It’s no mystery that the book publishing industry is in major need of a diversity overhaul. Thanks to one of the few minority-owned publishing companies around, we now have tangible proof that lifts the veil on exactly how much of a cultural shift needs to happen.
Lee & Low Books created the Diversity Baseline Survey back in 2015, and it helps determine the racial, gender, sexual orientation, and ability makeup of publishing houses and review journals across the country. In their 2019 survey, the company found out that 79 percent of respondents identified as white, 78 percent as women, 88 percent as straight, and 92 percent as non-disabled.
While those numbers are unfortunately not surprising in the least, they do serve as a reminder to fans of fiction how damn important it is to support Black and BIPOC authors now more than ever before. And what better way to do that than curling up with some iced coffee and reading any number of these awesome books in your backyard this summer?
The first novel in Marlon James’s “Dark Star” trilogy explores what happens when a mercenary is hired to find a missing child. It’s been deemed the “African Game of Thrones” for deftly weaving together African mythology and a story filled with mystery, magic, and adventure. James’s trilogy has already been optioned for film rights, so one this is a must read right now.
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Back on tour tonight!! Join me and @brownbookworm at @mystgalaxybooks – 7pm pacific/10pm EST on their Facebook page! • Repost from @mystgalaxybooks • 🧜🏾♀️We can’t wait for our event with @bcmorrow next week! Join us for a conversation between Bethany & @brownbookworm over on facebook, Jun 24th at 7pm! And don’t forget that if you purchase of A SONG BELOW WATER with us before July 1st, you will receive a signed bookplate! Find more info on the Upcoming Events page on our website, link in bio. And keep reading for a review from Jenni! @torteen⠀ ✨”A Song Below Water blends the real world with fantasy to beautifully illustrate the need for sisterhood in the face of racism and misogyny. ASBW centers on sisters Tavia and Effie as they navigate life as Black young women in a world trying to silence them. Tavia is a siren passing as a normal teenager, gathering the courage to speak up for herself and the rights of others like her in the face of national persecution and state-sanctioned violence. Effie is a mermaid (or at least she plays a mermaid at the Renaissance Faire every year). As she prepares for the new season, suddenly mysterious events of her past seem to recur, all while Effie faces some physical changes, the least concerning of which being her hair moving on its own. As the political world around Tavia and Effie increasingly mirrors our own, the girls must decide where they stand, and embrace what makes them different to stand up for what’s right. Tavia and Effie, may have fantastic powers, but they are still real girls. The fantasy of Morrow’s world is not metaphoric. Rather, she wonderfully blends the real with the supernatural to paint a nuanced picture of what it means to grow up as Black women in contemporary America. ASBW is a timely read that will become a timeless addition to the bookshelves of YA Fantasy lovers.” – Jenni, Co-Owner ⠀ -⠀ -⠀ -⠀ -⠀ #mysteriousgalaxy #mystgalaxybooks #mysteriousgalaxybookstore #indiebookstore #independentbookstore #asongbelowwater #bethanycmorrow #dhonielleclayton #virtualevent #authorevent
This modern fantasy about mermaids, the bonds of friendship, and self-discovery that collides with modern-day racism and sexism. According to Dhonielle Clayton, New York Times bestselling author of The Belles, Morrow’s book is “an enthralling tale of black girl magic and searing social commentary ready to rattle the bones.”
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🎉YA Anthology A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope Patrice Caldwell (Editor) Viking BYR Sixteen tales by bestselling and award-winning authors that explore the Black experience through fantasy, science fiction, and magic. With stories by: Elizabeth Acevedo, Amerie, Patrice Caldwell, Dhonielle Clayton, J. Marcelle Corrie, Somaiya Daud, Charlotte Nicole Davis, Justina Ireland, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Danny Lore, L. L. McKinney, Danielle Paige, Rebecca Roanhorse, Karen Strong, Ashley Woodfolk, and Ibi Zoboi. Evoking Beyoncé’s Lemonade for a teen audience, these authors who are truly Octavia Butler’s heirs, have woven worlds to create a stunning narrative that centers Black women and gender nonconforming individuals. A Phoenix First Must Burn will take you on a journey from folktales retold to futuristic societies and everything in between. Filled with stories of love and betrayal, strength and resistance, this collection contains an array of complex and true-to-life characters in which you cannot help but see yourself reflected. Witches and scientists, sisters and lovers, priestesses and rebels: the heroines of A Phoenix First Must Burn shine brightly. You will never forget them. CLICK ON THE LINK IN👉🏿OUR BIO to find more children’s and young adult books by Black authors #ourstoriesmatter #yabooks #youngadultfantasybooks #youngadultsci-fi #newbookrelease #mirrorbooks #windowbooks #representationmatters #newbooks #newbookalert
In this jam-packed collection of tales by bestselling and award-winning authors, the Black experience is explored through fantasy, science fiction, and magic. With Black women and gender nonconforming individuals at the center of these stories, you can’t go wrong with this unforgettable, groundbreaking book.
