These Contemporary Black Authors Are Loved by Kerry Washington, Barack Obama and More

From Billy Porter's captivating memoir and poems that capture a  "Black woman's heart" to the tale of an interracial rock duo in the '70s, here are books by contemporary Black authors that celebrities and bestselling authors can't stop talking about

Billy Porter and Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty; HONORÉE FANONNE JEFFERS/Instagram
01 of 22

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers


Oprah Winfrey selected this novel that explores Du Bois' concept of "Double Consciousness" and the experience of the Black American family for her book club last August. "I was so enraptured by the story of this modern Black family, and how author Honorée Fanonne Jeffers wove the larger fabric of historical trauma through the family's silence through generations," said Winfrey. "It's a combination of historical and modern and it consumed me. I look forward to discussing with our community of readers and speaking with Honorée herself to discuss the themes that run throughout this special novel."

Buy It: Amazon,

02 of 22

Unprotected by Billy Porter

billy porter unprotected
Abrahms Books

Lin-Manuel Miranda was a fan of the Emmy Award winner's revealing autobiography about growing up Black and gay in the U.S. even before its October 2021 release. "There is only one Billy Porter. He is blazing a trail where none existed," wrote the composer and actor. "Whether you noticed the brilliant blaze early (for me, it was his brilliant 2005 live album, At the Corner of Broadway and Soul) or his transcendent portrayal of Lola in Kinky Boots or the unforgettable Pray Tell on Pose, once you see the light, there's no going back. And it turns out his voice rings just as true on the page as it does on the stage. How lucky we are to witness it in our time."

Buy It: Amazon,

03 of 22

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
Atria Books

Gabrielle Union told the New York Times that The Other Black Girl is one of the two books on her nightstand, according to her September 2021 "By the Book" feature.

Rashida Jones is also a champion of the novel. She and Harris are co-writing a Hulu television series based on the book, according to the paper. If that weren't enough accolades, The Other Black Girl was also selected for PEOPLE's Best Books of Summer 2021.

"Funny and subversive, this debut about the trials of a Black assistant at a mostly white publishing house uses suspense, horror and satire to bring home the toll of workplace racism," wrote Ellen Shapiro in her PEOPLE review.

Buy It: Amazon,

04 of 22

South to America by Imani Perry

South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation
HarperCollins Publishers

"Any attempt to classify this ambitious work, which straddles genre, kicks down the fourth wall, dances with poetry, engages with literary criticism and flits from journalism to memoir to academic writing — well, that's a fool's errand and only undermines this insightful, ambitious and moving project," wrote An American Marriage author Tayari Jones in her January review for The New York Times.

"An essential meditation on the South, its relationship to American culture — even Americanness itself..." she continued. "This work — and I use the term for both Perry's labor and its fruit — is determined to provoke a return to the other legacy of the South, the ever-urgent struggle toward freedom."

Buy It: Amazon,

05 of 22

Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James

Moon Witch, Spider King
Riverhead Books

The second and latest book in James' fantasy Dark Star trilogy is already receiving a lot of love. And Michael B. Jordan is a huge fan! The film rights to the first book, Black Leopard, Red Wolf, were bought up by Jordan's Outlier Society and Warner Bros. in 2019, according to Variety.

"A fantasy world as well-realized as anything Tolkien made," bestselling author Neil Gaiman wrote in praise of Moon Witch, Spider King.

Buy It: Amazon,

06 of 22

Black Joy by Tracey Michae'l Lewis-Giggetts

BLACK JOY: Stories of Resistance, Resilience, and Restoration
Courtesy of Gallery Books

Actress Kerry Washington, Me Too movement founder Tarana Burke and more have been raving about this collection of inspirational essays, which published in early February. "Tracey uses her own journey to help readers navigate the tumultuous terrain that is at the heart of holding on to our joy, especially for Black folks," wrote Burke, author of Unbound. "So many will find themselves in Tracey's deeply self-aware, generous and lyrical writing, but more importantly, so many will see that everything we have been through and everything we have are the recipe for claiming and keeping joy."

Washington also shared praise for the book: "A necessary testimony on the magic and beauty of our capacity to live and love fully and out loud."

Buy It: Amazon,

07 of 22

Because of You, John Lewis by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Because of you, John Lewis
Scholastic Inc.

Andrea Davis Pinkney's upcoming picture book was inspired by the late Congressman John Lewis and 10-year-old activist Tybre Faw's real-life friendship. Holly Robinson Peete, a NAACP Image Award-winning actress, described it as "a beacon for everyone who cares deeply about social justice and empowering kids to stand up for a new future. With paintings by Keith Henry Brown, this book's radiance shines."

Buy It: Amazon,

08 of 22

Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman

Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman
Viking Books

Amanda Gorman moved the country deeply when she performed her poem "The Hill We Climb" at President Joe Biden's presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021. It is featured in her collection of poetry that published in December, to great acclaim.

