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12 Lesser Known Must Reads from Our Favorite Black Women Writers


Most of us become most acquainted with the authors who change our lives through one seminal work. We read and reread it until the spine breaks and the pages wear. But our favorite writers are so much more than the works that garner the most acclaim. Get to know them fully by reading their books that receive less fan-fare. Here are some of our favorite gems from our favorite authors.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Thing Around Your Neck

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie burst onto the literary scene with her remarkable debut novel, Purple Hibiscus, which critics hailed as “one of the best novels to come out of Africa in years” (Baltimore Sun), with “prose as lush as the Nigerian landscape that it powerfully evokes” (The Boston Globe); The Washington Post called her “the twenty-first-century daughter of Chinua Achebe.” Her award-winning Half of a Yellow Sun became an instant classic upon its publication three years later, once again putting her tremendous gifts—graceful storytelling, knowing compassion, and fierce insight into her characters’ hearts—on display. Now, in her most intimate and seamlessly crafted work to date, Adichie turns her penetrating eye on not only Nigeria but America, in twelve dazzling stories that explore the ties that bind men and women, parents and children, Africa and the United States.

In “A Private Experience,” a medical student hides from a violent riot with a poor Muslim woman whose dignity and faith force her to confront the realities and fears she’s been pushing away. In “Tomorrow is Too Far,” a woman unlocks the devastating secret that surrounds her brother’s death. The young mother at the center of “Imitation” finds her comfortable life in Philadelphia threatened when she learns that her husband has moved his mistress into their Lagos home. And the title story depicts the choking loneliness of a Nigerian girl who moves to an America that turns out to be nothing like the country she expected; though falling in love brings her desires nearly within reach, a death in her homeland forces her to reexamine them.

Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, these stories map, with Adichie’s signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them. The Thing Around Your Neck is a resounding confirmation of the prodigious literary powers of one of our most essential writers.



Octavia Butler
Fledgling
Octavia E. Butler is one of the finest voices in fiction--period. . . . A master storyteller, Butler casts an unflinching eye on racism, sexism, poverty, and ignorance and lets the reader see the terror and beauty of human nature.-"The Washington Post Book World "Readers familiar with . . . "Parable of the Sower and "Bloodchild will recall that [Butler] never asks easy questions or settles for easy answers."-Gerald Jonas in "The New York Times "Fledgling, Octavia Butler's first new novel in seven years, is the story of an apparently young, amnesiac girl whose alarmingly unhuman needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: She is in fact a genetically modified, 53-year-old vampire. Forced to discover what she can about her stolen former life, she must at the same time learn who wanted-and still wants-to destroy her and those she cares for and how she can save herself. "Fledgling is a captivating novel that tests the limits of "otherness" and questions what it means to be truly human. Octavia E. Butler is the author of 11 novels, including "Kindred, "Dawn, and "Parable of the Sower. Recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant, the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, and numerous other literary awards, she has been acclaimed for her lean prose, strong protagonists, and social observations that range from the distant past to the far future.


Edwidge Danticat
Untwine 

A haunting and mesmerizing story about sisterhood, family, love, and loss by literary luminary Edwidge Danticat.

Giselle Boyer and her identical twin, Isabelle, are as close as sisters can be, even as their family seems to be unraveling. Then the Boyers have a tragic encounter that will shatter everyone's world forever.

Giselle wakes up in the hospital, injured and unable to speak or move. Trapped in the prison of her own body, Giselle must revisit her past in order to understand how the people closest to her -- her friends, her parents, and above all, Isabelle, her twin -- have shaped and defined her. Will she allow her love for her family and friends to lead her to recovery? Or will she remain lost in a spiral of longing and regret?

Untwine is a spellbinding tale, lyrical and filled with love, mystery, humor, and heartbreak. Award-winning author Edwidge Danticat brings her extraordinary talent to this graceful and unflinching examination of the bonds of friendship, romance, family, the horrors of loss, and the strength we must discover in ourselves when all seems hopeless.