Named one of the most anticipated books of the year by Entertainment Weekly, Harper’s Bazaar, and BuzzFeed, this poignant novel centers around a Black and queer young man from Alabama who leaves behind a painful childhood to attend college in a Midwestern town.
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Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (Bloomsbury). The calm before the storm is usually just a metaphor, but bot so in Salvage the Bones. In the clearing in the woods where they live, Esch and her family hunker down for an oncoming hurricane that has prompted the government to call for mandatory evacuations. But Katrina isn’t the type of storm to wash up and over your house. “Katrina surprised everyone with her uncompromising strength,” Esch says after the water has receded with pieces of their house in its currents, “her forcefulness, the way she lingered, she made things happen that had never happened before.” As the storm builds, the family recalls the others they have weathered, those that Katrina will decimate in comparison. You kind of fill up with panic when you realize Esch’s family won’t leave. Ward is as good a writer whether she’s musing about sun-scorched living on the bayou or describing the murderous waters of Katrina’s grip, and this novel has as much heart as a literary page-turner like All the Light We Cannot See and as much soul as the best of Zora Neale Hurston.
A 2011 National Book Award winner, Salvage the Bones centers around a poor Mississippi family facing the grave threat of a powerful hurricane.
Identical twin sisters break their inseparable bond as children when they run away from the small, southern Black community they grew up in and immerse themselves in two strikingly different worlds as grown women. The Wall Street Journal declared this novel reminiscent of Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” making this a must-add to your summer reading list.
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Friday Black||Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah||⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ • • A vivid and imaginative story collection that traffics in the politics of race, class, healthcare, and consumerism. Adjei-Brenyah has crafted an elaborate and detailed world that allows us to see our own more clearly. • • This collection is all the things. It dabbles in many genres, and is so ambitious. I didn’t always feel like I “got” it intellectually, but I know it made it feel things on a more visceral level. I was so impressed by the magnitude of what Adjei-Brenyah had to say, and how creatively he was able to say it. I look forward to whatever is next from him. • • My favorite stories were The Finklestein 5, Zimmerland, and The Era. There were others that challenged me and others that are still unclear to me. Overall, I’d say this is a stellar work from a rising star in the literary world. • • I talk at length about this book on the podcast with Wade Allain-Marcus (@wammywade) and get to discuss the book with Adjei-Brenyah himself on #TheShortStacks. Plus my full review is up now on the website. Links for all three are in bio. #thestacksreview
Adjei-Brenyah was named a “5 Under 35” honoree by the National Book Foundation, and for good reason. This collection of fierce, satirical stories about the physical and psychic trauma of Black life in America depicts racism as a modern-day bloodsport and consumerism as the zombie apocalypse.
This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is based on a real-life reform school in Florida where boys were routinely beaten and dozens were murdered. Set in the 1960s, “The Nickel Boys” follows two Black teens who unexpectedly meet at the fictional Nickel Academy, and both are forced to individually and collectively experience the tragic effects of being Black in the twentieth century.
