African American authors have long contributed to American literature. Their voices are especially vital when discussing the Civil Wars, racism, and discrimination. Not only that, but contemporary authors have also composed influential writings, poetry, plays, essays, and scholarly articles.
Reading books from diverse individuals helps broaden the reader’s perspective and gives light on underrepresented communities. We must uplift these authors and learn from their experiences.
Let us take a look at some of these talented writers.
1. Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison (The Guardian)
Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison was a famous American novelist. Born in Ohio in 1931, Morrison has written novels addressing the harsh consequences of racism in the United States. She was also the first black author to become a senior editor at Random House in New York.
During her lifetime, Toni wrote a plethora of powerful stories. Some of her most famous works include Beloved (1987), The Bluest Eye (1970), and Song of Solomon (1977). Beloved was made into a film in 1998. Apart from novels, she’s also written essays, plays, short stories, and children’s books.
Morrison was also involved in politics and was a strong advocate against racial injustice. She was even presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2012.
2. Marlon James
Marlon James (Literary Hub)
Born in Jamaica in 1970, Marlon James wrote four novels that often detail his experiences in Jamaica. John Crow’s Devil (2005) tells the story of a remote Jamaican village and their biblical struggles. The book was rejected almost 70 times before it was published.
Currently a professor of creative writing and English in Minnesota, Marlon has also co-hosted a podcast and started writing his first television series for HBO. In 2015, Marlon received the Man Booker Prize.
With themes spanning violence, religion, supernatural, and sexuality, his writing style has been defined as unique and raw. He does not shy away from vividly painting the human experience.
3. Alice Walker
Alice Walker (WTTW)
American novelist Alice Walker was born in a rural Georgia town in 1944. She began reading and writing after an injury to her eye and has authored novels, short stories, poems, and essays.
Her career includes work in social services, higher education, and editing. Walker has also voiced her support for feminism, women of color, and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
Some of her famous works include a poetry collection entitled Once (1968), novels To Hell with Dying (1988), and The Color Purple (1982), for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was the first African American woman to receive it.
4. Rivers Solomon
Rivers Solomon (For Colored Girls Book Club)
Solomon is non-binary and intersex and uses the pronouns fae/fair and they/them. In their own words, they describe themselves as a “dyke, anarchist, a she-beast, an exile, a shiv, a wreck, and a refugee of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.”
An Unkindness of Ghosts (2017) was their debut novel, which was called the best book of 2017 by The Guardian, Bustle, and Publisher’s Weekly. It was also a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Awards. Their books include science fiction, utopian societies, and racism.
Solomon graduated with a BA from Stanford University and an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers. They are currently based in Cambridge, England.
5. Kiley Reid
Kiley Reid (The New York Times)
Reid was born in Los Angeles, California 1987, but was raised in Arizona until the age of 20. Her first book, Such A Fun Age, was published on December 31st, 2019. The novel was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2020.
Kiley Reid graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was a recipient of the Truman Capote Fellowship. She worked as a nanny while in college and even dabbled in event planning. She incorporated these experiences into her debut novel.
Such a Fun Age received an abundance of praise from readers and authors alike.
Writing has proven to be a great medium for sharing diverse experiences. As a society, we must take this knowledge and advance toward inclusion and equality.