Christine Yarde is the founder of The Afropolitan Book Club. Being such a voracious reader dedicated to novels that tell Black stories, we turned to her to get the best suggestions for what we should be reading.
Written by Christine Yarde
Reading fiction novels is my favorite pastime, especially novels by Black authors about Black characters. I made it through the unhappiest year of my adolescence as a freshman in high school by spending my lunch period in the library, reading. But somewhere along the journey adulting got in the way and I picked up other past times. Then suddenly, about a year ago, I found myself craving books as an escape again. There is nothing more transformative than losing yourself in the pages of a fiction novel.
Now that we are all home more than we have ever been, and the unjust treatment of Black people in America is once again taking center stage, books are emerging as a true unifying force. No matter the story, elevating Black experiences through novels play a key role in inspiring people to have difficult conversations about race. So in honor of Juneteenth and the liberation of our ancestors, I am sharing my top 3 conversation starters for your friend group or book club. These novels will provoke tears, laughter and a glimpse of the world through a different lens!
Celebrate Juneteenth with me by purchasing one of these novels from a Black-owned bookstore near you!
#1: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
On love, intimacy, and the American judicial system.
Young newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the perfect picture of the Black American dream. Brilliant college graduates, Celestial is on the verge of a celebrated career as an artist and Roy is a burgeoning executive. Their romance is raw and vibrant when they marry with a promising future laid before them. But their lives are quickly turned upside down forever as their dreams crumble before their eyes in a devastating turn of events that neither of them could have predicted. This Oprah's Book Club pick is a novel by Georgia-native Tayari Jones and is an intimate journey of love, sacrifice, and balancing our past as we forge ahead into the future.
#2: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
On culture, romance, and the immigrant experience.
Nigerian native and world-renowned author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote Americanah, in which we meet characters Ifemelu and Obinze. These brilliant students grow from childhood friends into lovers against the backdrop of a military-ruled Nigeria. In pursuit of education, they both decide to leave Nigeria to study abroad in the coveted USA. When Ifemelu is accepted into an American university and Obinze is not, the young lovers are torn apart. This novel gets straight to the core of the harsh realities of the immigrant experience while exploring love and culture.
#3: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
In this debut novel by Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, we meet 11-year-old Pecola Breedlove in the author's hometown of Lorain, Ohio. Steeped in the self-loathing and angst of her upbringing, she prays desperately for blue eyes to make her beautiful. If she were beautiful, she would be loved. The Bluest Eye is a novel rich with vivid imagery and evocative language. Morrison's masterpiece crystallizes the deep-seeded trauma inflicted by racism on the psyche of Black people, especially of young Black girls.
In my book club, these novels were the ones that created the most incredible conversation, and I hope they will for you too. Without conversation, and without beautiful storytelling, it would be so much harder to understand one another.