Former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama applauded the young poet after her televised performance.

"On a day for the history books, @TheAmandaGorman delivered a poem that more than met the moment," wrote the former president on Twitter on Inauguration Day. "Young people like her are proof that 'there is always light, if only we're brave enough to see it; if only we're brave enough to be it.'"

Wrote Mrs. Obama on Instagram the same day: "With her strong and poignant words, @amandascgorman reminds us of the power we each hold in upholding our democracy. Keep shining, Amanda! I can't wait to see what you do next. 💕 #BlackGirlMagic."

Buy It: Amazon,

09 of 22

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Riverhead Books

Issa Rae is set to be an executive producer on the HBO series adaptation of Bennett's bestselling hit, according to Deadline. The novel, which follows twin sisters from the rural south, has gotten love from other big names like Phoebe Robinson, Emma Roberts, Stacey Abrams and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

"I really, really loved The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. I don't usually read novels," Rae told Allure in September 2020. "This was the first time I was able to dive into a novel. I remember feeling so sad when I finished it. Those experiences were gone! For me to get so wrapped up [in the characters,] I was like, 'Aw, man, I wonder what they're up to?' It was really sad. That was such a beautifully written book."

Buy It: Amazon,

10 of 22

Black American Refugee by Tiffanie Drayton

Black American Refugee by Tiffanie Drayton

Zibby Owens, Good Morning America contributor and host of "Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books" podcast, shared her appreciation for Drayton's memoir, which is an expansion of her New York Times article.

"Tiffanie and her mother, a nurse, narrowly escaped COVID-19 and rampant racism in the U.S. (New Jersey, specifically) by moving back to Trinidad," wrote Owens in a review for her Good Morning America book club selections for February. "Introspective, insightful, and oh-so-well-written, Tiffanie's moving memoir shines a light on a troubled time and leaves us with hope."

Buy It: Amazon,

11 of 22

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Such a Fun Age Kiley Reid
G.P. Putnam's Sons

Comedian Ali Wong chose Reid's captivating debut about race, class and the pitfalls of good intentions for her summer 2021 book picks for Goodreads. Reese Witherspoon also chose the novel for her book club.

"I don't want to give away a single thing about this book. But I will tell you that I laughed during so many parts of this incredible novel," wrote Wong. "It was an absolute JOY to read, and I found myself missing a lot of the characters and dialogue when it was all over."

Buy It: Amazon,

12 of 22

Yonder by Jabari Asim

Yonder by Jabari Asim
Simon & Schuster

"I'm a sucker for stories that place love between Black people at the center of settings where, traditionally, Black love was thought impossible or unimaginable," wrote 2021 National Book Award finalist Robert Jones Jr. in his review of Yonder for Entertainment Weekly's most-anticipated books of 2022 list.

"I'm particularly drawn to books that re-examine that dreadful period in American history that we think we already know everything about — antebellum slavery — to reveal the layers, testimonies, and nuances that had previously been ignored," he continued. "And to have this all drawn magnificently by the brilliant Jabari Asim makes this an absolute must-read for me."

Buy It: Amazon,

13 of 22

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams

Seven Days in June
Grand Central Publishing

Williams' hit romance novel was praised by Reese Witherspoon — and selected for her eponymous book club.

"[A] sexy, modern love story to start the summer off right…" wrote the actress. "Expect lots of steamy scenes in this New York love story! The author, Tia Williams, writes with great humor and complexity about a myriad of topics, including the trappings of success, single parenting a teenage daughter, living with chronic indescribable pain, how to deal with a history of mental illness and addiction."

Buy It: Amazon,

14 of 22

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

The Gilded Ones
Delacorte Press

NBA star Stephen Curry gave this YA "West African–inspired, feminist fantasy series" love when he selected it for his book club with Literati.

"We tend to focus on individual strength, but true heroism relies on the strength of many," Curry wrote. "As a father of daughters, I'm excited to see young women portrayed not only as fierce leaders, but loyal teammates."

"In The Gilded Ones, we'll encounter an oppressive patriarchy. One that preordains women like Deka for a brutal death," he continued. "To survive, Deka must join her fellow rejects — a sisterhood of warriors — to face their enemy. We'll tackle issues of gender, race and redemption, all while immersed in Namina Forna's beautiful West-African inspired world. And did I mention? There's a twist. The Gilded Ones will put a fire in you. I can't wait to see where it takes us."

Buy It: Amazon,

15 of 22

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson

BLACK CAKE by Charmaine Wilkerson
Ballantine Books

This captivating novel about a mother's complicated legacy will be adapted into a drama series by Hulu, from Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Films, Marissa Jo Cerar, and Kapital Entertainment, according to Deadline.

"When their Caribbean-born mom dies, estranged siblings learn she's left a piece of her famous cake for them to share," wrote author Marion Winik in her PEOPLE review. "But first they must confront secrets going back to a 1965 wedding where the groom died and the bride disappeared into the sea. A delicious debut."

