protagonist is a slave. I recently discovered this author in the last few years and she switched point of view frequently in this novel between the slave and the slave masters wife and it’s very interesting that she would choose the wife instead of the daughter, but that’s me jumping ahead. The Wedding Gift is a bout a sixteen-year-old mulatto slave named Sarah. Her father is the owner of the plantation and her mother frequently has to go to him at night much to Sarah’s dismay. Sarah’s is one of the few slaves who desire to be freed. The master approves of her to marry the coachmen at the same time as his own daughter ,and her biological sister, to be married. Sarah is “gifted” to the daughter as a wedding gift. Sarah has ambitions on being free against her husbands will she eventually escapes and she learns of her former master and fathers impending death. He agreed that if he died Sarah’s mother and sister would be freed. He dies and Sarah’s husband is arrested and sent to jail. The novel ends learning that she poisoned her master and father slowly to free her family. Her husband was arrested on Sarah’s account because of her anger that he slept with the women she was owned by. She marries a man in London where she escaped to become a school teacher. I loved this book it was suspenseful and Sarah was so courageous despite her circumstances.
2. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Alice Walker is the women who helped shaped me into my own writing. She like the other women on this list is iconic. Alice Walker took strides for black female authors and a lot of them show influences of her throughout her work. This book is a staple in black culture I think we all could quote the movie entirely. The actual book is an under appreciated period piece that deserves more recognition for the simple fact that it’s a black fictional piece. The novel follows Celie in a diary style, she grows into adulthood and the abuse she receives from her husband who has no love for her and from her father who raped her and took her children away. Celie’s strength shows as she grows closer to herself and further from her troubled past.
1. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
I can’t bring to words how much this woman has inspired me. This book…this book will always be one of my favorites. Her writing embodies power and grace. I always find myself speechless when I discuss Maya Angelou but if you haven’t read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings or the poem, I’m not spoiling it by leaving a synopsis, GO READ IT.