13 Great Books by Women of Color

By Tess Fox

Currently women of color make up less than 40 percent of the US population. By 2050, this will rise to 53 percent of the population. In 2014, 14 percent of books were by and about people of color.

A pie chart showing the race/ethnic breakdown of books reviewed by the New York Times in 2011. 65% were by Caucasian authors.

Small independent publishing companies, like Nothing But The Truth are attempting to make a dent in these numbers. VIDA tracks the breakdown of women in the literary arts. When authors of color are turned away, a blank spot is left in the history books. Already the United States has lost so much culture and voice by prohibiting certain peoples from publishing. Whatever is keeping these women from being published now is just as devastating.

Regardless of what genre you choose to read, it’s always important to search out new and unfamiliar work. New perspectives can broaden your horizons and make you see things in a different light. One way you can help is to create demand for these little known, yet fabulous authors. This is a list of books by women of color that I encourage you to take a spin through. There is something for everyone on the list!

Science Fiction

1
Title:
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Author: N. K. Jemisin
Genre: Sci-Fi
Synopsis: Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. When her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. Tthe throne is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother’s death and her family’s bloody history. With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Yeine will learn how perilous it can be when love and hate – and gods and mortals – are bound inseparably together. This is the first book of a trilogy.

 

2
Title:
The Galaxy Game
Author: Karen Lord
Genre: Sci-Fi
Synopsis: For years, Rafi Delarua saw his family suffer under his father’s unethical use of psionic power. Now the government has Rafi under close watch but, hating their crude attempts to analyze his brain, he escapes to the planet Punartam, where his abilities are the norm, not the exception. The galaxy is changing; unrest is spreading and the Zhinuvian cartels are plotting, making the stars a far more dangerous place to aim. There may be only one solution.

 

 

3

Title: The House of Shattered Wings
Author: Aliette de Bodard
Genre: Sci-Fi
Synopsis: Paris has survived the Great Houses War – just. Life continues among the wreckage. The citizens continue to live, love, fight and survive in their war-torn city, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over the once grand capital. Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen, an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, and a resentful young man wielding spells from the Far East. They may be Silverspires’ salvation. They may be the architects of its last fall.

 

 

6

 

Title: King
Author: Ellen Oh
Genre: Sci-Fi/Young Adult
Synopsis: Girl warrior, demon slayer, Tiger spirit of the Yellow Eyes—Kira is ready for her final quest. In this thrilling finale to the Prophecy trilogy, fans will get even more of the fierce Kira and her quest to save her kingdom! All eyes are on her. Kira, once an outcast in her home village of Hansong, is now the only one with the power to save her kingdom. She must save her cousin, the boy fated to be the future king, uncover the third lost treasure, and face innumerable enemies in order to fulfill the famed prophecy.

 

 

Mystery

11

Title: Ink and Ashes
Author: Valynne E. Maetani
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Synopsis: Claire Takata has never known much about her father, who passed away when she was a little girl. But on the anniversary of his death, not long before her seventeenth birthday, she finds a mysterious letter from her deceased father, addressed to her stepfather. Claire can’t shake the feeling that something’s been kept from her. In search of answers, Claire combs through anything that will give her information about her father . . . until she discovers he was a member of the yakuza, the Japanese mafia. The discovery opens a door that should have been left closed.
New Visions Award Winner

 

12

 

Title: Rivals in the City
Author: Y. S. Lee
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Synopsis: Convicted fraudster Henry Thorold is dying in prison, and the Agency asks Mary to take on one last case: to watch for the return of his estranged wife. Mrs Thorold is an accomplished criminal and will surely want to settle scores with Mary’s fiancé, James. With the additional complications of family and conflicting loyalties, the stakes for all involved are higher than ever.

 

 

13

 

Title: The Age of Dreaming
Author: Nina Revoyr
Genre: Mystery/Fiction
Synopsis: The Age of Dreaming explores the history of Los Angeles, the heady beginnings of the movie industry, and the interplay of race and celebrity. It is part historical novel, part mystery, and part unfulfilled love story, all told through the voice of a forgotten star who must gradually come to terms with his past.

 

 

 

 

Memoir/Autobiography

14Title: Negroland: A Memoir
Author: Margo Jefferson
Genre: Memoir/Autobiography
Synopsis: Margo Jefferson has spent most of her life among the colored aristocracy, the colored elite, the blue-vein society. They have stood apart, these inhabitants of Negroland, “a small region of Negro America where residents were sheltered by a certain amount of privilege and plenty.” Reckoning with the strictures and demands of Negroland at crucial historical moments—the civil rights movement, the dawn of feminism, the fallacy of postracial America—Jefferson brilliantly charts the twists and turns of a life informed by psychological and moral contradictions. Aware as it is of heart-wrenching despair and depression, this book is a triumphant paean to the grace of perseverance.

 

X

Title: Growing Up X
Author: Ilyasah Shabazz
Genre: Memoir/Autobiography
Synopsis: Ilyasah was the middle child, a rambunctious livewire who fought for–and won–attention in an all-female household. She carried on the legacy of a renowned parents while navigating childhood and learning to do the hustle. She was a different color from other kids at camp and yet was not radical enough for her college classmates. Her story is a tribute to a mother of almost unimaginable forbearance, a woman who, “from that day at the Audubon when she heard the shots and threw her body on [ours, never] stopped shielding her children.”

 

15

 

Title: A Wedding in Haiti
Author: Julia Alvarez
Genre: Autobiography
Synopsis: In a story that travels beyond borders and between families, acclaimed Dominican novelist and poet Julia Alvarez reflects on the joys and burdens of love for her parents, for her husband, and for a young Haitian boy known as Piti. In this intimate true account of a promise kept, Alvarez takes us on a journey into experiences that challenge our way of thinking about history and how it can be reimagined when people from two countries, traditional enemies and strangers, become friends.

 

 

Fiction

16

Title: Americanah
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Synopsis: As teenagers in a Lagos secondary school, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are leaving the country if they can. Ifemelu—beautiful, self-assured—departs for America to study. She suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships and friendships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze—the quiet, thoughtful son of a professor—had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.

 

 

20

 

Title: Breath, Eyes, Memory
Author: Edwidge Danticat
Genre: Historical Fiction
Synopsis: At the age of twelve, Sophie Caco is sent from her impoverished village of Croix-des-Rosets to New York to be reunited with a mother she barely remembers. There she discovers secrets that no child should ever know, and a legacy of shame that can be healed only when she returns to Haiti–to the women who first reared her. What ensues is a passionate journey through a landscape charged with the supernatural and scarred by political violence, in a novel that bears witness to the traditions, suffering, and wisdom of an entire people.  

 

 

21

Title: The Buddha in the Attic
Author: Julie Otsuka
Genre: Historical Fiction/Japanese Culture
Synopsis: In eight incantatory sections, The Buddha in the Attic traces the picture brides’ extraordinary lives, from their arduous journey by boat, where they exchange photographs of their husbands, imagining uncertain futures in an unknown land; to their arrival in San Francisco and their tremulous first nights as new wives; to their backbreaking work picking fruit in the fields and scrubbing the floors of white women; to their struggles to master a new language and a new culture; to their experiences in childbirth, and then as mothers, raising children who will ultimately reject their heritage and their history; to the deracinating arrival of war.

 

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