Black Voices: New & Upcoming Must-Read Fiction

Black stories have evolved from what they were when many of us were growing up. So often, the stories we’re used to reading about the Black narrative are centered around struggle – for freedom, for equal rights or just to stay alive. While these, unfortunately, remain very real issues, these aren’t the only stories. Yes, it’s true – they still laugh to keep from crying, they dance because it feels good and, most importantly, they pass on the stories of their ancestry. But not every Black story is the same because the possibilities are endless, and as the platform for Black voices continues to grow, so do the stories that are able to be told. We are overjoyed to think about the incredible number of books that are centered around empowerment and self-love for the Black boys and girls of today and tomorrow. Representation matters and here, we are highlighting some of the many Black voices commanding the roomand pagesthis year. 

Grown 
Tiffany D. Jackson

Legendary R&B artist makes promises of taking young girls under his wing and boosting their careers, but, in actuality, manipulates them physically and emotionally. Sound familiar? Sexual abuse allegations against R. Kelly have made headlines for years and undoubtedly come to mind when reading Tiffany D. Jackson’s second book. Grown is an all-too-familiar story about the blind eye turned to the wrongdoings of the idols in the Black community and the disregard for the word of Black women.

“Groundbreaking, heart-wrenching, and essential reading for all in the #MeToo era.” —Dhonielle Clayton, author of The Belles

Death of Vivek Oji
Akwaeke Emezi

An illuminating coming-of-age story of loss and transcendence, family and friendship, that moves around in time and viewpoint creating a brilliant portrait of a life and identity in bloom, but never quite understood. A deeply moving and heartbreaking read that will stay with you long after its final page.

“Brilliant…This is a book full of line-level beauty; a book of multiple perspectives, each rendered organically and fully; a book of mystery and community and love…. A special read that will not soon be forgotten.” —Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of Friday Black

Felix Ever After 
Kacen Callender

We can’t talk about how amazing Black voices are without including all Black voices. Felix Love is a Black, queer, transgender teen who, despite his name, has never actually been in love. And although he’s proud of who he is, he can’t help but wonder if he may have one too many strikes against him. This refreshing coming-of-age story of identity, self-discovery and first love shines from start to finish.

“A firecracker of a book from an author with a powerful point of view, Felix Ever After is refreshingly real—full of queer kids who live and breathe and swear and love and make messy mistakes. Teens need this one.”—Casey McQuiston, author of Red, White & Royal Blue

Transcendent Kingdom
Yaa Gyasi

Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel Homegoing was a revelation. It’s richly authentic and gorgeously written prose were among the many reasons we selected it as a Discover Pick back in 2016, and why we are so thrilled to have Yaa’s voice back in the spotlight. Transcendent Kingdom paints a breathtaking portrait of a family colliding with addiction and grief through the push and pull of science and faith. This novel is as beautiful as it is devastating and offers a powerful look at how we process and seek to contain the suffering around us.

“Absolutely transcendent… Not a word or idea out of place. Completely different from Homegoing. THE RANGE. I am quite angry this is so good.”—Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist

You Should See Me in a Crown
Leah Johnson

Just a small-town girl, living in a lonely world. Liz Lighty has big dreams of going big places – Pennington College, playing in a world-famous orchestra— and oh yeah, you might as well add doctor to the list. Her small, Midwest hometown has been holding her back for far too long (Cincinnati born and raised over here) and so has the idea that she is too Black, poor and awkward to shine in Campbell, Indiana. This debut novel by Leah Johnson will give you part Becky Albertalli, part Jenny Han and 100% Black girl magic.

“Filled with humor, heart, and swoon-worthy romance.”—Kristina Forest, author of Wanna Be Where You Are

Trouble the Saints
Alaya Dawn Johnson

Let’s set the scene—New York City, late 1930s on the brink of World War II in an alternate timeline where many BIPOCs acquire “hands” which are special abilities that manifest differently in each person. Told from three different perspectives, this dangerous and brilliant noir has it all—juju assassins, romance and ghosts of the past—all while weaving a historical portrait on racism and generations of injustice.

“Beware this magnificent beguilement of a novel: once begun, Alaya Dawn Johnson’s Trouble the Saints won’t let you go.”—Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble

Memorial 
Bryan Washington

A story about the nature and limits of love; one that transcends societal expectations and serves up a witty and profound look at joy in all forms. Washington brilliantly finds beauty in the every day; love for food, home and each other and ultimately, what really makes a family. You will fall in love with every character again and again.

Memorial… casts a fresh take on the American family that becomes truer because of its disparate origins, the queerness of its genesis, and the buoyed wonder it finds in surviving grief and loss… This book, in what feels like a new vision for the 21st-century novel, made me happy.”—Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song
Kevin Young (Editor)

Lucy Terry’s “Bars Fight” (1746) is the oldest known work by an African American poet. For many of us, Phillis Wheatley was the first and possibly only Black poet we were taught from our nation’s early history. Considering the fact that anti-literacy laws once limited a Black person’s ability to read and write, 250 years is a powerful concept. African American Poetry is a collection that exhibits the progression of this form of Black expression throughout history— from W.E.B Dubois to James Weldon Johnson to Gwendolyn Brooks, just to name a few.

“This is the difficult miracle of Black poetry in America: that we persist, published or not, and loved or unloved: we persist.”—June Jordan, author of Some of Us Did Not Die

Fifty Words for Rain: A Novel
Asha Lemmie

Colorism and lack of acceptance are issues that span across many different families of all nationalities and can create, shape, or damage a child’s perception of self. Fifty Words for Rain is a staggering exploration of this, and one that also spotlights honor, familial bonds and finding your place in the world. This sweeping saga takes readers from Kyoto and Tokyo to Paris and London and back and will have you holding your breath through its stunning conclusion.

“A wholly immersive coming-of-age epic from a talented young writer—Asha Lemmie pours her passion onto the page.” —Mira T. Lee, author of Everything Here is Beautiful

Early Departures 
Justin A. Reynolds

If Justin A. Reynolds’ debut novel Opposite of Always taught us anything, it’s that he knows how to write a good love story. Black brotherhood is an unbreakable bond – love, and a YA novel about the friendship between two Black boys is a story we don’t get to read nearly enough.  Early Departures is the smart and funny second novel from Reynolds that makes you question: What would you do with a second chance, even if you knew the outcome would be the same?

“Justin A. Reynolds has done it again with a truly original contemporary story about friendship, loss, and grief with a sci-fi, Black Mirror-esque twist. This book will leave you reeling with emotions.” —Steph P, Bookseller, B&N Home Office

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