10 Great Reasons to Read Black Fiction in February 2022

In celebration of Black History Month, the February fiction preview exclusively highlights Black authors, in a tribute to the continuing brilliance, breadth and joy of Black literature.

Recitatif by Toni Morrison
The only short story ever published by Toni Morrison is being released for the first time as a stand-alone book, with an introduction by Zadie Smith. In Recitatif, eight-year-olds Twyla and Roberta form an intense bond over four months as roommates in a shelter. They lose touch as they grow older but cross paths multiple times by accident. One is Black, one is white, but the reader does not know which character is which race, in what Smith calls an experiment on the reader. “A uniquely interesting and enlightening reading experience.” (Kirkus Reviews)

MOON WITCH, SPIDER KING by Marlon James
The life of 177-year-old Moon Witch Sogolon is the focus of the second book in the trilogy that started with the National Book Award finalist Black Leopard, Red Wolf. “If book one centers on the nature of storytelling, this volume turns its focus to memory, archiving, and history as Sogolon works to correct the record. The two stories run parallel to and contradict each other, and James mines the distance between them to raise powerful questions about whether truth is possible when the power of storytelling is available only to a few. This is a tour de force.” (Publishers Weekly)

BLACK CAKE by Charmaine Wilkerson
Following their mother’s death, estranged siblings Benny and Byron receive her final gifts: a homemade Caribbean black cake in the freezer and an audio recording full of shocking revelations. “Wilkerson uses one Caribbean American family's extraordinary tale to probe universal issues of identity and how the lives we live and the choices we make leave a trail of potential consequences that pass down through generations. She is a masterful storyteller. Black Cake's complex plot unfolds in vignettes that alternate among different times, places, and viewpoints, evoking her children's bewilderment as they absorb Eleanor's account. Memorable, fully developed characters ground a story that spans decades and continents.” (Booklist)

DON'T CRY FOR ME by Daniel Black
Jacob and his son Isaac stopped speaking when Isaac came out of the closet. Now on his deathbed, Jacob writes to his son in an act of reconciliation, sharing his story and the stories of their ancestors in rural Alabama. “Jacob's shame is made palpable in his alternately hurtful and supportive correspondence… and the wisdom he gains along the way brings him to concluding remarks that are poignant and moving… consistently powerful.” (Publishers Weekly)

WHAT THE FIREFLIES KNEW by Kai Harris
The summer of 1995 is a turbulent time for 10-year-old KB. Her father recently passed, then her family lost their house. Now she and her older sister Nia have been left with a grandfather they hardly know and they have no idea where their mother is. “A story of Black girlhood from a promising new voice in fiction… Child narrators can be a challenge, but Harris has crafted a voice for her young protagonist that is both believable and engaging… Quietly powerful.” (Kirkus Reviews)

THE VIOLIN CONSPIRACY by Brendan Slocumb
Ray McMillian is a gifted musician who discovers that the beat-up violin passed down from his great-great grandfather is actually a rare Stradivarius. While the descendants of Ray’s ancestors’ enslavers as well as Ray’s own relatives attempt to claim the priceless instrument, Ray’s eye is on the Tchaikovsky Competition—until the Stradivarius is stolen and replaced with a ransom demand. A “galvanizing blend of thriller, coming-of-age drama, and probing portrait of racism… we are drawn completely into this moving story of an unfettered love of music and a passionate commitment to performing it.” (Booklist)

BLACK CLOUD RISING by David Wright Faladé
In 1863, as Union forces made headway on the coasts of Virginia and North Carolina, an African Brigade was assembled, a unit of newly freed men led by a one-armed abolitionist. Among these new Union infantrymen is Sergeant Richard Etheridge, son of an enslaved woman and her enslaver, who faces his past, present and future with deeply conflicting emotions as he engages in this violent struggle. “Engrossing and complex, this will have readers riveted.” (Publishers Weekly) Faladé is a former Fulbright Fellow and has been recognized by the NY Public Library’s Cullman Center for Writers and the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation, among others.

THE GREAT MRS. ELIAS by Barbara Chase-Riboud
The celebrated artist and author Chase-Riboud returns with a rags-to-riches story inspired by the amazing true-life story of Hannah Elias, landlord, madame and one of the richest Black women of her time. “Chase-Riboud elevates this tale with a sobering look at Black female exploitation at the turn of the nineteenth century… a randy, rollicking tour of Gilded Age excess, racism, and misogyny.” (Booklist)

NOBODY'S MAGIC by Destiny O. Birdsong
This novel in three parts tells the stories of three women, all Black women with albinism from Shreveport, Louisiana, but all leading very different lives.  Suzette is a spoiled and sheltered 20-year-old ready to seek her independence. Maple is grappling with a tragic and violent loss. Agnes pursued higher education but is now 34, broke, and working a boring, dead-end job. “Each discovering how much more capable they are than the way the world views and treats them… Birdsong is a masterful storyteller with a powerful voice that will keep readers captivated.” (Booklist)

I'M SO (NOT) OVER YOU by Kosoko Jackson
Kian Andrews isn’t quite over his ex-boyfriend Hudson Rivers when he agrees to meet up at a cafe. Kian thinks they’re going to talk about their breakup, but Hudson has ulterior motives: he needs Kian to pretend they’re still together since he hasn’t told his parents yet that they’re no longer a couple. “Kian is a three-dimensional, fully flawed main character whose quest for love is also a quest for understanding of himself… a delightfully outrageous romantic comedy.” (Library Journal)

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