17 New Books by Black Women to Add to Your Wishlist

Our #BlackGirlsLoveBooks picks are becoming so popular that I'm now asked to review books all t...


Our #BlackGirlsLoveBooks picks are becoming so popular that I'm now asked to review books all the time. Due to time constraints, I can't do it, but I wanted to share some of the titles that have caught my eye this year. I'm defining "new" as released in the past 6 months.

Though I've read a handful of the books listed, most of them remain on my to-read list. Be sure to tell us how you like them!



Ruby: A Novel by Cynthia Bond
Ephram Jennings has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long braids running through the piney woods of Liberty, their small East Texas town. Young Ruby, “the kind of pretty it hurt to look at,” has suffered beyond imagining, so as soon as she can, she flees suffocating Liberty for the bright pull of 1950s New York. Ruby quickly winds her way into the ripe center of the city--the darkened piano bars and hidden alleyways of the Village--all the while hoping for a glimpse of the red hair and green eyes of her mother. When a telegram from her cousin forces her to return home, thirty-year-old Ruby Bell finds herself reliving the devastating violence of her girlhood. With the terrifying realization that she might not be strong enough to fight her way back out again, Ruby struggles to survive her memories of the town’s dark past. Meanwhile, Ephram must choose between loyalty to the sister who raised him and the chance for a life with the woman he has loved since he was a boy.

Full of life, exquisitely written, and suffused with the pastoral beauty of the rural South, Ruby is a transcendent novel of passion and courage. This wondrous page-turner rushes through the red dust and gossip of Main Street, to the pit fire where men swill bootleg outside Bloom’s Juke, to Celia Jennings’s kitchen where a cake is being made, yolk by yolk, that Ephram will use to try to begin again with Ruby. Utterly transfixing, with unforgettable characters, riveting suspense, and breathtaking, luminous prose, Ruby offers an unflinching portrait of man’s dark acts and the promise of the redemptive power of love.



Unexpected Stories by Octavia Butler
The novella “A Necessary Being” showcases Octavia E. Butler’s ability to create alien yet fully believable “others.” Tahneh’s father was a Hao, one of a dwindling race whose leadership abilities render them so valuable that their members are captured and forced to govern. When her father dies, Tahneh steps into his place, both chief and prisoner, and for twenty years has ruled without ever meeting another of her kind. She bears her loneliness privately until the day that a Hao youth is spotted wandering into her territory. As her warriors sharpen their weapons, Tahneh must choose between imprisoning the newcomer—and living the rest of her life alone.

The second story in this volume, “Childfinder,” was commissioned by Harlan Ellison for his legendary (and never-published) anthology The Last Dangerous Visions™. A disaffected telepath connects with a young girl in a desperate attempt to help her harness her growing powers. But in the richly evocative fiction of Octavia E. Butler, mentorship is a rocky path, and every lesson comes at a price.



Though born and raised in Detroit, it was in Atlanta that Cleage encountered the forces that would most shape her experience. At the time, married to Michael Lomax, now head of the United Negro College Fund, she worked with Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first African-American mayor. Things I Should Have Told My Daughter charts not only the political fights but also the pull she began to feel on her own passions—a pull that led her away from Lomax as she grappled with ideas of feminism and self-fulfillment. This fascinating memoir follows her journey from a columnist for a local weekly to a playwright and Hollywood scriptwriter whose circle came to include luminaries Richard Pryor, Avery Brooks, Phylicia Rashad, Shirley Franklin, and Jesse Jackson.



Two Steps Back by Britni Danielle
Jaylah Baldwin was on the verge of having it all. After losing her job and fleeing to London to regroup, she met a fabulous new best friend; landed a dream assignment with a magazine; and fell in love with a sexy businessman who wanted to give her the world. 

Just when everything seemed to be going great, Jaylah’s exciting new life came apart at the seams. After learning the man she fell for has been hiding a devastating secret, Jaylah must make a choice that will alter the course of both their lives. 

