Hello everybody. In light of everything that is happening in the world at the moment, now more than ever we have the responsibility to speak up and do what we can to make a difference. It is not enough to condemn racism. We must be proactive in advocating for anti-racism too. Narratives of “colour blindness” must be removed from our speech and from public discourse. Colour must be seen. It must be seen, it must be acknowledged and it must be celebrated. The erasure of colour in the media that we consume is one of the things that keep the never-ending cycle of systemic racism going. And to combat this, we all have the responsibility to make ourselves available to black voices. These voices exist. They have always existed. Acknowledge them and listen to what they are saying.
I might be a woman of colour myself but I still cannot claim to understand what the black community is going through. What I can do though, is to make the effort to educate myself and pay attention to the stories and testimonies that black voices have to share. To this effect, I have compiled here a list of books that I have read and that are written by black authors and that feature black characters and stories. Since this month we are also celebrating the queer community, all the books mentioned in this list also feature queer representation.
King and the dragonflies by Kacen Callender
Official synopsis: Twelve-year-old Kingston James is sure his brother Khalid has turned into a dragonfly. When Khalid unexpectedly passed away, he shed what was his first skin for another to live down by the bayou in their small Louisiana town. Khalid still visits in dreams, and King must keep these secrets to himself as he watches grief transform his family. It would be easier if King could talk with his best friend, Sandy Sanders. But just days before he died, Khalid told King to end their friendship, after overhearing a secret about Sandy-that he thinks he might be gay. “You don’t want anyone to think you’re gay too, do you?” But when Sandy goes missing, sparking a town-wide search, and King finds his former best friend hiding in a tent in his backyard, he agrees to help Sandy escape from his abusive father, and the two begin an adventure as they build their own private paradise down by the bayou and among the dragonflies. As King’s friendship with Sandy is reignited, he’s forced to confront questions about himself and the reality of his brother’s death.
The black flamingo by Dean Atta
Official synopsis: A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen – then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers – to show ourselves to the world in bold colour.
This is what it feels like by Rebecca Barrow
Official synopsis: It doesn’t matter what the prize for the Sun City Originals contest is this year. Who cares that’s it’s fifteen grand? Who cares about a gig opening for one of the greatest bands to ever play this town? Not Dia, that’s for sure. Because Dia knows that without a band, she hasn’t got a shot at winning Sun City. Because ever since Hanna’s drinking took over her life, Dia and Jules haven’t been in it. And ever since Hanna left — well, there hasn’t been a band. It used to be the three of them, Dia, Jules, and Hanna, messing around and making music and planning for the future. But that was then, and this is now — and now means a baby, a failed relationship, a stint in rehab, all kinds of off beats that have interrupted the rhythm of their friendship. No contest can change that. Right? But like the lyrics of a song you used to play on repeat, there’s no forgetting a best friend. And for Dia, Jules, and Hanna, this impossible challenge — to ignore the past, in order to jumpstart the future — will only become possible if they finally make peace with the girls they once were, and the girls they are finally letting themselves be.
The weight of the stars by K. Ancrum
Official synopsis: Ryann Bird dreams of traveling across the stars. But a career in space isn’t an option for a girl who lives in a trailer park on the wrong side of town. So Ryann becomes her circumstances and settles for acting out and skipping school to hang out with her delinquent friends. One day she meets Alexandria: a furious loner who spurns Ryann’s offer of friendship. After a horrific accident leaves Alexandria with a broken arm, the two misfits are brought together despite themselves—and Ryann learns her secret: Alexandria’s mother is an astronaut who volunteered for a one-way trip to the edge of the solar system. Every night without fail, Alexandria waits to catch radio signals from her mother. And its up to Ryann to lift her onto the roof day after day until the silence between them grows into friendship, and eventually something more . . .
Don’t call us dead by Danez Smith
Official synopsis: Don’t Call Us Dead opens with a heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police, a place where suspicion, violence, and grief are forgotten and replaced with the safety, love and longevity they deserved here on earth. Smith turns then to desire, mortality – the dangers experienced in skin and body and blood – and an HIV-positive diagnosis.
The wonderful people over at Queer Lit have also put together two lists of books that also feature queer and black representation. I highly recommend you check their original posts for more book recommendations.
Queer Books by Black Authors
2020 Black Queer Books