Contemporary African American Authors You Should Be Reading

Posted by Cybil on February 1, 2020
February is African American History Month, which is the pefect opportunity to expand your reading horizons.

Of course, there are the classic American authors that we know and love, including Toni MorrisonJames BaldwinMaya AngelouZora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Octavia Butler, and many more, who we wholeheartedly recommend you read if you haven't done so yet.

Then there are today's contempory black authors who are gaining legions of fans (and many awards) for their work. Below you'll find some of Goodreads members' favorite authors. If you're unfamiliar with their work, there's no time like the present to add them to your Want to Read shelf

We'd also love to know about your favorite African American authors. Please share your recommendations with us in the comments.
 

 

Colson Whitehead

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N.K. Jemisin

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Roxane Gay

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Ta-Nehisi Coates 

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Jacqueline Woodson 

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Tayari Jones 

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James McBride 

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What authors would you recommend to your fellow readers this African American History Month? Let us know in the comments!

Check out more recent articles, including:
20 New & Upcoming Novels for Black History Month
February's Most Anticipated New Books
44 Highly Anticipated New and Upcoming Nonfiction Books

Comments Showing 1-44 of 44 (44 new)

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message 1: by Maria (last edited Feb 01, 2020 12:44AM) (new)

Maria I would totally recommend Kwame Alexander, Angie Thomas (an obvious choice) and Jason Reynolds. Correct me if they're not African American. :) I'm on the way of reading some of Toni Morrison's books because according to all my friends and professors he's an amazing author.


message 2: by Monica (last edited Feb 02, 2020 01:42PM) (new)

Monica This article presumes you want authors who have written 3 or more books: Tananarive Due, Edwidge Danticat, Terry McMillan, Gloria Naylor, Bernice L. McFadden, Pearl Cleage, Attica Locke, Danzy Senna, Victor LaValle, Kiese Laymon, Samuel R. Delany, Leonard Pitts Jr., Mat Johnson, Walter Mosley, Paul Beatty

The list goes on. Quite a few more than 6 authors and I just scratched the surface from my own collection...


message 3: by Andrea (new)

Andrea Maria

Maria wrote: "I would totally recommend Kwame Alexander, Angie Thomas (an obvious choice) and Jason Reynolds. Correct me if they're not African American. :) I'm..."

Toni Morrison is a female. Now, find something of hers and read it. It's worth it.



message 4: by Brian (new)

Brian Matthews Tiffany Jackson!


message 5: by Lianne (new)

Lianne Attica Locke and Anissa Gray


message 6: by Katie (new)

Katie Saeed Jones


message 7: by Tim (new)

Tim Percival Everett


message 8: by Vinod (new)

Vinod Marlon James is a brilliant writer and both A brief history of seven killings & Black leopard ,red wolf are fantastic works


message 9: by Milan (new)

Milan Wright Maria wrote: "I would totally recommend Kwame Alexander, Angie Thomas (an obvious choice) and Jason Reynolds. Correct me if they're not African American. :) I'm..."

Toni is female :)


message 10: by Dan (new)

Dan De Vries John Edgar Wideman


message 11: by Ernie (new)

Ernie Brill Dan wrote: "John Edgar Wideman"

especially Two Cities and his short story collections God's Gym and Homewood. There are very few American writers of any "race'' gender who write about our cities as powerfully as Widemn.
Other favorites of mine are: Henry Dumas' The Echo Tree and Other Stories", Richard Wright's two magnificent short story collections- his very first (and arguablly finest) book- Uncle Tom's Childlren, and Eight Men ( which was published at the end his life even though some of the stories had been written when he wrote his first towering book Uncle Tom' Children.
I love Jean Toomer's experimental novel CANE, along with James Allen McPherson's magnifcent short story collections: Hue and Cry, and Elbow Room. for more info on great African American writers including Toni Cade Bambara, Sterling A. Brown ( one of AmeriCa' greatest poeTS). AND DONT FORGEST GWENDOLYN BROOKS AND CHARLES JOHNSON. OR STERLING


message 12: by Tanya (last edited Feb 06, 2020 12:14AM) (new)

Tanya Whitehead and Jones are on my list, and I've read some Gay. For now, I've gone back to Toni Morrison though, an old favorite. Started The Bluest Eye last night!


message 13: by Ernie (new)

Ernie Brill I love Gay's Bring The Shovel Down Have you checked out Douglas Kearney? Buck Studies and Black Automaton.
how about Patricia Smith? Blood Dazzle ( about Hurricane Katrina)
some other fantastic poets:
Hyesoon Kim -Its OK; I'm PIG
Daniel Borzuzky- The Murmur of the Carcass of the Rotting Economy
Linh Dinh- A M E R I K A (poems) Borderlesso Bodies) amazing'
If you read Whitehead, make sure you check out John Henry Days
Also have you read much Toni Cade Bambaa- sharp and hilalrious


message 14: by Elena (new)

Elena Maria wrote: "I would totally recommend Kwame Alexander, Angie Thomas (an obvious choice) and Jason Reynolds. Correct me if they're not African American. :) I'm..."

