Book List

Black Stories Matter: Books by Black Authors You Should Read ASAP

June 3, 2020
The Riveted Team
Believe In Your Shelf

Black lives matter. Black stories matter. Black voices matter. We are committed to using our platforms to lift up Black creators, now and always. Below, we have compiled a list of books by Black authors that everyone should read.

Some of these books are memoirs, reflecting the direct experience of authors. Some are novels that address important topics and themes, some are novels that serve up magic, gaming, friendship, and romance. We’ve also included picture books that can be enjoyed by all ages. Whatever you like to read, we guarantee you’ll find more than a few new books and authors to love on this list.

Black Stories Matter: Books by Black Authors You Should Read ASAP

1. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Written by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, this book alternates perspectives between two teens: one Black, one white. Rashad just wanted to buy chips at the bodega, but he is beaten by a cop who accuses him of shoplifting. The cop’s adoptive son, Quinn, witnesses the beating, which is also caught on camera. Soon the whole town is taking sides, including Rashad and Quinn’s classmates. As simmering tensions threaten to explode, Rashad and Quinn must face decisions they never considered before, and the consequences of a single violent act. Quinn is also forced to interrogate his white privilege, and confront the truth about how the police—and the world—treat people who don’t look like him.

 

2. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Jason Reynolds’ beautiful novel in verse takes you through 60 powerful seconds as 15-year-old Will grapples with the decision to murder the guy who shot his brother. While this book tackles gun violence in a way that only Jason Reynolds can do, it will also help to further discussions of privilege and the systematic oppression of Black people that is so prevalent in America.

 

3. SLAY by Brittney Morris

Kiera Johnson is a Black game developer of a secret Black Panther-inspired multiplayer online role-playing card game called SLAY. Kiera created SLAY as a haven for Black people around the world, but when a teen is killed over a dispute related to the game, SLAY is labeled as racist, exclusionist, and a violent hub for thugs and criminals by the media. Driven to save the only world in which she and other Black teens can express themselves, Kiera must harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness.

 

4. The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

Matt wears a black suit every day for his job at the local funeral home. The pay is good, but the rest of Matt’s life is not. Just when he thinks he can’t handle one more piece of terrible news, he meets Lovey, who’s tough in a way Matt wishes he was. Lovey has dealt with a lot, and she’s the only one who might be able to clue him in on how to rise up when life keeps knocking him down. In meeting Lovey, Matt discovers the hope that comes from finding a person who understands your loneliness—and might also be able to chase it away.

 

5. For Every One by Jason Reynolds

Originally performed at the Kennedy Center for the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Jason Reynolds’ For Every One is exactly that: for every one. For the dreamers. For the kids who dream of being better than they are. Kids who dream of doing more than they almost dare to imagine. Kids who are like Jason Reynolds, a self-professed dreamer. To all the kids who are scared to dream, or don’t know how to dream, or don’t dare to dream because they’ve NEVER seen a dream come true, Jason wants kids to know that dreams take time.

 

6. The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

Set in Los Angeles, 1992 against the background of the Rodney King Riots, The Black Kids centers on the charmed life of Ashley Bennett. Ashley’s family is wealthy; she attends an expensive private school, lives in a fancy neighborhood of L.A., and now that it’s the end of senior year, she spends more time in the pool with her white friends than in the classroom. But when four police officers are acquitted after beating a Black man, Rodney King, half to death, she’s no longer just one of the girls—she’s one of the Black kids. Ashley tries to continue living as she always has, even as her sister gets dangerously involved in the riots and the model Black family façade her parents have constructed starts to crumble. But when a rumor Ashley starts threatens to derail the future of her classmate and fellow Black kid Lashawn, she’s forced to confront uncomfortable truths about the world, and about herself.

This book goes on sale September 1st and you can pre-order your copy here.

 

7. Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

This modern-day twist on the King Arthur legend weaves a tale of Southern Black Girl Magic set against the backdrop of UNC-Chapel Hill. After witnessing a demon attack, Bree Matthews learns of an ancient, ongoing war against the forces of evil and joins a secret society that was founded by the descendants of King Arthur. As the only Black member of a group whose rituals and hierarchies are based on a predominantly white legend, Bree faces near-constant macro- and microaggressions from the other members of the group. But she also discovers a unique magic of her own, one that connects Bree to her mother, who died months before. Soon she must decide whether to use her power to take the society down—or join them in the fight.

This book goes on sale September 15th and you can pre-order your copy here.

 

8. Blended by Sharon M. Draper

This book explores divorce and racial identity from the perspective of eleven-year-old Isabella, who feels pulled between two different worlds: one with her dad, his new girlfriend, and her son Darren, in a fancy house, where they’re one of the only Black families in the neighborhood; and one with her mom and her boyfriend, in a not-so-fancy house that Isabella loves. It seems like nothing can bring Isabella’s family together again—until the worst thing happens. Isabella and Darren are stopped by the police. A cell phone is mistaken for a gun. And shots are fired. This latest novel from Sharon M. Draper, a master of children’s literature, is a must-read for people of all ages.

