For a long time, the holy trinity – Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Maya Angelou – have dominated the literary field as black female writers. It is a rarity for authors to achieve mass recognition, but these women made it despite the barriers from the literary landscape that they were entering: one brimming with racial and gender bias. Most likely, you have heard of, or have been forced to read, one of these authors before. Whilst they have well earned their recognition, it is worth looking around them. If you are not an avid reader but want to read more by black women, here are some recommendations:
Danticat holds a remarkable ability to write accessibly without patronising her readers; all whilst achieving a textured and compelling way of storytelling. The consensus (including Oprah Winfrey) favours her debut novel Breath, Eyes, Memory, but The Farming of Bones and The Dew Breaker are also excellent.
Jackie Kay often focuses on the puzzle of identity (herself being of black and Scottish heritage). Her work is specific yet universal; lyrical with the ability to metamorphosis into an array of perspectives. Kay can evoke empathy from her readers for just about any character or voice. Trumpet is phenomenal and her most celebrated novel, but poetry remains her primary form. Some of the most popular being Grandpa’s Soup, Baggage, and Bed.
Well respected by her contemporaries and beyond, Hansberry was the first black female author to have her play performed on Broadway. She is most well known for her intense play A Raisin in the Sun, written a couple of years before her untimely death in 1965. Her work taps into the collective story of black American families and the burden of social difficulties they faced daily.
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
An up and coming Ugandan novelist and short story writer, Makumbi was the winner of the 2014 Commonwealth Writers prize for her short story Let’s Tell This Story Properly. Distinct with dark humour woven into her writing, her imagery is unique to Ugandan culture. Her work almost playfully reacts to the strain of diaspora whilst living in Britain.
Butler is a science fiction writer and widely regarded as the mother of afro-futurism. Viewed as one of the greatest sci-fi writers of all time, her novels contain complex female leads of colour and dystopian scenarios driving her plot. Butler wrote many books, so it is difficult to pin one in particular. Saying that Wild Seed, Kindred, and Dawn are popular amongst her fans.
Images courtesy of worldliteraturetoday.org, twitter @JackieKayPoet, legacy.com, Irishtimes.com & imdb.com