Back in 2020 BOTWC gave you a list of 29 Black authors you should know. Now, we’ve compiled a list of reasons why you should support them.
African-Americans did not always have the liberty to read and write; literacy was once a privilege that we were denied for many years. According to Atlanta Daily World, a study from the National Center for Education Statistics cited data from 2012 and 2014, finding that 23% of Black adults in the country were considered illiterate compared to 35% of white adults, and 34% of Hispanic adults. Although we had a late start, we’re still achieving great feats in the literary world; Walter Mosely became the first Black man to receive the National Book Award’s lifetime achievement medal, and Ashley M. Jones became Alabama’s first Black poet laureate. There are also people who understand the importance of keeping the love of literacy alive in the Black community, such as Nanea Woods who launched Portland’s first Black book festival, and Jeannine A. Cook, the owner of Harriet's Bookshop in Philadelphia, who delivered books on a horse. Even kids are keeping literacy alive! A couple of Texas kids started a book club to push back on a potential book ban on Black authors.
To support Black authors, literary movements, and various literary achievements is proof that not having the right to write wasn’t enough to keep us away from books.
Black authors help us understand where we came from and what our truths are. Many of them began writing with the sole purpose to inform; I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou and Revoluntionary Suicide by Huey P. Newton both tell the tale of what life was once like for Black people in America. Popular Black poets like Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Nikki Giovanni shared their experiences as well. If you’re reading a book by a Black author, you can expect a peek into the Black experience.
Let’s face it — the plots are juicy! Fiction novels like An American Marriage by Tayari Jones is about an affluent Black couple, just married, that is suddenly split due to the corrupt justice system. Trust by Daines L. Reed highlights sisterhood and financial freedom. Richard Wright’s Native Son is another great book that has a turn of events. If you’re looking for a good book for plane rides, road trips, or just simply reading for enjoyment, check out the Black literature section at your local bookstore. You’re bound to find gold!
A lot of people dislike reading because they can’t relate to the story. Dialogue is one way to connect with a reader, and Black authors have mastered it. Other books can easily cause you to become uninterested because the characters seem too unfamiliar. However, if relatability is important to you, you can depend on a number of Black authors to include colloquialism that's familiar to Black culture. For Black readers, this can make the book more easily digestible and fun to read. The beauty of Black authors is that they all come with a unique writing style. From Toni Morrison’s Sula to The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Black authors have the ability to bring a character to life and invite you into their world — while also reminding you of your own.
If you want to feel something, pick up a Black book! Black authors write novels that evoke emotion. From romance novels to children's books, there are many elements to the Black experience that can take you on a journey through a range of emotions. Books like All About Love by bell hooks was deemed “a love song to the nation.” Michelle Obama's latest book, The Light We Carry, highlights the emotions many people might have experienced during the pandemic.
Today, we have the luxury of “fast and convenient,” purchasing items in the blink of an eye and waiting for them to arrive in no later than three days. The best way to support Black authors is to purchase their books in the format that’s best for you; audiobooks, ebooks, paperbacks, hardcovers are all great options. The act of extending your money to purchase books by Black authors can support the writer’s basic needs or help them produce more novels in the future. Your dollar supports a person who spent hours creating art, and they might even be the talk of your local book club! Sharing these various authors amongst your circles keeps our history alive and the discussion of culture and community-building flowing.
Because of our Black authors, we can. Happy reading!
This article was originally published on BOTWC