‘Powerful and provocative’: Lincoln staff and students recommend the best books by black authors

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Black History Month marks a time for reflection on the incredible plethora of fiction written by black authors and encourages the importance of reading both widely and internationally. For any reader it is crucial to have a range of fiction on your bookshelf that is both culturally and racially diverse. After speaking with staff and students at the uni, here are some of the best books that you guys had to recommend in celebration of black literature and history.

The Color Purple – Alice Walker

The 1983 Pulitzer Prize winner “The Color Purple” is a story of spirituality, racism and gender roles that centres around protagonist Celie. It is about desiring hope, even in the cruellest of conditions. Countless students described this book as one of their favourites, and after speaking with Charlotte, an MA creative writing student, she explained her feelings towards the text.

She said: “An incredibly emotive story exploring a wide range of issues and exploration of race, religion, sexuality, abuse and more. For a work published when it was it explored sexuality in a detailed and interesting way.”

She concluded: “It’s one that stuck with me.”

Punching the Air – Ibi Zoboi

This novel-in-verse is a YA story that centres around protagonist Amal Shahid who was wrongfully accused of a crime he did not commit and eventually sentenced to jail. It is a fight for the truth and justice.

Jess, a MA creative writing student said: “He basically turns to poetry to tell his story. It’s very impactful considering its form which forces you to focus on every line.”

Ace of Spades – Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

At just 21 and a uni student at the University of Aberdeen, Faridah landed a million dollar book deal for her story “Ace of Spades”, a YA thriller that centres around themes of bullying, racism and elitist schools.

Allie an MA creative writing student described it as: “dark academia vibes with high stakes. It has themes of mystery and thriller and is about fighting back against racism in a rich, predominantly white private school. Couldn’t put it down.”

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

A YA story about police brutality from the perspective of Starr Carter, a girl who lives in a poor neighbourhood whilst also attending a fancy school. The book has also been made into a film, with the brilliant Amandla Stenberg playing the lead.

Olivia, an MA History student said: “It talks about police brutality towards black people in America set from the point of view of a black teenage girl. It definitely makes some really good points about the impact of that on young people.”

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge

The Sunday Times Bestseller that delves into British racism and the black experience in England through fantastic storytelling and striking research. Reni is fearless in her depictions of the truth, as she discusses her frustrations with conversations about race. Amy, a creative writing lecturer and non-fiction writer nominated this text as her favourite.

She said: “You need to read it to understand its significance. It is, quite simply, the must-read of our generation.”

Samuel R Delaney

Samuel Delaney is an African American author who Chris, BA creative writing programme leader and science fiction author, described as an inspiration to him.

He said: “Anything by Samuel R Delaney, a hugely over-looked African American author who’s been writing since the mid-60s. He pretty much wrote the book (so to speak) on social and race commentary, particularly The Einstein Intersection and Babel 17.”

Overall, he concluded: “Powerful and provocative stuff.”

Girl, Woman, Other – Bernardine Evaristo

This story includes 12 interlinked narratives from 12 different narrators that are diverse in both gender and age. The book centres around the theme of black culture in Britain and after speaking with MA publishing student Ellie, it is clear why this text is a must-read.

She said: “The book is polyphonic, so the narrator gives the characters power by allowing them to tell their story and Evaristo introduces these different narrators through really strong voices and dialect.”

When asked why it was one of her favourite’s, she added: “It was a really engaging read and having a text that is written in such a vibrant way made the messaged even more apparent. I think if you want to read a text that is a wide range of different perspectives it’s a great book.”

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