This week, readers across the country are taking part in #BlackoutBestsellerList, a campaign launched by Amistad Books — a division of Harper Collins devoted to books by and about people of color — that encourages consumers to purchase any two books by black writers. The goal is to “blackout bestseller lists with black voices.” The event started on June 14 and is running through June 20.
Below, we have compiled a list of books by black authors, some of whom are metro Detroit natives or have ties to the area. Consider shopping local and buying your picks from independent bookstores like Source Booksellers, Detroit Book City, Pages Bookshop, or Literati Bookstore.
All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir Manifesto by George M. Johnson
This nonfiction young adult book, released in April, contains a series of personal essays that take readers through author George M. Johnson’s childhood, teenage, and college years. Johnson is an LGBTQ+ activist and journalist, and his book explores topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, family life, marginalization, and black joy.
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
In this fictional fantasy tale, released in February, Namina Forna follows the adventure of 16-year-old outcast Deka, who is about to participate in a “blood ceremony” to determine whether she will become a member of her village. When her blood runs gold, the color of impurity, she is forced to face a consequence worse than death, that is until a woman offers for her to fight the emperor with an army of girls just like her. As she embarks on her journey, she realizes that nothing and no one is what they seem to be.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Kacen Callender’s novel Felix Ever After is a story about Felix Love, who is looking for love as a black, queer, and transgender young adult. After a student sends him anonymous transphobic messages, he plans for revenge. But that plan lands him into a quasi-love triangle. This novel, released in May, explores themes of questioning and self-discovery, and ultimately understanding the love that you deserve.
Lives Laid Away by Stephen Mack Jones
2017’s Lives Laid Away is the latest book from Stephen Mack Jones about an ex-Detroit cop named August Snow. When the body of a young Hispanic woman is found in the Detroit River weeks after an ICE raid, the people of Mexicantown turn to Snow to protect the community. Jones lives in Lansing and is an award-winning playwright. His next August Snow book, Dead of Winter, is expected to be released by Penguin Random House next March.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
This new coming-of-age novel, written by Los Angeles-based writer Brit Bennett, tells the story of two twin sisters and how the lives they lead as adults affect their daughters. One sister raises her black daughter in the southern town they grew up in, while the other passes for white, and her white husband does not know of her past. Bennett, who earned her MFA in fiction from the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writer’s Program, is also the author of The New York Times-bestselling novel The Mothers.
Know the Mother by Desiree Cooper
Filmmaker, author, and Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist Desiree Cooper explores motherhood and how gender and race intersect in this 2016 short story collection. In Know the Mother, readers meet women at various stages of their life, including a lawyer who miscarries, a new mom going out for the night with her husband, and a politician’s wife.
The Detroit Project: Three Plays by Dominique Morisseau
Published in 2018, The Detroit Project features Dominique Morisseau’s plays Paradise Blue, Detroit ’67, and Skeleton Crew. The works explore the intersection of race and policing, labor and recession, and property ownership and gentrification. A Detroit native, Morisseau was nominated for a Tony Award for writing the musical Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of the Temptations.
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
Released in March, N.K. Jemisin’s novel The City We Became explores the myths of contemporary New York City. When an ancient evil threatens to destroy the city, six newborn avatars must come together to stop it.
Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender
This 2019 novel by Callender takes place on the islands of Hans Lollik. Sigourney Rose is the only member of her family to survive a massacre. When she learns that the childless king of the island is seeking a successor, she plans revenge. But when someone starts killing the royal families, she must discover who her allies are.
A Reunion of Rivals by Reese Ryan
A Reunion of Rivals is book four in Reese Ryan’s The Bourbon Brothers series. This new read tells the story of Quinn Bazemore, who must partner with her ex-lover to save her career.
The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon
Released earlier this month, The Boyfriend Project is called a “masterpiece” by New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins. When Samiah Brooks and two other girls get catfished by the same guy, they make a pact to spend the next six months working on themselves. Then, Samiah meets Daniel at work. Now she must decide, is it worth it or is he too good to be true?
