Join us as we #AmplifyBlackStories all year long by increasing visibility for Black authors of excellency in all genres. Check out this list of must-read Historical Fiction books by Black authors who have boldly captured the details and re-imagined settings in history.


Passing by Nella Larsen

Nella Larsen’s fascinating exploration of race and identity—the inspiration for the upcoming Netflix film directed by Rebecca Hall, starring Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga—and now with an introduction by Brit Bennett, bestselling author of The Vanishing Half.

Irene Redfield is a Black woman living an affluent, comfortable life with her husband and children in the thriving neighborhood of Harlem in the 1920s. When she reconnects with her childhood friend Clare Kendry, who is similarly light-skinned, Irene discovers that Clare has been passing for a white woman after severing ties to her past—even hiding the truth from her racist husband.

Clare finds herself drawn to Irene’s sense of ease and security with her Black identity and longs for the community (and, increasingly, the woman) she lost. Irene is both riveted and repulsed by Clare and her dangerous secret, as Clare begins to insert herself—and her deception—into every part of Irene’s stable existence. First published in 1929, Larsen’s brilliant examination of the various ways in which we all seek to “pass,” is as timely as ever.

Available in Hardcover, Trade Paperback, Mass Market and eBook Editions.

Click to Read an Excerpt.


The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

From the National Book Award–winning author of Between the World and Me, a boldly conjured debut novel about a magical gift, a devastating loss, and an underground war for freedom.

Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her—but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known.

So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the Deep South to dangerously idealistic movements in the North. Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram’s resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures.

This is the dramatic story of an atrocity inflicted on generations of women, men, and children—the violent and capricious separation of families—and the war they waged to simply make lives with the people they loved. Written by one of today’s most exciting thinkers and writers, The Water Dancer is a propulsive, transcendent work that restores the humanity of those from whom everything was stolen.

Available in Hardcover, Trade Paperback, eBook, Audio, and Large Print Editions.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

Click for a Discussion Guide.

Listen to a Clip from the Audiobook.


The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

From The New York Times bestselling author of The Mothers, a stunning new novel about twin sisters, inseparable as children, who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds, one black and one white.

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 other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

Available in Hardcover, eBook, Audio, and Large Print Editions.

Also Available in Spanish: La mitad evanescente.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

Click for a Discussion Guide.

Listen to a Clip from the Audiobook.


Deacon King Kong by James McBride

From the author of the National Book Award–winning The Good Lord Bird and the bestselling modern classic The Color of Water, comes one of the most celebrated novels of the year.

In September 1969, a fumbling, cranky old church deacon known as Sportcoat shuffles into the courtyard of the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn, pulls a .38 from his pocket, and, in front of everybody, shoots the project’s drug dealer at point-blank range.

The reasons for this desperate burst of violence and the consequences that spring from it lie at the heart of Deacon King Kong. In this book, McBride brings to vivid life the people affected by the shooting: the victim, the African-American and Latinx residents who witnessed it, the white neighbors, the local cops assigned to investigate, the members of the Five Ends Baptist Church where Sportcoat was deacon, the neighborhood’s Italian mobsters, and Sportcoat himself.

As the story deepens, it becomes clear that the lives of the characters—caught in the tumultuous swirl of 1960s New York—overlap in unexpected ways. When the truth does emerge, McBride shows us that not all secrets are meant to be hidden, that the best way to grow is to face change without fear, and that the seeds of love lie in hope and compassion.

Available in Hardcover, Trade Paperback, eBook, Audio, and Large Print Editions.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

Listen to a Clip from the Audiobook.


The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning, National Book Award-winning, Oprah-anointed, #1 New York Times bestselling novel that explores America’s troubled racial past as only he can—soon to be an original Amazon Prime Video series directed by Barry Jenkins.

Cora is a young slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. An outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is on the cusp of womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. And so when Caesar, a slave who has recently arrived from Virginia, urges her to join him on the Underground Railroad, she seizes the opportunity and escapes with him.

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor: engineers and conductors operate a secret network of actual tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora embarks on a harrowing flight from one state to the next, encountering strange yet familiar iterations of her own world at each stop.

As Whitehead brilliantly recreates the terrors of the antebellum era, he weaves in the saga of our nation, from the brutal abduction of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is both the gripping tale of one woman’s will to escape the horrors of bondage and a powerful meditation on the history we all share.

Available in Hardcover, Trade Paperback, eBook, Audio, and Large Print Editions.

Also available in Spanish: El ferrocarril subterráneo.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

Listen to a Clip from the Audiobook.

Click to Watch the Teaser Trailer for The Underground Railroad—premieres May 14th on Amazon Prime.


Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Ghana, eighteenth century: two half sisters are born into different villages, each unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort in the palatial rooms of the Cape Coast Castle. The other will be captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned in the very same castle, and sold into slavery.

One of Oprah’s Best Books of the Year and a PEN/Hemingway award winner, Homegoing follows the parallel paths of these sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation.

Available in Hardcover, Trade Paperback, eBook, Audio, and Large Print Editions.