 

9. Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

Genesis keeps a list of the things she hates about herself. She hates the darkness of her skin, which even her own family comments on. She hates that her parents are always losing their home because her father gambles the rent money away. There are ninety-six things Genesis hates about herself, but she likes her new school. She likes the friends she makes there, and the choir teacher who encourages her. But how can she be confident in her talents when her skin is so dark, and nothing she tries can lighten it? When Genesis reaches #100 on the list of things she hates about herself, will she continue on, or can she find the strength to begin again?

 

10. Infinite Hope by Ashley Bryan

This beautifully illustrated memoir from celebrated author and illustrator Ashley Bryan recounts Ashley’s time serving in the segregated army during World War II. He was drafted at age eighteen, and for the next three years would face the horrors of war—many of them perpetrated by white officers, who treated Black soldiers worse than Nazi POWs. For forty years, Ashley kept his time in the war a secret. But now he tells his story.

 

11. Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything. This stunning picture book from Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o creates a whimsical and heartwarming story to inspire children—and readers of all ages—to see their own unique beauty.

 

12. Copper Sun by Sharon M. Draper

Visitors are always a cause for celebration in Amari’s village, so her tribe welcomes the pale strangers. But the white men are slave traders; they’ve come to capture the strongest and healthiest villagers, and murder the rest. Amari witnesses horrors worse than any nightmare as she is beaten, branded, enslaved and sold to a plantation owner who gives her to his sixteen-year-old son as a gift. An unlikely friendship with Polly, a white indentured servant, leads to hope when the opportunity to escape presents itself and the girls decide together to find the thing they both want most…freedom.

 

13. Parker Looks Up by Parker Curry and Jessica Curry, illustrated by Brittany Jackson

When Parker Curry took at trip to the National Gallery in Washington DC, her life was changed forever. When she came face-to-face with Amy Sherald’s transcendent portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama, she didn’t just see the First Lady of the United States. She saw a queen—one with dynamic self-assurance, regality, beauty, and truth who captured this young girl’s imagination. Parker saw the possibility and promise, the hopes and dreams of herself in this powerful painting of Michelle Obama. An everyday moment became an extraordinary one…that continues to resonate its power, inspiration, and indelible impact. Because, as Jessica Curry said, “anything is possible regardless of race, class, or gender.”

 

14. Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Patillo Beals

Melba Patillo Beals became an iconic symbol of the Civil Rights Movement and the dismantling of Jim Crow in the American south when she and eight other teenagers integrated Little Rock’s Central High School in the wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954. Throughout her harrowing ordeal, Melba was taunted by her schoolmates and their parents, threatened by a lynch mob’s rope, attacked with lighted sticks of dynamite, and injured by acid sprayed in her eyes. But through it all, she acted with dignity and courage, and refused to back down. Warriors Don’t Cry is, at times, a difficult but necessary reminder of the valuable lessons we can learn from our nation’s past. It is a story of courage and the bravery of a handful of young, Black students who used their voices to influence change during a turbulent time.

 

15. The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon

Sam is the son of a civil rights activist, and it isn’t always easy. When his brother Stick starts to drift away, and Sam finds literature about the Black Panthers under Stick’s bed, he’s not sure who to believe: his father, who says creating change is possible without violence, or Stick and the Panthers. Sam is tired of standing by and watching as his friends and family suffer racism in their own community, and soon he has to decide which path to chose: the rock or the river?

 

16. The Effigies series by Sarah Raughley

Sarah Raughley said it best “Sailer Moon meets Pacific Rim“. Four girls with the power to control the elements and save the world from a terrible evil must come together. This series is full of Black Girl Magic a definite must-read.

 

17. Facing the Sun by Janice Lynn Mather

This Caribbean-set story follows four friends—Eve, KeeKee, Faith, and Nia—who experience unexpected changes in their lives during the summer when a hotel developer purchases their community’s beloved beach. Ready or not, it’s time for these four friends to face the sun.

This book goes on sale August 11th and you can pre-order it here!

 

18. Daughters of Jubilation by Kara Lee Corthron

In the Jim Crow South, white supremacy reigns and tensions are high. But Evalene Deschamps has other things to worry about. She has two little sisters to look after, an overworked single mother, and a longtime crush who is finally making a move. Evvie has magic abilities that her family calls jubilation. And when the demons of Evvie’s past finally shake free, she must embrace her mighty lineage, and summon the power that lies within her.

 

This book goes on sale October 13th and you can pre-order it here!

 

19. Learning to Breathe by Janice Lynn Mather

Indira Ferguson has done her best to live by her Grammy’s rules—study hard in school, be respectful, and never let a boy take advantage of her. But it hasn’t always been easy, especially living in her mother’s shadow. When Indy is sent to stay in Nassau, trouble follows as she struggles to conceal her unwanted pregnancy from her aunt. After stumbling upon a yoga retreat, she’ll discover that home is much bigger than four walls and a roof—it’s about the people she chooses to share it with.

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