Picking up where Turn It Loose left off, Two Steps Back reunites fans with the characters they’ve come to love to see if following her heart will lead Jaylah to a happy ending or leave her picking up the pieces of her shattered life. 



Critical Appropriations: African American Women and the Construction of Transnational Identity by Simone Drake
From the novels of Toni Morrison to the music of Beyoncé Knowles, the cultural prevalence of a transnational black identity, as created by African American women, is more than a product of geographic mobility. Rather, as author Simone C. Drake shows, these constructions illuminate our understanding of a chronically marginalized demographic. In Critical Appropriations, Drake contends that these fluid and hetero-geneous characterizations of black females arise from multiple creative outlets literature, film, and music videos and reflect African Ameri-can women's evolving concept of home, community, gender, and family.

Through a close examination of Toni Morrison's Paradise, Danzy Senna's Caucasia, Gayl Jones's Corregidora, Erna Brodber's Louisiana, and Kasi Lemmons's film Eve's Bayou, as well as Beyoncé Knowles's B-Day album and music-video collaboration with Shakira, Beautiful Liar, Drake reveals how concepts of hybridity whether positioned as créolité, Candomblé, négritude, Latinidad, or Brasilidade are appropriated in each work of art as a way of challenging the homogeneous paradigm of black cultural studies. This redefined notion of identity enables African American women to embrace a more complex, transnational blackness that is not only more liberating but also more pertinent to their experiences.



'Til the Well Runs Dry: A Novel by Lauren Francis-Sharma
Lauren Francis-Sharma's 'Til the Well Runs Dry opens in a seaside village in the north of Trinidad where young Marcia Garcia, a gifted and smart-mouthed 16-year-old seamstress, lives alone, raising two small boys and guarding a family secret. When she meets Farouk Karam, an ambitious young policeman (so taken with Marcia that he elicits the help of a tea-brewing obeah woman to guarantee her ardor), the risks and rewards in Marcia’s life amplify forever.

On an island rich with laughter, Calypso, Carnival, cricket, beaches and salty air, sweet fruits and spicy stews, the novel follows Marcia and Farouk from their amusing and passionate courtship through personal and historical events that threaten Marcia’s secret, entangle the couple and their children in a scandal, and endanger the future for all of them.



An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
Mireille Duval Jameson is living a fairy tale. The strong-willed youngest daughter of one of Haiti’s richest sons, she has an adoring husband, a precocious infant son, by all appearances a perfect life. The fairy tale ends one day when Mireille is kidnapped in broad daylight by a gang of heavily armed men, in front of her father’s Port au Prince estate. Held captive by a man who calls himself The Commander, Mireille waits for her father to pay her ransom. As it becomes clear her father intends to resist the kidnappers, Mireille must endure the torments of a man who resents everything she represents.

An Untamed State is a novel of privilege in the face of crushing poverty, and of the lawless anger that corrupt governments produce. It is the story of a willful woman attempting to find her way back to the person she once was, and of how redemption is found in the most unexpected of places. An Untamed State establishes Roxane Gay as a writer of prodigious, arresting talent. 



In My Skin: My Life On and Off the Basketball Court by Brittney Griner
Brittney Griner, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft, is a once-in-a-generation player, possessing a combination of size and athleticism never before seen in the women’s game. But “the sport’s most transformative figure” (Sports Illustrated) is equally famous for making headlines off the court, for speaking out on issues of gender, sexuality, body image and self-esteem.

At 6’8”, with an 88-inch wingspan and a size 17 shoe (men’s), the Phoenix Mercury star has heard every vicious insult in the book, enduring years of taunting that began in middle school and continues to this day. Through the highs and lows, Griner has learned to remain true to herself, rising above the haters trying to take her down.

In her heartfelt memoir, she reflects on painful episodes in her life and describes how she came to celebrate what makes her unique—inspiring lessons she now shares. Filled with all the humor and personality Griner has become known for, In My Skin is more than a glimpse into one of the most original personalities in sports; it’s also a powerful call to readers to be true to themselves, to love who they are on the inside and out.




