Books

10 must-read books by black female authors for 2019

Posted by
Sarah Shaffi
Published
Temi Oh. Image: Simon & Schuster

Looking to add some new books to your shelves? We have a few suggestions…

Everyone can probably name a handful of black female authors, from Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou and Roxane Gay to our very own Malorie Blackman.

And because those authors are great, the likelihood is that you’ve devoured some or even all of their books already.

So if you’re on the hunt for some newer writers, here is our list of black women authors we think should be on your radar, from debuts to those who have a few books under their belt but who we think deserve to be known better.

They’re writing everything from science fiction and gothic romance to beauty books, and they’re all deserving of your time.

Happy reading…

Candice Carty-Williams

Candice Carty-Williams.
Candice Carty-Williams.

This year, everyone’s going to be talking about Queenie Jenkins and her creator Candice Carty-Williams. The title character of Carty-Williams’ debut novel Queenie is a heroine for the modern age, struggling to find love, self-destructing in spectacular ways, and caught between two worlds that don’t really understand her. Carty-Williams, a Brit who works in marketing at a publisher, has created a warm, vulnerable, sympathetic character in Queenie, and there’s no doubt that she is an author to watch. 

Queenie is out on 11 April (Trapeze, £12.99)

Temi Oh

Temi Oh.

Go into any bookshop in the land and it’ll be hard to find more than a few women authors on the science fiction and fantasy shelves, let alone black women. That’ll change later this year when Temi Oh’s debut Do You Dream of Terra-Two? is released. The Londoner, who studied in Edinburgh, studied neuroscience, covering topics including philosophy of the Mmind and space physiology, which have served her well for her novel which follows four veterans and six teenagers as they travel 23 years to Terra-Two, a new Earth-like planet.

Do You Dream of Terra-Two? is out on 1 March (Simon & Schuster, £14.99)

Yvonne Battle-Felton

Yvonne Battle-Felton. Image: Ian Robinson
Yvonne Battle-Felton. Image: Ian Robinson

Yvonne Battle-Felton has some excellent credentials – she has an MA in writing from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and a PhD in creative writing from Lancaster University, where she is currently an associate lecturer. Her debut historical novel Remembered is the story of an emancipated slave who is forced to confront her past to bring her son dying son home. Battle-Felton won a Northern Writers’ Award in 2017 for the novel, which was released this year.

Remembered is out now (Dialogue Books, £14.99)

Sara Collins

Sara Collins. Image: Justine Stoddart
Sara Collins. Image: Justine Stoddart

The first black character that Sara Collins came across in a novel was Mark Twain’s runaway slave Jim in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. But when it came to writing her own novel, the forthcoming The Confessions of Frannie Langton, Collins was determined not to dehumanise the title character, a slave who grows up on a plantation in Jamaica and is “gifted” to a philosopher in London. She’s succeeded, with a gothic tale of murder and a twisted love affair that allows Frannie to tell her own story.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton is out 4 April (Viking, £12.99)

Diana Evans

Diana Evans. Image: Nick Tucker
Diana Evans. Image: Nick Tucker

Award-winning author Diana Evans’ first novel 26a, released in 2006, was shortlisted for a number of awards, including the Guardian First Book and Whitbread First Novel prizes. She’s since written two more novels, The Wonder and Ordinary People, which came out in 2018 and was named a book of the year by the New Yorker, New Statesman and Financial Times. Set in London, it follows two couples at a moment of reckoning. Evans is a former dancer, and her journalism has appeared in Time and the New York Review of Books among others. 

Ordinary People is out now (Chatto & Windus, £14.99)

Funmi Fetto

Funmi Fetto.
Funmi Fetto.

For years, women of colour have been excluded from mainstream beauty coverage and books, with much of the advice geared towards white women. But women of colour want beauty advice as well. Step up Funmi Fetto, Vogue UK’s contributing beauty editor and Observer Magazine’s beauty columnist, whose book Palette, out this autumn, is aimed at women of colour, covering hair, skincare, makeup and body products for those who often find themselves left out of the beauty conversation.

Palette is out on 3 October (Hodder & Stoughton, £25)

Wayétu Moore

Wayétu Moore. Image: Yoni Levy
Wayétu Moore. Image: Yoni Levy

Here is an author who is not only writing books for audiences of today, but also helping to create the readers of the future. Wayetu Moore is the author of She Would Be King, a reimagining of Liberia’s early years through the eyes of three characters. She also founded literacy organisation One Moore Book, which encourages reading among children in countries with low literacy rates and from underrepresented cultures. One Moore Book publishes books culturally relevant to these audiences and also creates community bookstores.

 She Would Be King is out on 30 May (One, £16.99)

Renée Watson     

Renee Watson.
Renee Watson.

Angie Thomas is the YA author whose name is on everyone’s lips at the moment, but if you’ve read both her amazing novels – The Hate U Give and On the Come Up – and are looking for your next read, then put Renée Watson on your list. She’s already a New York Times bestselling author with a number of books under her belt, but she’s less well known in the UK. Her first novel published here was Piecing Me Together in 2018, a brilliant story about a black teenager navigating high school and planning for her future. This year Watson has co-authored Watch Us Rise with Ellen Hagan, a book about two friends in high school who start a women’s rights club.

Watch Us Rise is out on 21 February (Bloomsbury, £7.99)

Oyinkan Braithwaite

Oyinkan Braithwaite.

Oyinkan Braithwate is a front runner for 2019’s best titled novel for My Sister, the Serial Killer about, well, a woman whose sister is a serial killer. The novel is a sharp and darkly comic look at a sibling relationship, as well as a serial killer thriller. Braithwaite worked as an assistant editor at a Nigerian publishing house and at a children’s educational and entertainment company before becoming a freelance writer and editor. She’s also a spoken-word artist and was a finalist for the prestigious Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

My Sister, The Serial Killer is out now (Atlantic Books, £12.99)

Rena Barron

Rena Barron. Image: Aaron Gang
Rena Barron. Image: Aaron Gang

Publishing later this year, Rena Barron’s debut is described as an explosive fantasy (another black woman for the SFF shelves - yay!). Kingdom of Souls is set in a West African world of magic, following a young woman from a long line of powerful witch doctors, but can’t call on magic herself. Barron grew up in Alabama, and started out writing poetry in school, before moving to short stories and then novels.

Kingdom of Souls is out on 10 September (HarperVoyager, £12.99)

Images: Lily Richards / Simon & Schuster / Ian Robinson / Justine Stoddart / Nick Tucker / Lewis Hayward / Yoni Levy / Pan Macmillan / Amaal Said / Aaron Gang

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