He? Toni Morrison was a woman.


message 15: by Chinyere-Elohor (new)

Chinyere-Elohor Egbordi I know, right??? How is Angie Thomas not here???

The Hate U GiveOn the Come Up


message 16: by Mare (new)

Mare Kinley Just a thing. I've read 6 of these 8 writers and the other 2 are featured in my TBR, but I always balk at headings like "...Authors You Should Be Reading.

Like, "You're not the boss of me."


message 17: by Brianna (new)

Brianna Soloski Maria wrote: "I would totally recommend Kwame Alexander, Angie Thomas (an obvious choice) and Jason Reynolds. Correct me if they're not African American. :) I'm..."

Toni Morrison is a woman.


message 18: by Brianna (new)

Brianna Soloski Tomi Adeyemi should also be on this list.


message 19: by Dan (new)

Dan De Vries Dan wrote: "John Edgar Wideman"
Glad someone else reads John Wideman. I think I've read everything he has published in book form. Of course, I was one of his students at the University of Wyoming a million years ago. I do think he's truly a "great" writer.


message 20: by Chris (new)

Chris Halfway through Evan Winter's Rage of Dragons right now. So far, so good.


message 21: by Marta (new)

Marta I highly recommend Nnedi Okorafor and Octavia E. Butler to the sci-fi inclined.


message 22: by Jim (new)

Jim James Baldwin
Jennifer C. Nash
Angela Y. Davis
Charlene Carruthers
Patrisse Khan-Cullors
Malcolm X
Ibram X. Kendi


message 23: by Marie (UK) (new)

Marie (UK) Maria wrote: "I would totally recommend Kwame Alexander, Angie Thomas (an obvious choice) and Jason Reynolds. Correct me if they're not African American. :) I'm..."

Toni Morrison is female


message 24: by Aleksandar (last edited Feb 06, 2020 12:20PM) (new)

Aleksandar Ivanov Forget the contemporary ones, they are just confused activists, pushing for individual disempowerment.

If you want to read an american author, that happens to be with black skin, read the great Thomas Sowell!


message 25: by Amira (new)

Amira Smith Mary Monroe


message 26: by Juliet (last edited Feb 06, 2020 06:01PM) (new)

Juliet Smith Other recommendations by black authors:
Invisible by Stephen L. Carter
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
Fly Girl By Sherri L. Smith
Orleans By Sherri L. Smith


message 27: by Laura (new)

Laura Hey, has anyone mentioned that Toni Morrison was a woman? Just checkin.


message 28: by Michael (new)

Michael Beerline Ibram X. Kendi


message 29: by Linda (new)

Linda Juliet wrote: "Other recommendations by black authors:
Invisible by Stephen L. Carter
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson"


I got the chance to meet Isabel Wilkerson when she came through the Portland airport & stopped in at the bookstore I worked at & asked how she could get some love (a shelf talker) for her book. When I asked what the title of her book was I never in a million years expected to be talking to a National Book Award-winning author & my knees almost buckled. I told her I'd love to be the one to read & write a tag for her book & it ended up being one of my favorites that year & a big hand seller for me.
I also want to shout out for the author Brandy Colbert--a YA author who writes about tough topics very well.


message 30: by Shawn (new)

Shawn Kalisha Buckhanon

Zadie Smith

Yaa Gyasi

Kwame Alexander

De'Shawn Charles Winslow

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Walter Dean Meyers

Edwidge Danticat

Jamaica Kincaid

Gloria Naylor

Michelle Alexander

Isabel Wilkerson

Ibram X. Kendi

Connie Briscoe

Diane Mckinney-Whetstone

Walter Moseley

Bebe Moore Campbell

J. California Cooper

ZZ Packer

Imbolo Mbue

Zinzi Clemmons

Taiye Selasi

Stephen L. Carter

My goodness, this list is just a tease for other bibliophiles. Enjoy!


message 31: by Juli (new)

Juli Lasselle Edward P. Jones, The Known World and his short story collections.


message 32: by Destiny (last edited Feb 06, 2020 04:05PM) (new)

Destiny Henderson I recommend Renée Watson (who to my knowledge is AA) though her contemporaries are geared more toward young adults. I love her stories, and her characters are always relatable. She also weaves in African-American history masterfully into her stories.


message 33: by Edgard (new)

Edgard Refinetti Kai Ashante Wilson if you like fantasy and science fiction.


message 34: by Ernie (new)

Ernie Brill Aleksandar wrote: "Forget the contemporary ones, they are just confused activists, pushing for individual disempowerment.

