In celebration of Black History Month, I put together a list of African American and/or Black women writers that deserve a place on your to-be-read list! These writers range from well-known poets and novelists to civil rights activists and emerging memoirists. When I first started putting together this list, my intention was to include black women writers that explore mental illness or mental health in some way. The fact that it was extremely difficult to find these only proved just how necessary Black History Month really is. So, this list of books simply explores the human condition, although many of these writers do write about mental health struggles.
I’ve heard people say things like, “Why do black people get a month? Why don’t white people get a month?” And the resounding reply is: White people get the whole year. We always have. This list, while short right now, is going to be a dynamic list that I will keep updating with emerging and established writers alike. If you’re a black woman who writes and you’d like to be added to this list, please let me know! You don’t need to have a book out, either.
8 Black Women Writers to Read (And Not Just During Black History Month!):
1. Tracy K. Smith is an American writer and professor of creative writing.
She has several books of poetry and a memoir that is on my to-be-read list! She is on this list of black women writers because I discovered her book of poetry, Life on Mars last Spring. The collection was written in memory of her father who worked on the Hubble telescope. Her poems are meditative and ethereal with references to David Bowie and Kubrick’s 2001.
2. Roxane Gay is an American writer and professor.
Her writing explores themes of feminism, privilege, mental health, and more. She’s published several books under a variety of genres. I discovered her last Spring when I read her heartbreaking memoir Hunger. The memoir discussed her psychological issues with food, body image, and trauma, as well as living in a fatphobic world. She has written books in many different genres, including the comic book series World of Wakanda.This is what most girls are taught—that we should be slender and small. We should not take up space. We should be seen and not heard... -Roxane Gay Click To Tweet
3. Angie Thomas is an emerging novelist whose debut novel was recently made into a movie.
Thomas wrote the bestseller The Hate U Give, a young adult fiction novel about a teenage girl grappling with the loss of her childhood friend to gun violence. The book was made into a movie and premiered in theaters in 2018. Her second novel released this year, as well. Thomas’ writing explores social issues like homelessness, race, and gun violence.
4. Gwendolyn Brooks was an American poet and author who published her first book in 1945.
Brooks had been publishing her poetry since her teenage years, but her first book was a collection of poetry, A Street in Bronzeville. Although her focus was poetry, she did write prose, including a children’s book. Her writing was political, focused on social issues in a unique way that managed to “bridge the gap between the academic poets of her generation in the 1940s and the young Black militant writers of the 1960s.”
5. Angela Davis is an American author, professor, and political activist.
Davis was a political activist in the 1960s. One of her first publications was a pamphlet titled Lectures on Liberation. She’s written everything from essays to speeches to an autobiography. Still today, she’s a busy woman, recently appearing in a documentary called “13th” on racial inequality.
6. Claudia Love Mair is a writer, blogger, and painter.
Mair’s memoir Don’t You Fall Now was published in 2018. It tells the story of her son, who “survived a jump from a six story parking structure.” The memoir brings the reader into her life as a mother with mental health problems caring for a brain-injured son. Mair has published various books under a pseudonym and was nominated for a Christy Award.
7. Brandy Colbert is an American young adult and nonfiction author.
I discovered Colbert by happening upon her book Little & Lion, a young adult novel exploring themes of mental illness and LGBT+. There’s not a lot of books I’ve found that do this, so I was thrilled to discover it. Colbert has several books out, including FInding Yvonne, Feral Youth, and more.
8. Nic Stone is an Atlanta author of young adult and middle-grade fiction.
Stone’s book Dear Martin has been compared often to The Hate U Give. Both books came out within months of each other and contain similar themes, but they are approached differently. Dear Martin approaches racism and gun violence from the perspective of a young man navigating his teens in a prep school and delves deeper where Thomas pulled back. Stone has several books out. Her forthcoming book expected later this year is called Jackpot, a romance exploring privilege and socioeconomic status.
About The Author:
August Blair is the blogger behind Writers With Mental Illness. She is a freelance writer and student. She is passionate about writing and psychology. She studies at The University of North Georgia. You can find her writing online and in print. Connect with her on Instagram and Goodreads.
*All blog posts may contain affiliate links. This means I may get a few dollars at the absolute most (usually cents) if you were to click on the link and buy the product. This helps keep the blog afloat and afford the cost of the book subscription service, website hosting, and the security certificate (so that any information shared on this website is safe!) I only recommend products I enjoy myself, and these black women writers are all fantastic. I hope you enjoy their writing as much as I do!