While we may feel like summer’s over–Labor Day has passed, after all–autumn doesn’t technically start until September 22nd. So you’ve got (a little) time to add another book to your summer-reading list! Below, check out six amazing titles by some of our favorite black women writers this season. Pick one or speed-read your way through all before the start of fall!
Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo (Knopf; 272 pages): Fresh off the presses, this debut novel by Nigerian author Ayobami Adebayo tells the story of Yejide, a woman happily in love with her husband, Akin–until the strain of infertility leads him to take another wife. Set in the backdrop of the Nigerian (Biafran) Civil War, Stay with Me is a searing examination of love, marriage, motherhood, and the complication each presents. (Also be sure to check out AYO’s review of the book here!)
New People by Danzy Senna (Riverhead; 240 pages): The author of Caucasia and Symptomatic is back, continuing in the theme she explores best: the commingling of black and white life, lived both publicly and in private. In Danzy Senna‘s latest, engaged couple Maria and Khalil seem to have it all: love, shiny degrees, and an upwardly mobile trajectory of success. Both biracial, the two also represent a “new black”–artistic, cool and, favored–in the gentrifying Brooklyn of the 90’s. When Maria meets and begins to obsess over a man, referred to as only “the Poet,” she begin to question everything she thought she knew about the world she’d built with her intended. Acutely observant of the ways in which we build our personal worlds around race and class, New People is likely Senna’s best.
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay (Harper; 320 pages) Feminist favorite Roxane Gay reveals the subject of her longest and most complex relationship–food–in this honest, supremely vulnerable memoir. Part self-reflection, part societal critique, Hunger takes us through Gay’s battle, from its origins in a traumatic childhood assault to her unhealthy relationships and interactions with friends and lovers to weight fluctuations, diets, and torturous doctors’ visits, to later, a semblance of semi-acceptance. Only a writer like Gay is able to expertly weave together issues of body image, intersectionality, rape culture, and societal condemnation, making her one of the more outstanding social commentators of our generation.
What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons (Viking; 224 pages) Zinzi Clemmons‘s novel shines in the masterful What We Lose, a semi-autobiographical account of growing up between worlds–American and South African–and the sometimes painful realities of self-discovery in the midst of loss. After twenty-something Thandi loses her immigrant mother to cancer, she’s forced reckon with the muddled, complicated worldview she finds herself in the midst of, holding the lovers, family, friends and later, her child both close and at arm’s length.
What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah (Riverhead Books; 240 pages) Describing herself as “Nigerian…ish” on her Twitter page, Lesley Nneka Arimah has delivered a more-than-solid collection of short stories in her literary debut. Exploring the sometimes tenuous relationships between husbands and wives, parents and their children, and lovers and friends, each of the twelve stories in Arimah’s collection, all unrelated in plot, nevertheless become one cohesive, seamless body of literature. We love this title because each story can be devoured slowly and relished individually, although you may very well read it from start to finish–twice!
The Mothers by Brit Bennett (Riverhead; 288 pages) All right, so technically we’re cheating with the inclusion of this title–it was published in 2016–but Brit Bennett‘s The Mothers is too good a book not to include. Set in Bay-Area California in the near-past, The Mothers introduces us to Nadia, a 17-year old whose world is turned upside down after her mother’s suicide. After falling in love with the son of her pastor, Nadia is forced through young adulthood and must contend with the hard choices she must make and the secrets she’s left to hide. Narrated by the church’s all-knowing female church elders known as “The Mothers,” this story is simultaneously whimsical and true-to-life, making Brit Bennett one of AYO’s favorite black women debut authors (and as you can see, we love a lot of them!).