Angela Davis


What is the meaning of freedom? Angela Y. Davis' life and work have been dedicated to examining this fundamental question and to ending all forms of oppression that deny people their political, cultural, and sexual freedom. In this collection of twelve searing, previously unpublished speeches, Davis confronts the interconnected issues of power, race, gender, class, incarceration, conservatism, and the ongoing need for social change in the United States. With her characteristic brilliance, historical insight, and penetrating analysis, Davis addresses examples of institutional injustice and explores the radical notion of freedom as a collective striving for real democracy—not a thing granted by the state, law, proclamation, or policy, but a participatory social process, rooted in difficult dialogues, that demands new ways of thinking and being. "It is not too much," writes Robin D.G. Kelly in the introduction, "to call her one of the world's leading philosophers of freedom." The Meaning of Freedom articulates a bold vision of the society we need to build and the path to get there. This is her only book of speeches and her first full-length book since Are Prisons Obsolete? (2003).

Lorraine Hansberry
This is the story of a young woman born in Chicago who came to New York, won fame with her play, A Raisin in the Sun--and went on to new heights of artistry before her tragic death. In turns angry, loving, bitter, laughing, and defiantly proud, the story, voice, and message are all Lorraine Hansberry's own, coming together in one of the major works of the black experience in mid-century America.











bell hooks

Acclaimed visionary and intellectual bell hooks began her exploration of the meaning of love in American culture with the bestselling All About Love: New Visions. Here she continues her love song to the nation in the groundbreaking and soul-stirring Salvation: Black People and Love.

Whether talking about the legacy of slavery, relationships and marriage in Black life, the prose and poetry of our most revered artists and leaders, the liberation movements of the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, or hip-hop and gangsta rap culture, hooks lets us know what love's got to do with it.

Salvation is work that helps us heal -- and shows us how to create beloved American communities.




Zora Neale Hurston

Dust Tracks on a Road is the bold, poignant, and funny autobiography of novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, one of American literature’s most compelling and influential authors. Hurston’s powerful novels of the South—including Jonah’s Gourd Vine and, most famously, Their Eyes Were Watching God—continue to enthrall readers with their lyrical grace, sharp detail, and captivating emotionality. First published in 1942, Dust Tracks on a Road is Hurston’s personal story, told in her own words. The Perennial Modern Classics Deluxe edition includes an all-new forward by Maya Angelou, an extended biography by Valerie Boyd, and a special P.S. section featuring the contemporary reviews that greeted the book’s original publication.






Audre Lorde

Moving between journal entry, memoir, and exposition, Audre Lorde fuses the personal and political as she reflects on her experience coping with breast cancer and a radical mastectomy. Includes photos and tributes to Lorde written after her death in 1992.








Toni Morrison
In life, Bill Cosey enjoyed the affections of many women, who would do almost anything to gain his favor. In death his hold on them may be even stronger. Wife, daughter, granddaughter, employee, mistress: As Morrison’s protagonists stake their furious claim on Cosey’s memory and estate, using everything from intrigue to outright violence, she creates a work that is shrewd, funny, erotic, and heartwrenching.




Gloria Naylor

On the island of Willow Springs, off the Georgia coast, the powers of healer Mama Day are tested by her great niece, Cocoa, a stubbornly emancipated woman endangered by the island's darker forces. A powerful generational saga at once tender and suspenseful, overflowing with magic and common sense.








Ntozake Shange

Ntozake Shange's beloved Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo is the story of three sisters and their mother from Charleston, South Carolina. Sassafrass, the oldest, is a poet and a weaver like her mother before her. Having gone north to college, she is now living with other artists in Los Angeles and trying to weave a life out of her work, her man, her memories and dreams. Cypress, the dancer, leaves home to find new ways of moving in the world. Indigo, the youngest, is still a child of Charleston-"too much of the south in her"-who lives in poetry and has the supreme gift of seeing the obvious magic of the world. Shange's rich and wondrous story of womanhood, art, and passionately-lived lives is written "with such exquisite care and beauty that anybody can relate to her message" (The New York Times).





Alice Walker
Meridian Hill is a young woman at an Atlanta college attempting to find her place in the revolution for racial and social equality. She discovers the limits beyond which she will not go for the cause, but despite her decision not to follow the path of some of her peers, she makes significant sacrifices in order to further her beliefs. Working in a campaign to register African American voters, Meridian cares broadly and deeply for the people she visits, and, while her coworkers quit and move to comfortable homes, she continues to work in the deep South despite a paralyzing illness. Meridian's nonviolent methods, though seemingly less radical than the methods of others, prove to be an effective means of furthering her beliefs.

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