Many protesters and allies have been encouraging the general public to become more educated, recommending books like The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander or White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo.
We here at Nerds also believe in the power of fiction to educate. The following is a non-exhaustive list of fiction by Black creators. Please feel free to add to the list in the comments section!
For some great commentary on many of the novels and authors listed here, see Nisi Shawl's A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction.
Minion by L. A. Banks
"[Banks is]. . .wildly creative and invents a totally new and refreshing milieu... Its social hierarchy and politics are fascinating, and the author's reinterpretation of the seven levels of hell is brilliant. Minion is an entirely delicious read, leaving the reader licking one's lips and wanting more, cursing the cliffhanger ending." --Fangoria Magazine
Devil's Wake by Steven Barnes (and Tananarive Due)
"Zombie lovers won't be able to put down Barnes' gripping yarn, which will leave them hungry for the next installment." -- Booklist
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
"Butler's characters are so vivid and the racist milieu in which they struggle to survive so realistically depicted that one cannot finish Kindred without feeling changed. It is a shattering work of art with much to say about love, hate, slavery, and racial dilemmas, then and now."--Sam Frank, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner
Charles W. Chesnutt
Read Nisi Shawl's analysis of one of the most important and earliest speculative short stories here!
The Black God's Drums by P. Djèlí Clark
"Definitely do not miss this lightning fast romp through the steampunk bayous of an alternate New Orleans. Clark's story bleeds with style, elaborate language, and unforgettable characters who are pulled by the undercurrents of hidden gods."--Daniel H. Wilson
Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany
"A Joycean tour de force of a novel, Dhalgren...stake[s] a better claim than anything published in the country in the last quarter-century (excepting only Gass's Omensetter's Luck and Nabokov's Pale Fire) to a permanent place as one of the enduring monuments of our national literature."-The Libertarian Review
My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due
"An eerie epic [that] bears favorable comparison to Interview With the Vampire. I loved this novel." -- Stephen King
Acacia by David Anthony Durham
"Transcendent. . . . As fantasy epics go, the 'Acacia' trilogy is a direct and worthy descendant of Tolkien." --Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star
The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad by Minister Faust
Description: Don't call fanboys Hamza and Yehat slackers. They're just way too smart for a job market that has beaten them down.But when old enemies from high school, an ex-CFL leg-breaker turned health food kingpin, a van full of mind-enslaving, thanatodelic drug dealers, and a mysterious Ethiopian woman named Sherem with a centuries-old secret crush them like the walls of a Death Star trash compactor, Hamza and Yehat have only two options: Be awesome. Or die.
The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez
"The Gilda Stories is groundbreaking not just for the wild lives it portrays, but for how it portrays them--communally, unapologetically, roaming fiercely over space and time."--Emma Donoghue, author of Room
Master of Poisons by Andrea Hairston (Coming September 2020)
Description: Award-winning author Andrea Hairston weaves together African folktales and postcolonial literature into unforgettable fantasy in Master of Poisons. The world is changing. Poison desert eats good farmland. Once-sweet water turns foul. The wind blows sand and sadness across the Empire. To get caught in a storm is death. To live and do nothing is death. There is magic in the world, but good conjure is hard to find.
Of One Blood: Or, the Hidden Self by Pauline Hopkins
Description: Hopkins tells the story of Reuel Briggs, a medical student who couldn't care less about being black and appreciating African history, but finds himself in Ethiopia on an archeological trip. His motive is to raid the country of lost treasures -- which he does find in the ancient land. However, he discovers much more than he bargained for: the painful truth about blood, race, and the half of his history that was never told.
Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson
"Caribbean patois adorns this novel with graceful rhythms...Beneath it lie complex, clearly evoked characters, haunting descriptions of exotic planets, and a stirring story... This book] ought to elevate Hopkinson to star status." --Seattle Times
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
"A fantasy world as well-realized as anything Tolkien made." --Neil Gaiman
How Long 'til Black Future Month by N. K. Jemisin
"There are so many things in How Long 'Til Black Future Month-from firebirds to Megacops, from truffles to hurricanes, from utopias (maybe) to civil rights marches-that it's impossible to describe. Except to say that every single story here is riveting, provocative, and remarkable. An extraordinary story collection from an extraordinary writer!"--Connie Willis
The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle
"Embeds a sophisticated critique of contemporary America's inhumane treatment of madness in a fast-paced story that is by turns horrifying, suspenseful, and comic."--The Boston Globe
Beloved by Toni Morrison
"You can't go wrong by reading or re-reading the collected works of Toni Morrison. Beloved, Song of Solomon, The Bluest Eye, Sula, everything else -- they're transcendent, all of them. You'll be glad you read them."--Barack Obama
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
"Beautifully written, this is dystopian fantasy at its very best. Expertly exploring issues of race, gender, and cultural identity, Okorafor blends future fantasy with the rhythm and feel of African storytelling. " --Library Journal (starred review)
Everfair by Nisi Shawl
Description: From noted short story writer Nisi Shawl comes a brilliant alternate-history novel set in the Belgian Congo. What if the African natives developed steam power ahead of their colonial oppressors? What might have come of Belgium's disastrous colonization of the Congo if the native populations had learned about steam technology a bit earlier?
Imaro by Charles Saunders
Description: Imaro is a rousing adventure... a tale of a young man's continuing struggle to gain acceptance amongst his people, and to break the cycle of alienation and violence that plagues his life.
