15 Books by POC You Should Buy Before Buying Rachel Dolezal's Nonsense


Publishing a book about race written by Rachel Dolezal is as stupid as publishing a book by Milo Yiannopoulos.

Sadly, making a buck is what moves big publishers. That's why every dumb reality TV "star" has a book out. In any case, just because they publish these books doesn't mean that you, the owner of that dollar the publishers are trying to pocket, have to buy them. You can make a difference by supporting POC instead of spending your dollar on Dolezal's nonsense. Since I can already hear some racist douche saying "But I buy books because of their quality, not because of who wrote them!," I'll say this: this is a curated list. Everything here is worth your money and time. Now stick that middle finger up and start reading some great fiction/nonfiction.

15. 'Cartoons in the Suicide Forest' by Leza Cantoral

I was expecting this collection to be weird and wild and wonderful. What I wasn't expecting was for Cantoral to use a few of her stories to explore her connection to her Mexican roots, her positionality, and her relationship to the powerful cosmic bruja.

Buy Cartoons in the Suicide Forest from Amazon here.


14. 'Graveyard Love' by Scott Adlerberg

Not all outstanding literature by African Americans has a racial element to it. This is the perfect example. One of the best crime novels of 2016, this book earned Adlerberg comparisons to giants like Poe, and he deserved every one of them. Inhabiting the interstitial space between gritty noir and literary fiction, this is one of those books that needs to be on every shelf, and Adlerberg is an author that should be on every radar.

Buy Graveyard Love from Amazon here.


13. 'The Strange Crimes of Little Africa' by Chesya Burke

This novel is so immersed in the 1920's Harlem Renaissance that my first thought was "How many hours did Burke spend researching!?" This is a fast, funny historical mystery with enough commentary on racism and misogyny to keep you both entertained and angry for 232 pages. Oh, and while you're on Amazon, pick up a copy of Burke's Let's Play White, too.

Buy The Strange Crimes of Little Africa from Amazon here.


12. 'Lords Of The Earth: A Kaiju Novel' by David Bowles

Bowles is a Mexican-American author, poet, and translator from South Texas who writes everything from horror to YA. For this list, I first thought about putting his book Border Lore: Folktales and Legends of South Texas, which I love. However, Lords of the Earth won because it's more recent and because the hero of the book, which takes place in Mexico, is Alfonso Becerra, an indigenous anthropologist. Plus, you know, giant monsters rule.

Buy Lords Of The Earth: A Kaiju Novel from Amazon here.


11. 'We Should All Be Feminists' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This thing can be read in an hour, but you'll keep thinking about it for way longer. You can go read about why we should all be feminists elsewhere, but if you're curious about it, I suggest you read something by a black woman because those inhabiting Otherness inside Otherness have a certain way of seeing things. Trust me.

Buy We Should All Be Feminists from Amazon here.


10. 'Abductions' by Chiwan Choi

There are a few poets out there who live and breathe the struggle of being different and turn it into amazing writing. In this collection, Choi does just that by exploring his life and that of his family using an alien abduction mythology as his filter/vehicle. After reading this one, pre-order his next book, The Yellow House.

Buy Abductions from Amazon here.


9. 'Chicano Blood Transfusion' by Edward Vidaurre

Poetry from the barrio, the heart, and the soul. A look at Otherness and being brown and violence and love and institutional racism all wrapped in outstanding writing. Whatever magic can be found in the graffitied walls of all South Texas is crammed into this collection.

Buy Chicano Blood Transfusion from Amazon here.


8. 'Between the World and Me' by Ta-Nehisi Coates

When Toni Morrison tells you to buy a book, you buy that book. Besides having received every conceivable award out there, what makes Coates special is that he has a deep understanding of race in this country and isn't afraid of sharing his understanding of it with us, and we are lucky for that.

Buy Between the World and Me from Amazon here.


7. 'Dirty Havana Trilogy: A Novel in Stories' by Pedro Juan Gutiérrez

If American youngsters have Bukowski, island boys like yours truly have the dirty, gritty, crushing, sexy, powerful, drunk, violent magic of Pedro Juan Gutiérrez. You can't understand Cuba without reading this man, so go do it.

Buy Dirty Havana Trilogy from Amazon here.


6. 'Never Look an American in the Eye: A Memoir of Flying Turtles, Colonial Ghosts, and the Making of a Nigerian American' by Okey Ndibe

I have read every book Ndibe has published so far, and this is perhaps his most personal, touching, hilarious offering to date. While the experiences of a Nigerian writer might not sound universal, the opposite is true. Seeing this country through Ndibe's eyes is a pleasure everyone should have, so get to it.

Buy Never Look an American in the Eye from Amazon here.


