A curated booklist by your favorite SPL librarians!
|American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson
FBI officer Marie Mitchell’s career is in a bureaucratic coma due to systemic racism and misogyny, but her life begins to change when she's recruited by the CIA to infiltrate Burkina Faso’s communist government. By inserting herself into the life of Thomas Sankara, the country’s new charismatic leader, she soon questions her original loyalties. Based on true events, this debut novel is part political thriller, romance, and gripping family drama.
|Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. Ifemelu and Obinze decide to leave military-ruled Nigeria for new lives abroad. Ifemulu moves to America, only to be confronted by racism as well as new ideas of Black identity. Obinze maintains an undocumented status in London. Facing both hardship and victory, Ifemulu and Obinze reunite 15 years later in a newly democratic Nigeria.
|Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
Black Cake centers upon Byron and Benny, two estranged siblings and their recently deceased mother, whose recipe for a famous Caribbean cake teaches them about family inheritance and ancestral history. As their mother’s story unfolds, they learn more about her true identity than they bargain for, and find themselves coming to terms with their own need for reconciliation and healing.
|The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray
This gripping debut novel tells the story of the Butler sisters, Althea, Viola, and Lillian. Headstrong Althea is arrested, leaving the once respected family in disgrace. The two younger sisters, Viola and Lillian, must uncover family secrets in order to discover what truly happened in the events leading up to Althea’s arrest.
|Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead
This work distinguishes itself as another dazzling novel from the Pulitzer Prize and National Book award-winning Colson Whitehead (Publisher), and marks Whitehead’s first dive into crime fiction. Set in 1960s Harlem, furniture salesman Ray Carney becomes middleman to the local underworld after his cousin involves him in a not-so-successful heist.
|I'm So (Not) Over You by Kosoko Jackson
Kiam Andrews is taken off guard when he receives a text from ex-boyfriend Hudson Rivers. Hudson asks him to be his pretend date for a prestigious wedding held in Georgia, where Kiam may find important networking opportunities to advance his journalism career. Both Kiam and Hudson find more than they bargain for, as buried feelings make them reassess their past and present relationship.
|The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory
After Nikole receives an unwanted, very public wedding proposal in front of 45,000 people at a Dodgers game, she's saved from negative social media backlash when she meets handsome doctor Carlos Ibarra, with whom she has a series of hookups. Everything is a passionate whirlwind until things get out of hand, and one of them has to put a halt on things.
|Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
Set in 1830s Barbados, Esi Edugyan’s novel tells the story of eleven year old George Washington Black, who is brought from the hardship of sugar plantation slavery to become assistant to “Titch,” an abolitionist who is equal parts scientist and explorer. Tragedy strikes when George is wrongly accused of a crime, and a bounty is placed upon him. Titch leaves everything behind to save him, and they must forge a new life in the remoteness of the Arctic.
|The Compton Cowboys: The New Generation of Cowboys in America's Urban Heartland by Walter Thompson-Hernández
This work describes the life of Black urban cowboys who've found redemption and healing on a small ranch outside of Los Angeles. Formerly incarcerated, these men and women have connected themselves with a rich legacy of African American cowboys of the past. Thompson-Hernandez explores what it means to be Black in urban America, defying stereotypes and revealing an often undermined social complexity.
|Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain
Celebrating the four-hundred-year anniversary of the African presence in the United States, National Book Award winning author Ibram K. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain have compiled a richly diverse collection of eighty contributors to review the community history of African American culture from 1619 to 2019. The book includes writings by artists, novelists, and journalists, and is one of the most inclusive, dynamic narratives of African American history to date.
|Hood Feminism: Notes From the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall
Hood Feminism questions the efficacy of contemporary feminism, and makes a strong case that it neglects such issues as economic and educational inequality. Kendall also argues that modern-day feminists fail to address White supremacy, and often fall back upon patriarchal ideals for protection.
|How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones
Award-winning poet Saeed Jones has written a memoir that eloquently blends together prose and poetry to describe his experiences as a young Black gay man living in the South. While the book relates personal insights into fighting to claim an identity, it also provides a larger context from which to understand the intersectionality of race and queerness in twenty-first century American culture.
|Jubilee: Recipes From Two Centuries of African American Cooking by Toni Tipton-Martin
From James Beard award-winning food writer Toni Tipton-Martin, this well-researched celebration of African-American cooking provides over 100 recipes. Included are classic recipes, such as Buttermilk Fried Chicken, as well as lesser known enticements like Bourbon and Apple Hot Toddies. Get ready for new and thrilling flavors!
|Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
Founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, a legal practice whose goal is social reform, Bryan Stevenson shares his experiences as a lawyer providing legal assistance to the poor. Just Mercy is a remarkable account of Stevenson’s fight against discrimination in the legal system. Also now a major movie and winner of the NAACP Image Award for nonfiction.
