By Nancy Azzam
Black History Month is a long-time celebration of the Black community and their past and present achievements, notable historical contributions, as well as sacrifices they have made that continue to help shape our nation into what it is today.
Many during the month of February choose to support the Black community in various ways such as learning more about famous African American figures in history or supporting Black-owned businesses, which can both be done when buying books by African American authors.
Whether it is a book on African American history, a fictional work on African American identity, or science fiction about aliens, supporting Black authors and their works is a great way to acknowledge their contributions, not only this month but every month.
Here are some books of various genres that are worth reading to celebrate Black culture.
“The Fifth Season” by N.K. Jemisin
“The Fifth Season” is an apocalyptic fantasy novel that was awarded the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2016. This novel is part of Jemisin’s “Broken Earth” trilogy series set in the Stillness, a society focused on the survival of nuclear winters. The story follows the journey of Essun, a mother and “orogene,” an oppressed, racially defined class of powerful earth-benders who are key to life’s survival. She must journey across the Stillness to pursue her missing daughter through the deadly, dying land.
“A Brief History of Seven Killings” by Marlon James
“A Brief History of Seven Killings” is the third novel by Jamaican author Marlon James. It is centered around the events of December 3, 1976, in which seven gunmen stormed the famous Jamaican reggae singer Bob Marley’s house. Though the star did survive the horrific event with many falling victim to injuries, these men were never found. Not only does the novel explore the event’s bloody aftermath to Marley and others, but it introduces the readers to a time of a highly dangerous and unstable Jamaica that spanned for decades.
“Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
If you are looking for a story centered around young love, “Americanah” is a great choice. The tender story focuses on Ifemelu and Obinze who depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Ifemelu immigrates to the United States to attend university, leaving behind her true love and her family. The novel showcases Ifemelu’s life in both countries, along with her love story with her high school classmate, Obinze. The author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, grew up in Nigeria herself and expresses how it feels to have to navigate through multiple cultures within her writing.
“The Color Purple” by Alice Walker
Alice Walker’s Pulitzer prize winning “The Color Purple” is told from the perspective of its protagonist, Celie, a 14 year old African American girl living in rural Georgia. The novel is composed of Celie’s letters to God expressing concerns for the future as she continuously struggles as a Black girl in America who is subjected to abuse and deprivation. The story expresses how Celie, even with the traumatic events in her life, is able to discover the power within her spirit while overcoming oppression and abuse to find fulfillment and a sense of independence.
“Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi
This is a historical novel following the descendants of two half-sisters of the 18th century, Effia and Esi, as the family is split. One sister is sold into slavery in Africa. The other sister marries a wealthy slaver leading to her departure to America. The novel focuses on the many generations that follow them, from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, and from the missionary schools of Ghana to Jazz age Harlem. The author is able to draw connections between these past events undergone by her characters to current issues that are still present now specifically involving racism.