16 Essential Books By Black Women That Absolutely Belong On Your Bookshelf

16 Essential Books By Women of Color That Absolutely Belong On Your Bookshelf


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July 13, 2024 at 12:46PM UTC

The systemic erasure of Black voices has been a part of our country’s fabric for far too long. (Read: Since its origin.) As we do the work of unweaving that fabric — not just in this current moment, but in a sustained way for days to come — it’s critical that Black voices are amplified and listened to. And the need to listen is especially crucial for anyone who’s committed to deepening their allyship.

As a non-Black person, listening doesn’t simply mean turning to the Black folks in your life with the expectation that they’ll explain things to you. It means taking active steps to educate yourself using the (many, many) existing resources already out there from Black activists, educators and authors alike. How well-represented, for instance, are Black voices on your reading list?

Podcaster Ally Henny shared some steps that’ll help decolonize your bookshelf.

Looking for suggestions for important, informative books from women of color writers? Below, here are 16 books that anyone — and especially anyone who's looking to become a better ally — should add to their shelves. Please note: I myself am a white woman who's committed to interrogating my privilege, deepening my education and expanding my allyship to BPIOC communities. I am learning, too, and this list should simply be seen as a starting point. Have suggestions for additional book titles that belong on this list? Let's please treat this as a conversation; add them to the comments! I'd also like to add that The ZORA Canon is an excellent resource for more WoC book recommendations.

Also, another word to allies: Don't forget that this work is about more than simply educating ourselves. To contribute to the anti-racism movement in any meaningful way, we must also take action — including by donating to BPIOC orgs and supporting Black-owned businesses. 

Lastly, please note that although I mostly linked to the following titles' Amazon pages, I would highly, highly encourage seeing if there's a Black-owned bookstore in your area and ordering from them instead! 

1. "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindedness," by Michelle Alexander

2. "So You Want to Talk About Race," by Ijeoma Oluo 

3. "Lifting as We Climb: Black Women's Battle for the Ballot Box," by Evette Dionne

4. "When They Call You a Terrorist," by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

5. "Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race," by Reni Eddo-Lodge

6. "Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women," by Brittney Cooper

7. "The Bluest Eye," by Toni Morrison 

8. "Women, Race and Class," by Angela Davis 

9. "Their Eyes Were Watching God," by Zora Neale Hurston

10. "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" by Beverly Daniel Tatum

11. "White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Nation's Divide," by Carol Anderson

12. "This Will Be My Undoing," by Morgan Jerkins

13. "Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells," by Ida B. Wells 

14. "Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side," by Eve L. Ewing

15. "Ain’t I a Woman?: Black Women and Feminism," by bell hooks

16. "Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness," by Simone Browne

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