Summer is almost officially upon us, and I’m excited because that’s when I get to indulge in some good books. I love reading, and put together a list of books by Black women authors that you’ll love and are worthy of reading more than once. This list is a mix of new books and books I’ve read before that I believe will be perfect for your summer travel, vacations, and much-needed relaxation time.
The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett
Desiree and Stella are twins who can’t wait to get out of Mallard, LA — a small, Black town they’ve grown up in. At sixteen, they finally run away. One chooses Black, and the other chooses white. The sisters ultimately lose touch with one another. One comes back to town with a Black daughter, while the other lives across the country, passing for white while hiding her past. This book reminded me of Imitation of Life and Passing.
After finishing this book, I missed the journey that Bennett takes you on with the lives of the women. We see how two generations diverge and then come back together later on. The themes are interesting to me — race, gender norms, identity, motherhood, loneliness, colorism — however, I wish the characters jumped off the page a bit more. This book will be made into a television series on HBO by our favorite awkward Black girl Issa Rae. So, we can look forward to seeing how the story and characters are interpreted on screen.
Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
If you enjoy warm but honest depictions of characters — especially heroines — you should read this book for that alone. Then there’s the examination of generational curses. How the way we’re raised can lift us up or put us on our backs as we grow and move through the world. Eva and Shane’s backstories, the issues they coped with as a result, and the choices they made regarding the children in their lives and their own futures, were all so significant to me.
It’s a love story. It’s beautiful, messy, and heartbreaking. Yes, just like a good love story should be. It also explores topics of masculinity, race, addiction, and writing. This book’s rights have also been purchased for us to see it on-screen, which is very cool. I love that so many Black women authors are getting these incredible opportunities.
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
The story is about two girls — Camino and Yahaira — one in the Dominican Republic and one in New York City. They have never met or known of each other’s existence. But when their father is killed in a plane crash on his way to visit Camino, they find each other within their grief. The story is moving and filled with grief, loss, and family secrets. All of this came together in verse.
What I loved most about the book, besides Acevedo’s ability to write moving free verse, is that it brings attention to tragedies that happen all the time. Some are noticed, when they are newsworthy and saturated in politics – terrorism, school shootings, for example – but some are left to be grieved only by those directly affected. The rest of the world goes on as normal, never seeing the pain inflicted on a community.
You Made a Fool of Death By Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi
This story centers on Feyi Adekola, an artist who has decided to start dating again after the death of her husband. There are a series of events that lead to her falling for a man that has also lost his wife. Going into this, I knew it was going to be a heavy read, but I believe this book struck a balance of heavy, heartfelt moments with steamy, sexy moments. My only issue is that I felt like the main romance between Feyi and Alim felt a little bit rushed. But the beautiful writing and the eventual chemistry we see between them made up for that. I hope that Emezi has plans to write more romances in the future because I absolutely ate this one up. So, so good.
Finding Me: A Memoir by Viola Davis
I believe it’s safe to say that Viola Davis is one of the best actresses of our generation. She’s phenomenal and her Instagram posts are the best. The first half of the book is A LOT. It is about Davis’ childhood which is heartbreaking (domestic violence and sexual abuse). The book reads like a conversation with Davis; one where she is telling you all of this terrible trauma but in a very passive way; almost as if she’s in denial about it. It’s trauma story after trauma story, and it’s so uncomfortable to read. Once you’re out of the first half of the book, your anxiety calms down. There weren’t as many behind-the-scenes stories about Davis’s movie roles as I expected, and the last third of the book skipped past her accomplishments very quickly post-2005. That was the least compelling aspect because it felt like a rapid listing of cool events, not deeper introspection. Society has so many labels of what is normal and beautiful. I love that Viola Davis bares her soul to let us know it is okay to be yourself and that you can overcome challenges and obstacles.
Check out more book recommendations here.
What's Your Reaction?
Archuleta is an author, poet, blogger, and host of the FearlessINK podcast. Archuleta's work centers Black women, mental health and wellness, and inspiring people to live their fullest potential.