10 African American Authors to Read This Month
February is African American History month and the month when we celebrate Women in Horror. I have strong, mixed feelings about both of these because I think women and black authors should be part of your reading all year long. That being said, I’ve made my peace with both events for a plethora of reasons, and one of them is the fact that, if folks are going to be paying attention and trying to read black authors this month, then the best thing to do is take advantage of that and give them a bunch of recommendations. Here are some for you and to share with every reader you know. The list is by no means exhaustive, but it does contain some of my favorites.
Burke is dangerously smart and attuned to every underlying racial issue in this country. Her work is a brave, strong breath of fresh air that belongs to our time while also staying in touch with the past. Go read her now.
I'm currently reading Adlerberg's Jack Waters and realizing that few contemporary authors can switch styles the way he does. If you read his previous novel, Graveyard Love, and then read Jack Waters, you'll be reading two very different novels where an author nails pace, characterization, atmosphere, and dialogue in entirely different ways...and he's clearly the same author in both. Most folks know the next name on this list, but if you haven't read Adlerberg yet, make sure you do, because he deserves to be mentioned alongside...
Start a conversation about black crime authors and this will be the first name to pop up 98% of the time, and there's a reason for that. Think of every accolade possible in the field and this man has earned it. The Easy Rawlins novels will go down as must-reads for generations to come, and now is as good a time as any to get started on them if you haven't done so yet.
Simply put, not reading Butler leaves a giant hole in your reading history. Luckily, doing so happens to be the best way of finding out why they call her the grand dame of science fiction.
Everything I have to say about this man I already said right here at LitReactor at the beginning of the month: Celebrating Langston Hughes.
Baldwin is a literary giant and I could write 3k words about him here, but I won't. Instead, I'll offer you this humble opinion: for folks interested in race in this country, there is one exercise that is necessary and without which an understanding of race is somewhat incomplete: looking at it through the lens of James Baldwin.
Linda D. Addison
The great mystic/poet Isaac Kirkman turned me on to Addison's work. Forget all the awards or the fact that she is the the first African-American winner of the Bram Stoker Award and just read her. There, I've achieved cosmic balance by paying it forward.
You know what? Forget her books for now. Look her up and read some interviews. Go read her tweets and any scattered essays you can find. Look at the way she tackles subjects. Enjoy her attitude when replying to assholes online. Read about her pulling her book because fuck Milo. Then, after you've already fallen in love with her, go read her books.
I know many grad students who were blown away by their first encounter with thinkers like Michel Foucault and Noam Chomsky. For me, that experience came from encountering the words of two women: Gloria Anzaldúa and bell hooks. You're lucky, too, because she has a new book out. Go read some shining words.
Wrath James White
White is one of the undisputed hardcore horror masters, but the pain, fear, and gore present in his work do nothing to hide the smart racial commentary underneath it all.
As I mentioned above, this is a list of favorites, the first ten names that popped into my head, not a complete lists of African American authors. You should read Tananarive Due, Helen Oyeyemi, Nnedi Okorafor, Richard Wright, and Ta-Nehisi Coates. You should read the amazing Chester Himes, a crime maestro whose work should be part of every writer's education. You should read Ralph Ellison, Colson Whitehead, and Nisi Shawl, whom I had the pleasure of sharing a panel with and whose words, on paper and from her own mouth, are worth your time.
Now it's your turn to tell us about your favorites. Links to books would be awesome, too, so get to it and happy reading.
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