|She Memes Well by Quinta Brunson
Emmy award-winner for Outstanding Writing for the Abbot Elementary comedy series, Quinta Brunson, comedian and actor famous for her memes and Buzzfeed content creations, debuts in the literary world with a brilliant collection of essays. This book is a source of inspiration for its deft use of humor to confront such difficult issues as poverty, depression, and feelings of self-doubt.
|The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom
Winner of the National Book Award for Nonfiction, Yellow House tells the story of a neglected neighborhood in New Orleans, where the author grew up in a yellow house purchased by her mother, Ivory Mae. Like many homes during Hurricane Katrina, the yellow house is destroyed, although it's kept alive by the author as a symbol of the neglect and indifference caused by civic inequality and racial disparity.
|Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman
An instant New York Times bestseller from the youngest presidential inaugural poet in US history. This stirring collection includes Gorman’s moving poem read at the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States and explores themes of history, language, identity, and erasure while channeling the collective grief from the global pandemic.
|Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans
This coming-of-age poetry explores the intersection of race, feminism, and queer identity through concise and eloquent verse. Powerful and memorable, spoken-word poet Mans has divided her work into six sections, each with a corresponding phone number that can be called to hear excerpts of her poems.
|Felon by Reginald Dwayne Betts
A moving volume of poetry as Reginald Dwayne Betts confronts the difficulties of postincarceration life and the lasting impact of imprisonment on his day to day existence. Touching on the exploitative nature of incarceration in targeting poorer, marginalized members of society and erasing them from public consciousness, he challenges the notion of what being a “felon” means.
|I Am the Rage by Dr. Martina McGowan illustrated by Diana Ejaita
A collection of raw, unflinching poetry exploring racial injustice in America from the eyes of a Black woman. In this award-winning call to action, readers experience the fullness of emotions behind the modern Black experience as expressed by doctor, activist, and advocate for racial, social, and sexual justice, Dr. Martina McGowan.
Scifi & Fantasy
|An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
Living in the slums below deck in the space vessel HSS Matilda, Aster has grown accustomed to being called names like “ogre,” and “freak.” Ferrying the last of humanity from Earth to a mythical “Promised Land,” leaders onboard the ship have imposed racial divisions against darker-skinned passengers, and a ruthless police state. But Aster could ignite the spark that changes the social fabric for good.
|Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Binti is the first of the Humba people to earn a seat at Oomza University, an institution reserved for the galaxy’s best and brightest. But the journey to Oomza is riddled in danger: the space trek is treacherous and the world she’s traveling to is at war with a vicious alien race. Binti will need the wisdom of her people and the knowledge entombed in the university to defeat the odds.
|Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
The first title in the Dark Star Trilogy, this award-winning fantasy-horror mashup has everything from mermaids and vampires to zombies and witches, not to mention thrills and humor. Set in a magical Africa, this epic adventure follows a skilled Tracker in search of a missing boy. Similar to the Song of Ice and Fire series, explicit physical and sexual violence is used to convey themes of misogyny and power throughout the novel.
|How Long 'til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin
Multi-time Hugo Award-winning writer N.K. Jemisin’s premier short story collection offers 22 compelling tales of Black protagonists overcoming adversity and the odds. Spanning science fiction and fantasy, the overriding themes of defiance, feminism, and self-acceptance strengthen these memorable and moving tales.
|The Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
Set thirty years in the future from its publication, this enduring work of Afrofuturism follows young Lauren Olamina as she navigates life in California in the aftermath of America’s socioeconomic collapse. Written in diary-format, it chronicles Laura's dangerous trek to Northern California with a band of refugees after her home’s violent destruction.
Comics & Graphic Novels
|Black Panther Vol. 1, A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates, art by Brian Stelfreeze
The foremost title in the critically acclaimed Black Panther comic book series by award-winning writer Ta-Nehisi Coates. When terrorist organization, The People, poisons the kingdom of Wakanda against their king, Black Panther knows that the only way for the nation to survive is to adapt. But will he live to see the changes through?
|The Black Panther Party by David F. Walker; art, colors and letters by Marcus Kwame Anderson
This award-winning, colorful and concise graphic novel tells the history of the Black Panther Party, highlighting key figures like Huey P. Newtown and Eldridge Cleaver, and devoting an entire section to female party members. Accessible and relevant, this resource will appeal to historians, activists, and readers of all ages.
|Wake: The Hidden History of Women-led Slave Revolts by Rebecca Hall, illustrated by Hugo Martínez
An inspiring and haunting blend of historical fiction and nonfiction that encapsulates the story and spirit of two enslaved Black women who led revolts to fight against slavery. The black and white sketch style drawings bring to life the likely history of revolters Adono and Alele, as the story highlights the hardships of Black women that endure from slavery to present day.