February 14, 2020
With Black History Month in full swing, look for books written by African American authors in your nearest library or bookstore. – Courtesy photo / Shelby H. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

By Destiny Torres

In celebration of Black History Month, I’ve gathered a short list of my favorite books by African American authors. Ranging from memoirs to non-fiction, these five picks are perfect for a night in.

1. “The Hate You Give” by Angie Thomas

I am not the first person to rave about this book, and I won’t be the last. “The Hate You Give” follows the teen Starr Carter. After witnessing her childhood friend being killed by a police officer, she is in conflict between two worlds: the neighborhood she lives in and the suburban neighborhood she goes to school in. This book tells a story of bravery and injustice.

2. “Go Tell It on the Mountain” by James Baldwin

This is a coming-of-age story that will go down in history. Written in 1953, this book tells the story of a 14-year-old boy’s realization of his identity. Being the son of a pastor, he struggles with understanding and accepting himself. Baldwin tackles race, gender, sexuality and religion in this American novel in a way that will leave you in thought at the end.

3. “Beloved” by Toni Morrison

In one of Morrison’s most iconic novels, we are told the story of Sethe, a slave who escaped to Ohio. After 18 years of “freedom,” she is haunted by the memories of her violent past and the absence of her child, who died. Besides the devastating story, Morrison’s poetic writing will tug on your heartstrings with the turn of every page.

4. “Heavy: An American Memoir” by Kiese Laymon

My favorite genre of books has to be memoirs for their brutal honesty and vulnerability. That being said, “Heavy: An American Memoir” is one of the most powerful memoirs I’ve read. Laymon tells the story of his life. Written as a love letter to his mom, it is a compelling story of race, family, and perseverance; a true American memoir of what it is like to be African American in the U.S.

5. “The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead

Taking place in the Jim Crow-era of the 1960s, “The Nickel Boys” follows the lives of two boys sentenced to a reform school. One of those boys is Elwood Curtis who was abandoned by his two parents but taken care of by his grandmother. As he is about to enroll in the local university, he is sentenced to spend time in the Nickel Academy. The academy promises that its inhabitants will return to society as “honorable and honest men.” The reality is the staff do not improve the young men, but they beat and sexually abuse them. It’s a book about hope that you won’t be able to put down.

Although there are so many more books written by African American authors that are worth noting, these five hold a special place in my heart. I suggest you stop by your nearest library and check out one of these picks.

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