Excellence in Black Fiction

By Skokie Staff Adult Services

Some of the best fiction by Black authors published in 2020 and early 2021.

  • Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard

    2020 by Brown, Echo

    Book Riot says this semi-autobiographical book "is a story of Black girl magic, trauma and healing, learning to save oneself, connection and forgiveness, and given and chosen family." Recommended by Mary.

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  • Memorial

    2020 by Washington, Bryan

    Vogue calls this "A fresh, vibrant love story that interweaves race, queerness, nationality, family, and intimacy with narrative ease." Recommended by Chris.

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  • Black Buck

    2021 by Askaripour, Mateo

    “Askaripour closes the deal on the first page of this mesmerizing novel, executing a high wire act full of verve and dark, comic energy.” (Colson Whitehead) Recommended by Allyson.

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  • The Awkward Black Man: Stories

    2020 by Mosley, Walter

    Says Booklist, "Master storyteller Mosley has created a beautiful collection about Black men who are, indeed, awkward in their poignant humanity… Mosley’s is an essential American voice and his portraits of Black men will have profound resonance.” Recommended by Lukie.

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  • These Ghosts Are Family

    2020 by Card, Maisy

    Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy, says, "I suspect many readers will talk about the consequences of unspoken generational trauma in These Ghosts Are Family, but I'm most amazed by the deft use of characterization, place, and embodiment here. This book is a master class in writing home as a collection of odd spirits and a mobile metaphor." Recommended by Mary.

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  • This Is My America

    2020 by Johnson, Kim

    Nic Stone, author of staff favorite Dear Martin, calls this "An incredible and searing examination of the often-tragic collision of racism and a flawed criminal justice system. Read and reread . . . and reread again." Recommended by Allyson.

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  • Luster

    2020 by Leilani, Raven

    Winner of the Kirkus Prize and the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, “Leilani’s novel showcases a new portrayal of Black women millennials . . . To be Black is to be boundless in our multitudes. Edie isn’t a role model and in her, I see past versions of myself, and the evolution of current heartaches.” (Bitch Magazine) Recommended by Allyson.

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  • Every Body Looking

    2020 by Iloh, Candice

    Jacqueline Woodson calls this National Book Award Finalist a "beautifully crafted narrative about family, belonging, sexuality, and telling our deepest truths in order to be whole [that makes for a novel that] is at once immensely readable and ultimately healing." Recommended by Allyson.

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  • The Kindest Lie

    2021 by Johnson, Nancy

    "A heart-wrenching portrayal of an unlikely bond, and a profound nod to the fallacy of post-racial America—The Kindest Lie is nuanced, spellbinding, and necessary." (Margaret Wilkerson Sexton) Recommended by Allyson.

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  • The Prophets

    2021 by Jones, Robert

    This book is getting a whole lot of buzz and critical acclaim. Kirkus calls it "An ambitious, imaginative, and important tale of Black queerness through history." Recommended by Allyson.

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  • Transcendent Kingdom

    2020 by Gyasi, Yaa

    This book is quite different from Gyasi's debut novel Homegoing, but is just as remarkable. Publishers Weekly calls it "Meticulous, psychologically complex...At once a vivid evocation of the immigrant experience and a sharp delineation of an individual's inner struggle, the novel brilliantly succeeds on both counts." Recommended by Allyson.

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  • The Death of Vivek Oji

    2020 by Emezi, Akwaeke

    This character-driven story about family and friendships and identities hidden and discovered is so beautifully written. The word "lush" comes to mind--in the intimacy, the relationships, and the mystery. This is a dramatic, complex, sexy, and heart-wrenching read. Recommended by Tiffany.

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  • The Vanishing Half

    2020 by Bennett, Brit

    I love how this book tackles the idea of generational trauma and how secrets and lies can affect other generations. Brit Bennett’s writing style is beautiful, and, at times, really emotional. She’s descriptive and knew exactly how to keep me engaged throughout the story. Recommended by Maridsa.

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  • Real Life

    2020 by Taylor, Brandon

    Roxane Gay raves, "There is writing so exceptional, so intricately crafted that it demands reverence. The intimate prose of Brandon Taylor’s exquisite debut novel, Real Life, offers exactly that kind of writing. . . . Truly, this is stunning work from a writer who wields his craft in absolutely unforgettable ways.” Recommended by Allyson.

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  • The Office of Historical Corrections: A Novella and Stories

    2020 by Evans, Danielle

    I would suggest reading the novella, by the same name as the collection, first and then a short story called "Alcatraz." Still, all stories blew me away and comfortably wedged themselves in my memory. Recommended by Megan.

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  • Leave the World Behind

    2020 by Alam, Rumaan

    An absolutely flawless domestic and (possibly) dystopian story that made me cringe in embarrassment, gasp in horror, but also laugh at and embrace human fragilities. If you read for language and a sense of place and don't mind a slowly-revealing plot mixed in with issues of race, class, and gender identity, this might be a book for you. It's about who we would be and not necessarily what we would do when faced with (possibly) dystopian times. Recommended by Megan.

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  • Little Family

    2020 by Beah, Ishmael

    “Beah portrays his characters with exquisite tenderness, imbuing them with a grace that belies their wretched situation. . . . In a work less harrowing but no less effective than Radiance of Tomorrow, Beah continues to speak eloquently to the impact of colonialism on generations of African children for whom freedom is merely an illusion.” (Library Journal) Recommended by Allyson.

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