Hello everyone, hope you’re all doing well! October in the UK is Black History Month so I thought it was a great time to celebrate some amazing black authors!
In the UK, Black History Month was first celebrated in London, 1987, thanks to Akyaaba Addai-Sebo. He was stirred up to create an annual celebration of Africa, Africans, and people of African descent by the loss of confidence and identity that black children face. This focus on uplifting children is the reason why it’s held in October, as they are returning to school refreshed after the summer holiday.
I hope you enjoy this list of books, and find a couple you might be interested in!
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
Odd-mannered, obsessive, withdrawn, Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She’s used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly a monster, as they accuse, she’d be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remained of her world, save for stories told around the cookfire.
Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, the Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship’s leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster, who they consider to be less than human.
When the autopsy of Matilda’s sovereign reveals a surprising link between his death and her mother’s suicide some quarter-century before, Aster retraces her mother’s footsteps. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer and sowing the seeds of civil war, Aster learns there may be a way off the ship if she’s willing to fight for it.
This book is heavy, I definitely wouldn’t recommend it for a light read, but it’s also important. With a huge focus on racial trauma, it looks at the intersecting difficulties black, queer, neurodivergent people face. Aster is a black, autistic, intersex, non-binary person who is surrounded by the impacts of generational trauma. The book left me feeling uncomfortable, but not in a bad way. Add to Goodreads.
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Young Adult Fantasy
Pet is here to hunt a monster.
Are you brave enough to look?
There are no more monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. With doting parents and a best friend named Redemption, Jam has grown up with this lesson all her life. But when she meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colours and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question — How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?
I got this book recently and I’m so excited to read it. Pet focuses on how ignoring the existence of evil, doesn’t stop it from existing, and actually makes things worse. It also features a black trans girl with selective mutism! I’m pretty sure it’s on the younger side of YA, but I think everyone could get something out of this book! Add to Goodreads.
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
Adult Urban Fantasy
Five New Yorkers must come together in order to defend their city in the first book of a stunning new series by Hugo award-winning and NYT bestselling author N. K. Jemisin.
Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five.
But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.
This is a love story to the diversity of New York City. With a wonderful cast who truly represent their boroughs and a complete rejection of institutionalised racism through an anti-Lovecraft lens; this book is a gem. Add to Goodreads.
War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi
Young Adult Sci-Fi
The year is 2172. Climate change and nuclear disasters have rendered much of earth unlivable. Only the lucky ones have escaped to space colonies in the sky.
In a war-torn Nigeria, battles are fought using flying, deadly mechs and soldiers are outfitted with bionic limbs and artificial organs meant to protect them from the harsh, radiation-heavy climate. Across the nation, as the years-long civil war wages on, survival becomes the only way of life.
Two sisters, Onyii and Ify, dream of more. Their lives have been marked by violence and political unrest. Still, they dream of peace, of hope, of a future together.
And they’re willing to fight an entire war to get there.
With a plot based on the civil war in Nigeria during the 1960s, this is a story of revenge, peace, and well, war. Told through the perspectives of two characters with technological abilities and adaptations, War Girls isn’t afraid to show the devastating side of war, while also telling a story filled with humanity and love. Add to Goodreads.
Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko
Young Adult Fantasy
Nothing is more important than loyalty.
But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?
Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?
I haven’t read Raybearer yet, but I’ve heard so many wonderful things about it I have no problem recommending it to you. Inspired by West African folklore it’s a beautifully written, vibrant book, with excellent reinvention of tropes, worldbuilding and loveable characters. Everyone’s gushing about this one, and I can’t wait to see why! Add to Goodreads.
Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson
Young Adult Thriller
Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried. When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn’t just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. Not after last year’s rumors and not with her grades on the line. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help.
As Claudia digs deeper into her friend’s disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone?
I don’t usually read contemporary YA but wow this is an amazing book. It’s filled with a foreboding tension and frustration with people who aren’t taking the disappearance of Monday seriously. One thing I love about Tiffany D. Jackson is she balances hard-hitting realistic issues alongside the twists and turns you expect from a mystery/thriller. Add to Goodreads.
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
Young Adult Fantasy
After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.
A flying demon feeding on human energies.
A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.
And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.
The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.
She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.
This was one of my most anticipated young adult releases of the year! An urban fantasy Arthurian adaption that touches on racism, with a little touch of those dark academia vibes? Yes please! Add to Goodreads.
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown
Young Adult Fantasy
For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts Malik’s younger sister, Nadia, as payment into the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal—kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, for Nadia’s freedom.
But Karina has deadly aspirations of her own. Her mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; her court threatens mutiny; and Solstasia looms like a knife over her neck. Grief-stricken, Karina decides to resurrect her mother through ancient magic . . . requiring the beating heart of a king. And she knows just how to obtain one: by offering her hand in marriage to the victor of the Solstasia competition.
When Malik rigs his way into the contest, they are set on a course to destroy each other. But as attraction flares between them and ancient evils stir, will they be able to see their tasks to the death?
I wrote a whole blog post about why I love Malik in this book, he’s a strong, kind, soft man with anxiety and I love him with my whole heart. Also featured, enemies-to-lovers, a tournament, necromantic rituals, and tricky hyenas! Add to Goodreads.
The Black Veins by Ashia Monet
Young Adult Fantasy
Sixteen-year-old Blythe is one of seven Guardians: magicians powerful enough to cause worldwide panic with a snap of their fingers. But Blythe spends her days pouring latte art at her family’s coffee shop, so why should she care about having apocalyptic abilities
She’s given a reason when magician anarchists crash into said coffee shop and kidnap her family.
Heartbroken but determined, Blythe knows she can’t save them alone. A war is brewing between two magician governments and tensions are too high. So, she packs up her family’s bright yellow Volkswagen, puts on a playlist, and embarks on a road trip across the United States to enlist the help of six strangers whose abilities are unparalleled—the other Guardians.
If you want a fantasy without a love interest, but with lots of found family goodness, this book’s the one for you! Add in a black, bisexual main character and you absolutely need to add this to your TBR. Add to Goodreads.
Get A Life, Chloe Brown
Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?
• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And… do something bad.
But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.
Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.
But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…
If you haven’t heard of this book and you enjoy romance, where have you been? It gave me such soft feelings! With a black, disabled main character learning to enjoy her life for what she wants it to be, not what she thinks it should be, and a love interest who’s healing from his own past trauma, this romance is top notch! Add to Goodreads.