Summer Reading List for Black Women

One way to encourage more reading among the young people in your sphere is for them to see *you* prioritize reading. Yes, even if you have a child who has declared themselves a sworn enemy to reading, when they see that this is a value consistently held and and cherished in your life, they will be more receptive of book suggestions, and youll find that they put up less of a fight during designated reading times. So, if you want to cultivate lovers of the written word (which, if you want to develop life lifelong learners, and thinkers, then you definitely want to cultivate lovers of the written word), long gone are the days of Do as I say, not as I do.Youve got to do it too!

Don’t worry, weve got you covered! If your bookshelf has started collecting dust, we have a few suggestions that might pique your interest. If youre already an avid reader, youll see a few classics and some new additions youll be happy you read. Enjoy your summer!

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet 

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape.  

The City We Became by N.K. Jemison 

Five New Yorkers must come together in order to defend their city. Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five. 

Gathering Blossoms Under Fire by Alice Walker 

For the first time, the edited journals of Alice Walker are gathered together to reflect the complex, passionate, talented, and acclaimed Pulitzer Prize winner of The Color Purple. She intimately explores her thoughts and feelings as a woman, a writer, an African-American, a wife, a daughter, a mother, a lover, a sister, a friend, a citizen of the world. 

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid 

Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. 

Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom 

McMillan Cottom has crafted a black woman’s cultural bible, as she mines for meaning in places many of us miss and reveals precisely how—when you’re in the thick of it—the political, the social, and the personal are almost always one and the same. 

Halsey Street by Naima Coster 

Penelope Grand has scrapped her failed career as an artist in Pittsburgh and moved back to Brooklyn to keep an eye on her ailing father. She’s accepted that her future won’t be what she’d dreamed, but now, as gentrification has completely reshaped her old neighborhood, even her past is unrecognizable.  

My Soul Looks Back by Jessica B. Harris 

In this captivating new memoir, award-winning writer Jessica B. Harris recalls a lost era—the vibrant New York City of her youth, where her social circle included Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, and other members of the Black intelligentsia. 

The Turner House by Angels Flournoy 

The Turners live on Yarrow Street for over fifty years. Their house sees thirteen children get grown and gone—and some return; it sees the arrival of grandchildren, the fall of Detroit’s East Side, and the loss of a father. Despite abandoned lots, an embattled city, and the inevitable shift outward to the suburbs, the house still stands.  

The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard 

For fifteen years August Sitwell has worked for the Barclays, a well-to-do white family who plucked him from an orphan asylum and gave him a job. The groundskeeper is part of the household’s all-black staff, along with “Miss Mamie,” the talented cook, pretty new maid Jennie Williams, and three young kitchen apprentices—the latest orphan boys Mr. Barclay has taken in to “civilize” boys like August. 

The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson 

In Chicago, Ruth Tuttle, an Ivy-League educated Black engineer, is married to a kind and successful man. He’s eager to start a family, but Ruth is uncertain. She has never gotten over the baby she gave birth to—and was forced to leave behind—when she was a teenager. She had promised her family she’d never look back, but Ruth knows that to move forward, she must make peace with the past. 

This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith 

On a rainy October night in Kentucky, recently divorced therapist Tallie Clark is on her way home from work when she spots a man precariously standing on the side of a bridge. Without a second thought, Tallie pulls over and jumps out of the car into the pouring rain. She convinces the man to join her for a cup of coffee, and he eventually agrees to come back to her house, where he finally shares his name: Emmett. 

Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge 

Coming of age as a free-born Black girl in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie Sampson was all too aware that her purposeful mother, a practicing physician, had a vision for their future together: Libertie would go to medical school and practice alongside her. But Libertie, drawn more to music than science, feels stifled by her mother’s choices and is hungry for something else—is there really only one way to have an autonomous life? And she is constantly reminded that, unlike her mother, who can pass, Libertie has skin that is too dark. 

In Search of Satisfaction by J California Cooper 

The folk flavor of her storytelling has earned her constant comparison to Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, but through four collections of  short stories and two novels, J. California Cooper  has proven that hers is a wholly original talent  –one that embraces readers in an ever-widening  circle from one book to the next. 

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers 

To come to terms with her own identity, Ailey embarks on a journey through her family’s past, uncovering the shocking tales of generations of ancestors—Indigenous, Black, and white—in the deep South. In doing so Ailey must learn to embrace her full heritage, a legacy of oppression and resistance, bondage and independence, cruelty and resilience that is the story—and the song—of America itself.  

Carolina Built by Kianna Alexander 

Josephine N. Leary is determined to build a life of her own and a future for her family. When she moves to Edenton, North Carolina from the plantation where she was born, she is free, newly married, and ready to follow her dreams. 

Things Past Telling by Sheila Williams 

Born in West Africa in the mid-eighteenth century, Maryam Prescilla Grace–a.k.a “Momma Grace” will live a long, wondrous life marked by hardship, oppression, opportunity, and love. Though she will be “gifted” various names, her birth name is known to her alone. Over the course of 100-plus years, she survives capture, enslavement by several property owners, the Atlantic crossing when she is only eleven years of age, and a brief stint as a pirate’s ward, acting as both a spy and a translator. 

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The Septima Clark Academy (SCA) is in Jackson, Mississippi, and serves Black girls in grades six through nine. Teachers and administrators provide academic curricula, enrichment programs, and experiences that serve the needs of scholars. For more information about SCA or to request an application, contact info@septimaclarkacademy.org  

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