In celebration of Black History Month, we’ve compiled a longlist of recommendations! So long, in fact, we’ve had to split it into three parts: what to read, listen and watch.
In part one, we have compiled 20 non-fiction and fiction reads, including poetry, young adult fiction, novels, essays, memoirs and more. These are all by brilliant Black authors, thinkers, visionaries and creators – we’re sure you’ll find something perfect for you!
1. I Am Not Your Baby Mother by Candice Braithwaite
Candice started blogging about motherhood in 2016 after making the simple but powerful observation that the way motherhood is portrayed in the British media is wholly unrepresentative of our society at large.The result is this thought-provoking, urgent and inspirational guide to life as a black mother.
2. To Exist Is To Resist – Black Feminism in Europe edited by Akwugo Emejulu and Francesca Sobande
This book brings together activists, artists and scholars of colour to show how Black feminism and Afrofeminism are being practiced in Europe today, exploring their differing social positions in various countries, and how they organise and mobilise to imagine a Black feminist Europe.
3. Homie by Danez Smith
A homage to friendship, Smith’s poetry collection covers the search for joy and intimacy in a time where both are scarce. In a country overrun by violence, xenophobia and disparity, and in their body defined by race, queerness, and diagnosis, it can be hard to survive and even harder to remember reasons for living. But then the phone lights up, or a shout comes from family — blood and chosen — with moments of redemption.
4. Hood feminism by Mikki Kendall
In her searing collection of essays, Mikki Kendall takes aim at the legitimacy of the modern feminist movement arguing that it has chronically failed to address the needs of all but a few women. Drawing on her own experiences with hunger, violence, and hypersexualization, along with incisive commentary on politics, pop culture, mental health, and more, Hood Feminism delivers an irrefutable indictment of a movement in flux.
5. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Ghana, eighteenth century: two half sisters are born into different villages, each unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort in the palatial rooms of the Cape Coast Castle. The other will be captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned in the very same castle and sold into slavery.
6. Luster by Raven Leilani
Edie’s messing up in her dead-end admin job in her all-white office, is sleeping with all the wrong men, and has failed at the only thing that meant anything to her, painting. And then she meets Eric, a white, middle-aged archivist with a suburban family, including a wife who has sort-of-agreed to an open marriage and an adopted black daughter who has no one to show her how to do her hair. As if her life wasn’t already hard enough, Edie finds herself falling head-first into Eric’s home and family.
7. I Will Not Be Erased by gal-dem
In this thought-provoking and moving collection of fourteen essays, gal-dem’s writers use raw material from their teenage years – diaries, poems and chat histories – to give advice to their younger selves and those growing up today. These essays tackle important subjects including race, gender, mental health and activism.
8. Black and British by David Olusoga
In this vital re-examination of a shared history, historian and broadcaster, David Olusoga, tells the rich and revealing story of the long relationship between the British Isles and the people of Africa and the Caribbean.
9. Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Felix Love has never been in love – and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like, but even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many – Black, queer, and transgender – to ever get his own happily-ever-after. So when an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages, Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi-love triangle.
10. Feminism, Interrupted by Lolo Olufemi
Lola Olufemi explores state violence against women, the fight for reproductive justice, transmisogyny, gendered Islamophobia and solidarity with global struggles, showing that the fight for gendered liberation can change the world for everybody – especially when we refuse to think of it solely as women’s work.
11. A Mouth Full of Blood: Essays, Speeches, Meditations by Toni Morrison
Spanning four decades, this collection of Toni Morrison’s work brings together this selection of essays, speeches and meditations for the first time. Morrison elegantly interrogates the world around us, exploring race, gender, globalisation, American history, the current state of politics and the role of the artist.
12. Crossfire: A Litany for Survival by Staceyann Chin
Powerhouse, world-renowned LGBTQ poet and spoken-word artist, Staceyann Chin, curates the first full-length collection of her poems. Crossfire collects Staceyann Chin’s empowering, feminist-LGBTQ-Caribbean, activist-driven poetry for the first time in a single book.
13. Oh My Gods by Alexandra Sheppard
Life as a half-mortal teenager should be epic. But, for Helen Thomas, it’s tragic. She’s just moved in with her dorky dad and self-absorbed older siblings – who happen to be the ancient Greek gods, living incognito in London! Her aim: to rein in her chaotic family before they blow their cover AND have a chance at a half-normal social life – or is Helen fated for an embarrassment of mythical proportions?
14. Ordinary People by Diana Evans
Two couples find themselves at a moment of reckoning, on the brink of acceptance or revolution. Melissa has a new baby and doesn’t want to let it change her. Michael still loves Melissa but can’t quite get close enough to her to stay faithful. Meanwhile Stephanie is happy with Damian and their three children, but the death of Damian’s father has thrown him into crisis – or is it something, or someone, else?
15. Afropean: Notes from Black Europe by Johny Pitts
Afropean is an on-the-ground documentary of areas where Europeans of African descent are juggling their multiple allegiances and forging new identities. Here is an alternative map of the continent. Johny Pitts visits well-known places and institutions to delve into these allegiances and identities – all the while presenting Afropeans as lead actors in their own story.
16. Manchester Happened by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
Told with empathy, humour and compassion, these vibrant, kaleidoscopic stories re-imagine the journey of Ugandans who choose to make England their home. Weaving between Manchester and Kampala, this dazzling collection will captivate anyone who has ever wondered what it means to truly belong.
17. Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson
Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists – he a photographer, she a dancer – trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.
18. The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race, gay teen and then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers – to show ourselves to the world in bold colour.
19. When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole
Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood is changing and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney begins a walking tour and finds an unlikely assistant —her neighbour Theo. But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear – their push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.
20. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
When Emira is apprehended at a supermarket for ‘kidnapping’ the white child she’s actually babysitting, it sets off an explosive chain of events. Her employer Alix, a feminist blogger with the best of intentions, resolves to make things right. When a surprising connection emerges between the two women, it sends them on a crash course that will upend everything they think about themselves, each other, and the messy dynamics of privilege.