February is Black History Month. In honor of this annual remembrance and celebration, we’re taking the opportunity to reflect on all of the incredible contributions African-American writers have made to literature and our society as a whole. That’s why we’re picking up these 12 new (and new-ish) books by some of the most incredible Black authors writing today.
The Best New (and New-ish) Books to Read This Black History Month
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“My body has not betrayed me; it has continued rebounding against all odds,” writes journalist, editor and pop-culture critic Evette Dionne in her second book (after Lifting as We Climb: Black Women's Battle for the Ballot Box). “It is a body that others map their expectations on, but it has never let me down.” In Weightless, Dionne explores the minefields that fat Black women are forced to navigate every day. From her early experiences of harassment to her diagnosis with heart failure at 29, Dionne tracks her relationships with friendship, sex, motherhood, self-image and more.
In this funny first novel, Dominick, suddenly jobless and single, flees his life in Hell's Kitchen to try and get back on track in his hometown of Detroit. His goal? To exit the shallow dating pool and get married by 35—a deadline that’s approaching fast. His best friend, Troy, never left Michigan and finds himself at odds with all the men in his life: a boyfriend he's desperate to hold onto, a dissatisfied father, and his other friend, Remy. Remy, a rags-to-riches real estate agent, has his own problems—namely, choosing between making it work with a long-distance partner or settling for a local Mr. Right Now who's not quite Mr. Right. Together, the three men face the trials and tribulations of real friendship, awkward Grindr hookups, workplace microaggressions, situationships and everything else the defines Black, gay, millennial life.
Early on in Kendra James’s career as an admissions officer specializing in diversity recruitment for prep schools, she felt like she was selling a lie, persuading students and families to attend cutthroat and largely white schools similar to The Taft School, where she had been the first African-American legacy student a few years earlier. In her new memoir, Admissions, James reflects on her own elite education experience, working through how disillusioned she had become with America's inequitable system while dispelling myths about boarding schools perpetuated by popular culture.
One day, out of the blue, Taylor Harris's happy and healthy 22-month-old son, Tophs, wakes up listless, barely lifting his head for water. She rushes him to the doctor, where it’s confirmed that something is wrong—though no one can tell her why. During the search for a diagnosis, Harris spends countless hours trying to navigate health and education systems that can be hostile to Black mothers and children. A crucial examination of the challenges of raising a Black son in America and how the healthcare industry fails people of color, Harris’s debut memoir is so much more than the story of a perplexing medical mystery.
It’s summer 1995 and 10-year-old Joan, her mother and her younger sister flee her father's explosive temper and seek refuge at her mother's ancestral home in Memphis. As she grows up, Joan finds relief in her artwork, painting portraits of the community in Memphis. All the while, Joan begins to understand that her mother, her mother's mother and all the mothers before them persevered, made impossible choices and put their dreams on hold so that her life would not have to be defined by loss and anger. Unfolding over 70 years, Memphis celebrates what we pass down, in a family and as a country.
In Montgomery, Alabama in the early ‘70s, Civil Townsend is fresh out of nursing school and hoping to make a difference—especially in her predominantly Black community. At the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, she intends to help women make their own choices for their lives and bodies, but she's met with resistance by her white supervisors, who have taken to performing involuntary sterilizations on young Black women. Inspired by true events, Take My Hand is an exploration of accountability, redemption and the people and stories that refuse to be forgotten.
In this heartbreaking novel, a father tries to make amends with his gay son through letters written on his deathbed. As Jacob lies dying, he writes a letter to his only son, Isaac, who he hasn’t met or spoken to in many years. He writes about his ancestral legacy in rural Arkansas that extends back to slavery, secrets from Jacob's tumultuous relationship with Isaac's mother and the shame he carries from the dissolution of their family. Through it all, Black (They Tell Me of a Home) focuses on the lived experiences of Black fathers and queer sons and offers an authentic and ultimately hopeful portrait of reckoning and reconciliation.
Whether personal reflection or cultural commentary, the essays in this collection delve into Black love now and in the past, including topics from the history of Black romance to the meaning of desire and desirability. Exploring the ways love is seen—and the ways it isn't—this diverse array of Black voices (including Jasmine Guillory, Da’Shaun Harrison and Nicole M. Jackson) shines a light on the power of crafting happy endings for Black lovers.
In 2020, The New York Times ranked Viola Davis ninth on its list of the greatest actors of the 21st century. In her 2022 memoir, Davis reflects on family, love, motherhood and acting. From her childhood in a crumbling apartment in Rhode Island with an abusive, alcoholic father to her time at Juilliard to the present, she writes in intimate detail about the courageousness, grit and almost unmatched talent that helped her get to where she is today.
In this inspiring follow-up to her critically acclaimed memoir Becoming, former First Lady Michelle Obama shares practical wisdom and powerful strategies for staying hopeful and balanced in today's highly uncertain world. She opens a frank and honest dialogue with readers, considering questions like: How do we build enduring and honest relationships? How can we discover strength and community inside our differences? What tools do we use to address feelings of self-doubt or helplessness? What do we do when it all starts to feel like too much? Drawing from her experiences as a mother, daughter, spouse, friend, and First Lady, she shares the habits and principles she has developed to successfully adapt to change and overcome various obstacles.
Rom-com alert: Margot Noble is stressed from running her family’s Napa winery with her brother. Enter Luke, a sexy, charming stranger who’s just the person for a lovely one-night stand. That is, until he walks into the winery the next morning as its latest hire. Margot is determined to keep things professional, but their chemistry is undeniable. For Luke’s part, he’s back in Napa after quitting his high-paying tech job in Silicon Valley. He has no idea what is next for him, but he wants more from the smart and sexy woman he hooked up with—even after he learns she's his new boss. But can they find a above-board way to be together? Drunk on Love is a sweet, sexy romp from rom-com pro Guillory (The Wedding Date, The Proposal).
Growing up in Dallas, Texas, in the ‘90s and early 2000s, Allen had a loving but complicated family life. In the world of her great uncle's Southern Baptist church, rules included "No uncrossed ankles" and "No questions." Her powerful memoir touches on everything from questions of beauty and how we form concepts of ourselves to what it means to grow up a young Black woman in the South. A gripping read for fans of Kiese Laymon and Jesmyn Ward.