February is Black History Month, and if you're looking to celebrate safely from home, there's no better way than by picking up one of the many books written by Black authors. In particular, female literary heavyweights who have penned brilliant works of fiction and non-fiction. But if you're having trouble figuring out where to start, SI Swimsuit has rounded up five of the must-reads with topics ranging from colonialism to a hilarious collection of essays.
We Are Never Meeting in Real Life: Essays by Samantha Irby
After the past year, we could all use a good laugh, and Samantha Irby--a writer on Hulu's Shrill-- is up to the task. Her second book is a collection of essays detailing side-stitching stories like a sentimental trip to spread her father's ashes gone awry to why she should be the next Bachelorette. It's a brilliant mix of making light of her difficult childhood while honoring the raw emotion.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
For sci-fi fans, it doesn't get any better than N.K. Jemisin's The Broken Earth series about the end of the world that highlights oppression and revolution. The Fifth Season is the first book in the trilogy that won the coveted Hugo Award for Best Novel. The following two books also received the honor, so you can pick those up once you've finished the first.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
There are authors and then there are legends. Toni Morrison is undoubtedly one of the latter, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of a whopping 11 novels. And if you haven't read any of her works yet (or even if you have), her first book The Bluest Eye is life-changing. It tells the story of a young black girl named Pecola Breedlove who desires to be more white, covering uncomfortable topics like racism, child molestation and incest. It's so intense it was banned in some school districts.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Former First Lady Michelle Obama knows how to command an audience with her powerful words. She does the same in her memoir Becoming. In it, she details her childhood growing up on the South Side of Chicago, her time in the White House, her marriage to Barack Obama, and even pressing societal issues like sexism and racism. The insightful read is so good it was the highest-selling book published in the U.S. in 2018. Incredibly, it set the record just 15 days after it was published.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Although this book was written more than a decade ago, the state of mass incarceration remains very much the same. Michelle Alexander, a civil rights litigator, explores this important topic in her book that reveals how Black men, other ethnic minorities and socio-economically disadvantaged people end up in jail more than any other group. Not surprisingly, her work has won several awards. It should be a mandatory read.