With current national and international conversations on race, diversity, and inclusiveness — antiracist books were flying off the shelves. While reading those books are important, it’s just as important to read stories that center Black joy.
It’s still rare to see mainstream media feature stories about Black people that aren’t only about oppression, pain, and trauma. Black joy is resistance and reading books that uplift Black people is central to understanding the different facets of the Black experience. The stories below are a few novels that feature Black protagonists and are stories of power, bravery, friendship, triumph, hope, and love. Check out these amazing books that center and celebrate Black lives and share in the comments books you would recommend!
A Duke, The Lady, And A Baby by Vanessa Riley
When headstrong West Indian heiress Patience Jordan questioned her English husband’s mysterious suicide, she lost everything: her newborn son, Lionel, her fortune–and her freedom. Falsely imprisoned, she risks her life to be near her child–until The Widow’s Grace gets her hired as her own son’s nanny. But working for his unsuspecting new guardian, Busick Strathmore, Duke of Repington, has perils of its own. Especially when Patience discovers his military strictness belies an ex-rake of unswerving honor–and unexpected passion . . .
A Deadly Inside Scoop by Abby Collette
Recent MBA grad Bronwyn Crewse has just taken over her family’s ice cream shop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and she’s going back to basics. Win is renovating Crewse Creamery to restore its former glory, and filling the menu with delicious, homemade ice cream flavors–many from her grandmother’s original recipes. But unexpected construction delays mean she misses the summer season, and the shop has a literal cold opening: the day she opens her doors an early first snow descends on the village and keeps the customers away.
Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson
When their foster-turned-adoptive mother suddenly dies, four brothers struggle to keep open the doors of her beloved Harlem knitting shop.
Jesse Strong is known for two things: his devotion to his adoptive mom, Mama Joy, and his reputation for breaking hearts. When Mama Joy unexpectedly passes away, he and his brothers have different plans for what to do with Strong Knits, their neighborhood knitting store. Jesse wants to keep the store open. His brothers want to tie off loose ends and close shop….
It's Not All Downhill From Here by Terry McMillan
Loretha Curry’s life is full. A little crowded sometimes, but full indeed. On the eve of her sixty-eighth birthday, she has a booming beauty-supply empire, a gaggle of lifelong friends, and a husband whose moves still surprise. True, she’s carrying a few more pounds than she should be, but Loretha is not one of those women who think her best days are behind her–and she’s determined to prove wrong her mother, her twin sister, and everyone else with that outdated view of aging wrong. It’s not all downhill from here.
Love in Colour by Bolu Babalola
In her debut collection, internationally acclaimed writer Bolu Babalola retells the most beautiful love stories from history and mythology with incredible new detail and vivacity. Focusing on the magical folktales of West Africa, Babalola also reimagines Greek myths, ancient legends from the Middle East, and stories from long-erased places.
With an eye towards decolonizing tropes inherent in our favorite tales of love, Babalola has created captivating stories that traverse across perspectives, continents, and genres. Love in Color is a celebration of romance in all its many splendid forms.
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost–but not quite–dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Felix Love has never been in love–and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many–Black, queer, and transgender–to ever get his own happily-ever-after.
A Princess In Theory by Alyssa Cole
Between grad school and multiple jobs, Naledi Smith doesn’t have time for fairy tales…or patience for the constant e-mails claiming she’s betrothed to an African prince. Sure. Right. Delete! As a former foster kid, she’s learned that the only things she can depend on are herself and the scientific method, and a silly e-mail won’t convince her otherwise.
Prince Thabiso is the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo, shouldering the hopes of his parents and his people. At the top of their list? His marriage. Ever dutiful, he tracks down his missing betrothed. When Naledi mistakes the prince for a pauper, Thabiso can’t resist the chance to experience life–and love–without the burden of his crown.
The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon
Samiah Brooks never thought she would be “that” girl. But a live tweet of a horrific date just revealed the painful truth: she’s been catfished by a three-timing jerk of a boyfriend. Suddenly Samiah — along with his two other “girlfriends,” London and Taylor — have gone viral online. Now the three new besties are making a pact to spend the next six months investing in themselves. No men and no dating. For once Samiah is putting herself first, and that includes finally developing the app she’s always dreamed of creating. Which is the exact moment she meets the deliciously sexy Daniel Collins at work.
The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa
A wedding planner left at the altar? Yeah, the irony isn’t lost on Carolina Santos, either. But despite that embarrassing blip from her past, Lina’s offered an opportunity that could change her life. There’s just one hitch… she has to collaborate with the best (make that worst) man from her own failed nuptials.
The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory
When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Saying no isn’t the hard part–they’ve only been dating for five months, and he can’t even spell her name correctly. The hard part is having to face a stadium full of disappointed fans…
What do you think about the books on this list?
Have you read any books from this list? What are your favorite books that center on black joy? What books would you add to the list?