Black fiction writers, essayists, artists, and poets offer personal insights and historical context.
Ash Dark as Night
Gary Phillips. Soho, Apr. 2024
Photojournalist and Korean War vet Harry Ingrams returns in this sequel to the PW-starred mystery series launch One-Shot Harry. In this outing, Ingrams captures on film an act of police brutality during the Watts riots in 1965 L.A., making him both a sought-after private eye in the Black community and a target of the LAPD. Phillips, an activist and organizer as well as a writer, is a mainstay of Los Angeles noir.
The Dead Don’t Need Reminding
Julian Randall. Bold Type, May 2024
Randall narrates his story of recovery from depression as well as his effort to learn more about a grandfather who was threatened for attempting to pass as white in a Mississippi town. This memoir, which also touches on Randall’s cultural lodestars—BoJack Horseman, Odd Future—marks his adult debut. A queer Black middle grade author and poet, Randall contributed to the well-received anthology Black Boy Joy and is a recipient of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize.
An Encyclopedia of Gardening for Colored Children
Jamaica Kincaid and Kara Walker. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, May 2024
The powerhouse duo of artist Walker and writer Kincaid compose an alphabetic primer on the plants that have shaped history, including Adam and Eve’s forbidden fruit (probably a pomegranate), and cotton and other crops that became motors and motivators of colonialism and the slave trade. Kincaid’s essayistic entries, musing on the positive and negative attributes of humans as a species, are interspersed with Walker’s vivid illustrations.
Freddy Carrasco. Drawn & Quarterly, Apr. 2024
Three interconnected graphic tales, grounded in the tradition of Afrofuturism, explode outward from recognizable scenes—the church, the club, a robot repair workshop—to traverse fantastic possibilities. Born in the Dominican Republic, raised in Toronto, and based in Tokyo, Carrasco is an interdisciplinary artist whose influences range from manga to cyberpunk.
Percival Everett. Doubleday, Mar. 2024
Pulitzer and Booker Prize finalist Everett reimagines Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to tell the tale from Jim’s perspective. Enslaved and in danger of being separated from his family, Jim, along with the young runaway Huck, embarks on a raft voyage down the Mississippi River, encountering familiar characters seen anew through Everett’s particular lens.
Neighbors and Other Stories
Diane Oliver. Grove, Feb. 2024
Oliver had published four stories, won an O. Henry Award, and was studying at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop when she died in a motorcycle accident in 1966, at age 22. This “extraordinary” posthumous story collection about the “realities of African American life in the South during the Jim Crow and civil rights eras,” per PW’s starred review, stakes her claim in the American canon.
Of Greed and Glory
Deborah G. Plant. Amistad, Jan. 2024
African American and Africana studies scholar Plant (Barracoon) draws parallels between her brother’s incarceration in Louisiana’s Angola Prison and the institution of slavery. Inspired by her research into the life of Zora
Neale Hurston, Plant examines the carceral system and other legacies of greed in present-day American society, insisting on physical freedom as a condition of justice and equality.
One of Us Knows
Alyssa Cole. Morrow, Apr. 2024
In this thriller, preservationist Kenetria Nash is trapped with a group of strangers in a historic house on an isolated Hudson River island and must contend with a diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder as well as a murder. Cole, an outspoken champion of diverse fiction, counts Black horror films like The People Under the Stairs and Tales from the Hood, Hitchcock, and Rosemary’s Baby as influences.
This Is the Honey
Edited by Kwame Alexander. Little, Brown, Jan. 2024
This wide-ranging collection gathers the work of Black poets including Jericho Brown, Rita Dove, Terrance Hayes, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Tracy K. Smith. Editor Alexander—NPR contributor, Caldecott Medal recipient, and creator of Disney+ series The Crossover—assembles poems dealing with grief and joy, family and ritual, beloved animals and favorite dishes that offer, as in Alice Walker’s poem “I Could Eat Collard Greens Indefinitely,” “a stirring sensuousness.”
Weird Black Girls
Elwin Cotman. Scribner, Apr. 2024
In this short fiction collection, seven speculative tales provide a fantastical spin on the real stresses of Black life. PW’s starred review praised Cotman’s 2020 collection, Dance on Saturday, for its biting wit and powerful emotion; here the Philip K. Dick Award finalist assembles a cast of characters including LARPers, activists, a hapless professional wrestler, and a domineering tree.
You Get What You Pay For
Morgan Parker. One World, Mar. 2024
The trials faced by Black American women are the focus of the personal essays in this collection by Parker (There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé), a poet and a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Writing about her own mental health and figures like Serena Williams who feature prominently in Black cultural life, Parker explores the effects of societal expectations about Blackness on actual Black lives.