As an English student and avid reader, it is my belief that the best way to understand someone else’s experience is to read about it. Even books which are fictional can educate us. Below, I have listed three major fictional books by Black authors that are exceptional in their presentation of very different Black experiences.
1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The protagonist of this novel is the 16-year-old girl, Starr Carter. Though this is Young Adult fiction, the book begins with Starr witnessing the murder of her childhood friend, Khalil, who was shot by a police officer and, unsurprisingly, Khalil was unarmed. Much like the protests we have seen for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Stephon Clark (and many others), protesters head to the streets shouting Khalil’s name, and begging for justice. As Khalil’s only witness the pressure is on Starr to come forward and speak up.
“The strongest aspect of this book is it’s social commentary and political criticism. This is the kind of book that should be in the hands of teens, making them aware of current issues, educating them on pressing matters, and encouraging them to get involved to create change.” – (Emma Giordano)
If you don’t have time for reading at the moment, The Hate U Give was also adapted into an incredible movie.
“it’s impossible to be unarmed when our Blackness is the weapon that they fear”- (April Offrah)
2. Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid
This book begins with the protagonist Emira Tucker, a young Black woman, being accused by a security guard in a supermarket of stealing the white toddler she is babysitting. Though this scene sets the precedent for the rest of the novel, Reid speeds past this and has Emira shake off the whole event. This does not make the details of the event any less effective, but Reid wants the reader to focus on the essential context of the novel, which is the relationship between Emira and her white wealthy employer, Alix Chamberlain.
“Narratives about race and privilege are not unfamiliar literary fodder, but in her novel, Reid demonstrates a remarkable insight by taking on the monumental challenge of revealing the state of America through what she called the “everyday domestic biases that we don’t even know we have.” Reid’s exploration is a fresh and interesting look at the uneasy performance of “wokeness”—a paper-thin tissue of a word, so conspicuous that it now immediately breeds distrust.” – (bookswithchai)
3. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
This novel is about twin sisters, Stella and Desiree, who grow up in Mallard, L.A, which is a town mainly comprised of light-skinned black people. One of the sisters, Stella, makes the decision to live her life as a white-passing person, while Desiree chooses to embrace her Black identity. This book weaves together multiple generations of this family, ranging from the 1950s to the 1990s, and presents an emotional exploration of family, race, gender, class, and integrally the lasting influence of the past and our decisions.
“A story of absolute, universal timelessness… For any era, it‘s an accomplished, affecting novel. For this moment, it‘s piercing, subtly wending its way toward questions about who we are and who we want to be….” – (Entertainment Weekly)