Buy It: Amazon,

16 of 22

Yinka, Where Is Your Husband? by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn

Yinka, Where is Your Husband?

Activist Malala Yousafzai also has her own Literati Book Club. Yinka, Where Is Your Husband? was her February 2022 selection.

"To too many women, these questions are familiar: Why are you still single? When will you get married?" wrote Yousafzai.

"Those questions seem to be a tradition in families from many cultures and countries around the world," she continued. "Unattached women, regardless of how independently successful they are, are often at risk of being badgered — sometimes lovingly, always invasively — by relatives regarding their love life. It's no different for our protagonist in this month's warm and funny novel.

The activist concluded: "Despite being Oxford-educated, with a great career and social life, Londoner Yinka is constantly asked by her Nigerian mother and aunties where her husband is. She wants to find love — but on her own terms. I hope Yinka will feel like a friend as you read this and that you'll enjoy every moment of the book, as I did."

Buy It: Amazon,

17 of 22

The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb

The Violin Conspiracy

Misty Copeland isn't just a principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre. She's also an author, avid reader and fan of Slocumb's debut.

"When a gifted Black musician's priceless violin is stolen, the search is on for the culprits — and slavery-era secrets come to light," reads the PEOPLE review of the book.

"The Violin Conspiracy reminds all of us that dreams are worth pursuing, no matter the obstacles in front of us," explained Copeland. "The struggle to follow your heart is always the same — and this novel inspires us to take the chance, make the leap, and dare to be better. This was a wonderful read."

Buy It: Amazon,

18 of 22

Nobody's Magic by Destiny O. Birdsong

Nobody's Magic by Destiny O. Birdsong
Grand Central Publishing

Birdsong, who has written for publications like The Paris Review Daily and African American Review, has crafted "a glittering triptych novel told in three parts about three Black women with albinism in Shreveport, Louisiana," according to the book description.

"With Nobody's Magic, Destiny Birdsong has given us a devastatingly beautiful, sexy, searing gift," wrote Deesha Philyaw, National Book Award finalist for The Secret Lives of Church Ladies. "These are stunning, irresistible stories of Southern Black womanhood that I will return to again and again."

Dantiel W. Moniz, author of Milk Blood Heat, also praised the book: "As with her poetry, the stories in Nobody's Magic are striking and original, full of down-home hilarity, Black love, truth, grief, and the sometimes-uncertain roads one travels to accept the self. Birdsong's is a powerful voice I'd follow anywhere."

Buy It: Amazon,

19 of 22

Carolina Built by Kianna Alexander

Carolina Built
Gallery Books

"Josephine's moving struggle to build family and fortune will strike a chord in a story that is both timely and timeless — Carolina Built is an exuberant celebration of Black women's joy as well as their achievements!" wrote Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Rose Code.

Buy It: Amazon,

20 of 22

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
Simon & Schuster

"Art always sustains and nourishes the soul. But for me, music and storytelling felt especially urgent during this pandemic year," wrote former President Barack Obama on Twitter as an introduction to his "favorite books of 2021." Walton's much-loved novel about the extreme highs and devastating lows of an interracial rock duo in the 1970s was No. 3 on the list.

Stacey Abrams is also a fan. "Shared with me by a young friend in publishing, the fictionalized 'true story' of a defunct rock band as told to a rising reporter sounds riveting," wrote the former Georgia state representative and author in a review for Politico. "Walton's story tackles complicated issues of race and success using music as its crucible — and the fractious 1970s as a galvanizing point."

Buy It: Amazon,

21 of 22

Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans

Black Girl, Call Home

"You are carrying in your hands a Black woman's heart," wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jericho Brown of this much-talked-about collection of poetry, which explores "the intersection of race, feminism, and queer identity."

Explained bestselling author Morgan Jerkins, "This book is a haven for all the Black daughters out there, hoping to make sense of the power and powerlessness in their bodies, the connection to others' bodies, and the moments of everyday life that comprise so much of our identities."

Buy It: Amazon,

22 of 22

Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow

Memphis by Tara Stringfellow
The Dial Press

Set to publish in early April, Stringfellow's debut about three generations of a Southern Black family is already getting high praise.

"In luminous, lyrical prose, Tara Stringfellow sings the song of the North women — and the North men — with wisdom, humor, and deep humanity. Memphis is an American epic, a tribute to life in all of its sorrow and joyful resilience," wrote Chloe Benjamin, bestselling author of The Immortalists.

Praised Red at the Bone author Jacqueline Woodson, "Written with the grace of a poet, Memphis is as hopeful as it is heartbreaking. I fell in love with this family, from Joan's fierce heart to her grandmother Hazel's determined resilience. Tara Stringfellow will be an author to watch for years to come. A stellar debut."

Buy It: Amazon,

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