10 Books by Black British Authors You Should Read

Black History Month is a time to celebrate the rich cultural heritage, history, and achievements of Black people. One powerful way to do this is by exploring the literature that captures the diverse experiences and voices of Black British authors.

Here are ten compelling books you should add to your reading list:

1. “Girl, Woman, Other” by Bernardine Evaristo

Bernardine Evaristo’s “Girl, Woman, Other” is an extraordinary novel that explores the interconnected lives of twelve characters, primarily women of African or Caribbean descent, over several decades. Each chapter provides a distinct voice and perspective, weaving together a complex and rich narrative that addresses themes of gender, race, and sexuality.

Evaristo’s innovative narrative style, blending prose and poetry, and her profound storytelling offer a vivid portrait of modern Britain and its complexities. The novel spans a century of life in Britain, from rural Northumberland to bustling London, capturing the diverse experiences of Black British women. Evaristo delves into their struggles, achievements, and relationships, offering a nuanced exploration of identity and belonging. This Booker Prize-winning novel is celebrated for its depth, diversity, and the way it challenges traditional narrative structures. It is a must-read for anyone interested in contemporary literature and the multifaceted experiences of Black British women.

Buy “Girl, Woman, Other”

2. “Queenie” by Candice Carty-Williams

“Queenie” follows the life of Queenie Jenkins, a young Jamaican-British woman living in London, as she navigates her career, friendships, and relationships. This darkly comic and unflinchingly raw debut novel delves into issues of mental health, race, and identity, providing a poignant and relatable narrative that resonates with many readers. Carty-Williams portrays Queenie’s struggles with authenticity and sensitivity, addressing the pressures of societal expectations and personal demons.

The novel also highlights the importance of supportive friendships and self-care. As Queenie’s life spirals out of control following a series of personal setbacks, the narrative takes readers on a journey through her attempts to reconcile her cultural heritage with her modern British identity. “Queenie” is both a humorous and heartbreaking exploration of a young Black woman’s experience, capturing the complexities of navigating love, career, and mental health in contemporary society. Carty-Williams’ debut has been praised for its honest portrayal of these issues and its contribution to contemporary discussions on mental health and racial identity.

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3. “Small Island” by Andrea Levy

Set in the aftermath of World War II, “Small Island” intertwines the lives of two couples: Hortense and Gilbert, who have recently emigrated from Jamaica, and Queenie and Bernard, their English landlords. Andrea Levy’s powerful narrative addresses themes of migration, racism, and the search for belonging. Through her richly developed characters and evocative prose, Levy provides a vital perspective on post-war Britain, highlighting the contributions and experiences of the Windrush generation.

The novel explores the cultural clashes and common humanity that arise as the characters navigate their new realities. Through flashbacks and multiple perspectives, Levy delves into the backstories of her characters, revealing their dreams, disappointments, and resilience. “Small Island” also examines the broader social and historical context of the time, including the impact of colonialism and the changing landscape of British society. The novel’s emotional depth and historical insight make it a poignant and thought-provoking read. “Small Island” is a poignant and insightful exploration of the complexities of identity and the enduring impact of colonialism.

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4. “Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging” by Afua Hirsch

In this thought-provoking memoir, Afua Hirsch explores what it means to be Black and British. Drawing on her personal experiences as a journalist, lawyer, and woman of Ghanaian and British heritage, she delves into the complexities of race, identity, and belonging in contemporary Britain. Hirsch’s insightful and compelling narrative challenges readers to confront uncomfortable truths about society and themselves. She examines the historical context of racial issues and provides a nuanced discussion on the intersections of race, class, and culture.

Hirsch’s exploration of her own identity journey, from her childhood in a predominantly white suburb to her professional career, adds a deeply personal dimension to the book. “Brit(ish)” also addresses broader societal issues, such as the erasure of Black British history from mainstream narratives and the ongoing challenges of systemic racism. By blending memoir, historical analysis, and social commentary, Hirsch creates a powerful and enlightening read that encourages readers to reflect on their own understanding of race and belonging. “Brit(ish)” is a powerful call to acknowledge and address systemic inequalities, making it an essential read for anyone interested in understanding the dynamics of race in the UK.

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5. “Ordinary People” by Diana Evans

“Ordinary People” explores the lives of two Black British couples, Melissa and Michael, and Damian and Stephanie, living in South London. As they navigate personal and relational struggles, Evans paints a vivid picture of modern urban life, touching on themes of love, family, and the quest for happiness. The novel is set against the backdrop of Barack Obama’s election and Michael Jackson’s death, highlighting the impact of these cultural moments on the characters’ lives. Evans’ nuanced character development and evocative prose make this a compelling read that resonates with readers from all walks of life.

The novel delves into the intricacies of the characters’ relationships, examining how external pressures and internal conflicts shape their experiences. Melissa grapples with the challenges of motherhood and career aspirations, while Michael struggles with his sense of identity and fulfillment. Damian and Stephanie’s relationship faces its own trials as they navigate the complexities of parenthood and personal growth. “Ordinary People” also reflects on the broader social and political climate, providing a snapshot of a transformative period in history. Evans’ keen observations and empathetic storytelling make “Ordinary People” a thoughtful exploration of the intricacies of modern relationships and the search for meaning in a rapidly changing world.