Lost and Found: Finding Hope in the Detours of Life by Sarah Jakes
Like every girl, Sarah Jakes dreamed of a life full of love, laughter, and happy endings. But her dreams changed dramatically when she became pregnant at age thirteen, a reality only compounded by the fact that her father, Bishop T.D. Jakes, was one of the most influential megachurch pastors in the nation. As a teen mom and a high-profile preacher's kid, her road was lonely. She was shunned at school, gossiped about at church. And a few years later, when a fairy-tale marriage ended in a spiral of hurt and rejection, she could have let her pain dictate her future.

Instead, she found herself surrounded by a God she'd given up on, crashing headlong with Him into a destiny she'd never dreamed of. Sarah's captivating story, unflinchingly honest and deeply vulnerable, is a vivid reminder that God can turn even the deepest pain into His perfection.

More than a memoir, Lost and Found offers hope and encouragement. Perhaps you, like Sarah, find yourself wandering the detours of life. Regardless of how lost you feel, you, too, can be found.



Strictly Professional by Christina Jones
Gabi isn't looking for love. At all. After her disaster of a relationship with Michael, the last thing she needs is another round in the ring. But, a chance encounter with Terrence has her second thinking that. If only he weren't off limits...

Follow along with Gabi and Terrence as they navigate the stages of a relationship that was never meant to go further than a single night. Will they be able to overcome the challenges of family and career to build something that could last?



Black Girl Dangerous on Race, Queerness, Class and Gender by Mia McKenzie
Mia McKenzie, creator of the enormously popular website Black Girl Dangerous, writes about race, queerness, class and gender in a concise, compelling voice filled at different times with humor, grief, rage, and joy. Her nuanced analysis of intersecting systems of oppression goes deep to reveal the complicated truths of a multiply-marginalized experience. McKenzie tackles the hardest questions of our time with clarity and courage, in language that is accessible to non-academics and academics alike. She is both fearless and vulnerable, demanding and accountable. Hers is a voice like no other.



Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock
In 2011, Marie Claire magazine published a profile of Janet Mock in which she stepped forward for the first time as a trans woman. Those twenty-three hundred words were life-altering for the People.com editor, turning her into an influential and outspoken public figure and a desperately needed voice for an often voiceless community. In these pages, she offers a bold and inspiring perspective on being young, multicultural, economically challenged, and transgender in America.

Welcomed into the world as her parents’ firstborn son, Mock decided early on that she would be her own person—no matter what. She struggled as the smart, determined child in a deeply loving yet ill-equipped family that lacked the money, education, and resources necessary to help her thrive. Mock navigated her way through her teen years without parental guidance, but luckily, with the support of a few close friends and mentors, she emerged much stronger, ready to take on—and maybe even change—the world.

This powerful memoir follows Mock’s quest for identity, from an early, unwavering conviction about her gender to a turbulent adolescence in Honolulu that saw her transitioning during the tender years of high school, self-medicating with hormones at fifteen, and flying across the world alone for sex reassignment surgery at just eighteen. With unflinching honesty, Mock uses her own experience to impart vital insight about the unique challenges and vulnerabilities of trans youth and brave girls like herself.

Despite the hurdles, Mock received a scholarship to college and moved to New York City, where she earned a master’s degree, enjoyed the success of an enviable career, and told no one about her past. She remained deeply guarded until she fell for a man who called her the woman of his dreams. Love fortified her with the strength to finally tell her story, enabling her to embody the undeniable power of testimony and become a fierce advocate for a marginalized and misunderstood community. A profound statement of affirmation from a courageous woman, Redefining Realness provides a whole new outlook on what it means to be a woman today, and shows as never before how to be authentic, unapologetic, and wholly yourself.



The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery by Sarah Lewis
It is one of the enduring enigmas of the human experience: many of our most iconic, creative endeavors—from Nobel Prize–winning discoveries to entrepreneurial inventions and works in the arts—are not achievements but conversions, corrections after failed attempts.

