From memoirs to poetry: read these 15 books by Black authors

Amanda Gorman recites her inaugural poem, "The Hill We Climb," during the 59th Presidential Inauguration ceremony in Washington, Jan. 20, 2021. (DOD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Carlos M. Vazquez II) Photo credit: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from Washington D.C, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

During Black History Month, the world honors and recognizes the Black community for its triumphs and struggles. During this time, we celebrate Black creativity of all kinds like television, film, visual art, books and more.

From young adult to memoirs to poetry, the collection of Black-authored literature is limitless. Check out some of The Miami Hurricane’s recommendations for the month of February and beyond.

“You Should See Me in a Crown” by Leah Johnson

As one of the only openly-gay students, high school senior Liz is ready to leave her small town in Campbell, Ind.. All of a sudden, her college financial aid falls through, leaving her scrambling for a way to pay for college — that is, until she discovers her high school’s prom king and queen competition offers prize money for college tuition. Though new girl Mack is also running for prom queen, the pair become friends and perhaps something more as the competition progresses.

“Instructions for Dancing” by Nicola Yoon

Evie doesn’t believe in love — after all, she has the power to see how people’s love stories magically begin and tragically end. When she meets X at La Brea Dance Studio, however, her opinion changes. Nicola Yoon, author of “Everything, Everything” and “The Sun is Also a Star,” pens another touching love story bound to make readers fall in love.

Embed from Getty Images

“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas

16-year-old Starr has to balance her two drastically different worlds: living in a poor neighborhood and attending a predominantly-white preparatory high school. When she witnesses the murder of her unarmed best friend by a policeman, her life changes instantly. Starr must decide between standing up against injustice and staying in the shadows to protect her family and herself. Watch the movie adaptation of “The Hate U Give” starring Amandla Stenberg after to see how it compares to the novel.

“You Make a Fool of Death with Your Beauty” by Akwaeke Emezi

Imagine you and your high school sweetheart are deeply in love in a fairytale-like relationship… until you end up in a car crash. As the only survivor, how do you continue living and find love again?

In this novel, young Nigerian widow Feyi Adekola goes through the grieving process and sheds light on the difficult journey of finding inner peace. With the help of loving friends, Feyi takes a leap of faith by giving love another chance. While her path is far from linear, she teaches the audience that in life you must take risks, be courageous and always give your all.

“Honey and Spice” by Bolu Babalola

Kiki, a cold-hearted London student, works hard to earn her spot at her dream internship in New York City, but she’s prompted by her professor to step outside of the box and make her show more marketable. Kiki is paired with fellow student Malakai to increase the show’s engagement through fake dating.

Between the witty banter and the personality clashing, these two were bound to fall in love. Apart from the romance novel cliche, this story takes the audience through Kiki’s journey of opening up, being more honest, finding strength in vulnerability and becoming emotionally mature.

Embed from Getty Images

“Giovanni’s Room” by James Baldwin

David, a Black American living in Paris, tries to find himself in the City of Lights. When he meets Giovanni, his life changes dramatically and he must come to terms with his sexuality. He struggles to balance his varying identities, something that reflects Baldwin’s experiences as a Black gay man.

“The Color Purple” by Alice Walker

This epistolary novel contains letters written to God by young Black woman Celie despite her wavering faith. She cries for help, searching for reason behind her past sexual abuse and her forced marriage. Instead of the stereotypical depiction of God that Celie was taught, she creates her own version of God. Celie eventually discovers her sexuality, pursues a relationship with a woman and starts her own, ultimately becoming an independent woman and inspiring her friends to do the same.

This iconic book teaches that even when the odds are stacked against you, it is possible to reclaim your happiness and that the first step is to forgive others and yourself.

“The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett

The Vignes twin sisters are identical and inseparable. They grow up in a southern Black town, but as adults, one sister remains in their hometown while the other passes for white and leads an entirely different life. When their daughters’ lives begin to overlap, they have to examine the past in order to deal with the present situation.

“Seven Days in June” by Tia Williams

Single mom and author Eva and fiction writer Shane meet at a literary event in New York. However, it isn’t their first encounter. As teenagers, they spent a week together and fell madly in love. Although Eva wishes Shane would leave New York, no one can deny the sparks between them. They reconnect over the next week of that New York summer and Eva hopes Shane can resolve her unanswered questions from 20 years ago.

Embed from Getty Images

“We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Everyone should read this convincing essay to understand the reason we all should support and uplift women. Feminism should include everyone, no matter their sexuality, race or nationality. Try this piece for a quick, compelling read about how to better be a feminist.

“Finding Me” by Viola Davis

In this tell-all memoir, Viola Davis takes her readers through different stages of her life. From being raised in poverty in Rhode Island to encountering racial discrimination in Hollywood, Davis does not hold back. The newly-recognized EGOT winner reveals how facing her internal struggles helped her to overcome her deeply-rooted traumas, teaching her audience how to prevail through adversity.

“Becoming” by Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama shares the story of her life in this honest memoir, chronicling her childhood, her time in Chicago, her role as a mother and her time as the First Lady of the United States. She offers advice to readers based on her varied life experiences in this deeply personal book. Readers will leave feeling inspired.

Embed from Getty Images

“A Promised Land” by Barack Obama

Obama reflects on his presidency in this 2020 memoir. From being elected in November 2008 to traveling across the world as America’s most important man to dealing with various crises, Obama takes readers through all his experiences as the first African-American President.

“The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country” by Amanda Gorman

Some might remember Inauguration Day in 2021 when Amanda Gorman graced audiences with her presence on stage, reading her original poem, “The Hill We Climb.” Read this powerful poem about the American experience and re-watch the video of her recitation to feel inspired.

Selected Poems by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes, a poet during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and beyond, remains an influential writer in U.S. history. Poems like “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and “I, Too, Sing America” tell the history of racism and segregation through powerful poetry.

“Wild Hundreds” by Nate Marshall

This memoir poetry book allows readers to see through Nate Marshall’s lenses as a young man living in Chicago. Marshall creatively connects with readers by recounting his experiences of loss from a very young age due to gun violence and gang activity. The author also highlights joyful memories like eating pickles with peppermints in the center at Harold’s Chicken Shack. It’s easy to take away different invigorating themes each time one reads “Wild Hundreds,” all of which teach readers how to find beauty in all places.

“stateMEnt” by Marylin Laurent

Throughout this poetry collection, author Marylin Laurent describes her experiences at a crucial, difficult moment in her life. She goes through a rollercoaster of emotions between pain and sadness regarding her family, the world, love, sensuality and her own identity. stateMEnt is Laurent’s truth, her therapy and her outlet, one that will resonate with readers no matter their background.

Riley Simon contributed to the reporting of this article.