Imaro is heroic fantasy like it's never been done before. Based on Africa, and African traditions and legends, Charles Saunders has created Nyumbani (which means "home" in Swahili), an amalgam of the real, the semi-real, and the unreal. Imaro is the name of the larger-than-life warrior, an outcast, who travels across Nyumbani, searching for a home.
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
"What Solomon achieves with this debut--the sharpness, the depth, the precision--puts me in mind of a syringe full of stars. I want to say about this book, its only imperfection is that it ended. But that might give the wrong impression: that it is a happy book, a book that makes a body feel good. It is not a happy book. I love it like I love food, I love it for what it did to me, I love it for having made me feel stronger and more sure in a nightmare world, but it is not a happy book. It is an antidote to poison. It is inoculation against pervasive, enduring disease. Like a vaccine, it is briefly painful, leaves a lingering soreness, but armors you from the inside out." --NPR
The Lesson by Cadwell Turnbull
"Cadwell Turnbull's The Lesson brings an alien invasion to St. Thomas with a breadth that encompasses the past, present, and future. As his well-drawn characters wrestle with interspecies challenges, Turnbull imparts lessons that both embrace and transcend culture and race to drive at the heart of what it means to be human." -- Tananarive Due
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
"I haven't been as simultaneously moved and entertained by a book for many years. This is a luminous, furious, wildly inventive tale that not only shines a bright light on one of the darkest periods of history, but also opens up thrilling new vistas for the form of the novel itself."--Alex Preston, The Guardian
The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson
"Wilson isn't the first black writer to demonstrate the possibilities of mixing traditional fantasy tropes with African-American culture, of course, but few have concentrated so brilliantly on the linguistic implications of doing so." --Strange Horizons
Young Adult Novels
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
"... Adeyemi keeps it fresh with an all-black cast of characters, a meaningful emphasis on fighting for justice, a complex heroine saving her own people, and a brand of magic made more powerful by the strength of heritage and ancestry. Perfect for fans of the expansive fantasy worlds of Leigh Bardugo, Daniel Jose´ Older, and Sabaa Tahir." --Booklist, Starred Review
Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron
"Set in a lushly drawn and fresh magical world, Kingdom of Souls was a wild, heart-wrenching ride. Every turn took me by surprise, and these unforgettable characters face a complex evil that threatens from both without and within. Readers won't be able to put this one down."--Mindee Arnett
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown
"With the heart-pounding action of Children of Blood and Bone, the magic of Spirited Away, and the twisty alluring intrigue of Game of Thrones, A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is a MASTERPIECE."--Brittney Morris, author of SLAY
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
"The Belles is a powerful discussion about the cost of beauty and what we are willing to do for it. Dhonielle Clayton creates a world both lush and dark, with prose so delectable you will savor every word."--Zoraida Cordova
The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow
"This book has everything! Aliens set on conquering earth! A determined heroine with a hidden stash of books! And the power of music and stories to give those with every reason to hate the power to love. Who could want anything more?"--Joelle Charbonneau
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Description: The highly-anticipated, genre-defying new novel by award-winning author Akwaeke Emezi that explores themes of identity and justice. Pet is here to hunt a monster. Are you brave enough to look?
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
"Abundant action, thoughtful worldbuilding, and a brave, smart, and skillfully drawn cast entertain as Ireland (Promise of Shadows) illustrates the ignorance and immorality of racial discrimination and examines the relationship between equality and freedom. Mounting peril creates a pulse-pounding pace, hurtling readers toward a nail-biting conclusion."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
A Blade So Black by L. L. McKinney
"Mixing elements of Alice in Wonderland and Buffy the Vampire Slayer... a delectable urban twist on beloved fantasy tales." --Entertainment Weekly
A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
"Morrow expertly and smartly explores race, bigotry, oppression, and injustice against a backdrop of ordinary life with a dose of the supernatural added to the mix. A Song Below Water is a must-read for lovers of fantasy and contemporary stories alike. "--Booklist, starred review
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
"There's more imagination on a page of Nnedi Okorafor's work than in whole volumes of ordinary fantasy epics." --Ursula K. Le Guin
War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi
"Onyebuchi has created a fascinating futuristic Nigeria and a plot filled with left hooks and upper cuts, even as he nobly illuminates one of the most pervasive conditions of the human experience."--The New York Times Book Review
A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope edited by Patrice Caldwell
"Lovers of Octavia Butler will find her spirit in this smoldering anthology . . . These stories [explore] the beauty, bravery, fear, history, and empowerment of being black. Fiercely fantastical and achingly honest, this book delivers a more inclusive means of self-discovery."--Publishers Weekly, starred review
Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora edited by Sheree R. Thomas
Description: This volume introduces black science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction writers to the generations of readers who have not had the chance to explore the scope and diversity among African-American writers.
New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color edited by Nisi Shawl
"This book's wide range of stories is its greatest strength; though no reader will love them all, every reader will find something worth rereading."--Publishers Weekly, starred review
Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements edited by adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha
"Those concerned with justice and liberation must always persuade the mass of people that a better world is possible. Our job begins with speculative fictions that fire society's imagination and its desire for change. In adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha's visionary conception, and by its activist-artists' often stunning acts of creative inception, Octavia's Brood makes for great thinking and damn good reading. The rest will be up to us." --Jeff Chang, Who We Be: The Colorization of America
Looking to purchase any of these titles? Here's a list of black-owned bookstores accepting orders!