Also Available in Spanish: Volver a casa.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

Click for a Discussion Guide.

Click for a Teacher’s Guide.

Listen to a Clip from the Audiobook.


The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.

A singular and stunning debut novel about the forbidden union between two enslaved young men on a Deep South plantation, the refuge they find in each other, and a betrayal that threatens their existence.

Isaiah was Samuel’s and Samuel was Isaiah’s. That was the way it was since the beginning, and the way it was to be until the end. In the barn they tended to the animals, but also to each other, transforming the hollowed-out shed into a place of human refuge, a source of intimacy and hope in a world ruled by vicious masters. But when an older man—a fellow slave—seeks to gain favor by preaching the master’s gospel on the plantation, the enslaved begin to turn on their own. Isaiah and Samuel’s love, which was once so simple, is seen as sinful and a clear danger to the plantation’s harmony.

With a lyricism reminiscent of Toni Morrison, Robert Jones, Jr., fiercely summons the voices of slaver and enslaved alike, from Isaiah and Samuel to the calculating slave master to the long line of women that surround them, women who have carried the soul of the plantation on their shoulders. As tensions build and the weight of centuries—of ancestors and future generations to come—culminates in a climactic reckoning, The Prophets masterfully reveals the pain and suffering of inheritance, but is also shot through with hope, beauty, and truth, portraying the enormous, heroic power of love.

Available in Hardcover, eBook, Audio, and Large Print Editions.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

Click for a Book Club Kit.

Listen to a Clip from the Audiobook.

Click to Watch Robert Jones, Jr. Speak to Librarians.


Conjure Women by Afia Atakora

A mother and daughter with a shared talent for healing—and for the conjuring of curses—are at the heart of this dazzling novel.

Conjure Women is a sweeping story that brings the world of the South before and after the Civil War vividly to life. Spanning eras and generations, it tells of the lives of three unforgettable women: Miss May Belle, a wise healing woman; her precocious and observant daughter Rue, who is reluctant to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a midwife; and their master’s daughter Varina. The secrets and bonds among these women and their community come to a head at the beginning of a war and at the birth of an accursed child, who sets the townspeople alight with fear and a spreading superstition that threatens their newly won, tenuous freedom.

Magnificently written, brilliantly researched, richly imagined, Conjure Women moves back and forth in time to tell the haunting story of Rue, Varina, and May Belle, their passions and friendships, and the lengths they will go to save themselves and those they love.

Available in Trade Paperback, eBook, and Audio Editions.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

Listen to a Clip from the Audiobook.


The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell

“A founding epic in the vein of Virgil’s Aeneid . . . though in its sprawling size, its flavor of picaresque comedy and its fusion of family lore with national politics it more resembles Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children.”—The Wall Street Journal

  1. On the banks of the Zambezi River, a few miles from the majestic Victoria Falls, there is a colonial settlement called The Old Drift. In a smoky room at the hotel across the river, an Old Drifter named Percy M. Clark, foggy with fever, makes a mistake that entangles the fates of an Italian hotelier and an African busboy. This sets off a cycle of unwitting retribution between three Zambian families (black, white, brown) as they collide and converge over the course of the century, into the present and beyond. As the generations pass, their lives—their triumphs, errors, losses and hopes—emerge through a panorama of history, fairytale, romance and science fiction.

From a woman covered with hair and another plagued with endless tears, to forbidden love affairs and fiery political ones, to homegrown technological marvels like Afronauts, microdrones and viral vaccines, this gripping, unforgettable novel is a testament to our yearning to create and cross borders, and a meditation on the slow, grand passage of time.

Available in Hardcover, Trade Paperback, eBook, and Audio Editions.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

Click for a Discussion Guide.

Listen to a Clip from the Audiobook.


Mrs. Wiggins by Mary Monroe

New York Times bestselling author Mary Monroe returns to the Deep South Depression-era town of her scandalous Mama Ruby series, in this tale of a woman determined to have a respectable life—and she’ll do anything to keep it.

The daughter of a prostitute mother and an alcoholic father, Maggie Franklin knew her only way out was to marry someone upstanding and church-going. Someone like Hubert Wiggins, the most eligible man in Lexington, Alabama—and the son of its most revered preacher. Proper and prosperous, Hubert is glad to finally have a wife, even one with Maggie’s background. For Hubert has a secret he desperately needs to stay hidden. And Maggie’s unexpected charm, elegance, and religious devotion makes her the perfect partner in lies.

Their surprising union makes the Wigginses the town’s most envied couple—complete with a son, Claude, whom Maggie idolizes. Until he falls in love with the worst possible fiancée. Terrified, Maggie won’t let this woman destroy her son. And when her employer’s brother sexually harasses her, Maggie knows something needs to be done about him as well. In fact, she realizes there are an awful lot of “disruptive” people who should be eliminated from her perfect world.

But the more Maggie tries to take control, the more obstacles are thrown in her way. And when it seems like the one person she always expected to be there is starting to drift away, Maggie will play one final, merciless game to secure what she’s fought so hard to earn . . .

Available in Hardcover and eBook Editions.

Click to Read an Excerpt.


 

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