The publishing industry still has a long way to go when it comes to diversifying the authors they represent, but we are pleased to report there are a plethora of fantastic books by Black women coming out this year for you to look forward to! (Now, let’s also hope the publishers are paying these women what they’re worth.) Not sure where to start building your 2021 TBR pile? Consider these 12 fantastic titles we can’t wait to read, which range from memoir and poetry to historical fiction and thriller. Enjoy!
Nadia Owusu is a Ghanaian-Armenian-American woman who was raised on two continents and now lives in New York City. In her memoir, this daughter of the world thoughtfully and poetically addresses family dynamics, mental illness, cultural fault lines, and the lasting impacts of colonialism.
January 12, 2021
Set in a resort town in Barbados, this debut novel features four main characters in the aftermath of a murder. The title of the book comes from a cautionary tale passed down through generations about the harm that befalls disobedient girls, and the novel explores how class affects the relationships and events in the story.
February 2, 2021
Romance fans, don’t miss this buzzy debut featuring Grace, a successful, high-achieving 28-year-old woman who visits Las Vegas on a girls’ trip… and drunkenly marries a stranger. Despite the out-of-character behavior, Grace moves to New York with her new wife—whose name she doesn’t actually remember at first (oops)—and finds herself genuinely falling in love.
February 23, 2021
You may already know Jasmine Mans as a spoken word poet and performer, but even if you are unfamiliar with her work, you are sure to find poems that speak to you in this beautiful collection. In a note from the author, Mans writes: “May this book champion a narrative of home for the Black Girl. May girls of all races and ethnicities know her story, and love her—love her well enough to call her home.”
March 9, 2021
I’m a sucker for books with strong senses of place, preferably somewhere overseas I’ve only dreamed of going, and this novel featuring an American professor who moves to Madagascar with her Italian husband fits the bill. Author Andrea Lee is known for the evocative settings of her past books, including Italy and Russia, and I’m excited to travel to Madagascar with her new novel.
March 23, 2021
Morgan Jerkins is already well-known amongst readers for her exquisite nonfiction, including “This Will Be My Undoing” and “Wandering in Strange Lands,” so of course we can’t wait to get our hands on her debut novel, “Caul Baby.” According to the author herself, the book “takes on the conflict of Black motherhood and capitalism in gentrifying Harlem. With a little added magic.”
April 6, 2021
The intentional (though slow) move toward increasing diversity in the entertainment industry is appreciated, but including People of Color in certain period pieces always seems to be accompanied by people who whine, “But there were no [insert identity] people in that place at that time!” So yes, the petty part of me is planning to read this book simply so I can say, “Well actually, did you know… ?” when it comes to including Black people more widely in our storytelling. But also, it just sounds genuinely fascinating—it's history that not enough of us know.
May 4, 2021
You know Stacey Abrams for her work as a political strategist, politician, and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, but did you know that she's also a published novelist? Abrams writes romance under the pen name Selena Montgomery, but her next book will be published under her own name this summer. “While Justice Sleeps” is a legal thriller featuring a young law clerk at the Supreme Court.
May 11, 2021
This is perhaps one of *the* most anticipated books of the entire year. It was acquired by Atria for seven figures (!!) in a competitive auction in early 2020, and I’ve been itching to read it ever since. The book has been described as a “psychological thriller with a satirical premise” and was inspired by the author’s own experiences as one of few Black women working in publishing in the U.S.
June 1, 2021
This debut Nigerian novel won the Best International Fiction Book Award in 2019, and it’s finally being published in the U.S. this summer. The book features two women from different backgrounds—one a privileged woman living on her own, and the other a young housemaid—who reflect on their lives while being held captive together. Covering four decades of history, the book is ultimately a story of women navigating a world that doesn’t welcome them.
June 1, 2021
Romance author Vanessa Riley is switching genres this summer with her first historical fiction novel. Set in the Caribbean, this novel fictionalizes the life of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, who was born enslaved on the island of Monserrat in the mid-18th century, purchased her own manumission (and the freedom of several relatives), and became a successful entrepreneur and landowner.
July 6, 2021
Told through the perspectives of three Black women in Sweden and the U.S., the publisher describes this novel by Nigerian-American author Lola Akinmade Åkerström as “a fast-paced, richly nuanced yet accessible contemporary novel that touches on important social issues of racism, classism, fetishization, and tokenism, and what it means to be a Black woman navigating a white-dominated society.”
September 7, 2021
Need even more to read? Forthcoming 2021 books by familiar names include highly anticipated sophomore novels from Imbolo Mbue and Kaitlyn Greenidge; steamy romance stories from Jasmine Guillory, Alyssa Cole, and Talia Hibbert; otherworldly tales from Helen Oyeyemi and Nnedi Okorafor; and buzzy nonfiction titles from Rebecca Carroll, Ashley C. Ford, and Imani Perry. In other big publishing news, Sister Souljah is finally releasing a sequel to her wildly popular 1990s novel Coldest Winter Ever in March; and this fall, you can buy Amanda Gorman’s debut poetry collection, which will include the breathtaking poem she wrote and performed for the 2021 presidential inauguration.
(Psst… preorders are majorly helpful for authors, so if you see a title on this list that interests you, don’t wait to buy it! Also consider purchasing your books from Bookshop.org, which allows you to support a local independent bookstore of your choosing.)
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