The world of publishing has long been an industry which lacks a lot of the diversity in authors that many readers are hungry for. Every year, amongst the tonnes of white, middle-aged men who receive mega-fame and publishing deals there are a few writers of colour who are able to obtain the spotlight on their work. However, a visit to any Waterstones or WHSmith does not reflect a healthy ratio of writers of colour and black women in particular often struggle to receive praise for their work as often as their white, male counterparts.
If you’re looking for something new to read then check out these books by women of colour.
You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down by Alice Walker
Published back in 1982 by The Women’s Press, this collection of incredible short stories challenge perceptions on many issues; from porn’s place in a relationship to nuances of friendship with non-POC allies and the ripping off of black music to kick-start white pop stars careers. Walker’s ability to deliver a message with every different pace and style of story is effortless. Sadly, much of her work outside of ‘The Color Purple’ doesn’t get mentioned much.
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde
Heralded by many as a personal literary and black feminist saviour, Lorde’s anthology spans topics such as ‘Trip to Russia’ stylized in journal form, giving you a glimpse into her comings and goings in a foreign culture. She also speaks delves into critiques that alter your understanding of words and feelings like the use of the term ‘erotic’ to describe a giving of one’s self to the pleasures of your own five senses as opposed to the sexual connotation of the word. My personal favourite is ‘Man Child’, a piece about raising a young black man as a black, lesbian and feminist mother.
Color, Sex and Poetry: Three Women Writers of the Harlem Renaissance by Gloria T. Hull
This book serves as a true education in so many ways. Hull delves into the lives, creativity, innovation and truths of three black women through their poetry, diaries and historical archives. Notably, in the late 1920’s a young writer named Alison Dunbar-Nelson is writing columns in ‘The Eagle’ (Washington DC).
On Black Sister’s Street by Chika Unigwe
This novel is set in both Nigeria and Germany – detailing the intertwining lives of four young African women and how they have all ended up in the red light district, forced to stay or unwilling to leave. Unigwe herself, from West Africa and eventually settling in Brussels, she has blogged prior to the release of this novel her encounters with sex workers she had met and tried to befriend during her research. Unigwe’s contribution with this novel is an important one because it confronts a bitter reality for many hundreds of women trafficked over thousands of miles and it’s a story amongst million that need to be told.