5 New #OwnVoices Books to Read for Black History Month

In 1925, Carter G. Wodson organized Negro History Week to raise awareness of African American contributions and successes. Negro History Week received an overwhelmingly positive response and was extended to a month-long observance in 1970, known as Black History Month. By the time Black History Month begins, the book industry is reviewing the statistics for diversity in publishing from the previous year, and each year, we see few changes. Lee & Low Books’ 2019 survey showed that only 5% of people working in publishing are Black, despite making up a large portion of America’s readers. (See the Pew Research Center’s book reading surveys from 2016 and 2019, and the Romance Writers of America’s “The Romance Reader.”)

This Black History Month, we encourage you to diversify your bookshelf. Below are five recent or upcoming releases that we’re sure will captivate you and make you eager for more.

1) Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles

Lamar Giles is a two-time Edgar Award finalist and a founding member of We Need Diverse Books. He writes Young Adult and Middle Grade. His latest book discusses societal pressure, toxic masculinity, and asks what it means to be a “real man.” In Not So Pure and Simple, Del’s crush Kiera is finally available and with the other boys circling her like sharks, he can’t miss his chance. But with all the plotting and scheming, Del never stops to think what Kiera really wants. But once he gets the girl, it will all sort itself out. Right?

2) Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden

Nicky Drayden is a Systems Analyst who dabbles in prose when she’s not buried in code. She resides in Austin, Texas, where being weird is highly encouraged, if not required. In Escaping Exodus, humanity clings to survival by establishing colonies within enormous vacuum-breathing space beasts. After Seske discovers the truth of their life in the void, she is suddenly thrust into the role of clan matriarch. It is up to her to protect her people and save their livelihood.

3) David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Suyi Davies Okungbowa (pronounced “SOO-yee” and “Oh-KOON-GBOR-wah”) is a Nigerian author of speculative fiction inspired by his West-African origins. He lives between Lagos, Nigeria, and Tucson, Arizona, where he teaches undergraduate writing while completing his MFA in Creative Writing. In David Mogo, Godhunter, David works as a freelance Godhunter, finding the deities who appeared since the Orisha War. David knows his job is bad luck and he’s proved right when the wizard conjures a legion of Taboos—feral godling-child hybrids—to seize Lagos for himself.

4) Raybearer by Jordan Ifeuko

Jordan Ifueko is a Nigerian American writer who grew up eating fried plantains while reading comic books under a blanket fort. She now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their collection of Black Panther Funko Pops. Ifeuko’s debut novel, Raybearer, is a story of loyalty, fate, and protecting those we love. Tarisai is sent by her foster mother to join the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. But her foster mother casts a magical wish on Tarisai: she must kill the Crown Price after gaining his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?

5) A Spectral Hue by Craig Laurence Gidney

Craig Laurance Gidney writes both contemporary and genre fiction. His work has been nominated for the Lambda Literary and Gaylactic Spectrum Awards, and he has won both the Bronze Moonbeam and Silver Independent Publishers Book Awards.

For generations, the marsh-surrounded town of Shimmer, Maryland, has played host to a loose movement of African American artists, all working in different media, but all utilizing the same haunting color, a shifting pigment somewhere between purple and pink, the color of the saltmarsh orchid, a rare and indigenous flower. Graduate student Xavier Wentworth has been drawn to Shimmer, hoping to study the work of the artists there, having experienced something akin to an epiphany when viewing a Hazel Whitby tapestry as a child. Xavier will find that others, too, have been drawn to Shimmer, called by something more than art, something in the marsh itself, a mysterious, spectral hue.

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