Pride month is nearly over, and there are lists upon lists of books LGBTQ folks should be reading circulating around the internet. Interestingly, most of them don’t have many, if any, Black lesbian books included on them. A wonderful exception is this list by Danika Ellis, head librarian over at the Lesbrary.
In the spirit of reminding folks that Black lesbians are part of the LGBTQ community, and that we WRITE, here are five Black lesbian books you should be reading this month. Some you will recognize, some you may not. Read them all anyway. I’ve already done a partial list of classic Black lesbian books you should be reading, so I won’t include any of them here.
Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn Dennis Benn’s first novel just won (I mean, like last week!) the Lambda Literary Award for lesbian fiction. Read it. Lauren recently reviewed it here, so if you’d like a Black lesbian perspective on the book before reading it, check out her review first.
Head Off and Split by Nikky Finney This collection won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2011, and these poems focus on key figures and events in African American life. Finney’s poetry is beautiful, intimate, and intense. Get into it.
Bury Me When I’m Dead by Cheryl Head Looking for a good mystery? This novel is the first in the Charlie Mack Motown Mystery series, (isn’t that a glorious subtitle?), and focuses on the Black lesbian private investigator Charlie Mack as she solves crime and struggles with her sexuality. Bury Me When I’m Dead was a finalist in this year’s Lambda Literary Awards for lesbian mystery. I’m currently reading this one, and so far, so good! Look for my review next month.
The Truth That Never Hurts: Writings on Race, Gender, and Freedom by Barbara Smith My hero, also the only “classic” text on this list. These early essays traverse Smith’s work as a publisher, activist, writer, and literary critic. It includes the groundbreaking “Toward a Black Feminist Criticism,” (the essay that animated my dissertation research), as well as essays on homophobia, revolutionary activism, and racism in women’s studies.
Descendants of Hagar by Nik Nicholson Nicholson’s first novel won the Lambda Literary Award for debut fiction in 2013. The novel is set in the early part of the 20th century, when Black Codes (oppressive laws that dictated the day-to-day life of African Americans, relegating them to second-class citizenship) were the norm. It tells the story of Linney, a Black woman living in the rural South, and her struggles to deal with racism, colorism, and her growing romantic feelings for another woman.
Okay, so I said five books, but if you finish these and are hungry for more, here are ten other titles you might enjoy:
The Dawn of Nia, Lauren Cherelle
Fistful of Love, Renee Cronin
Bliss, Fiona Zedde
K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood, LaToya Hankins
Let the Lover Be, Sheree L. Greer
Blue Talk and Love, Mecca Jamilah Sullivan
Everything is Now: New and Collected Stories, Michelle Cliff
A Failure to Communicate, S. (Stephanie) Andrea Allen
The Next Girl and Other Tales, Tawanna Sullivan
Say Mirror, J.P. Howard
And if you’re still wanting more, The BLLC Review has reviewed over 20 Black lesbian titles this year (it’s always pride month around these parts). Take a few moments to peruse our past posts for other recommendations; I’m sure you’ll find something that suits your reading tastes. If you read any of these books, be sure to leave us a comment letting us know what you think.
Reviewer: Stephanie Andrea Allen
Stephanie Andrea Allen, Ph.D., is a native southerner and out Black lesbian writer, scholar, and educator. She is the author of a collection of short stories and essays, A Failure to Communicate, (BLF Press 2017), and is hard at work on her first novel. Connect with Stephanie on Twitter, Goodreads, or Facebook.