February is Black History Month in the US, and while we should always be reading books by Black authors, I encourage all of the non-Black people reading this to take this month to more intentionally center Black authors in your media consumption. While there are lots of lists out there about books to read to educate yourself on racism and injustice within the US, I wanted to share a list of fiction books that are most certainly worth reading. All of the books on this list are absolutely incredible and deserve your time and energy.

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Full Disclosure

Author: Camryn Garrett

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Publication Date: October 29th, 2019

StoryGraph Summary: Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.

Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on. . . .

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This book was so adorable! Full Disclosure is about a teen’s life balancing her romances and friendships while at the same time being HIV-positive. While having HIV doesn’t majorly affect Simone’s life, other people knowing she has HIV does. At times painfully honest, this book managed to keep a lighthearted overall tone and focus on the positive (no pun intended) aspects of Simone’s life while also balancing the fear she felt about her HIV secret. I highly recommend this book to both teens looking for a cute romance book and adults looking to learn more about what it is like to grow up with HIV.

Me: Moth

Author: Amber McBride

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy / Poetry / Romance

Publication Date: August 17th, 2021

StoryGraph Summary: Moth has lost her family in an accident. Though she lives with her aunt, she feels alone and uprooted. Until she meets Sani, a boy who is also searching for his roots. If he knows more about where he comes from, maybe he’ll be able to understand his ongoing depression. And if Moth can help him feel grounded, then perhaps she too will discover the history she carries in her bones.Moth and Sani take a road trip that has them chasing ghosts and searching for ancestors. The way each moves forward is surprising, powerful, and unforgettable. Here is an exquisite and uplifting novel about identity, first love, and the ways that our memories and our roots steer us through the universe.

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I listened to an audiobook version of this novel, and it absolutely wrecked me. I found myself wandering around the streets of Boston completely lost in the world that McBride created, spinning stories in the same lyrical voice that she used in this fantasy novel written in verse. Both Moth and Sani are distinct, beautiful characters through which to tell the story of grief, identity, and love. While this is marketed as a younger YA novel, it can most certainly be read and enjoyed by people of all ages.


Author: LaToya Watkins

Genre: Historical Fiction / Contemporary Fiction

Publication Date: August 23rd, 2022

StoryGraph Summary: Told in alternating chapters that follow four members of the Turner clan: Julie B., a woman who regrets her wasted youth and the time spent under Helen Jean’s thumb; Alex, a police officer grappling with a dark and twisted past; Jan, a mother of two who yearns to go to school and leave Jerusalem, Texas, and all of its trauma behind for good; and Lydia, a woman whose marriage is falling apart because her body can’t seem to stay pregnant, as they’re called home to say goodbye to their mother and grandmother. With stirring, evocative prose and a sense of place that is wholly immersive; offering a nuanced look into black communities in Texas; and tackling themes like family, trauma, legacy, home, class, race, and more, this beautiful yet heart-wrenching debut novel will appeal to anyone who is interested in the intricacies of family and the ways bonds can be made, maintained, or irrevocably broken. 

From a stunning new voice comes a powerful and moving debut novel, and a sweeping family saga: Perish, about a black Texan family, exploring the effects of inherited trauma and intragenerational violence as the family comes together to say goodbye to their matriarch on her deathbed. 

Spanning decades, Perish tracks the choices Helen Jean—the matriarch of the Turner family—makes and the way those choices have rippled across generations, from her children to her grandchildren and beyond. Bear it or perish yourself. Those are the words Helen Jean hears that fateful night in her cousin’s outhouse that change the trajectory of her life.   This family’s “reunion” unearths long-kept secrets and forces each member to ask themselves important questions about who is deserving of forgiveness and who bears the cross of blame. 

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It would not be an exaggeration to say that this is the darkest book I have ever read. In fact, it’s so dark that I debated even including it on this list at all. Still, LaToya Watkins did a masterful job of making me feel mixed emotions about all of the characters that it deserved to be recognized. For a debut novel, I am shocked by Watkins’ craft and highly recommend this book to anyone that can handle the darker elements. StoryGraph has a complete list of trigger warnings that are worth the read here. The way this book twisted between time and space was so well done and left me feeling emotionally wrung out after ever chapter.

Skye Falling

Author: Mia McKenzie

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Publication Date: June 22nd, 2021

StoryGraph Summary: When she was twenty-six and broke, Skye didn’t think twice before selling her eggs and happily pocketing the cash. Now approaching forty, Skye still moves through life entirely—and unrepentantly—on her own terms, living out of a suitcase and avoiding all manner of serious relationships. Maybe her junior high classmates weren’t wrong when they voted her “Most Likely to Be Single” instead of “Most Ride-or-Die Homie,” but at least she’s always been free to do as she pleases.

Then a twelve-year-old girl tracks Skye down during one of her brief visits to her hometown of Philadelphia and informs Skye that she’s “her egg.” Skye’s life is thrown into sharp relief and she decides that it might be time to actually try to have a meaningful relationship with another human being. Spoiler alert: It’s not easy.

Things get even more complicated when Skye realizes that the woman she tried and failed to pick up the other day is the girl’s aunt, and now it’s awkward. All the while, her brother is trying to get in touch, her mother is being bewilderingly kind, and the West Philly pool halls and hoagie shops of her youth have been replaced by hipster cafés.

