African Americans have made significant contributions to the world of literature dating back to former slave Phyllis Wheatley who became the first African American poet and African American woman to publish writing in 1773. Before Black History Month is up, try broadening your literary horizons a bit more with these five authors.


Octavia Butler



Octavia Butler might be one of the most underrated science fiction authors of the century. She won both Hugo and Nebula awards for her work in the science fiction and fantasy genre, and was the first science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant. Her catalog of books includes short stories and book series with characters ranging from shape shifters and body snatchers to empathetic teens. Butler died in 2006, but has a rich library of novels dating back to 1976. We suggest picking up 'Fledgling,' a vampire novel (much better than 'Twilight') that touches on race, sexuality and what it means to be a member of a community.


Manning Marable



You might have heard about Manning Marable — a controversial biography on the life of Malcolm X written by Marable was released just days after Marable died. But this Columbia University professor has a large swath books on capitalism, racism and the “American dream.” We suggest 'Living Black History: How Reimagining the African-American Past Can Remake America's Racial Future,' a unique telling of the civil rights era that brings history alive.


bell hooks



If you ever took a women’s studies class you’ve probably heard of bell hooks. This author, who intentionally uncapitalizes her name, is known for her writings that cover race, class, sexuality, feminism and gender in education. While she’s well known for her writing geared towards adults, she also writes engaging books and short stories for girls. We suggest 'Happy to be Nappy.' This popular children’s book, which is the inspiration for the HBO program, teaches about the complexity of hair in terms a child can understand and a parent can enjoy. The book also tackles self-esteem issues and teaches girls about self-love.


Walter Mosley



If you like a good crime mystery, you should pick up a book by Walter Mosley. This California native is best known for his historical mysteries with Detective Easy Rawlins, a black private investigator and World War II veteran working in Los Angeles. His first novel, 'Devil in a Blue Dress,' was turned into a movie of the same name starring Denzel Washington. We suggest the 'Leonid McGill mystery series – The Long Fall.' The first book in a series on a New York City-based private investigator who is struggling to stay relevant in a city that is ever-changing finds even though the Big Apple is shiny there are still worms inside.


Jacqueline Woodson



Jacqueline Woodson writes books targeted to young adults. For children on the verge of adulthood, books written by Woodson may help through some of the difficult aspects of growing up, like sexuality, interracial dating, teenage pregnancy and racial inequalities. We suggest 'Maizon at Blue Hill.' Leaving home for school is hard, especially when you’re only 12. Brooklyn-bred Maizon finds herself leaving everything she knows for better opportunities at a boarding school but has a hard time adapting to the lack of minority students at the school filled with wealthy white students.


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