The gift of failure is a riddle. Like the number zero, it will always be both a void and the start of infinite possibility. The Rise—a soulful celebration of the determination and courage of the human spirit—makes the case that many of our greatest triumphs come from understanding the importance of this mystery.

The Rise explores the inestimable value of often ignored ideas—the power of surrender for fortitude, the criticality of play for innovation, the propulsion of the near win on the road to mastery, and the importance of grit and creative practice. From an uncommonly insightful writer, The Rise is a true masterwork.


Talking to the Dead: Religion, Music, and Lived Memory among Gullah/Geechee Women by LeRhonda Manigault-Bryant
Talking to the Dead is an ethnography of seven Gullah/Geechee women from the South Carolina lowcountry. These women communicate with their ancestors through dreams, prayer, and visions and traditional crafts and customs, such as storytelling, basket making, and ecstatic singing in their churches. Like other Gullah/Geechee women of the South Carolina and Georgia coasts, these women, through their active communication with the deceased, make choices and receive guidance about how to live out their faith and engage with the living. LeRhonda S. Manigault-Bryant emphasizes that this communication affirms the women's spiritual faith—which seamlessly integrates Christian and folk traditions—and reinforces their position as powerful culture keepers within Gullah/Geechee society. By looking in depth at this long-standing spiritual practice, Manigault-Bryant highlights the subversive ingenuity that lowcountry inhabitants use to thrive spiritually and to maintain a sense of continuity with the past.
African American playwright, actor, television producer and filmmaker Tyler Perry is an American cultural phenomenon. Perry has made over half a billion dollars through the development of films, plays, and television series that center storylines about black women, black communities and black religion. The success of a Tyler Perry Production, coupled with Perry's participation in a range of media and in multiple roles as creator and actor, position him as a significant site of black religious and cultural expression, and thus critical inquiry and reflection. Womanist and Black Feminist Responses to Tyler Perry's Productions examines Perry's works from interdisciplinary perspectives and provides a necessary response to Perry's current prominence regarding black representation, black religion and black cultural production.



Everybody's Got Something by Robin Roberts
"Regardless of how much money you have, your race, where you live, what religion you follow, you are going through something. Or you already have or you will. As momma always said, "Everybody's got something." 

So begins beloved Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts's new memoir in which she recounts the incredible journey that's been her life so far, and the lessons she's learned along the way. With grace, heart, and humor, she writes about overcoming breast cancer only to learn five years later that she will need a bone marrow transplant to combat a rare blood disorder, the grief and heartbreak she suffered when her mother passed away, her triumphant return to GMA after her medical leave, and the tremendous support and love of her family and friends that saw her through her difficult times. 

Following her mother's advice to "make your mess your message," Robin taught a nation of viewers that while it is true that we've all got something -- a medical crisis to face, aging parents to care for, heartbreak in all its many forms --- we've also all got something to give: hope, encouragement, a life-saving transplant or a spirit-saving embrace. As Robin has learned, and what readers of her remarkable story will come to believe as well, it's all about faith, family and friends. And finding out that you are stronger, much stronger, than you think.



This Ain't Chicago: Race, Class, and Regional Identity in the Post-Soul South  by Zandria Robinson
When Zandria Robinson returned home to interview African Americans in Memphis, she was often greeted with some version of the caution "I hope you know this ain't Chicago." In this important new work, Robinson critiques ideas of black identity constructed through a northern lens and situates African Americans as central shapers of contemporary southern culture. Analytically separating black southerners from their migrating cousins, fictive kin, and white counterparts, Robinson demonstrates how place intersects with race, class, gender, and regional identities and differences.

Robinson grounds her work in Memphis--the first big city heading north out of the Mississippi Delta. Although Memphis sheds light on much about the South, Robinson does not suggest that the region is monolithic. Instead, she attends to multiple Souths, noting the distinctions between southern places. Memphis, neither Old South nor New South, sits at the intersections of rural and urban, soul and post-soul, and civil rights and post-civil rights, representing an ongoing conversation with the varied incarnations of the South, past and present.


Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Kimberly Foster is the founder and editor-in-chief of For Harriet. Email her or tweet her.

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