5. 'The Pulse between Dimensions and the Desert' by Rios de la Luz

There are plenty of reasons why this superb collection won the Wonderland Bopok Award in 2016. Beautiful and powerful and angry in all the right ways, there is no other Xicana doing exactly what this author is doing.

Buy The Pulse between Dimensions and the Desert from Amazon here.


4. 'Mongrels' by Stephen Graham Jones

Perhaps the weirdest approach to Otherness on this list, but this is a superb work of fiction by an author who proudly establishes his positionality on his bio: "Blackfeet."

Buy Mongrels from Amazon here.


3. 'An Untamed State' by Roxane Gay

Literary giant sounds good, but Gay is a black, female literary giant, which is harder to come by, and this is the book that started it all. Horrific, emotional, and full of the kind of palpable despair rarely found in fiction, this is a book that signaled loudly the arrival of a commanding new voice. The fact that Gay just pulled her next book in protest of Milo Yiannopoulos' book deal should also be enough to make you buy everything she's published so far.

Buy An Untamed State from Amazon here.


2. 'A Brief History of Seven Killings' by Marlon James

Big publishers should be punished for messing up and applauded for getting it right from time to time. Marlon James is one of those rare occasions in which they got it right. This a monster of a novel from a man who isn't afraid to show readers the ugly side of Jamaica, and to do so using patois.

Buy A Brief History of Seven Killings from Amazon here.


1. 'Ema the Captive' by César Aira

Every time you buy a book in translation, you tell publishers that you like literature from other countries, authors with different visions of the world. Aira is contemporary giant, and this brutal book is as good as any to start, or to continue, your support of literature in translation.

Buy Ema the Captive from Amazon here.

This is just a list of books you should buy instead of buying that Dolezal bullshit book. Have them all already? Great! There's more, so don't fret. Go read James Baldwin and Lanston Hughes, who have helped me keep my shit together more than once. Go read Guillermo Cabrera Infante and Colson Witehead and the incomparable Reinaldo Arenas and Carlos Fuentes and Jorge Volpi. Go read José Saramago and Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy and Antonio Muñoz Molina and Gloria Anzaldúa and bell hooks and Ngugi wa Thiong'o and José Ortega y Gasset and Ralph Ellison and Walter Mosley and Maya Angelou and and Ildefonso Falcones and Laura Esquivel and Julio Cortázar and Roberto Bolaño and Javier Marías and Mario Benedetti and Jorge Luis Borges. Go read Mario Vargas Llosa and Juan Rulfo and Isabel Allende and Octavio Paz. Go read Edwidge Danticat and Valeria Luiselli and Yuri Herrera and Junot Díaz and Jamaica Kincaid and Toni Morrison and Chinua Achebe and Julia de Burgos and Ama Ata Aidoo and Pedro Pietri, who helped an entire generation of Puerto Ricans have a voice. Go read René Marqués and Esmeralda Santiago and Leonardo Padura Fuentes and Ernesto Sábato, who made me want to write weird stuff. Go read Fuminori Nakamura. Just go read.

Gabino Iglesias

Column by Gabino Iglesias

Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of ZERO SAINTS, HUNGRY DARKNESS, and GUTMOUTH. His reviews have appeared in Electric Literature, The Rumpus, 3AM Magazine, Marginalia, The Collagist, Heavy Feather Review, Crimespree, Out of the Gutter, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, HorrorTalk, Verbicide, and many other print and online venues. 

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postpomo's picture
postpomo from Canada is reading words words words January 30, 2017 - 9:42pm

Thank you so much for this Gabino!!!

I've read a lot of stuff in translation, from other perspectives, and I've read about 10% of those you've listed, and heard of about 25%... 

Not enough time... too much time...

Articles like this are what keep me coming back to Lit Reactor. I've had great results getting my local library (where I am fortunate to be employed) to enrich their collection with exactly this kind of thing.


PuppyLover's picture
PuppyLover from Slovenia February 2, 2017 - 3:50am

I've stoped reading after, "as stupid as publishing a book by Milo Yiannopoulos".

I'mCrowThough's picture
I'mCrowThough from Oakland, California is reading Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James February 2, 2017 - 9:38am

Great list, thank you!  I'll be adding most of these to my to-read list.


smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. February 3, 2017 - 1:23am

Thanks Gabino. LitReactor is my MFA. I appreciate the fierce precision so I can actually choose a couple of books. I'm going with 1. "Never Look an American in the Eye" by Okey Ndibe. Hope I got the spelling of the author right. 2. "Untamed State" by Roxane Gay.

I'll remember where I got the recommendation, so I can pick two more of these. Sometimes I'm  thirsty to read something, and I don't know what it is. These two sound like they will hit the spot. gsr