10 Novels to Read during Black History Month

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

This Year's Black History Month is unlike any other. Kamala Harris is now the United States' first African American and first Asian American Vice President. This much-delayed milestone is cause for celebration.

To celebrate Black History Month in the United States, Reader's Mantra, an arm of the newly launched desktop drafting app Writers' Mantra, will be highlighting books by writers of color published recently. If you are hankering for a good novel, check out the list below.

Book lovers may have already encountered the following: Brandon Taylor's Real Life and Kiley Reid's Such a Fun Age, both debuts were nominated for the Man Booker Prize; Raven Leilani's sensuous and humorous Luster, which opens on two people having sex at the office; Bryan Washington's Memorial, set in Houston and Osaka, following the diminishing romance of a queer, interracial couple. New York Times bestseller The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett exposes the history of passing in America. And no list is complete without a mention of Yaa Gyasi's Transcendent Kingdom, a sophomoric novel that explores the rift between an immigrant mother and daughter and the ties between religion and science.

Afia Atakora's Conjure Women is the story of a mother and daughter set in the backdrop of pre-and post- Civil War. It's a missing perspective on an era no modern American can ignore the opportunity to revisit and explore.

Mateo Askaripour's Black Buck follows Darren, self-named "Buck", a 22-year-old, black salesman on a mission. If you enjoyed Paul Beatty's The Sellout, then you won't want to miss this debut. The novel rightfully begins with the narrator telling you, "The day that changed my life was like every other day before it, except that it changed my life."

Colson Whitehead's The Nickel Boys starts in 1962, Tallahassee, when idealist Elwood Curtis is unfairly sentenced to a juvenile reformatory school, Nickel Academy--a place that can only be described as barbaric. There, he befriends Turner, another unfairly-sentenced inmate. Despite having clashing attitudes toward the establishment that has sent them there, the boys must rely on their friendship to survive the place intact.

Robert Jones Jr.'s newly-released The Prophets is a forbidden love story between two enslaved young men on a Mississippi plantation called 'Empty'. It follows the evolution of their relationship from an innocent, independent, Edenic state to one of doubt, sin, and potential betrayal. The prose is lyrical, reminiscent of James Baldwin and Toni Morrison at their best.

-Writers' Mantra Team

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