Non-fiction & Autobiography
Black Detroit: A People’s History of Self-Determination by Herb Boyd
Herb Boyd, a journalist and activist who grew up in Detroit, reflects on why the city is a special place for black people in this 2017 book. Black Detroit explores how black Detroiters were crucial to the city’s union movement, and spotlights figures such as abolitionist William Lambert, Motown founder Berry Gordy, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche. The book is an NAACP 2017 Image Award finalist and 2018 Michigan Notable Books honoree.
Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla Saad
A New York Times and USA Today bestseller, this book was born out of a viral challenge that Layla Saad ran on Instagram. In the challenge, Saad guided her social media followers through a 28-day workshop on white supremacy. Released in January, the book aims to help readers understand their own biases and explores topics like white privilege, allyship, racial stereotypes, and cultural appropriation.
Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter by Curtis Jackson
In this autobiographical self-help novel, Curtis Jackson, more commonly known as “50 Cent,” takes readers through his life as a music-artist-turned-executive-producer and the challenges he’s faced. Released in April, this book explores how to embrace change while using street smarts and learned tactics.
The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in Detroit Numbers by Bridgett M. Davis
In her 2019 memoir, novelist and filmmaker Bridgett M. Davis tells the story of her mother, Fannie, who ran an underground gambling operation to support her family and create a loving, joyful home for her children. The book takes place in 1960s-’70s Detroit.
Solitary by Albert Woodfox
Solitary, released in 2019, is the story of Albert Woodfox, who spent over 40 years in solitary confinement for a crime he did not commit. Woodfox was a Black Panther, and he was arrested in 1972 during a robbery in which a white guard was killed. Even with no evidence against him, he was sentenced to prison. Instead of channeling his anger towards negativity while in prison, he directed it to activism and resistance.
Tapping Out by Nandi Comer
In Tapping Out, Detroit poet Nandi Comer writes about lucha libre — professional wrestling in Mexico — to explore themes of identity and belonging. Comer became fascinated with lucha libre while living in Guadalajara, Mexico. Her book of poems was released in May.
Seeing the Body: Poems by Rachel Eliza Griffiths
A collection of photographs and poems, this new work by Rachel Eliza Griffiths explores how grief and loss affect the human body. The collection of poems explores topics such as death, aging, authority, being a black woman in America, and the American imagination.
Simulacra by Airea D. Matthews
This book of poetry by Airea D. Matthews was the winner of the 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize. Matthews earned an MFA in poetry from the Helen Zell Writer’s Program at U-M, and she previously served as the assistant director for the program.
Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott
Aligning with the #SayHerName campaign launched by the African American Policy Forum, this collection of poems for young adults is a tribute to Black Lives Matter activists and women affected by police brutality. The book, released in January, contains over 49 poems.
African: A Children’s Picture Book by Peter Tosh
This new children’s book features the lyrics of Peter Tosh’s reggae song “African” and illustrations by Rachel Moss. Tosh is a founding member of the reggae group the Wailers, and he released “African” in 1977 on his solo record Equal Rights.
Olivia Jackson and the Great Cupcake Caper by Dara Nichole
Released in February, this book is by Detroit native Dara Nichole and tells the story of Olivia, an African American girl who is feeling stressed while juggling school, friendships, and a big cupcake order. Part of the Madison Miles & Friends series, the chapter book is 100 pages long and features colorful illustrations.
Welcome to the Party by Gabrielle Union
Inspired by her daughter’s birth, New York Times bestselling author and award-winning actress Gabrielle Union’s Welcome to the Party is a cheerful love letter made for parents to their newborns. This book, which came out in May, makes a great gift for baby showers and birthdays.
Southwest Sunrise by Nikki Grimes
Also released in May, this children’s book by Nikki Grimes celebrates the beauty of the Southwest United States through the lens of a young boy who is visiting New Mexico for the first time. In the book, Jayden encounters bright flowers, birds and lizards, red rocks, and a turquoise sky.