5 Great Books by Black Writers

Each month I highlight a book I’m reading for my novel research or the sheer joy of getting wrapped up in a good story. Since February is Black History Month in the US, I’m listing five great books by Black authors across several genres.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker.

Summary: Celie (played by a young Whoopi Goldberg in the 1985 movie), an abused girl in Georgia who protects her sister Nettie. Nettie becomes a missionary in Africa and Celie ends up married to an older abusive husband. She gets through her struggles by writing letters directly to God. She is helped by two strong women, Shug (a jazz singer and her husband’s mistress) and Sophia (her stepson’s wife – played by Oprah Winfrey in the movie). By the end of the story, you will be bawling because she’s so resilient and the message is incredibly uplifting.

This is the first movie that made me cry and impacted me so much that I begged my mother to buy the book, which was even better.  It’s also been turned into a musical on Broadway. Keep the tissues close when you read this one!

Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence by Geoffrey Canada

You might recognize the author, Geoffrey Canada, from the documentary Waiting for “Superman”, which is a story taken from this memoir. Before he became the founder of Harlem Children’s Zone and was praised by presidents Bill Clinton and Barak Obama, he was a kid growing up on the mean streets of the South Bronx where you had to learn to fight to survive. As he grew up the rules changed and suddenly fists and knifes turned into guns and lots of them. It’s his story of learning the code of violence then becoming an educator and activist to help make the streets safer for everyone.

I like how he used his upbringing to connect with troubled kids and show them a better way to settle disputes in an age when the stakes keep getting higher and more dangerous.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Summary: Cora, a slave on a cotton plantation, decides to runaway with Caesar, newly arrived from a different plantation, to the Underground Railroad. But in this fiction, it’s not a metaphor, it’s an actual railroad that takes them on different stops throughout antebellum history. It won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award and is now on Amazon Prime.

I’ve only just started reading this one, but it’s amazing. The violence is brutal; so are the questions raised about understanding the legacy of slavery and how it impacts society today.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson 

This nonfiction goes beyond race and class distinctions to study the hidden caste systems across civilizations including America, India and Nazi Germany. A best seller, winner of countless awards and being listed as the #1 Nonfiction by Time, this well-researched book will make your jaw drop.

The historical fiction I’m writing is set in Virginia colony, the birthplace of American slavery, so I read this book to get a better understanding of how this system was set up and why caste systems echo long after the laws change. Beyond facts and figures she also uses stories from past and present to illustrate the concepts so they are understandable.

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl

Full disclosure – I just bought this one and haven’t read it yet. But Issa Rae is really funny and this is a New York Times bestseller, so I’m checking it out.

Which books are you reading right now? I’m always on the lookout for a good story!

Lisa 😉



Copyright (c) Lisa Traugott 2022. All rights reserved.




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