Earlier this week it was announced that Bernardine Evaristo became the first Black female author to have a number one bestselling novel in the UK for her Man Booker Prize winning Girl, Woman, Other, while Reni Eddo-Lodge became the first Black woman to top the UK’s non-fiction bestseller chart for Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. Similarly, in the US, this week’s bestsellers list is filled with Black and POC authors. Ireland’s bestsellers list is stark in comparison, with only two Black and POC authors in the fiction charts (both paperback and hardback, according to Nielsen Book Research), however independent bookshops tell a different story.
“Don’t Touch my Hair by Emma Dabiri (which was already a big bestseller for us in our Essays & Ideas and Feminism sections), as well as James Baldwin’s books, in particular The Fire Next Time were our bestsellers this week,” says Louisa Earls, manager of Books Upstairs on D’Olier Street. “We’ve also been taking a lot of orders for Your Silence Will Not Protect You: Essays and Poems by Audre Lorde and a more recent collection, Hood Feminism, by Mikki Kendall.”
At Raven Books in Blackrock, owner Louisa Cameron says Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other is currently their bestselling novel and added that certain books by Black authors have now sold out and have had to be placed on re-order: “There was a huge surge of interest last week for non-fiction and every single one of the main titles completely sold out and are currently reprinting: Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Don’t Touch My Hair (our non-fiction bestseller), White Fragility and So You Want to Talk About Race.”
The rising interest in books by Black authors follows the conversations around the Black Lives Matter movement sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in America earlier this month. Coming from a place of privilege, now is the time to educate ourselves further on the issues of racism, inequality and injustice that pervade our societies and one of the best ways we can do this is through literature. The importance of reading stories on lives and experiences that differ from your own cannot be underestimated, it broadens our perspectives and allows us to become more empathetic and aware of the issues that Black and POC face in their daily lives and ultimately encourages us to become active allies in the fight against racism.
For those who wish to educate themselves on issues of racism, inequality and white privilege, Louisa Earls recommends, “Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is the best book to read to educate yourself on these issues. For even more perspectives, we’d recommend If They Come in the Morning: Voices of Resistance, a collection edited by the incredible Angela Davis. Moving away from non-fiction, we’d encourage people towards poetry as a means to seeing the world through different eyes. We’ve been recommending Citizen by Claudia Rankine as well as 1919 by Eve Ewing and The Tradition by Jericho Brown.” Louisa Cameron notes that you should read, “Americanah by Chimandi Ngozi Adichie, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson and Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke. First and foremost they’re good reads but they’ll also let you inhabit characters with life experience very different to your own in a way you might not get from non-fiction.”
Below you will find 20 fiction and non-fiction books by Black and POC writers to add to your reading list. It’s time to join the conversation.
(This list can never be conclusive but if you think a certain book should be included please email [email protected] and we can update the post)
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Americanah by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Grand Union: Stories by Zadie Smith
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
Remembered by Yvonne Battle-Felton
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