Fiction can often speak more truthfully into our culture than non-fiction. Characters are woven in seamlessly to share insight into the world we live in, as well as their own. Black writers can use their fiction work to share their world perspective which, at a time like this, has never been more important to understand.
At the moment, a huge number of works by black authors and anti-racist books have sold out as people are trying to educate themselves better.
While many of these are non-fiction and memoir, others are fiction books, which tell stories to show people something true about our world.
Speaking to TIME magazine, UK publisher Sharmaine Lovegrove said: “Each life is unique and entirely different, and fiction is the best way to take all of that learning from those toolbooks and bring it into practice with understanding the nuance of blackness.
“It’s better to read than to slide into your one black friend’s DMs and ask them how they’re feeling, because we were feeling like this last week. It’s really triggering and really upsetting.”
Here is our pick of the top five books to get your hands on to help us educate ourselves on the issues many black people are facing today.
The Water Dancer (2019), Ta-Nehisi Coates
James Fugate, the owner of Eso Won, an independent black-owned bookseller in the USA, has suggested this book as an important one for our time.
Mr Fugate told TIME magazine: “It has a lot of magical realism to it, and I just loved that.”
American author and journalist Coates’ debut novel is set in a surrealist version of the 19th-century Deep South, where the lead character has superpowers.
Rainbow Milk (2020) – Paul Mendez
Another debut, Rainbow Milk follows a teenage black man in Britain, Jesse, as he attempts to come to terms with his sexual and racial identities, with him leaving his religious background to become a sex worker in London.
Ms Lovegrove recommended this novel in TIME, saying: “It takes really big concepts — a black, gay Jehovah’s Witness boy leaves his family and becomes a sex worker in London — and it’s written with such humility and such beauty that it’s really engaging for the reader.”
Mendez, who is studying for an MA in Black British Writing at present, drew on his own life experiences for the novel, which was lauded on its publication and was in The Observer’s Top 20 list for debut authors.
Well-Read Black Girl (2018) – edited by Glory Edim
Founder of the online community, Well-Read Black Girl, Glory Edim brings together essays from black female writers in this anthology series.
The essays are a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, and feature novelists such as Toni Morrison and Zora Neale Hurston.
The Waterstones synopsis reads: “Whether it’s learning about the complexities of femalehood from Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison, finding a new type of love in The Color Purple, or using mythology to craft an alternative black future, each essay reminds us why we turn to books in times of both struggle and relaxation.”