If you want to read an american author, that happens to be with black skin, read the great Th..."


If you can say this about great poets like Patricia Smith, Tyehimba Jess, Marilyn Nelson and scores of CaveCanem poets, you have no taste no grace and are mired in your Sowellian conservatism. Your remarks are unfounded and have not an iota of any discernment or analysis. You should think careflullly about that word: analysis.


message 35: by Ernie (new)

Ernie Brill Dan wrote: "Dan wrote: "John Edgar Wideman"
Glad someone else reads John Wideman. I think I've read everything he has published in book form. Of course, I was one of his students at the University of Wyoming a..."


Lucky you. And you are so spot on. Do you have favorite books of his?


message 36: by Ernie (new)

Ernie Brill Juli wrote: "Edward P. Jones, The Known World and his short story collections."

Did you know that Jones is doing something with his two short story collections that, as far as I know has never been done before in literature from anywhere?? The characters in his first collection reappear in his second collection!!! Check it out. The first collection is Lost In The City; the second is Aunt Hagar's Children. Stories about his native home Washington DC.
As someone who grew up in Brooklyn, Im so heartened when there are books about the city. When i went to publilc school in the fifties and sixtiess, most the literature curriculum k-12 ( and beyond in college) was overwhelmingly rural LittleHouseonThePrairie The Yearling My Friend Flicka Where The Red Fern Ferns. Not a subway, fire hydrants or project was in sight. The few exceptions I foundon my own- Dos Passos Manhattan Transfer, Dreiser's Sister Carrie, Wright's Native Son, James Farrell's Studs Lonigan, Malamud's The Magic Barrell some of John Ohara. But there were cities portrayed in the thenunderratedl detective writers- Dashiell Hammet, Raymond Chandler of great reputtion, and their peer who was not recognized CHESTER HIMES, creator of the Harlem Crime series starring Gravedigger Johnson and Coffin Ed Joness! WOW!


message 37: by Ernie (new)

Ernie Brill Michael wrote: "Ibram X. Kendi"

Kendi's book Stamped From The Beginning is , hands down, one of the most American history books with African Americans as the center, in the last thirty years and given the number of superb historians, that is saying a lot but get it and see for yourself.


message 39: by Claire (last edited Feb 06, 2020 11:28PM) (new)

Claire Kreutzberger If You Keep Digging Keletso Mopai

Can't recommend her enough. Short stories that pack a lot of punch. South african.

And of course, Jesmyn Ward writes splendidly. Sing, Unburied, Sing was definitely my favorite in 2019


message 40: by Ernie (new)

Ernie Brill Mare wrote: "Just a thing. I've read 6 of these 8 writers and the other 2 are featured in my TBR, but I always balk at headings like "...Authors You Should Be Reading.

Like, "You're not the boss of me.""


Im not anybody's boss; Im simply trying to share my knowledge. Read what you want to read.


message 41: by A'layjia (new)

A'layjia Maria wrote: "I would totally recommend Kwame Alexander, Angie Thomas (an obvious choice) and Jason Reynolds. Correct me if they're not African American. :) I'm..."
Amen! Those authors are amazing! Anyone, especially black people who haven't read "On The Come Up" need to read this this was an empowering book for me as a black person and one of the best books I've ever read.


message 42: by Sharri J. (new)

Sharri J. Lane She: Toni is a woman.

Maria wrote: "I would totally recommend Kwame Alexander, Angie Thomas (an obvious choice) and Jason Reynolds. Correct me if they're not African American. :) I'm..."

Maria wrote: "I would totally recommend Kwame Alexander, Angie Thomas (an obvious choice) and Jason Reynolds. Correct me if they're not African American. :) I'm..."


message 43: by Liz (new)

Liz W I just discovered Elizabeth Acevedo. Poet X is short and a very good read. She has a new one coming out May 5, Clap When You Land. I am looking forward to the read.


message 44: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Walsh Maria wrote: "I would totally recommend Kwame Alexander, Angie Thomas (an obvious choice) and Jason Reynolds. Correct me if they're not African American. :) I'm..."

Toni Morrison was a woman and she was an amazing author! Read her!


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