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6. “The Confessions of Frannie Langton” by Sara Collins

A gripping historical novel, “The Confessions of Frannie Langton” follows Frannie Langton, a former slave accused of murdering her employers in 1826 London. Through Frannie’s confessions, Collins explores themes of race, class, and the pursuit of freedom. The novel’s richly detailed narrative and masterful storytelling provide a compelling exploration of 19th-century Britain. Collins draws on Gothic and thriller elements to create a suspenseful and emotionally resonant tale. Frannie’s voice is both haunting and powerful, offering insights into her tumultuous life and the societal constraints she battles against.

The novel delves into Frannie’s early life on a Jamaican plantation, her complex relationship with her mistress, and her journey to London. As Frannie navigates her new life in England, she encounters both kindness and cruelty, revealing the stark realities of the era. Collins’ meticulous research and evocative prose bring the historical setting to life, immersing readers in Frannie’s world. “The Confessions of Frannie Langton” is a deeply affecting and thought-provoking read that challenges readers to reconsider history from the perspective of those often marginalized. The novel’s exploration of identity, power, and justice resonates with contemporary discussions on race and inequality, making it a timely and important work.

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7. “Noughts & Crosses” by Malorie Blackman

“Noughts & Crosses” is set in a dystopian society where the racial hierarchy is inverted, with the dark-skinned Crosses holding power over the lighter-skinned Noughts. Through the forbidden love story of Sephy (a Cross) and Callum (a Nought), Blackman explores themes of prejudice, power, and the fight for equality. This groundbreaking YA novel challenges readers to think critically about the structures of society and the impact of systemic discrimination. The book’s gripping narrative and well-drawn characters make it both an engaging read and a powerful social commentary. Sephy and Callum’s relationship faces intense scrutiny and opposition, highlighting the deep-seated racial tensions in their society. As they navigate their love amidst a backdrop of violence and political unrest, the novel delves into the complexities of identity and resistance. “Noughts & Crosses” also examines the impact of institutionalized racism on individuals and communities, offering a stark reflection on contemporary issues. The novel’s exploration of love, loss, and resilience makes it a compelling and thought-provoking read for readers of all ages. “Noughts & Crosses” has been lauded for its ability to provoke important conversations about race, privilege, and justice.

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8. “The Lonely Londoners” by Sam Selvon

This classic novel captures the experiences of West Indian immigrants in 1950s London. Through a series of vignettes, Selvon’s evocative prose brings to life the hopes, struggles, and resilience of the Caribbean community in a rapidly changing city. The narrative follows characters like Moses, who has been in London for ten years, and newcomers like Galahad, who are navigating the city’s challenges and opportunities. “The Lonely Londoners” remains a powerful and relevant portrayal of the immigrant experience, highlighting the community’s vibrant culture and enduring spirit. Selvon’s use of dialect and his lyrical style contribute to the authenticity and emotional impact of the novel.

The book captures the camaraderie and isolation of the characters as they strive to make a life for themselves in a city that often seems unwelcoming. Selvon’s depiction of their everyday experiences, from job hunting to social gatherings, paints a vivid picture of the immigrant struggle and resilience. “The Lonely Londoners” also offers a critique of the socio-economic conditions faced by immigrants, shedding light on the systemic barriers they encounter. The novel’s enduring relevance and literary significance make it a must-read for those interested in the history and experiences of the Caribbean diaspora in Britain.

Buy “The Lonely Londoners”

9. “Love in Colour: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold” by Bolu Babalola

In this enchanting collection, Bolu Babalola reimagines love stories from history and mythology, infusing them with contemporary Black voices. Each tale is a celebration of love in its many forms, showcasing Babalola’s talent for storytelling and her ability to weave magic into the everyday. The stories span various cultures and time periods, offering fresh perspectives on timeless themes. Babalola’s prose is both lyrical and accessible, making each story a delight to read. “Love in Colour” is a testament to the enduring power of love and the richness of diverse cultural narratives

. From Greek mythology to Nigerian folklore, Babalola breathes new life into ancient tales, highlighting the universality of love while centering Black characters and perspectives. The collection also includes original stories inspired by Babalola’s own heritage and imagination. Each story is a gem, exploring different facets of love, from romantic and familial to self-love and friendship. Babalola’s ability to blend humor, emotion, and wisdom makes “Love in Colour” a joyous and captivating read. The collection not only entertains but also invites readers to reflect on the power of love and the importance of diverse storytelling.

Buy “Love in Colour: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold”

10. “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge

This powerful non-fiction book began as a blog post and quickly became a must-read. Reni Eddo-Lodge addresses the history and current realities of systemic racism in Britain, offering a crucial and thought-provoking examination of race relations today. Her incisive analysis and personal reflections challenge readers to confront their own biases and engage in meaningful conversations about race. Eddo-Lodge delves into topics such as white privilege, the erasure of Black British history, and the intersections of race and class.

The book combines historical context with contemporary experiences, providing a comprehensive overview of the structural inequalities that persist in society. Eddo-Lodge’s candid and eloquent writing makes complex issues accessible, encouraging readers to reflect on their own roles in perpetuating or challenging racism. “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” is a vital resource for understanding the ongoing impact of racism and the need for systemic change. The book has sparked important discussions and continues to be a relevant and influential work in the fight for racial equality. Its blend of personal narrative, historical analysis, and social critique makes it an essential read for anyone committed to understanding and addressing racial injustice.

Buy “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race”

These ten books provide a window into the diverse and vibrant experiences of Black British authors. Through their powerful narratives and unique perspectives, they enrich our understanding of Black British culture and history. This Black History Month, celebrate by diving into these remarkable works and supporting these talented authors.