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Today’s featured book is 𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝐻𝑎𝑡𝑒 𝑈 𝐺𝑖𝑣𝑒 by Angie Thomas. . ꧁꧂꧁꧂꧁꧂꧁꧂ . 𝕊𝕦𝕞𝕞𝕒𝕣𝕪: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆 went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life. 𝗔 𝗡𝗼𝘁𝗲 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗔𝘂𝘁𝗵𝗼𝗿: The story behind The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (@angiethomas) I remember the first time I saw Emmett Louis Till. I couldn’t have been more than eight years old. I came across his photo in a Jet magazine that marked the anniversary of his death. At the time, I was convinced he wasn’t real, or at least that he wasn’t a person. What was supposed to be a face was mutilated beyond recognition. He looked more like a prop from a movie to me; a monster from some over-the-top horror flick. But he was a person, a boy, and his story was a cautionary tale, even for a black girl in Mississippi who was born more than three decades after he died. “Know your worth,” my mom would say, “but also know that not everyone values you as much as I do.” Still, Emmett wasn’t real to me. There was no way I’d ever have to worry about anything like that happening to me or to someone I knew. Things had changed, even in Mississippi. That was history. The present had its own problems. I grew up in a neighborhood that’s notorious for all the wrong reasons. Drug dealers, shootings, crime, insert other “ghetto” stereotypes here. 𝑐𝑜𝑛𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑢𝑒𝑑 𝑖𝑛 𝑐𝑜𝑚𝑚𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑠
This New York Times Best-Seller has been around for a while, and it’s understandable why. The novel centers around Starr Carter, one of the only Black teens at a predominately white high school. Feeling as if she abandoned her Black friends and family with the move to a nearly all-white school, Carter grapples with more than just personal ambivalence when she becomes the sole witness to a police shooting of an unarmed Black teen. As timely as it is timeless, “The Hate U Give” takes the universal coming-of-age story to a stirring new level.
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so—the biggest thing that happened to me this year— @groveatlantic published my debut autobiographical novel, FRESHWATER 🙌🏾🌊 + my life promptly became unrecognizable in brilliant + terrifying ways. the work is really the key that unlocks a whole different world once you execute it, but a new world also changes literally everything. it’s a new planet forming. you are a new planet forming. you have to morph to keep up with it + yourself. that morphing is brutal + lonely + terrifying, but i am brutal + lonely + terrifying, so it’ll be okay. it requires me to put down things i’ve carried for a long time—fear, anxiety, the pretense of being smaller than i am, folding for others’ egos. the morphing demands obedience + rigor, demands you step into the life you said you wanted + live it well. i don’t have to pick up others’ discomfort about my success, how i move through fear, how fast i write, the bags i’m securing, the boundaries i’m enforcing, etc. i don’t have to fold to give them more space. my job is to learn how to be my loud + terrifying self. period. i cannot wait for next year. i am so grateful to everyone who read #FRESHWATER🌊 + advocated for it. thank you for doing this storytelling thing with me. i’ve got fourteen more books on my list + i’m so excited to spend a career sharing them with you 💖🥂
In this heart-wrenching debut novel by Emezi, a young Nigerian woman named Ada is born with a “miasma of spirits” inside of her head. Each fractured part of her personality takes a turn speaking to the reader as they drive Ada towards wild, reckless behavior as she grows up. When she endures a traumatic event upon moving to America, Ada’s spirits threaten a hostile takeover as they lead her down a dark, dangerous path.
From the bestselling author of “How Stella Got her Groove Back” and “Waiting to Exhale,” “It’s Not All Downhill from Here” explores what happens to 68-year old Loretha Curry when a sudden tragedy shatters her comfortable life of a happy marriage, a successful business, and a group of BFFs who will need to step in to help her pick up the pieces.
This juicy romantic novel stars Olivia, a lawyer in a new town who unexpectedly falls for a white hotshot senator. As their private lives intertwine with their public ones, Olivia must decide if her former mystery man turned famous politician is worth the intense scrutiny their relationship faces. According to Cosmopolitan, “Everything Jasmine Guillory touches turns to gold.” Can’t get a better recommendation than that to dive into this delightful romance.
Queenie Jenkins is a Jamaican woman living in London who aches for a sense of belonging in this powerful novel by Carty-Williams. Named one of the most anticipated books of 2019 by Woman’s Day, Newsday, Publisher’s Weekly, Bustle, and Book Riot, this passionate story about identity politics and relationships will resonate with you in surprising ways.
This instant New York Times Bestseller is about a 25-year old Black woman living in Philadelphia who finds herself being mistakenly accused of kidnapping a child while she’s babysitting for a white family one night.
Half-sisters Effia and Esi are born in two different villages in 18th century Ghana with no idea that the other exists. One grows up to marry a British slaver and bask in a life of comfort, while another is sold into slavery and shipped to America. Gyasi’s prose follows the generations and descendants that follow. This beautiful, powerful novel follows the epically different paths of Effia and Esi, along with eight generations of their descendants.
Full disclosure — I’m going to have a royally tough time narrowing down my favorites on this list, so I’ll probably just read all of them. And honestly, so should you.