A Novel Idea: Books for Black History Month


Representation in literature is much-needed, and when there are stories written by minorities representing minorities, they are all the more valued. In honor of Black History Month, here are some classic and modern novels to add to your list.  

“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas 

Photo courtesy of    entertainmentmonthly.com

Photo courtesy of entertainmentmonthly.com

You’ve probably seen this book all over lists, but its modern representation of what black people face in America is important for not only those unaware or uninformed about the emotional impacts of the situation, but also for people who may be personally affected by it. Police brutality has been an issue in the country long before the book was released, however. The reignition of the Black Lives Matter movement in the past few years and activist fervor make this book an empowering and moving addition to your current reads. 

“Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick” by Zora Neale Hurston 

Probably most notably known for the critically acclaimed “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” this collection of short stories is not to be overlooked, containing an introspective look into African American folk culture, with eight “lost” Harlem Renaissance tales. This work covers a vast offering of stories, from gender and class to racism and sexism. 

“Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi 

Another Young Adult novel, this book may not be as actively mainstream or tackle current politics, however it offers a masterfully written fantasy novel that interweaves West-African culture in a powerful way. By incorporating aspects of rich African folklore into the magical, vengeful narrative, Adeyemi showcases true African-American talent in current literature. 

Photo courtesy of    goodreads.com

Photo courtesy of goodreads.com

“The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man” by James Wheldon Johnson 

Hopefully, the title should be enough to intrigue you, bringing attention to Johnson’s story of being raised by a black mother, but also struggling with the other half of his biracial heritage. Johnson’s personal accounts give the reader an insightful look into the struggle of a biracial identity, by fitting perfectly into neither race but very much desiring to do so. 

“Go Tell it on the Mountain” by James Baldwin 

Religion and Christianity specifically have played a large role in black culture, which plays into the conflict of the main character of Baldwin’s book. John Grimes, a teenager in 1930s Harlem, struggles with his relationship with his church, sexuality and family, and Baldwin addresses the topic of identity in a moving way. 

“The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead 

The Jim Crow-era South serves as the backdrop of this novel, in which black boys at a juvenile reform school experience horrible acts of abuse. The inclusion of real-world entities make books about experiences in this time even more emotional, as it was based off of the “real-life and equally horrific” Dozier School for Boys. This novel is one of those that will shock you, but in a way that reminds of the atrocities that occurred and are still occurring for African-Americans in our country. 

Hollie Lao is a staff writer and the social media manager for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at hollianne.lao@uconn.edu.

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