8 anti-racist fiction books to read

8 anti-racist fiction books to read

Over the past six weeks, I’ve shared a Feel-Good Friday List on here each Friday. It’s a list of things that have made me feel happy that week, and the aim of it is to bring a little positivity during a dark time. When it came to start thinking about the content of today’s list though, it didn’t feel right. It felt so trivial in the circumstances. So today, I’m going to share something that I hope will help in a different way.

This week has been nothing short of eye-opening. I’ve been aware of my privilege for a while, but it’s only this week that I’ve been made aware of the full extent of it. I will never understand what it’s like to be negatively impacted by the colour of my skin, something I was born with. I will never understand how much harder people of colour have to fight. But I’m determined to learn, so that I can stand alongside my brothers and sisters and be an ally. I fight for the environment, I fight for animal welfare, and I want to fight for anti-racism, too. And I believe we can do it! It’s going to take time, it’s going to be messy and uncomfortable, and sometimes we’ll get it wrong. But let’s keep moving in the right direction.

One of the first positive steps I plan to take is reading some books, both to educate myself and also to support black authors. Here’s a list of fiction books that I’ll be working my way through this year. I hope that, if like me, you’re keen to learn more, this list will be helpful!

I’ve provided links to Waterstones. If these books aren’t currently available, you can pop in your email address and you’ll be notified when you can order.

Queenie – Candice Carty-Williams
Queenie Jenkins is a twenty-five-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth. As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”—all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her.
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Such a Fun Age – Kiley Reid
When Emira is apprehended at a supermarket for ‘kidnapping’ the white child she’s actually babysitting, it sets off an explosive chain of events. Her employer Alix, a feminist blogger with the best of intentions, resolves to make things right. But Emira herself is aimless, broke and wary of Alix’s desire to help. When a surprising connection emerges between the two women, it sends them on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know – about themselves, each other, and the messy dynamics of privilege.
This book is available for pre-order.
Pre-order the book.

Girl, Woman, Other – Bernardine Evaristo
Teeming with life and crackling with energy – a love song to modern Britain and black womanhood. Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.
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The Hate You Give – Angie Thomas
Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.
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The Colour Purple – Alice Walker
Set in the deep American South between the wars, The Color Purple is the classic tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls ‘father’, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.
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The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison
Nobel prize-winning author of Beloved, Toni Morrison’s debut novel immerses us in the tragic, torn lives of a poor black family – Pauline, Cholly, Sam and Pecola – in post-Depression 1940s Ohio. Unlovely and unloved, Pecola prays each night for blue eyes like those of her privileged white schoolfellows. At once intimate and expansive, unsparing in its truth-telling, The Bluest Eye shows how the past savagely defines the present.
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An American Marriage – Tayari Jones
Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of the American Dream. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. Until one day they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. A masterpiece of storytelling, An American Marriage offers a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three unforgettable characters who are at once bound together and separated by forces beyond their control.
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Behold the Dreamers – Imbolo Mbue
New York, 2007. After two long years apart, Jende Jonga has brought his wife Neni from Cameroon to join him in the land of opportunity. Drawn by the promise of America they are seeking the chance of a better life for them and their son. When Jende lands a dream job as chauffeur to a Lehman Brothers executive, Neni finds herself taken into the confidence of his glamorous wife Cindy. The Edwards are powerful and privileged: dazzling examples of what America can offer to those who are prepared to strive for it.But when the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, all four lives are dramatically upended. As faultlines appear in both marriages and secrets bubble to the surface they must all decide how far they will go in pursuit of their dreams. And what will they sacrifice along the way?
Order the book.

Image by Marisa Sias from Pixabay

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