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18 Books Every Black Woman Should Have on Her Book Shelf

 photo shutterstock_71226463.jpgby Lhea J. Love

There is nothing more challenging than being a Black woman: it is a craft; it is an art. Here are the titles every Black woman needs on her bookshelf. This is about more than survival; this is about fulfillment. This is about joy. And remember, never be ashamed.


Iyanla Vanzant wrote a classic. No matter what faith or religion you belong to, this book will uplift, motivate, and inspire. This one is universal. This is the perfect gift for anyone, from a pre-teenager to a grandparent. Each day includes a quote that you won’t want to forget and an affirmation that will help you get your life together.


2. Sistah Vegan edited by A. Breeze Harper

Reading this book is like eavesdropping on a conversation between best friends. Here, Black women explore being Black and health conscious. I know, I know. The world doesn’t think that exists. And yet, in this book, our sisters talk about what it’s like to be in a Black family, on a Black date, or in a Black marriage while vegan. This is motivation for anyone—whether you are vegan or simply trying to become a healthier woman.


3. Surviving Triple-Negative Breast Cancer: Hope, Treatment, Recovery by Patricia Prijatel

Unfortunately, Black women are disproportionately affected by breast cancer. This book provides a lot of research-based information on triple-negative breast cancer, as well as how women can seek treatment. You’ll want this book whether your cancer is triple-negative or not. And if you don’t have cancer, you’ll want to pick Patricia Prijatel’s text up for a woman that does.


4. I Will Survive: The African-American Guide to Healing from Sexual Assault and Abuse by Lori S. Robinson

In 2012, a study reported that 50 percent of Black women were sexually assaulted, raped, or molested by Black men by the time they reached age 18. We must address the fact that sexual violence affects Black girls and women at disproportionately high numbers. Thus, Lori S. Robinson's comprehensive guide to healing from sexual assault and abuse is a necessary resource for any Black woman who has been affected.


5. Best Black Women’s Erotica 2 edited by Samiyah Bashir

Whether you hide this book under your mattress, or display it proudly on your coffee table, Samiyah Bashir’s compilation is an exciting exploration of Black woman’s sexuality. If you are a fan who enjoys the art of well-written erotica, buy the first book as well. I highly recommend the second anthology simply because “Lujon 1” by Kimberly White is my favorite short story of all time.



6. Black Genius: African-American Solutions to African-American Problems edited by Walter Mosley, Manthia Diawara, Clyde Taylor, and Regina Austin

If I could, I would purchase this book for every Black household in America. Perhaps, every Black household in the world. It’s time to talk about the big issues—like education and health—as they pertain to our children and our communities. Featuring essays by cultural and thought leaders like Spike Lee, Angela Davis, bell hooks, and Haki Madhubuti, the book features insights on how we can improve the Black community. It’s time to listen, it’s time to change.


7. Black Enterprise Guide to Starting Your Own Business by Wendy Beech

Honestly, this is one of the most thorough books on how to start a business written by anyone, Black or white or Asian or anything. Do you do hair? Buy this book. Produce hip hop music? Buy this book. Dream of creating a Black owned Fortune 500 company? Buy this book. Even if you aren’t sure what business you want to start, buy this book just in case.


8. The Prisoner’s Wife by asha bandele

This is probably one of the greatest memoirs written by a Black woman in the 21st century. The story is moving and the writing is masterful. Only a poet could pen such a beautiful work. Could you fall in love with an imprisoned man? You’d be surprised. Regardless, I know you’ll fall in love with asha bandele. Trust me.


9. A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown

This is also, most probably, the greatest Black woman's memoir of this millennium. Black women be surviving, don’t we? We survive the loss of our parents, we survive poverty, we survive rape, we survive lies, we survive low self-esteem. We survive doubt. And we graduate, and we succeed. And when you meet us, you wouldn’t know we’ve suffered a day in our life. Read Cupcake Brown’s memoir and be inspired. You, too, can make it.


10. http://www.amazon.com/Assata-Autobiography-Shakur/dp/1556520743/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458243154&sr=1-1&keywords=assata+an+autobiography" target="_blank">Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur

Let me be clear: The Strong Black Woman is more than just a myth or a stereotype. We Black women actually are strong. We come from a long lineage of survivors. If you ever doubt yourself, just read the first few pages of Assata's biography. You'll be reminded really quickly. And because people like Assata fought with their lives, you just might find that your troubles don't seem so huge.


11. Longing to Tell: Black Women Talk About Sexuality and Intimacy by Tricia Rose

After I read this book, I just started buying copies. I bought this book for my sorority sisters. I bought this book for my blood sister. I bought this book for my best friends. Tricia Rose compiled an important work on the origins of Black women’s sexuality. This book holds the secrets of how several Black women came to know their sexual selves. This is a beautifully balanced work. Yes, some of us discovered our bodies through violation, through rape. But luckily, some of us discovered sex through love. In this book you will find yourself. You will find your mother and your sister, your cousin and your daughter. This is a book worth reading and sharing.


12. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

I had the fortune of having teachers who assigned Sula in the 11th grade and The Bluest Eye in the 12th. Then again, I’m from Detroit and our public schools are over 90% Black. Regardless of your teachers, assign this book to yourself. Read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, read Sula, read Song of Solomon. Fall in love with Toni; fall in love with yourself.


13. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the best friend we all wish we had. She balances beauty and fashion with intellect and humor. She makes us believe that a Black woman can have it all. Half of a Yellow Sun will bring the experience of growing up West Africa closer to you, while also revealing all the things about being Black and oppressed that are universal. Adichie is one of the greatest writers alive. Ask anyone.


14. The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat

When Edwidge Danticat created Sebastian Onius, she created the man we all want to fall in love with. You’ll love The Farming of Bones because it’s a beautiful story and because it’s the most beautiful writing you’ll find in the English language. Trust me, after you read this, you’ll buy and read everything Danticat has ever written.



15. Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith earned a Pulitzer Prize when she dared to teach America what great writing is through this book. She is the perfect balance of literary literariness with relatable readability. You don’t need a Ph.D in English to understand her pages, but even if you have a doctorate you’ll appreciate every word she wrote.


16. Teahouse of the Almighty by Patricia Smith

Patricia Smith is one of the greatest poets alive, as there are very few who can balance performance and publication. Most that master the stage fail horribly on the page. Smith is a genius of both. She’s a woman you’ll want to hear in your lifetime and a woman whose work lasts on the page. Teahouse of the Almighty is a compilation of poems worth reading and then re-reading.




17. The Words Don’t Fit in My Mouth by jessica Care moore


jessica Care moore is a writer-thinker-activist-mother who teaches us how to be great. Her first book represents the greatest of the spoken word generation. These are the poems you can find yourself in. jessica Care moore loves Black people and her love emanates brightly from each page. You’ll want to listen to her CD as well as experiencing her live. Black WOMEN Rock!



18. The 100 Best African American Poems edited by Nikki Giovanni


As Black women, we live poetry. There’s a rhythm in our walk, there’s a cadence in our talk. Our lives will bring you to tears of sadness and of pride. Nikki Giovanni compiled an anthology of the 100 greatest African American poems. And I agree with every last one of them. Even if you aren’t a poet, even if you don’t spend your weekends at poetry slams, you’ll like this collection. Trust me.



Photo: Shutterstock

Lhea J. Love is a writer and guest contributor to For Harriet.

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