With its endearingly prickly narrator and a cast of characters willing to both challenge her and catch her when she falls, this novel is a clever, moving portrait of a woman and the relationships she thought she could live without.

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I have never fallen in love with a protagonist as quickly as I fell in love with Skye while reading this book. Though far from perfect, there’s something about her haphazard approach to life and intentionally curated callous demeanor that endeared her to me instantly. If you’re looking for a book about a far-from-perfect adult protagonist reckoning with her past life decisions and maybe even finding a little romance along the way, this is the book for you.

We Deserve Monuments

Author: Jas Hammond

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction

Publication Date: November 29th, 2022

StoryGraph Summary: What’s more important? Knowing the truth or keeping the peace?

Seventeen-year-old Avery Anderson is convinced her senior year is ruined when she’s uprooted from her life from DC and forced into the hostile home of her terminally ill grandmother, Mama Letty. The tension between Avery’s mom and Mama Letty makes for a frosty arrival and unearths past drama they refuse to talk about. Every time Avery tries to look deeper, she’s turned away, leaving her desperate to learn the secrets that split her family in two.

While tempers flare in her avoidant family, Avery finds friendship in unexpected places: in Simone Cole, her captivating next-door neighbor, and Jade Oliver, daughter of the town’s most prominent family—whose mother’s murder remains unsolved.

As the three girls grow closer—Avery and Simone’s friendship blossoming into romance—the sharp-edged opinions of their small southern town begin to hint at something insidious underneath. The racist history of Bardell, Georgia is rooted in Avery’s family in ways she can’t even imagine. With Mama Letty’s health dwindling every day, Avery must decide if digging for the truth is worth toppling the delicate relationships she’s built in Bardell—or if some things are better left buried.

Find the Book: Goodreads | Storygraph | Bookshop | My Review

Set against the backdrop of a small racist town, the true focus of this book is on intergenerational trauma and the strength of friendships. There were so many parts of this book that made me sob, both because of what I was feeling alongside the characters, and because of the magic of being supported when you feel alone. I loved Simone as a character and the realistic way her relationship with her mother, grandmother, and friends were portrayed. It all felt very lived-in and honest.

When We Were Birds

Author: Ayanna Lloyd Banwo

Genre: Magical Realism / Romance

Publication Date: March 15th, 2022

StoryGraph Summary: In the old house on a hill, where the city meets the rainforest, Yejide’s mother is dying. She is leaving behind a legacy that now passes to Yejide: one St Bernard woman in every generation has the power to shepherd the city’s souls into the afterlife. But after years of suffering her mother’s neglect and bitterness, Yejide is looking for a way out.

Raised in the countryside by a devout Rastafarian mother, Darwin has always abided by the religious commandment not to interact with death. He has never been to a funeral, much less seen a dead body. But when the only job he can find is grave digging, he must betray the life his mother built for him in order to provide for them both. Newly shorn of his dreadlocks and his past, and determined to prove himself, Darwin finds himself adrift in a city electric with possibility and danger.

Yejide and Darwin will meet inside the gates of Fidelis, an ancient and sprawling cemetery, where the dead lie uneasy in their graves and a reckoning with fate beckons them both. A masterwork of lush imagination and exuberant storytelling, When We Were Birds is a spellbinding and hopeful novel about inheritance, loss, and love’s seismic power to heal.

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This book was absolutely fascinating! I must admit that I wasn’t 100% sure what I was getting into when I started it, but I’m so glad I made the decision to pick this book up. It was so well-written, and the alternativing perspective worked well in the context of the story. Both Yejide and Darwin were fascinating characters that I wanted the best for, and the magical element in no way took away from the realism, which is an impressive feat that so many authors miss in their magical realism novels.

You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty

Author: Akwaeke Emezi

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Publication Date: May 24th, 2022

StoryGraph Summary: Feyi Adekola wants to learn how to be alive again.

It’s been five years since the accident that killed the love of her life and she’s almost a new person now—an artist with her own studio, and sharing a brownstone apartment with her ride-or-die best friend, Joy, who insists it’s time for Feyi to ease back into the dating scene. Feyi isn’t ready for anything serious, but a steamy encounter at a rooftop party cascades into a whirlwind summer she could have never imagined: a luxury trip to a tropical island, decadent meals in the glamorous home of a celebrity chef, and a major curator who wants to launch her art career.

She’s even started dating the perfect guy, but their new relationship might be sabotaged before it has a chance by the dangerous thrill Feyi feels every time she locks eyes with the one person in the house who is most definitely off-limits. This new life she asked for just got a lot more complicated, and Feyi must begin her search for real answers. Who is she ready to become? Can she release her past and honor her grief while still embracing her future? And, of course, there’s the biggest question of all—how far is she willing to go for a second chance at love?

Akwaeke Emezi’s vivid and passionate writing takes us deep into a world of possibility and healing, and the constant bravery of choosing love against all odds.

Find the Book: Goodreads | Storygraph | Bookshop | My Review

For those of you who read this site often, it’s probably no surprise that I recommended this book yet again. Still, I couldn’t help but include it on the list. It’s SUCH a good book, and given that it was published less than a year ago, it still feels timely. This romance has some of the darker elements that Emezi is known for, but it still centers hope and new beginnings and hot girl summer energy in a way that’s intoxicating.