Your Voice, Our Headlines

Download Folkspaper App with no Ads!


A fast-growing newspaper curated by the online community.

Book Recommendations: For African American Heritage Week

  • tag_facesReaction
  • Tip Bones

African American stories are so important in the world of literature and publishing, especially since white characters have dominated the space basically since mass publishing first took off. In a time of racial prejudice and segregation, few Black authors ever got book deals and authors of other races and nationalities rarely wrote Black characters. While the issue hasn’t totally been resolved today, the publishing industry is moving in the right direction by championing African American authors and the stories they tell.

I am fairly well-read, but I certainly can’t say I’ve read a ton of books by Black authors or focused on Black stories. This isn’t from any sort of prejudice; it’s simply because of my genre choices are less saturated with Black authors and stories. However, two books in particular I would like to talk about, especially because people tend to be dismissive of YA fiction, are The Hate U Give and On the Come Up, both by Angie Thomas.

I would recommend and praise both of these novels to anyone for a few reasons. In addition to being stories about strong African American individuals with strong elements of Black culture, these stories have a lot of female empowerment, teen struggles and identity, and the importance of speaking out and making your voice heard.

The Hate U Give follows Starr Carter, a 16-year-old girl struggling with balancing life between the poor Black community she lives in and the expensive, predominantly white prep school she attends. She’s content living a sort of double life, splitting her personality between what she shows her community and what she shows her classmates, until a friend is shot and killed by a police officer. She then has to learn how to find her voice and merge the two halves of herself to find justice for her friend and reconcile her feelings about her own life.

On The Come Up, on the other hand, follows 16-year-old Bri who wants to follow in her father's footsteps and become a well-known rapper. Despite her obvious skills, Bri isn’t taken seriously as a performer, both due to being a girl and so young. After an ill-thought-out rap goes viral, she finds herself in the middle of a controversy marking her as a “hoodlum,” all the while her family is facing down an eviction notice. But Bri will not be silenced, and she’ll make sure people remember her name on her own terms.

Both of these novels represent real issues people face in the African American community through the lens of young individuals, a perspective often overlooked as unimportant. Young people have such valuable things to say and share with the world, and these novels represent that sentiment.

Both girls are strong, outspoken, emotionally connected, and wholly genuine. They feel real and authentic in a beautiful way, and these novels should not be ones to overlook.

If you’re not much of a reader, maybe try listening to them on audible. They’re read by audiobook narrator Bahni Turpin, and she does an incredible job evoking emotions and embodying these two fierce ladies.

Check out The Hate U Give!
Check out On The Come Up!

Both cover images owned by Balzer and Bray Books an imprint of Harper Collins Publishing.