Twenty twenty-first’s crop of beach reads, complex satires, self-help books, and personal essay collections are full of nuanced takes on the Black experience transporting readers from the swelter of Florida sidewalks to old money enclaves in New England.
Scribes are visiting different settings, and asking new questions in their work after a year of confinement and contemplation… Black scientists are encouraging us to look to the heavens for answers… After the natural hair community birthed changes in the media and legal representation, Black poets are connecting cultural traditions to spiritual experiences… Political insiders are inspiring us to question every aspect of our country’s constitutional legacy… And, lastly, while swipes of the thumb may be passing for courtship off the page, today’s Black writers are keeping romance alive.
See the 21 books we are most excited about reading in 2021 below.
Girl Gurl Grrrl: On Womanhood and Belonging in the Age of Black Girl Magic by Kenya Hunt
The international fashion director reflects on what it feels like to be the only Black woman in the room in this collection of heartfelt essays. She describes what it feels like to be isolated in a fashion industry that lacks cultural nuance and questions the meaning of #BlackGirlMagic. The collection also features input from some of the biggest names in tech, fashion, and literature including Queenie author Candice-Carty Williams.
Brianna Laren looks to the natural hair lexicon to describe daily obstacles Black women face in this book of poetry. Merging Black beauty rituals with self-discovery, she presents a journey from “breakage” to “new growth.”
The lure of a tech startup causes a young Black man named Darren to sacrifice his closest relationships in this bold satire about corporate sales tactics. Surrounded by coworkers who are openly racist, Darren manages to thrive by commodifying his Blackness and keeping the mission above his humanity. Pick this up if you’re exhausted by LLC Twitter.
Black Girl In Love (with Herself) A Guide To Self-love, Healing And Creating The Life You Truly Deserve by Trey Anthony (January 5)
Award-winning playwright Trey Anthony urges Black women to reject the roles of family ATM and clique patsy in this motivational book. Discover sharp sample language for confronting microaggressions, setting personal boundaries and redirecting negative conversations towards more appealing topics in its pages.
Bevelations: Lessons from a Mutha, Auntie, Bestie by Bevy Smith (January 12)
The news correspondent, pop culture authority and radio host shares how she went from a luxury advertising director to one of our favorite television personalities in this memoir. Learn how she stepped beyond corporate boundaries to create a life full of glamour by listening to her gut.
Angie Thomas introduces readers to the world that birthed Starr and Seven Carter in this prequel to The Hate U Give. Concrete Rose follows their father Maverick Carter as he sacrifices his boyhood and jeopardizes his safety to provide for his family.
Just as I Am: A Memoir by Cicely Tyson (January 26)
Before the award-winning actress received the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama, Cicely Tyson was a timid girl sitting in a church pew. The proud New Yorker takes readers on her journey from shy child to screen legend.
Surviving The White Gaze: A Memoir by Rebecca Carroll (February 2)
Rebecca Carroll describes her experience going from the sole Black child in a sleepy New Hampshire to a young woman fighting to define her relationship to her Blackness. Find out how she overcomes her social isolation, birth mother’s dismissals, and her adoptive parents’ ignorance to develop her own ideas about family, faith, and friendship.
Characters wade through family obligations, and personal contradictions in this collection of short stories set in sunshine state. Study the intergenerational struggles of a group of people fighting to define themselves in North Florida and be forced to think twice before shaming their choices.
Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual Book by Luvvie Ajayi Jones (March 2)
Luvvie Ajayi Jones reveals the ways imposter syndrome has threatened her writing career and argues truth tellers could do with some practice in this follow-up to 2016’s I’m Judging You. Use it to prepare for your next big win.
Twenty years after trying to outsmart the game landed her in a cell, Winter Santiaga returns to the streets. With her family’s drug dealing empire in shambles and her siblings scattered across the country, she’s is faced with the same temptations and dangers at the close of her sentence.
The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey Into Dark Matter, Spacetime & Dreams Deferred by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein (March 9)
Celebrated scientist Dr. Prescod-Weinstein uncovers how systematic racism limits humanity’s potential. Using the universe as her classroom, she highlights the value of equality in laboratories and society at large.
The Final Revival Of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton (April 20)
We don’t know what we love most about this book. The fact its heroine is reminiscent of Grace Jones and Tina Turner and the readers takes a journey through the colorful-and-complicated life of being a 70s rock ‘n’ roll goddess; its narrator is 40-something media maven with gorgeous locks; or that it’s the debut novel by former ESSENCE deputy editor Dawnie Walton. Still, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev is a must-read when it hits our hands this spring.
Simon & Schuster
Summer on The Bluffs by Sunny Hostin (May 4)
The Emmy award-winning lawyer and journalist invites readers to the exclusive Black beach community of Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard where the money is old, the secrets are deadly, and summer is more of a sport than a season. The novel follows three siblings fighting to prove themselves worthy of stewarding the family’s summer cottage between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Think The Undoing with a hint of melanin, where everyone’s wearing $300 sandals.
The political powerhouse behind flipping Georgia turns her pen towards the Supreme Court in this thriller. Revisit your thoughts on term limits and palliative care by following a young professional facing family drama as she learns that the controversial judge she clerks for has literally put his life in her hands when he slips into a coma.
How to Find a Princess: Runaway Royals by Alyssa Cole (May 25)
Pause your third rewatch of Bridgerton (we’re not judging) to spend time with this sexy royal romance. Makeda Hicks learns her grandmother’s tryst with an Iberian Prince has left her as heir to the country’s monocracy. After losing her job and her girlfriend, she’s more interested in getting her life back than taking the throne but a change in circumstance, and a sexy stranger makes her think some cash and crown might be just what she needs.
Twenty twenty-first is bringing us the Black romances we deserve! Set against the wedding industrial complex, an ambitious fashion designer and an overwhelmed single father forge an unlikely relationship in a Charleston bridal shop. As the pair discover love in the low country, they consider what it means to be successful in the boardroom and beyond.
After giving us a Bad Boy era rivalry, and earth shattering sex scenes in The Perfect Find, Tia Williams returns with another New York flavored romance. Seven Days In June finds two writers who once spent a passionate week as teenage lovers reconnecting as adults. They initially reject the pull of their soured summer love but soon their chemistry is undeniable. Before long it seems like their romance is back on track, but unanswered questions present roadblocks on their trip down memory lane.
Based on the life of Montserratian legend Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, this historical novel depicts the journey of a former slave who became one of the most prominent property holders in the Caribbean. After purchasing her own freedom Kirwan comes back for her family and pushes forward and creates an unforgettable legacy.
Baby Girl: Better Known as Aaliyah by Kathy Iandoli (August 17)
The life and legacy of the tragically fallen star is carefully examined in this thorough biography. Look beyond her iconic persona and learn about who she was a musician, performer, partner, daughter, sister and friend through a series of exclusive interviews.