20 Black women with killer bibliographies

As many of you know, I’m trying to read a couple Zora Neale Hurston books to get deeper into her not-insignificant bibliography. But she’s not alone on the list of black women whose work I wish I could read and analyze full-time. Who wants to fund a PhD program for me to spend 100% of my time on the following 20 names?

  1. Maya Angelou | As I write this list, I’m listening to her recitation of “Phenomenal Woman” on an Olympic commercial. Much like that poem, Maya Angelou is timeless, and I’d absolutely love to read everything she’s written, since I can no longer take her course.
  2. Toni Morrison | Another obvious choice, because Toni Morrison has written prolifically in her adulthood. The last book I read by her was God Help the Child, which was great, but still not quite as good as her other works. I’m thinking it’s time revisit, and finally read the books I never read, like Jazz.
  3. Toni Cade Bambara | I can’t talk about great black women authors without discussing the hoards of scholar activists out there– Toni Cade Bambara tops that list. I need to finally sit down with a Gorilla, My Love because I know I’m missing out on something great.
  4. Gwendolyn Brooks | We’ve already established that poetry isn’t quite my thing, but Gwendolyn Brooks is different. The tableaus painted in her poems are of real people, real poverty, and oftentimes also real pain. Read The Mother  if you need an example. I’d like to start with Annie Allen, and work my way out from there.
  5. Octavia Butler | Earlier this year, I reviewed Parable of the Sower, which I really liked. However, I’m absolutely positive that it’s not her best work, and that there’s more out there for me to explore.
  6. Alice Walker | I could not make this list without Alice Walker. Sure, she’s mainly known for The Color Purple, but there’s so much more. Specifically, I have my eye on Meridian, which is her second novel. I’m a sucker for books set during the Civil Rights Movement, so I’m positive this one will be a home run for me.
  7. Pearl Cleage | As a sophomore in college, I was lucky to hear Pearl Cleage speak– she taught a drama class, but had opened this particular talk to the rest of the student population. At the time, I had no idea how prolific an author she was/is, nor that her works were so widely read. I have yet to read What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, but I know many black women who read it and found it impactful. I think her books would make thought provoking beach reads, since they merge literary fiction with feminism.
  8. Jesmyn Ward | Last week, I posted about Ward’s freshly-published The Fire This Time, which was a fantastic anthology inspired by James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. Many of you commented about the other great works that she’s put out, and you have me more than intrigued. If this book was anything to go off of, she’s an author I’d like to read nonstop.
  9. Sonia Sanchez | I had the opportunity to see Sonia Sanchez speak at a museum a couple years ago, and she lived up to all of the hype. Eloquent and sage, she could have held my attention for much longer than the couple hours she was there.
  10. bell hooks | I have a love/hate relationship with bell hooks, but that doesn’t discount the profundity of her older works. Her early commentary on race, gender, and everything in between is worth a read. At the very least, her works undoubtedly set the stage for many intersectional feminists that followed in her footsteps.
  11. Ntzoka Shange | Ever heard of For colored girls who have considered suicide/When the rainbow is enuf? If you haven’t, then you need to get with the program– I even may have cried during the film, which is saying a lot (I don’t recommend the movie if emotionally-wrought films aren’t your thing). Shange has written so much more than that, and her distinctive style ensure her other plays will be something worth reading.
  12. Jamaica Kincaid | Are you a poor soul who has yet to read anything by Jamaica Kincaid? Then listen to Edwidge Danticat read two of her short stories here. Both from the Caribbean, Danticat is a very appropriate choice for this reading and subsequent discussion, so check it out!
  13. Edwidge Danticat | …And when you’re done, read Danticat’s Krik? Krak!, or Farming of Bones. I still have so much of her work to read, most notably Breath, Eyes, Memory.
  14. Zadie Smith | I linked to a recent Zadie Smith article in my latest “What Got Me Thinking” post. If I really decided to read everything she’d ever written, that wouldn’t just include novels like White Teeth– it would be her articles and essays as well. Perhaps “Take It or Leave It” which is a simple and quick article about tipping the delivery man. Or maybe “The House that Hova Built,” which is quite predictably about rapper and mogul Jay-Z.
  15. Audre Lorde | Audre. Freaking. Lorde. This woman right here changed my life with the series of essays in Sister Outsider. I talk about that book at least once a month here on Brown Books & Green Tea– and I won’t be stopping any time soon. Pick it up! Make haste!
  16. Angela Davis | I’m something of an Angela Davis groupie. Even if you don’t agree with everything she says, her intelligence and ideological consistency is refreshing.
  17. Nnedi Okorafor, PhD | I recently read Dr. Okorafor’s Binti, which reminded me why I loved speculative fiction as a child. I’m looking to read much more speculative fiction this year, and her books are a great place to start.
  18. Nalo Hopkinson | I couldn’t list Okorafor without following up with Hopkinson, who is another amazing science fiction author!
  19. Tananarive Due | Due complements the last two authors on this list, and it doesn’t hurt that adore her on social media. I feel a bit lesser for not having read the African Immortals series, and My Soul to Keep is calling my name.
  20. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie |  I have a confession: I still haven’t read We Should All Be Feminists. I’ll duck and cover, because I’m certain that people will soon start tossing tomatoes and foldable chairs in my directions. It’s such a short read that it’s rather inexcusable!

This list could have gone on forever (Lorraine Hansberry, Tananarive Due, Gloria Naylor, etc), but I had to stop somewhere! Are there any authors you would add? Let me know in the comments below! 

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28 Comments

  1. I love this list and couldn’t agree more with the writers included!

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    1. Thank you! I’m sure you have a couple you could add, too!

      Like

  2. Great list. You should definitely read We shoudl all be feminists. Or atleast listen to the TED talk. Alice Walker is still on my TBR. SO is Octavia Butler. I think I like Zadie Smith’s articles more than her novels,

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    1. I’m reading We Should all be Feminists as I type this!

      Liked by 1 person

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