Arrows of Rain by Okey Ndibe (Soho, Jan. 2015). Finally available in the U.S., Ndibe’s debut novel investigates the colonial legacy of corruption and misuse of power in an African country based on his native Nigeria.
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James (Riverhead). James’s magisterial novel is a sweeping history of the insidious entanglement of Jamaican politics with violent criminal gangs, as told by a dazzling array of characters.
A Christmas Prayer by Kimberla Lawson Roby (Grand Central). Since the death of her mother, Christmas has come to mean heartache to Alexis Fletcher; and even as she prepares to marry, outside forces threaten to destroy her happiness at Christmas time.
Driving The King by Ravi Howard (HarperCollins, Jan. 2015). In a novel that opens in the Jim Crow South of 1945, a childhood friend of the great jazz singer/pianist Nat King Cole is asked to become his driver and bodyguard after spending years in prison.
God Help the Child by Toni Morrison (Knopf, April 2015). The Nobel Prize–winning novelist writes about the aftermath of an allegation made by a student about a teacher.
Inside a Silver Box by Walter Mosley (Tor, Jan. 2015). In a new work of SF by the acclaimed novelist, two people brought together by a terrible act unite to save humanity from an alien race.
Only the Strong by Jabari Asim (Agate, May 2015). Set in St. Louis in 1970, this debut novel uses three interwoven stories to survey urban life in the first years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.
Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson (William Morrow, Feb. 2015). Provocative and funny, this multicultural satirical novel is a coming-of-age story about four classmates at UC. Berkeley that skewers issues of race, class, and intellectual chauvinism for the social media generation.
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf). In poetry and poetic essays, Rankine recounts the mounting racial aggressions of everyday life in a collection that was a finalist for this year’s National Book Award for Poetry.
How to Be Drawn by Terrance Hayes (Penguin, Mar. 2015). A new collection of poetry exploring how we see and are seen, by Hayes, a MacArthur Fellow and winner of the 2010 National Book Award for Poetry.
The Little Edges by Fred Moten (Wesleyan Univ., Dec.). A collection of “shaped prose” poems by Moten, whose The Feel Trio was a finalist for this year’s National Book Award for Poetry.
Blackjack: Second Bite of the Cobra by Alex Simmons and Joe Bennett (Dover, July 2015). A graphic novel chronicling the exploits of Aaron Day, a fictional 1930s African-American soldier of fortune, this time traveling to Egypt to battle a bedouin warlord.
March, Book 2 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. (Top Shelf, Jan. 2015). In the second volume of this acclaimed graphic memoir by Lewis, a U.S. representative from Georgia, he and his fellow Freedom Riders face brutal beatings and vicious white cops as they put their lives on the line to challenge segregation and racism in the heart of the Jim Crow South.
Strange Fruit, Vol. 1: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History by Joel Christian Gill (Fulcrum). An illuminating and eccentric collection of nonfiction comics stories about lesser known black historical figures, written and drawn by Gill with a foreword by prof. Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr.
Becoming Richard Pryor by Scott Saul (HarperCollins). A decade’s worth of research went into this new biography of the brilliant African-American comedian.
Black Broadway: African-Americans on the Great White Way by Stewart F. Lane (Square One, Feb. 2015). This illustrated history of African-Americans in the New York theater features b&w and color photographs from both New York Public Library and Harlem’s Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Common Wealth: Art by African-Americans in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston by Lowery Stokes Sims (MFA Publications, Jan. 2015). A generously illustrated collection documenting the work of African-American artists from the 19th century until now, including Lois Mailou Jones, Jacob Lawrence, Kerry James Marshall, and many others.
Cosby: His Life and Times by Mark Whitaker (S&S). This biography, which chronicles how Bill Cosby changed American comedy and American culture, has become controversial for failing to provide a substantial account of the mounting rape allegations against Cosby.
Eye on the Struggle by James McGrath Morris (Amistad, Feb. 2015). McGrath documents the life of the unheralded, pioneering black journalist Ethel Lois Payne, who was the Chicago Defender’s White House correspondent in the 1950s.
Fire Shut Up in My Bones: A Memoir by Charles M. Blow (HMH). In this acclaimed memoir, the New York Times columnist recounts growing up poor, his sexual abuse at an early age, and the trauma of coming to grips with his sexuality and a culture of hazing and abuse he enters while in college.
A Light Shines in Harlem: New York’s First Charter School and the Movement It Led by Mary C. Bounds (Chicago Review). A look at the Sisulu-Walker Charter School, founded in Harlem in 1999, which marks the beginning of the controversial charter school movement in New York City and a new stage in public school reform.
The Night Malcolm X Spoke at the Oxford Union: A Transatlantic Story of Antiracist Protest by Stephen Tuck (Univ. of California). In 1964, Malcolm X accepted an invitation from the Oxford Union, a prestigious U.K. debating organization. Tuck recreates the dramatic events of that night. Published to coincide with a 50th anniversary restaging of the event.
Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country by Shelby Steele (Basic Books, Mar. 2015). Black conservative and NBCC award winner Steele blames liberalism’s focus on America’s racist past for perpetuating contemporary racial antagonism.
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs (Scribner). The tragic account of the life of an impoverished young black man who graduated from Yale with a degree in molecular biochemistry and biophysics before being murdered in a basement marijuana lab.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (Penguin). This acclaimed memoir in verse—winner of the 2014 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature—is the story of Woodson’s childhood growing up in Brooklyn and South Carolina in the 1960s and 1970s.
Jalani and the Lock by Lorenzo Pace (Windmill, Jan. 2015) This illustrated work—the latest in a quartet of picture books by Pace—tells the story of an iconic lock, once used in slavery, that has been passed down through generations of a black family.
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Algonquin, Apr. 2015). Twelve-year-old Corrinne La Mer accidently brings a jumbie—a wicked spirit from Caribbean folklore—out of the woods and must risk her life to stop the magical creatures from taking over her island home.
X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz, with Kekla Magoon (Candlewick, Jan. 2015). This YA novel is based on Malcolm X’s childhood through his teen years, and his social and moral transformation after ending up in jail (cowritten by Shabazz, Malcolm X’s daughter).