11 Books by Black Authors to Add to Your Summer Reading List

There has recently been an uproar in the literary community over the glaring lack of Black authors and characters in new books. The New York Times' newly released summer book list didn't feature a single Black author, and at last week's book expo in New York City, there were sporadic protests over the whitewashing of literature. But we've got you covered! Check out this summer's hottest new books to read—by Black authors.

Patrik Henry Bass Jun, 02, 2015

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This year marks a special milestone for ESSENCE: our 45th anniversary. To celebrate, ESSENCE's editorial team is releasing Your Faith Walk: Wisdom and Affirmations on the Path to Personal Power (Time Home Entertainment, $19.95), a compilation of some of the most powerful quotes and wisdom ever printed in the pages of our magazine. "Your Faith Walk is designed to be that unforgettable whisper in your ear that motivates you to keep going no matter what internal or external challenge you may face," ESSENCE editor-in-chief Vanessa K. De Luca writes.

Buy it here.

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Mat Johnson has rightfully earned lavish critical praise for risk-taking novels such as Pym (2011) and Drop (2000). Loving Day (Spiegel & Grau, $26), a take-no-prisoners view of interracial relationships and hysteria, may at last bring Johnson to a wider readership. In Loving Day we meet biracial Warren Duffy, who has returned to Philadelphia after his marriage to a Welsh woman unravels, his comic shop in Cardiff, Wales, goes out of business and his Irish-American father dies. It's hardly grist for a funny novel, but once Warren moves into what he believes is a haunted mansion, all hell breaks loose. You will marvel at the finesse with which Johnson handles this story.

Buy it here.

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One of the world's greatest living writers has published her eleventh novel, God Help the Child (Knopf, $24.95). Here, we meet Bride, a stunning dark-skinned woman surviving a trauma from her past, who has learned all too well that her beauty can be used as a weapon.

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The more things change, the more they remain the same. That's the sad yet urgent message you will find in the riveting new book Firefight: The Century-Long Battle to Integrate New York's Bravest (Palgrave Macmillan Trade, $28). Journalist Ginger Adams Otis exhaustively examines the causes that led to the Big Apple's 2014 settlement of a $98 million discrimination lawsuit. Cases went as far back as 1919 with the hiring of Wesley Williams. Nearly a century later, New York City has about 300 Black firefighters—roughly just 3 percent of the 11,000 serving a city with 2 million African-Americans. Eye-opening, this is a must-read.

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Pulitzer Prize–winning photographer Alysia Burton Steele turned her camera to a group of women many of us know, but the world seldom celebrates: church elders. In Delta Jewels (Center Street, $28), an exquisite tome, Steele gathers more than 50 Mississippi church "muvahs" in all their beauty and power. Recounting their stories of survival, Jewels is the ultimate testament of faith and courage in the face of insurmountable odds.

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In her more than three decades in the news business, executive Paula Williams Madison had heard and seen it all. That is, until she stumbled onto a shut-your-mouth revelation that would send her on an unforgettable journey. Finding Samuel Lowe (Amistad, $25.99) reads like an epic tale, but is, in fact, a true story. Your heart will break for Nell Vera Lowe, Madison's mother. Growing up she had been cut off from Samuel, her Chinese father. Nell, who inherits her father's features, moves to New York City and eventually has her own family. When the author's only grandchild is born, she becomes obsessed with her legacy. How Madison ultimately connects with her grandfather's descendants in China will produce more OMG moments than any prime-time drama on cable or Netflix could ever hope to elicit.

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Journalist and educator Pamela Newkirk turns her sharp eyes to a darker historical footnote. Have you ever heard of Ota Benga? In the spectacular Spectacle (Amistad, $25.99), Newkirk travels back to 1904, where Benga—a Congolese "pygmy"—was showcased as a human zoo exhibit, and was once caged with an orangutan! Newkirk dissects Benga's relationship with the man who exploited him while claiming he was his "friend."

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Bernice L. McFadden was one of the best writers to emerge in the post–Waiting to Exhale explosion that introduced at least a dozen Black female novelists. Loving Donovan (Akashic, $15.95) has generated near-cult status among readers. After more than a decade since it appeared, Donovan is being reissued. How fitting that Terry McMillan has written a new introduction. If you've read Donovan before, you will fall in love all over again. And if this is your first time, prepare yourself for an intense romance between an enigmatic antihero and a heroine who will feel like your homegirl.

Buy it here.

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Looking for plane reading on the way to this year's Essence Festival? Download or pack I Am Charlie Wilson (Atria/37 Ink, $25.99), the sensational memoir by the nine-time Grammy-nominated artist. If you've line-danced to any of the hits in this consummate enter-tainer's catalog, you'll love every sentence of this account. Wilson gives us the same thrill on the page as he does on the stage, revealing all of his Gap Band highs (literally) and lows. He's battled it all: homelessness, prostate cancer and addiction. The triumph of I Am Charlie Wilson lies in his secret weapon to success: an unerring sense of faith and his unconditional love for performing. Outstanding? #Yes.

Buy it here.

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La La Anthony surprised many in publishing when The Love Playbook (Celebra, 2014) debuted at No. 1 on The New York Times best-sellers list. This season she returns to bookstores and e-reader screens with The Power Playbook (Celebra, $24.95). Subtitled "Rules for Independence, Money, and Success," the book details how Anthony's willpower allowed her to achieve balance as an entrepreneur, mother and wife to b-ball legend Carmelo Anthony. One of her top rules? Before you can make any strides, the power that you must tap into is that inner source that will convince you that everything is possible.

Buy it here.

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If ever there was a publication that's right on time, it's Undivided: A Muslim Daughter, Her Christian Mother, Their Path to Peace (Thomas Nelson, $22.99). Like you, I have very little tolerance for religious intolerance. And as we've watched one dreadful xenophobic headline after the next misrepresent Christianity and Islam, I've been hoping for someone to make some sense of this non-debate. Patricia Raybon and her daughter, Alana Raybon, are the pitch-perfect antidote to all the noise, clarifying how faith chooses (or doesn't choose) us, instead of the other way around. How Alana discovers her truth through Islam, and how Patricia summons up the tenets of Christianity to understand her daughter's decision, is one of the most intelligent and inspiring stories you'll pick up this summer.

Buy it here.

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