In honour of Black History Month we have curated a selection of books to celebrate the inspiring work of black women writers.
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The limits of fifteen-year-old Kambili's world are defined by the high walls of her family estate and the dictates of her fanatically religious father. Her life is regulated by schedules: prayer, sleep, study, prayer. However, when Nigeria is shaken by a military coup, Kambili's father, involved mysteriously in the political crisis, sends her to live with her aunt. In this house, noisy and full of laughter, she discovers life and love - and a terrible, bruising secret deep within her family. This extraordinary debut novel from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is about the blurred lines between the old gods and the new, childhood and adulthood, love and hatred - the grey spaces in which truths are revealed and real life is lived.
Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
The revolutionary writings of Audre Lorde gave voice to those 'outside the circle of this society's definition of acceptable women'. Uncompromising, angry and yet full of hope, this collection of her essays, speeches, letters and interviews explores race, sexuality, poetry, friendship, the erotic and the need for female solidarity. When I asked for recommendations of what I should read on International Women's Day, Lorde's work was mentioned time and time again. Presenting the essential writings of black lesbian poet and feminist writer Lorde, Sister Outsider celebrates one of the most influential voices in twentieth-century literature.
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
One of the most talked about debut novels of all time, White Teeth is a funny, generous, big-hearted novel that deserves to be read by all. Dealing with friendship, love, war, three cultures and three families over three generations, one brown mouse, and the tricky way the past has of coming back and biting you on the ankle, it is a life-affirming, riotous must-read of a book.
An American Marraige by Tayari Jones
Winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction 2019, An American Marriage follows newlyweds and embodiments of the American Dream, Celestial and Roy. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. Until one day they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn't commit. Devastated and unmoored, Celestial finds herself struggling to hold on to the love that has been her centre, taking comfort in Andre, their closest friend. When Roy's conviction is suddenly overturned, he returns home ready to resume their life together. An American Marriage offers a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three unforgettable characters who are at once bound together and separated by forces beyond their control.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Gyasi's debut novel, Homegoing is the story of two sisters separated at birth and the subsequent effect on their descents, tracing the two families lives through their ups and downs. Following a different descendant of an Asante woman named Maame in each chapter, the novel begins with her two daughters, who are half sisters, separated by circumstance: Effia marries James Collins, the British governor in charge of Cape Coast Castle, while her half-sister Esi is held captive in the dungeons below. A heartbreakingly beautiful portrayal of lives and families effected by the slave trade, Homegoing is, as Diana Evans in the Guardian argues, 'a hugely empathic, unflinching portrayal of west Africa’s role in the transatlantic slave trade'. We are especially excited as Gyasi recently announced her next novel will be published in 2020. Read out full review here.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988, Beloved tells the story of Sethe and her youngest daughter Denver after their escape from slavery. Their home in Cincinnati is haunted by a revenant, whom they believe to be the ghost of Sethe's eldest daughter. The haunting - which often involves objects being thrown around the room - has left Denver shy, friendless and housebound, while Sethe's sons, Howard and Buglar, have run away from home. One of the most important American novelists, Morrison's versatility, technical and emotional range is astounding. Beloved is one of those books designed to educate and as such should be read by all. In its refusal to shy away from the horrors experienced by Sethe, Morrison’s novel reflects the countless - often unspoken - atrocities committed by whites against people of colour throughout history. Read our full review here.