Classic Black Literature
Sistah Girls, creating this listicle was very nostalgic. It reminded me of those nights as a child when I’d sneak to read some of these novels because they were far too advanced for my adolescent self. When you think of classic literature the images of Black authors might not be your first thought.
In school, they didn’t readily have a list of Black authors who wrote novels that were considered classics by their standards. But they do exist and they are worthy of every literary recognition. These stories have become staples in the Black community, even if you’ve never read some of these books their titles alone ring a bell.
It was hard to narrow down this list to just ten–but I did.
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
This is a great introduction to the literary genius that is James Baldwin. It is no secret that I am an absolute fan of his work. However, if you are a novice or new to it I feel like this would be a great introduction to his brilliant mind.
At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin’s early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document from the iconic author of If Beale Street Could Talk and Go Tell It on the Mountain. It consists of two “letters,” written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhorts Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism.
Described by The New York Times Book Review as “sermon, ultimatum, confession, deposition, testament, and chronicle … all presented in searing, brilliant prose,” The Fire Next Time stands as a classic of literature.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
This was one of the first fictional novels to evoke any type of emotion from me. I felt every high, cried at every low, and thought long and hard about the Black experience while reading The Bluest Eye.
In Morrison’s acclaimed first novel, Pecola Breedlove—an 11-year-old Black girl in an America whose love for its blond, blue-eyed children can devastate all others—prays for her eyes to turn blue: so that she will be beautiful, so that people will look at her, so that her world will be different. This is the story of the nightmare at the heart of her yearning, and the tragedy of its fulfillment.
Here, Morrison’s writing is “so precise, so faithful to speech and so charged with pain and wonder that the novel becomes poetry” (The New York Times).
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
This edition presents the fully restored, uncut version of Hansberry’s landmark work with an introduction by Robert Nemiroff.
Lorraine Hansberry’s award-winning drama about the hopes and aspirations of a struggling, working-class family living on the South Side of Chicago connected profoundly with the psyche of Black America—and changed American theater forever. The play’s title comes from a line in Langston Hughes’s poem “Harlem,” which warns that a dream deferred might “dry up/like a raisin in the sun.”
“The events of every passing year add resonance to A Raisin in the Sun,” said The New York Times. “It is as if history is conspiring to make the play a classic.”
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Janie Crawford, a light, long-legged, self-sufficient, and eloquent woman. Sets out to be her person. A no common feat for a black woman in the ’30s. Janie’s journey for identity takes her through three wedlock and into a course back to her roots.
A remarkable classic by Zora Neale Hurston that you can’t put down. With inspirational insights and encouragement, this book helps you experience a liberated woman’s journey and life.
Strong and independent narration of this story has left a mark as a special classic out there for all the readers. A wonderful historical fiction you can’t get enough of. Pamper the classic reader in you with one more attractive read with this fiction.
Invisible Life by E. Lynn Harris
The re-issue of a remarkable first novel by a young, gay, black author who fashioned a deeply moving and compelling coming-of-age story out of the highly controversial issues of bisexuality and AIDS.
Law school, girlfriends, and career choices were all part of Raymond Tyler’s life, but there were other, more terrifying issues for him to confront.
Being black was tough enough, but Raymond was becoming more and more conscious of sexual feelings that he knew weren’t “right.” He was completely committed to Sela, his longtime girlfriend, but his attraction to Kelvin, whom he had met during his last year in law school, had become more than just a friendship.
Fleeing to New York to escape both Sela and Kelvin, Raymond finds himself more confused than ever before. New relationships–both male and female–give him enormous pleasure but keep him from finding the inner peace and lasting love he so desperately desires. The horrible illness and death of a friend eventually force Raymond, at last, to face the truth.
Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillian
“Hilarious, irreverent…Reading Waiting to Exhale is like being in the company of a great friend…thought-provoking, thoroughly entertaining, and very, very comforting.”—The New York Times Book Review
Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
The bestselling urban classic novel about a young woman coming of age in the late 1980s.
Tracy Ellison, a young knockout with tall hair and attitude, is living life as fast as she can. Motivated by the material world, she and her friends love and leave the young men who will do anything to get next to them. It’s only when the world of gratuitous sex threatens heartbreak that Tracy begins to examine her life, her goals, and her sexuality.
Cheaters by Eric Jerome Dickey
Stephan loves ’em and leaves ’em, just like his dad. Chanté thinks she’s found her dream man—until his wife and kids come banging on her door. Jake is a player—left with bad dreams he just can’t shake.
Darnell is true to his wife…but the temptation’s getting tougher every day. Tammy is caught between the man she loves, and the woman he’s promised to. And while Karen lectures her friends about fooling around, she may not live up to her own high standards…
This is the world of Eric Jerome Dickey. It’s heart-wrenching and hilarious, smart and soulful, and as honest and recognizable as your own—and that of everyone who never loved you back.
The Cartel by Ashley and Jaquavius
The port of Miami brings in millions of dollars worth of cocaine every year, and The Cartel controls eighty percent of it. The Diamond family is a force to be reckoned with, but all hell breaks loose when they lose their leader.
The most ruthless gangster Miami has ever seen, Carter Diamond leaves behind a wife, twin sons, a daughter, and a secret. The secret is his illegitimate son, Carter Jones. When Young Carter learns of his father’s death, he comes to town and is introduced to the legacy of The Cartel.
Miamor is a woman who uses her beauty to enhance her skill as a contract killer. She is the leader of The Murder Mamas. When her crew is hired to take down The Cartel, they get caught slipping, and Miamor loses her sister in the process. She is determined to get revenge from The Cartel.
Unknowingly, she meets the son of Carter Diamond, and he immediately catches her heart. She is sleeping with the enemy, and when she finds out, she is torn between love and revenge. Young Carter and Miamor lead two different lifestyles. They are on opposing teams, and when their worlds collide, the truth will be unveiled in an unpredictable ending.
The Coldest Winter Ever by Sistah Souljah
Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read.
Renowned hip-hop artist, writer, and activist Sister Souljah brings the streets of New York to life in a powerful and utterly unforgettable first novel.
I came busting into the world during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, so my mother named me Winter.
Ghetto-born, Winter is the young, wealthy daughter of a prominent Brooklyn drug-dealing family. Quick-witted, sexy, and business-minded, she knows and loves the streets like the curves of her own body.
But when a cold Winter wind blows her life in a direction she doesn’t want to go, her street smarts and seductive skills are put to the test of a lifetime. Unwilling to lose, this ghetto girl will do anything to stay on top.
The Coldest Winter Ever marks the debut of a gifted storyteller. You will never forget this Winter’s tale.