Recent bans on books by Black authors and the resulting protest and response from Black students have raised awareness of a national battle against critical race theory. From seminal works like “Beloved” by Toni Morrison to “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly, some of the the books in question are part of America’s rich literary tradition, and interest in those books is on the rise.
“There’s nothing more attractive to a kid than a forbidden book,” author Mikki Kendall told NBC News. “I’m watching kids respond by saying, ‘Well, I read the book to see what they were so upset about.’”
In that spirit and as Black History Month begins, we compiled some of the most anticipated fiction books by Black authors, according to Goodreads members. With options ranging from well-known to emerging Black authors that released this year or will come out in coming months, the books we highlight below illuminate different facets of the Black experience, including friendship, family and love, as well as gentrification, sexuality and racism — past, present and future.
Goodreads members gave the following 15 fiction books high ratings — given this early positive feedback, we think you’ll find them to be entertaining, thought-provoking reads. We listed the books below in order of release date, beginning with books that are available now.
Goodreads: 3.44-star average rating, more than 70 ratings
In a dystopian 2050s, when the wealthy have escaped Earth for colonies in outer space, leaving Earth on the brink of collapse. This collection of vignettes paints a picture of life for those left behind, their struggles and triumphs in the world that remains.
Goodreads: 4.28-star average rating, more than 120 ratings
This is a story of the physical and emotional toll plantation life took on slaves in the 19th century, but when a minister arrives to Placid Hall, talking of independence, the strivers must choose for themselves: Who can they believe, and will they put everything on the line for freedom?
Goodreads: 4.01-star average rating, more than 600 ratings
"Yinka, where is your huzband," Yinka’s mom always asks her. An Oxford-educated woman, Yinka always thought love would appear at the right time, but her cousin’s engagement speeds up that timeline: She needs a date for the wedding.
Goodreads: 3.98-star average rating, more than 1,200 ratings
A group of three best friends, Ronke, Boo and Simi wrestle with family issues, jealousy and lack of fulfillment in life. When a fourth friend, Isobel, joins the group, their friendships grow more volatile.
Goodreads: 4.25-star average rating, more than 2,400 ratings
A voice recording and a Caribbean black cake, to be shared when the time is right. This was the inheritance left by Eleanor Bennet to her two children, Byron and Benny, who’d lost their once close connection. Eleanor’s revelations change everything her children thought they knew about their family.
Goodreads: 4.08-star average rating, more than 180 ratings
When Ray McMillian’s violin — a Stradivarius passed down from his great-grandfather — is stolen just before the International Tchaikovsky Competition, he must deal with both members of his family and of the family that once enslaved his ancestors making claims to the violin.
Goodreads: 3.91-star average rating, 80 ratings
This coming of age novel is told from the eyes of 11-year-old KB, growing up and trying to find herself after her mother sent her and her teenage sister, Nia, with her previously estranged grandfather, in the wake of their father’s death.
Goodreads: 4.52-star average rating, more than 50 ratings
On his deathbed, Jacob writes letters to his gay son, Isaac. He means to apologize for his past actions, but also to provide context to their family, his upbringing and their shared trauma.
Goodreads: 3.9-star average rating, more than 50 ratings
Josephine N. Leary was a real estate magnate in North Carolina, and this novel is based on her true story of emancipation and building her business while managing the day-to-day responsibilities to her family and attempting to forge a lasting legacy.
Goodreads: 4.47-star average rating, more than 80 ratings
Desiree Pierce, a reality TV-star with a tarnished reputation, is found dead at a Bronx playground — everyone assumes it’s an overdose. But her half-sister, Lena Scott, a grad student at Columbia who’s spent her life out of the public eye, knows the story can’t be true.
Goodreads: 4.33-star average rating, more than 10 ratings
This collection of 12 stories depicts life, family and relationships in a southern Black suburb across time, spanning from the late 1980s through the night before President Obama’s inauguration.
Goodreads: 4.13-star average rating, more than 70 ratings
This is the love story of Yejdie, who comes from a family tasked with guiding their city’s souls to the afterlife, but is not prepared to fulfill her duties, and Darwin, a gravedigger whose mother, a devout Rastafarian, had shielded him from death his entire life. Their connection is forged through their connections to the afterlife and death.
Goodreads: 4.39-star average rating, more than 150 ratings
Joan, an aspiring painter in Memphis, Tennessee, uses her brush to express her anger at her family’s past, the injustices they’ve faced and even violence at the hands of her own father. But in learning more about her family history, she sees that her paintbrush can be a tool for healing, too.
Goodreads: 4.49-star average rating, more than 100 ratings
A fictional account of a true story, this novel follows Civil Townsend, a nurse in Montgomery, Alabama, who just finished nursing school in 1973. Working at the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, when something horrific happens to two of her patients, it will change everything.
Goodreads: 4.19-star average rating, more than 10 ratings
Glory Akindele travels back to London, from her upscale life in Los Angeles, to see her family in the wake of her father’s death, but finds them all split apart. In trying to bring them back together, she unearths a secret that threatens everything she loves.