The true crime genre, though it’s been around for a long time, has exploded in popularity recently. Especially with the rise of true crime podcasts like My Favorite Murder and Serial and True Crime Garage, among many, many others.
But it’s no secret the genre has a major discrepancy in the cases that are covered. While there seem to be dozens of books about white serial killers and white victims, the market is lacking in books written by or about people of color.
The media’s coverage of these cases reflects this divide, too. While not limited to the recent Gabby Petito case, the media shows a clear preference for covering true crime cases involving white (and often beautiful) women while those about missing and murdered Indigenous and Black women and men get little. This is certainty not the fault of the victims, nor is it a plea to stop covering these cases. But it is a problem. A lack of coverage means a lack of crowdsourcing, of resources, and of general awareness about the injustices committed against people of color.
If you’re a true crime book lover, here are books about missing and murdered Black, Indigenous, and people of color to start diversifying your bookshelves. Most are nonfiction, but there are a few fiction options as well, if that’s more your speed.
Between the years of 2005 and 2008, eight woman’s bodies were found in Jennings, Louisiana in the Jefferson Davis Parish, hence the name “Jeff Davis 8.” The women were sex workers, impoverished, or mentally ill, putting them in vulnerable situations. Most were women of color. The case remains unsolved to this day.
Highway of Tears: A True Story of Racism, Indifference and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls by Jessica McDiarmid
Journalist Jessica McDiarmid delves into missing and murdered Indigenous women centering around the Highway of Tears in Canada. The victims and the corresponding investigations, or lack thereof, are chronicled in meticulous and compassionate detail, revealing the prevalent racism in the justice system.
Missing from the Village: The Story of Serial Killer Bruce McArthur, the Search for Justice, and the System That Failed Toronto’s Queer Community by Justin Ling
From 2013 to 2018, eight men disappeared from Church and Wellesley, Toronto’s gay village. While Toronto police announced the cases were linked, they refused to admit there was a threat to the community. In 2018, though, the man responsible for the disappearances and murders of all eight men was arrested. This book looks into that case and the racism and homophobia that impeded the investigation.
Invisible Victims: Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women by Katherine McCarthy
McCarthy seeks to expose “Canada’s dirty little secret”: the many cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women in the country. She also covers serial killers who targeted Indigenous women, many of which were left unchecked by Canadian law enforcement due to their indifference. This is a must read. Fair warning, though, it’s sure to make you angry!
The Dead Girl: A True Story by Melanie Thernstrom
Melanie Thernstrom’s best friend, Roberta “Bibbi” Lee, disappeared after going on a run with her boyfriend. He came back alone. Bibbi was attending Berkley at the time. The year was 1984. One month later, Bibbi’s body was found on a trail in Oakland. The Dead Girl is a first person recounting of events from Melanie, both the facts and the feelings as she reflects on that time.
Speaking of Summer by Kalisha Buckhanon
Autumn Spencer’s sister goes up to the roof of their building and is never seen again. The local police are indifferent, the case too confusing to make any sense of. That, in combination with the recent death of her mother, has her reeling. This quick, sharp novel about missing women, law enforcement’s lack, and victim invisibility is sure to entertain at the same time it educates.
Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson
Fourteen-year-old Claudia and Monday are inseparable. That is, until Monday goes missing. No one, though, seems to notice except her. After trying to get answers from Monday’s mom and sister to no avail, she’s at a loss. Why does no one seem to care? It’s captivating and heart-wrenching and will leave you thinking about Monday long after you’ve finished.
Witness, I Am by Gregory Scofield
Gregory Scofield is one of Canada’s most recognized poets. In this collection, he focuses on identity, belonging, and the missing and murdered Indigenous women from his home country. Some autobiographical, some fictionalized, all of it is moving. I highly suggest you read these aloud to best capture the rhythm of these poems.
Missing Nimama by Melanie Florence and Francois Thisdale
This children’s book is a great place to start teaching kids about the too-many missing and murdered Indigenous women. In Missing Niamama, a young mother who is one of the missing Indigenous women, watches over her daughter as she experiences life milestones. It’s told in free verse with beautiful illustrations to accompany the sad and moving story.
For further reading on missing and murdered people of color, I suggest the website Our Black Girls that shares the under-represented cases of missing and murdered Black women and these five books about missing and murdered Indigenous women.