Strong Black Women in Literature (Vol. 1)

“Imagine a world in which all children can see themselves in the pages of a book” (Diversebooks.org). This dynamic statement is the slogan of the non-profit organization entitled, We Need Diverse Books. As a woman of color, I have longed for an initiative such as this that strives to encourage representation of everyone in literature. It makes for a more fulfilling read, and it brings my heart joy to read a book of purely original characters lacking the cringe-worthy stereotypes. Today I will present six leading ladies in titles that piqued my interest, held my attention, entertained me for hours on end, and made me proud to be a black woman.

You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson

Phoebe Robinson is a woman comedian you need to know! I will admit I had no Earthly idea of her existence before this book, the title caught my attention, but now she is secretly my BFF (Best Friend Forever) in my head. In this book, she visits the topic of race. As “the black friend” in many of her circles she has a unique perspective for calling out subtle racism and staying true to her race while not destroying her diverse relationships. She talks about the black woman struggle in a manner that would make the offenders squirm just a little but also laugh a lot and even give her words some serious thought.

Dread Nation (Dread Nation #1) by Justina Ireland

Jane McKeene is a strong, lovable lead female protagonist in this historical, dystopian novel with zombies! This novel talks of an alternate version of history not far removed from slavery, amid a Zombie apocalypse that ends the Civil War, yet transforms slavery to a new system where black people are trained to be zombie killers for the commission of protecting white people. Jane is strong-willed, opinionated, and nobody’s bodyguard.
There was an agreeable level of defiance from the tone of the narrator that demanded comradeship! Jane’s antics and whit definitely drew me in from the first page. Wow. Wow. Wow. I loved everything about this!

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha #1) by Tomi Adeyemi

Zélie Adebola is the star in this West African mythology! Hello! This is a breathtaking wondrous new world of possibilities. The authentic tongue of magic whispers mysterious nothings in my ear, and I indulged in every morsel of this audiobook. Yes! Yes! Yes! Give. Me. More. The love storyline was rushed and spoke volumes of the insufferable teenage hormones. Yet the plot was intriguingly intricate and slowly woven for an even slower unraveling finale of epic proportions! Must Read again and again and again…

Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves
by Glory Edim

This is a book about books. It is my first ever anthology, and it is the ultimate companion novel to more great books. There is no single shero. Here is a compilation of essays and booklists that encourage brown girls around the world to pick up a book and find themselves in literature. This is more of a reference book for me as I refer to it often to find books on culture depicting diverse lives and classics that should be staples of the black community by people of color.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Korede and Ayoola are sisters in a co-dependent relationship of murder, coverups, jealousy, and psychosis. As the title suggests, Korede is the one with the serial killer sister problem, better known as Ayoola. This novel was a dark comedy for me. Korede is the narrator, and her wit shines through with every selectively chosen word. You can feel her internal conflict and exasperation seeping through the pages as you flip to its controversial finale.

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) by N.K. Jemisin

This was such a complex maze of three shero narrative plots that somehow unexpectedly merged into an explosive ending. I am beyond shocked that I loved it so much. I’ve never been so confused and intrigued at the same time. The world building seemed so alien and unreal until it clicked in my brain and started making sense. Then it was scary accurate of life’s current situation that it’s downright “deep”! Bravo to the author for this ingenious specimen of literature!

This is not the end. There are many more great “strong black women” titles out there. Next week I will continue with six more titles. If you have any recommendations, then I would love to hear them. Please comment below. I am always looking for my next great book starring diverse characters or women. It is an uplifting feeling when you open a book that looks like it was written specifically for you.

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