Excellence in Black Fiction

By Skokie Staff Advisory Services

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

  • 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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  • 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 [which 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

    Johnson tackles racism and class in the rural and urban landscapes of the Midwest. Right after the historic election of President Obama in 2008, Ruth Tuttle, an Ivy League-educated engineer living in Chicago, returns to her poverty-stricken hometown to discover the truth about her adopted son. However, Ruth unearths family secrets that cause her to question her identity and the painful cost of upward mobility. Recommended by Michelle.

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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 very 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 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. At times I thought it was 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 the stories blew me away and comfortably wedged themselves in my memory. Amazing! Recommended by Megan.

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  • Home Is Not a Country

    2021 by Elhillo, Safia

    Nima's introspection and the constant feeling of not being "enough" are beautifully and heartbreaking captured in verse. Elhillo's skillful lyricism and carefully chosen words are artfully profound. This is a book to be savored. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • The Personal Librarian

    2021 by Benedict, Marie

    In The Personal Librarian, coauthored by a white and a Black novelist, Benedict and Murray respectively showcase the brilliance of Belle da Costa Greene, who was J.P. Morgan's personal librarian in the early 20th century. In a field dominated by white males, Belle not only struggles with the hardship of being a woman but she also carries the secret of her true African-American heritage. Recommended by Michelle.

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  • The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois: A Novel

    2021 by Jeffers, Honorée Fanonne

    Jacqueline Woodson, author of Red at the Bone and Another Brooklyn, calls this novel a "love song to Black girlhood, family, history, joy, pain . . . and so much more. In Jeffers's deft hands, the story of race and love in America becomes the great American novel.” Recommended by Leslie.

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  • Things We Couldn't Say

    2021 by Coles, Jay

    I appreciated Giovanni's journey through the turbulent times of his life. Coles addresses many issues in his book, including religion and sexuality, trauma and forgiveness, and race and relationships, along with the importance of found family and a loving, supportive community. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • The Other Black Girl: A Novel

    2021 by Harris, Zakiya Dalila

    Vulture calls this debut novel “the perfect mix of social commentary and fast-paced thriller. Poignant, daring, and darkly funny, The Other Black Girl will have you stressed and exhilarated in equal measure through the very last twist." Recommended by Leslie.

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