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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Books By Black Women That Changed My Life


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In her element

Source: PixelsEffect / Getty

As an avid reader, World Book Day shows me the power of imagination and story-telling. Books written by Black women have shaped my ambitions, fantasies, and fears. Their words have lifted and comforted me through some of my darkest times. They have also motivated me to reach beyond my surroundings and consider the perspectives of Black women who don’t share my personal history. 

Black women have taken me to the shores of Martha’s Vineyard and the streets of Paris, to glamorous late-night spots in Hollywood, and sweltering living rooms in Atlanta. I’ve stood over their shoulders as they grieved their loved ones, clasped my hands in excitement as their wildest dreams came true, and visited their home villages and family reunions. Through their words, I am able to immerse myself in their vision, setting my imagination ablaze as I become an extra in their stories. 

Black women excel in fiction and non-fiction. They invite readers into church pews, boardrooms, and trap houses. The work of women like Jasmine Mans, Demetria Lucas, and Terri Woods has inspired me to try telling stories that differ from mine. The experience of being a Black woman is not a monolith, and learning what struggles our sisters face helps us be better for ourselves and each other. 

World Book Day allows us to celebrate literature in all forms. We’ve been blessed to experience talented authors who use their imagination, wit, and wealth of knowledge to stimulate our brain cells and activate our creative minds. In honor of World Book Day, here are 15 Books by Black women that helped shape my life by permanently altering my brain chemistry. 

Related: 

7 Black Books Changing How We Think About Love

Natasha S. Alford Leaves No Black Girl Behind in ‘American Negra’ 

10 Children’s Books Every Black Child Should Own


World Book Day: 15 Books By Black Women That Changed My Brain Chemistry 
was originally published on
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1. The Wedding – Dorothy West

The Wedding - Dorothy West

Source:Penguin Random House

Luscious prose introduced me to the idea of well-to-do Black communities for the  first time in this classic novel. Thanks to this page-turner, the tittering gossip following a young lady’s choice to marry for love over stability took over my life. It helped me understand that there was more than one kind of pressure a young Black woman could face from her family. 

 

2. Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools – Monique W. Morris

Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools - Monique W. Morris

Source:The New Press

Black girls are denied a full education due to presumptions about their attitudes. I saw myself in this book like I never had before. It follows the differences in how a raised hand or a piqued curiosity can be destroyed through systemic discrimination. It was academic research flooded with much-needed affirmation. 

3. A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life – Demetria Lucas

A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life - Demetria Lucas

Source:Simon & Schuster

This collection of essays from the woman the Washington Post dubbed the “Black Carrie Bradshaw” is Sex and The City inspired a generation of young Black girls to aim higher. It was a colorful collection of personal stories with universal appeal. 

4. Silver Sparrow – Tayari Jones

Silver Sparrow - Tayari Jones

Source:Hachette Book Group

Bare minimum baby daddy syndrome rears its ugly head in this novel from the author of An American Marriage. Bigamy, jealousy, and denial make for a powerful story. It’s an unforgettable tale that will remind you of the importance of self-worth. 

5. You Can’t Touch My Hair

You Can't Touch My Hair

Source:Penguin Random House

Robinson uses her superior sense of humor to discuss microaggressions, money management, romance, and more. The book presents a picture of what it is like to not fit the expectations many have for the Black women in their lives and how exhausting it is to translate one’s right to autonomy to strangers. 

 

 

6. Such A Fun Age – Kiley Reid

Such A Fun Age - Kiley Reid

Source:Penguin Random House

In her debut novel, Kiley Reid shows the dangers of girl bossing. It shows how Black women can get steamrolled by the aims of White feminism and the earnings for a cookout invitation. 

7. Editor In Chic – Mikki Taylor

Editor In Chic - Mikki Taylor

Source:Simon & Schuster

In this memoir/manifesto, Taylor advocates the importance of pleasing yourself above others. It takes a self-aware approach to self-care. 

8. Somebody’s Daughter – Ashley C. Ford

Somebody's Daughter - Ashley C. Ford

Source:Macmillan Publishers

Black women are rarely permitted to disclose difficult relationships with their mothers. Ford does this with an honesty and grace that is game-changing. Although she is the main character, that doesn’t mean she lacks empathy for the others in the story. She displays deep understanding, which helps her words hit harder. 

9. Failures of Forgiveness – Myisha Cherry

Failures of Forgiveness - Myisha Cherry

Source:Princeton Press

Black women are frequently asked to be the bigger person when aggrieved. We are asked to be the protectors and peacemakers, setting aside our pain to perform acts of alleged solidarity. This expert study confirmed that it is on the offender, not the injured party, to make things right. 

10. The Coldest Winter Ever A Novel

The Coldest Winter Ever A Novel

Source:Simon & Schuster

So many Black girls loved this book growing up, and I was no different. It took me years to realize that there was a cautionary tale oozing from the spicy quips and stylish scenes. 

11. Sugar – Bernice L. McFadden

Sugar - Bernice L. McFadden

Source:Penguin Random House

If you loved Jazmine Sullivan’s Heaux Tales, you will love this tale of respectability politics and unlikely friendship. Our culture needs to revamp the way we look at sex work, and revisiting this masterpiece is a great way to start. Before you start shading the next Black girl, pick up this book and remember everyone has their own story. 

12. Black Girl Call Home – Jasmine Mans

Black Girl Call Home - Jasmine Mans

Source:Penguin Random House

This book of poetry ties together heartache, matriarchal martyrdom, and the spirit of Black girldom beautifully. It is a must-read! I fell so deeply in love with this book of poetry I blew up the cover for home decor. 

 

13. Summer on The Bluffs

Summer on The Bluffs

Source:Harper Collins

Hostin’s attempt to find the perfect beach read resulted in a fun but thoughtful trilogy. It nodded to the legacy of The Wedding, but it paired it with a sexy, suspenseful story. 

14. True To The Game – Terri L. Woods

True To The Game - Terri L. Woods

Source:Teri Woods Pub LLC

This novel was extremely accessible. It passed through my middle school like wildfire, with girls writing notes to one another in the margins. It humanized the Black men and women involved in the drug trade like never before. It also proved that independent publishing is still viable when the author has something to say. 

15. A Taste of Power A BLACK WOMAN’S STORY – Elaine Brown

A Taste of Power A BLACK WOMAN'S STORY - Elaine Brown

Source:Penguin Random House

Brown’s memoir shattered my childhood illusions about fairness. It helped me understand how ideals can become corrupted and legacies can become tarnished. In the midst of today’s turmoil, its messages are stronger than ever. 

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