Books and Plays By and About Black Women

To the dismay of summer and autumn lovers, the weather is finally turning colder. While some may get cuffed, others like to curl up with with a blanket, tea, and a good book. Here is a list of some books by and about black women to read this winter.

The Classics

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

their eyes were watching god

Zora Neale Hurston speaks on the black women’s plight. The story follows the main character, Janie, as she recounts her life through different towns and settings, marriages, and death. The explores just how Janie finds herself through the obstacles in her life.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker


The novel needing no explanation, this novel marks such an important narrative in not only black, but American literature. The story of sisters, Celie and Nettie, through their lives and relationships with the people who come in and out of it. It is captivating and reaches many different audiences.

Some Plays

The Amen Corner by James Baldwin


The only work written by a man on the list, James Baldwin explores the role of gender, status, and forgiveness in society and, specifically, the church. The life of Sister Margaret, the pastor of a church, and her son, David, are taken for a ride when Margaret’s ex-husband returns on his death bed.

Flyin’ West by Pearle Cleave


Pearle Cleage conquers topics such as reconstruction, migration, Jim Crow, colorism, and slavery, in this powerful play about black womenhood. Fannie, Sophie, and Minnie, along with Miss Leah, are three sisters who own land and are helping to settle the all black town of Nicodemus, Kansas.

But Do You Know

To Be Young, Gifted, and Black by Lorraine Hansberry

to be young gifted and black

Lorraine’s Hansberry is often praised for her play, Raisin in The Sun, but her play To Be Young, Gifted, and Black is just what the title says. The play is an autobiographical story of Hansberry’s life through unpublished writings collected after her death. It is inspired the Nina Simone song, and embodies an ideal to uplift young black minds

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

the bluest eye

While Beloved is a pivotal novel, in this book Toni Morrison explores the life of a young girl,  Pecola. She constantly suffers from physical, emotional, and sexual abuse (including incest) and believes that if she had blue eyes and lighter skin, that her life would be better, and she would be loved.

In the Wider Diaspora 

NW by Zadie Smith


While one could easily choose White Teeth as the essential Zadie Smith book to read, NW provides a look into the lives of three people from the NW area of London. The book goes further than to just look at characters, but how chance, adult life, and technology influences the lives of the characters.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


While Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie may be best known for being featured on a Beyonce song, her voice is also immortalized through her writing. In this novel she tells the story of a Nigerian women, Ifemelu, immigrating to the US to go to college, and her secondary school love, Obinze. Ifemelu struggles with racial distinction and discrimination in the US, while Obinze struggles to join her in the country.

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