8 Great Books Celebrating Black Joy

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Enobong Essien

Staff Writer

Enobong is a former professional dancer turned publicity and marketing assistant and life-long lover of books. Fully Nigerian and fully British, Enobong now lives in Chicago with her nonfiction enthusiast husband and peculiar yet adorable cat roommate.

Black joy is a form of resistance. There is so much joy in being Black and this joy should be celebrated. Human beings are complex, multifaceted creatures and this is true regardless of your race, gender, ethnicity etc. Have you ever found yourself crying from happiness? Or, and this one’s a little more taboo, laughing in an intensely sad situation? We behave this way because we humans are able to hold many emotions at one time.

Black people have suffered (Oh, how we have suffered), and there are still many real injustices to keep on fighting against. But guess what, it’s still pretty awesome to be Black.

There are many great books out there that confront the realities of racism. There are some amazing novels that dissect the effects of historic, systemic racism in people’s lives. These books are all great. Read all of these books. But it’s important for Black people to be able to read books in which our hearts aren’t constantly being trampled on. After all, don’t we all love books with a happy ending?

It’s important to see versions of ourselves just getting on with life and being great. And it’s important for non-Black people to see that we are not defined by our suffering. We are so much more than what we have endured.

So let’s all read more books in which Blackness is centred and Black joy is celebrated. Here’s a list of 8 books to get you started.

Hair Love coverHair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

The children’s book version of the Oscar-winning short film. Hair Love is a story of a father’s support, a mother’s love, and the complexities that come with loving your natural hair. It’s a story that has so much depth in its simplicity and moved me to tears of joy.

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

A remix of a classic. Ibi Zoboi takes the key themes from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and places them in Brooklyn. Zuri’s neighbourhood is the latest casualty to gentrification and when Darcy family move in across the street, judgemental and arrogant Darius becomes the target for all her frustrations.

Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D Jackson

In this celebration of ’90s rap culture, three Brooklyn teens created a legacy for their murdered friend by making him into a rap star from beyond the grave.

You Should See Me In a Crown coverYou Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

An exciting debut with all the feels. Romcom isn’t a genre where we see too many Black people (at least not as the leads). But in Leah Johnson’s YA novel, Liz Lighty, a protagonist that thinks she’s too Black, too poor, and too awkward, is the leading lady I’ve been waiting for.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

In her Legacy of Orisha series, Tomi Adeyemi celebrates the depths of West African mythology. A fantasy novel in which Black people are not excluded or positioned as other is a fantasy novel I can get fully on board with.

 A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole

A Cinderella-style love story with a Black female lead who’s in graduate school and a love interest looking to find marriage a good woman in order to secure his future. Sounds perfect, sign me up. This novel is as cosy as a Netflix marathon and a tub of Haagen Dazs.

The Perfect Find by Tia Williams

This is the kind of book that will have you laughing until you’re crying. When 40-year-old Jenna Jones loses her high-profile job and her longtime fiancé, she has to start again from scratch. Enter a job offer from her arch-nemesis and a sexy 22-year-old who is definitely off limits. What could possibly go wrong?

Get a Life Chloe Brown coverGet a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Chloe Brown is the protagonist you want to give a big hug. Chronically ill computer geek is ready to move out of her parent’s house and get a life. She’s even compiled a list to help her do so. But she needs a coach in being bad and finds one in bad boy handyman Red Morgan. What follows is the most adorable story I think I’ve ever read. Eleanor Oliphant, eat your heart out.