Juneteenth commemorates the day that the last enslaved people in the United States finally heard the news of their freedom when, on June 19, 1865, Union army general Gordan Granger announced the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas. Today, it serves as a celebration of Black identity and achievement, and in honour of the holiday, we’ve collected a list of new books by Black authors. We think these books deserve to be read all year round, and there’s no better time than to do so than Juneteenth, which offers an invitation to read stories that highlight and celebrate a wealth of Black experiences, voices, and perspectives. We’ve included links to purchase these books through Black-owned bookstores, and want to highlight that this is an especially great week to pick up these books as the publishing industry joins together to #BlackOutBestsellerLists. Happy reading!
- Deacon King Kong by James McBride A New York Times bestselling author returns with one of the most riveting novels of recent times. When a cranky old church deacon named Sportcoat shoots a local drug dealer in South Brooklyn in broad daylight, a police investigation ensues and brings to light the complex relationships between the African American, Latinx, and Italian residents who witnessed the event. This “deeply felt, beautifully written, and profoundly humane” tale (The New York Times Book Review) was just announced as Oprah’s latest book club pick.
- Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick by Zora Neale Hurston One of the most important writers of the 20th Century, Zora Neale Hurston penned powerful, witty, and indispensable accounts of the Black experience in America. In a compilation The Washington Post calls a “significant testament to the enduring resonance of Black women’s writing” — featuring several recently rediscovered stories — Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick offers fresh insight into Hurston’s rise to prominence during the Harlem Renaissance.
- It’s About Damn Time by Arlan Hamilton and Rachel L. Nelson An unmissable memoir, It’s About Damn Time shares Arlan’s journey from homelessness to being a successful venture capitalist. As a gay Black woman, Arlan has committed herself to invest in founders that looked different than the white men surrounding her in Silicon Valley, and today her venture capital firm invests in people of colour, women, and LGBTQ+ individuals. Part business book, part how-to, and part memoir, It’s About Damn Time is an inspiring and refreshing read.
- The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin In this speculative fiction novel, five New Yorkers defend their city from an ancient evil and overcome prejudices to create sanctuaries in the different boroughs, bringing together family, love, and trust. This Hugo Award-winning author deftly abstracts racial issues as a way to magnify their truth and significance. Spun together with powerful imagery and evocative language, The City We Became is at once “a reclamation and a call to arms” (The New York Times Book Review).
- Wow, No Thank You. by Samantha Irby This hilarious, manic, and relatable collection of laugh-out-loud essays tracks Irby’s travels from Hollywood to Chicago, featuring Mason jar salads, strange weekends in Los Angeles, and embracing an identity as a “cheese fry–eating, slightly damp Midwest person.” This “stay-up-all-night, miss-your-subway-stop, spit-out-your-beverage funny” book (Jia Tolentino) is a must-read from a hilarious, #1 New York Times bestselling author.
- Tiny Imperfections by Alli Frank and Asha Youmans Josie Bordelon has put her past — as a star model in the 90s — way behind her. She’s now the director of admissions at one of San Francisco’s most prestigious private schools, and she’s busy juggling her job and her efforts at keeping her teenage daughter Etta from going down the same path she did. But just as admissions season revs up, Josie will have even more to do. Drama ensues as Etta starts to pursue her own dream and Josie’s stubborn friends try to drag the single former model back into the dating scene.