Introducing The Next Generation Of Leaders And Thinkers

Books About Black People (That Aren’t About Slavery)


If you’re black and you grew up reading, you probably got pretty used to reading books about people who didn’t look like you. At some point most of us got tired of reading about pretty white girls trying to find love, or rebellious white girls trying to survive in the a dystopian world and we stopped reading. When we talk about representation, we talk about movies and television– but never books. Reading is fundamental (duh) but no one wants to read books they can’t identify with at all! So, brought to you from your favorite junior librarian, here’s my list of books about black people (that aren’t about slavery):

1. Boy, Bird Snow by Helen Oyeyemi is filled with mirrors and deception, but not in the way you think. Boy is a young white woman who runs away from her abusive father to the little town of Flax Hill. There she falls in love with Arturo Whitman and his beautiful baby girl, Snow. Everything is fine until she realizes that the Whitman family has been keeping the best kept secret in all Flax Hill– they’re actually a white-passing colored family. When Boy gives birth to her sweet baby Bird, all she wants to do is protect the little girl because she’s darker than her passing family. This book elegantly and magically (and somewhat unrealistically) shows how appearances can be quite confusing in a world where what people see in a mirror is all that counts. Bonus points because it deals a little with rape, transgender people, and colorism within a race. The best line in the book: “… it’s not whiteness itself that sets Them against Us, but the worship of whiteness. Same goes if you swap whiteness out for other things– fancy possessions for sure, pedigree, maybe youth too… we beat Them (and spare ourselves a lot of tedium and terror) by declining to worship.”

2. Miss Black America by Veronica Chambers is about young Angela as she works her way through life after her fabulous mother Melanie leaves. Her father, Teddo the magician, works to keep her mother’s absence just as glamorous as she was. Angela fantasies about what magical places her mother could be hiding in and when she’ll come back to their family. This story takes place in the seventies so the culture in the black community is a bit different, including mention of Muhammad Ali and Miss Black America. It gives insight of what it means to be a black girl living in America, even if Angela’s life resembles a twisted fairytale. The best line in the book: “My father was a musician, but my mother was the real Houdini.”

3. Tears of A Tiger (Hazelwood High Series #1) by Sharon Draper talks about so much that is ignored in the African-American community. After a long night of hard partying, Andy and his bet friend Robert get into a car accident where Robert is fatal injured. Andy tries to go back to his old life but finds that he is overcome with guilt of having been driving that night. Andy deals with that guilt with thoughts of suicide, a topic that black people as a community are known to ignore. Draper does a wonderful job telling about a young black boy who deals with his guilt after a tragedy the way most tend to deal with it; except he’s black. The best line in the book: “So what do I do now? My head is trobbin’ , My mind is cloudy. My heart is bloody, and my soul is on ice. (I think I read this somewhere….) Nobody’s home. Nobody cares. Maybe I’ll try to sleep. I wish I could sleep forever.”

4. The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn deals with death, love, technology, and rebellion. June Costa lives in Palmares Tres, Brazil where the government has put strict regulations on technology. It’s a beautifully thought out story about two artists who want to change the world. June and Summer King Enki fall hopelessly in love with each other but also with their passion for art, but like all Summer Kings— Enki is destined of death. This is more than just a love story, it’s a story about two people trying to rise against something bigger than them. The best line in the book: “But I know better than anyone how dangerous trying can be, and how destructive. Maybe it’s better to let bad things happen than tear yourself apart trying to stop the inevitable.”

5. The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae is a brilliant collection of essays detailing what it really means to be an introverted black girl in the age of cool. Rae writes about everything in her witty, self-deprecating voice; from sexting to annoying comments people make about her body. Each essay deals in some way with learning to love who you are, from your awkwardness to your natural curly hair. Rae shows that being awkward and black can actually be cool, if not mildly entertaining. The best line in the book: “Girls, New Girl, 2 Broke Girls. What do they all have in common? The universal gender classification, “girl,” is white. In all three of these successful series, a default girl (or two) is implied and she is white. That is the norm and that is what is acceptable. Anything else is niche.”

6. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X, Alex Haley is a profound telling of what Malcolm X really meant to the black Muslim community. During his controversial media rise, he was labeled as a threat to the peace that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was trying to create, but to the people he spoke to; he was a beacon of self-respect and black pride. He brought hope and encouragement to black people during this time, and that is clearly illustrated in this autobiography. It’s an interesting look on historical events and how he-said-she-said really affected what Malcolm was trying to convey to America. The best line in the book: “Hence I have no mercy or compassion in me for a society that will crush people, and then penalize them for not being able to stand up under the weight.”

7. Saga by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples is technically for adults but of any teenager that has already ventured their way through black super hero comics (Black Panther, Ms. Marvel, Storm, Storm & Panther) I’m sure your parents wouldn’t mind you reading this little story. Two soldiers from opposite sides of a continuous war fall helplessly in love with each other, risking everything to bring a new baby into a dangerous world. It’s a mix of fantasy, science fiction, and a bit of a romance— with just enough oomph to be sexy. Its’s a series of six graphic novels. The best line in the book: “How is it possible that our parents lied to us?”
“Lets see: Santa, the Tooth Fairy,the Easter bunny,um, God. You’re the prettiest kid in school. This wont hurt a bit. Your face will freeze like that…”

“Everythings going to be alright.”
8. Ms. Marvel #1-2 (not technically about a black person but she’s a POC so, we’ll count her), Kamala is a young Muslim who happens to be empowered with superhuman abilities. Delving too much into origin story ruins a comic, so that’s as much as I’ll say. However, Kamala is brave, bold, and strong all throughout her series when it comes to saving the world and just being a super cool POC superhero! The best line: “Kamala: You’re WOLVERINE! My Wolverine-and-Storm-in-space fanfic was the third-most upvoted story on Freaking Awesome last month!

Logan: Oh my God.
Kamala: I had you guys fighting this giant alien blob that farts wormholes!
Logan: Sounds great, kid.
[pause] Logan: Wait–so what was the MOST upvoted story?
Kamala: Umm…Cyclops and Emma Frost’s romantic vacation in Paris?
Logan: This is the worst day of my life.”


We’ve all teamed our way through those books about slaves in America and I don’t know about you but I’ve read just about all of the white girl love stories that I can take. So if you’re interested, this is a pretty good list of books to have on your bookcases!

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