Books, and the written word as a whole, can be so healing – especially with everything going on in our world right now. I don’t know about you, but with the Black Lives Matter Movement my mental health has been declining as I mourn for all of the Black lives lost in senseless violence. While my depression has been activated, I have also felt a fire rise within me as I yearn to do something to help increase equality and reduce violence; however, I also know that I cannot possibly understand the fear that the Black community faces on a daily basis, but I can educate myself. And one of the best ways to educate yourself is to read and listen.
As a bibliotherapist, I am prescribing the following 10 novels by Black authors to help you connect with Black culture, and if you are struggling with your mental health during this time, these books may help bring you comfort and companionship. Reading brings us all together, and it is about time that we honor Black authors and the Black community by increasing our awareness and access to Black literature. Whatever you may be going through right now I am sending you love and light with each of my book recommendations, and I hope that they bring you some comfort and a sense of understanding during this time. Please stay safe!
1) The Inspirational Fix
A collection of sixteen tales of fantasy and adventure featuring Black women and gender non-conforming individuals.
Bibliotherapist Notes: I have chosen to include this collection of stories because not only are they filled with stories about the Black experience, but they focus on stories of Black women and gender non-conforming individuals with a touch of magic. This pick is a great way to connect, feel heard, or connect and learn more about the Black experience in a fun and fantastical way. The layout is also great if you don’t have a lot of time to read or have a short attention span, because you can read one story at a time. If you are seeking a book that supports the Black community and provides you with a fun escape, then look no further!
2) The Anger Antidote
A teen split between two worlds witnesses the murder of her friend at the hand of a police officer. Following the death, riots begin to erupt and the teen is forced to take a stand for what she thinks is right, while finding her voice in the process.
Bibliotherapist Notes: The Hate U Give is my favorite pick from this list because of how relevant it is to the times we are currently living in. The novel revolves around a young girl who is caught between two worlds but must find her voice when her childhood friend is murdered by a police officer. If you are harnessing deep anger amidst the Black Lives Matter Movement, this book will help you to channel your anger and connect with a realistic look at the Black experience.
3) The Timely Companion for Difficult Emotions
A timely story about a young man who is torn between two worlds and the victim of racism.
Bibliotherapist Notes: Dear Martin is one of those books that cuts you to the core. If you are struggling with difficult emotions surrounding the killing of George Floyd and countless others, then this book will allow you to safely navigate your emotions while using it to learn more about Black history and how racism is still prevalent in our society. Grab a box of tissues!
4) The True Story Triumph
Heavily autobiographical and infused with magical realism, Black Girl Unlimited fearlessly explores the intersections of poverty, sexual violence, depression, racism, and sexism―all through the arc of a transcendent coming-of-age story for fans of Renee Watson’s Piecing Me Together and Ibi Zoboi’s American Street.
Bibliotherapist Notes: The beauty of this book is that, while it’s autobiographical, it’s also infused with magic and fantasy that completely captivates your attention. While Echo Brown has created such a fun, fantasy inspired autobiography, she touches on sensitive topics that will help you to expand your empathy and awareness. This is a great novel if you would like to learn more about intersectionality and the Black female experience.
5) The Essential History Reader
Kendi’s National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America, and inspires hope for an anti-racist future. It takes you on a race journey from then to now, shows you why we feel how we feel, and why the poison of racism lingers.
Bibliotherapist Notes: If the Black Lives Matter movement has inspired you to increase your awareness about racism and the history of oppression in our country, then Stamped is the perfect pick for you. It provides the reader with easy to understand history with Jason Reynolds’ witty and fun flair. I learned so much from this book about racism and anti-racism that I wasn’t aware of before, and I can’t recommend it enough to help you increase your awareness.
6) The Dreamer’s Adventure
Insightful, unflinching, and full of heart, On the Come Up is an ode to hip hop from one of the most influential literary voices of a generation. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; and about how, especially for young black people, freedom of speech isn’t always free.
Bibliotherapist Notes: I adore Angie Thomas as a writer, so I had to include another book by her. She presents the Black experience so well for those who might not understand, and she creates characters that are believable and relatable for Black teens everywhere. On the Come Up is an ode to hip hop and highlights its importance in Black culture, while providing the reader with a main character they will fall in love with. If you are seeking a book full of passion and dreaming, then this is the optimal choice for you.
7) The Anxiety Buster
A powerful story about a young woman who uses poetry to find her voice, express herself, and fight oppression.
Bibliotherapist Notes: The Poet X is a unique novel that focuses on finding one’s voice through the creative arts – specifically, slam poetry. While this book presents an intense story about belonging and intersectionality, it is also a great anxiety aid because of its focus on the arts. You are sure to fall in love with Xiomara!
8) The Feel-Good Rom-Com
Filled with roadside hi-jinks, heart-stirring romance, and a few broken rules, Kristina Forest’s I Wanna Be Where You Are is a romantic YA debut perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Sandhya Menon.
Bibliotherapist Notes: If you are looking for a more lighthearted read that features a Black heroine, then I Wanna Be Where You Are is perfect! This fun and frisky read is sure to dispel any depression, anxiety, or anger you may be experiencing. Sometimes we all just need a bit of an escape!
9) The Hopeful Companion
Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?
Bibliotherapist Notes: I love this time-bending romance novel for its ability to lighten your mood and increase your awareness of diverse cultures. The Sun Is Also A Star is another lighthearted read that will tap into your ability to love and will have you swooning by the end.
10) The West African Mythology Epic
A dazzling epic featuring West African culture, a land yearning for lost magic, and fierce characters who will stop at nothing to get that magic back.
Bibliotherapist Notes: This last novel is one of my absolute favorites due to its West African inspired story line and fantasy elements. If you need a book that will pull you in and provide you with a thrilling escape, then this pick is the ideal one for you. It is a beautiful, cultural piece that will completely captivate you while expanding your cultural awareness. Be forewarned – you won’t be able to put this book down.
I hope that you are able to find a book from my list to keep you company during these trying times that we are in! I have chosen each book to increase your awareness and bring you comfort and companionship in diverse ways. The written word is such an excellent way to learn and connect, while caring for your mental health. Happy reading!