Celebrate Black History Month with these contemporary fiction and nonfiction books centered on Black voices, experiences, struggles, triumphs, and joy.
THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead (DB 85212, BR 21819, LB 08943)
Cora, a third-generation slave, flees the plantation where she lives. She escapes with a man who claims to know how to get to the Underground Railroad. Once there, she discovers it is an actual railroad, and every stop shows her moments of horror and joy. Violence, strong language, and some descriptions of sex.
IN WEST MILLS by De’Shawn Charles Winslow (DB 96796)
The lives of Azalea “Knot” Centre and her best friend, Otis Lee Loving, are intertwined through their lives. Otis Lee and his wife Pep help Knot hide her pregnancy and deliver the baby. Later their children become involved. Strong language and explicit descriptions of sex.
GET A LIFE, CHLOE BROWN by Talia Hibbert (DB 97496)
Chloe has decided it’s time to stop letting her chronic illness keep her from living her life. She makes a list of things she wants to experience, but needs a teacher. Red, the sexy artist who works as her building superintendent, is just the man to help her. Strong language and explicit descriptions of sex.
THE VANISHING HALF by Brit Bennett (DB 99791, LB 13035)
Desiree Vignes and her daughter return home to Louisiana in 1968, fourteen years after Desiree and her identical twin sister Stella ran away. The sisters ended up on different paths, and as Desiree struggles with the racial tensions of her hometown, Stella lives her life passing as white. Violence, strong language, and some descriptions of sex.
TRANSCENDENT KINGDOM by Yaa Gyasi (DB 100528, BR 23443, LB 13019)
Sixth-year PhD candidate Gifty searches for the answers to addiction in the mice she works with, hoping to understand what tore her family apart. Even as she leans on science to understand, she longs for the evangelical faith she was raised in. Strong language and violence.
DEACON KING KONG by James McBride (DB 98819, LB 12938)
1969. On a cloudy September morning, Deacon Cuffy Lambkin–known as Sportcoat to his friends–walks into the plaza of a Brooklyn project and shoots the local drug dealer point blank in the face. His reasons for this uncharacteristic act of violence slowly unfold. Strong language.
IT’S NOT ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE by Terry McMillan (DB 98947, LB 12948)
On the eve of her sixty-seventh birthday, Loretha Curry has a booming beauty-supply empire, a gaggle of lifelong friends, and a husband whose moves still surprise her. She certainly doesn’t think her best days are behind her. But an unexpected loss turns her world upside down. Strong language.
THE PROPOSAL by Jasmine Guillory (DB 92335, BR 22608)
When Nik Paterson receives an unwanted wedding proposal via the Jumbotron at a Dodgers game, she’s rescued by Carlos Ibarra and his sister. This leads to a friends-with-benefits arrangement between Nik and Carlos, but the pair have to decide if they are willing to try for more. Some strong language and some explicit descriptions of sex.
HOW THE WORD IS PASSED: A RECKONING WITH THE HISTORY OF SLAVERY ACROSS AMERICA by Clint Smith (DB 103908 and LB 13361)
The author tours the monuments and landmarks that tell the story of slavery’s central role in shaping America’s collective history and culture. He explores historical plantations, prisons, cemeteries, holidays, and entire neighborhoods, revealing their ties to this painful aspect of America’s past and present. Unrated.
LIFE IN MOTION: AN UNLIKELY BALLERINA by Misty Copeland (DB 78843)
Ballerina recounts her experiences as the first African American soloist for the American Ballet Theatre in New York City. Explains her status as a latecomer to dancing at the age of thirteen and details her personal struggles with food, racism, and self-doubts.
YOU’LL NEVER BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED TO LACEY: CRAZY STORIES ABOUT RACISM by Amber Ruffin (DB 102254)
A writer and performer on Late Night with Seth Meyers and host of The Amber Ruffin Show and her sister relay absurd anecdotes of everyday experiences of racism they have encountered. Strong language and some violence.
FOUR HUNDRED SOULS: A COMMUNITY HISTORY OF AFRICAN AMERICA, 1619-2019 (DB 102425)
A “community” history of African Americans spanning the four centuries between 1619 and 2019 that contains pieces from ninety writers, each covering the span of a few years. Each period of time is explored in a variety of ways, including essays, short stories, vignettes, and polemics. Some strong language.
A PROMISED LAND by Barack Obama (DB 100966)
The first volume of Barack Obama’s presidential memoirs, recounting his journey from youth to president of the United States of America. He discusses his early aspirations, the trajectory of his political career, landmark moments of his first term, and reflections on American politics. Strong language.
UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK MAN by Emmanuel Acho (DB 103446)
The host of a similarly titled viral video series discusses the concepts of systemic racism in America, white privilege, cultural appropriation, and more. The author also examines the need for compassionate and understanding discussion when exploring such fraught yet essential subjects. Includes supplemental material. Unrated.
BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME by Ta-Nehisi Coates (DB 82201, BR 21183, LB 08280)
Columnist and editor for the Atlantic Monthly examines the history of contentious race relations in America. He reflects on the ways racial inequality plays out in his personal past and in the twenty-first century, and imagines the world his teenage son may inherit. Some strong language.
BLACK FORTUNES: THE STORY OF THE FIRST SIX AFRICAN AMERICANS WHO SURVIVED SLAVERY AND BECAME MILLIONAIRES by Shomari Wills (DBC 17809)
Nearly all the unforgettable personalities in this amazing collection were often attacked, demonized, or swindled out of their wealth. Black Fortunes illuminates as never before the birth of the black business titan. Some violence.