Science fiction stories by Janelle Monáe; a triptych about three Black women with Albinism living in the South; and a history of Black women in pop — our reading lists just got massive upgrades with this group of books by Black authors we’re most looking forward to this year. Get your credit card ready.
Kendra James, a founding editor of Shondaland.com, writes about her experience as a Black student at a mostly white boarding school in an examination of who holds power and how it shifts. Honestly, we’ll read anything that gets at the seedy underbelly of rich people and the environments it feels like they exclusively occupy.
Grand Central Publishing
The only short story Toni Morrison, who is perhaps the greatest writer of all time, has been re-released — this time with an introduction by Zadie Smith. Written in 1983, it’s the story of Twyla and Roberta, two women who have known each other since they were eight, who keep running into each other. They hold opposing desires but can’t deny their deep bond. Add to cart, ASAP.
This bold debut triptych novel is about three Black women with albinism in Shreveport, Louisiana. Suzette is a pampered 20-year-old falling in love for the first time, while Maple is reeling from the unsolved murder of her free‑spirited mother. Agnes is working a boring job when she attracts the interest of a lonely army vet looking for a traditional life for him and his son in a story about finding one’s own power.
Grand Central Publishing
In what is maybe my favorite book title I’ve seen so far in 2022, Warsan Shire — noted collaborator on Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Black Is King — writes poetry about migration, womanhood, trauma, and resilience.
In this debut essay collection about the expansiveness of millennial Black womanhood and Black Midwesterness (and that’s been compared to other influential collections on intersectionality like Hood Feminism and Against White Feminism), Negesti Kaudo explores race, class, sexuality, and more.
This collection of short stories spans from 1992 to 2007 and is centered on a Black neighborhood in a Southern suburb — at a time when the Black middle-class was expanded while media latched onto stories of “welfare Queens” and “crack babies.” Hubbard’s previous book, The Talented Ribkins was praised by Toni Morrison, which is the only cosign we need.
In this gorgeous debut novel, two outsiders meet in an ancient, sprawling Trinidadian cemetery in a mythic love story about life, death, and everything in between.
Weaving criticism and memoir, this book from the brilliant essayist and journalist Danyel Smith cements Black women’s music as the foundation of American pop music, from Phillis Wheatley, an enslaved woman who sang her poems, to Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, and Mariah Carey, as well as the under-considered careers of influential artists. We need an accompanying playlist, please!
Penguin Random House
Janelle Monáe is once again expanding her empire, not with a clothing line or a podcast, but by making a jump from sci-fi, cyberpunk albums to science fiction with a capital F. The title directly references her 2018 album Dirty Computer, which features an Afrofuturistic world that the book will expand upon. Is there anything she can’t do?
In this electric debut novel by 2018 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate Leila Mottley, a Black woman and her brother are trying to make ends meet in a rapidly gentrifying Oakland as their family has been fractured by incarceration and death. A chance encounter leads her to nightcrawling, where she exposes a massive scandal within the police department.
Translated from its original German, this debut novel is about the life of a Black German woman living between Berlin and New York (chic!), who often has experiences like being the only Black person in the audience of a German play, or having neo-Nazis show up at a lake. The novel is set during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, offering a distinct perspective of a much written-about time.
Megan Gidding’s sci-fi thriller Lakewood that explores the terrifying world of medical experimentation was my favorite book of 2020. Now, the author returns with her second dystopian novel, The Women Could Fly, which sets up a world in which women, especially Black women, must either marry by the age of 30 (LOL) or sign up to be officially monitored — and where they can be tried for witchcraft. You definitely want to pre-order this one.