irror, Mirror on the wall who is fairest of them all? Over the seven jeweled hills, beyond the seventh fall, dwells Snow White, fairest one of all.” –Snow White, 1937
Many spaces have a lack of representation. The question is: how do you navigate and take pride in your heritage and culture in these institutions? In 2019, I meticulously choose texts of my interest. A continuous thread throughout my reading is the search for mirrors to explore, validate, and actualize my Black feminine experience. I examine this through strong Black female protagonists, Afrofuturistic utopias, and in the text of cultural theorists.
This practice was reactionary. One film I remember from my childhood is Snow White. Snow White depicts a woman with snow white skin and silky, straight, black hair. The mirror tells the other woman that she did not fit White Eurocentric standards of beauty. Textual mirrors force me to try to relate White characters’ culture and experiences. I question this existence, so I seek refuge in fictional worlds.
Turning pages late at night because you can’t put the book down, devouring words in print or digital media, feeling the characters’ emotions, and transporting yourself to literary and fictional worlds is reflective of the talent of amazing BIPOC writers. Therefore, if you are only here to do a diversity challenge for the year, you will be thrown a curveball because you will be hooked on the amazing literary worlds that you will be thrust into upon picking up their book. We encourage that you take this as a lifelong commitment to cultivating a multicultural cannon and hearing the voices of many different authors. We are sure that in this article you will get your fix and if you are reading this, it’s not too late. Let the journey begin by introducing you to amazing writers and books.
We will provide for you the following for your enjoyment:
- A list of books and authors that expand the narrative of literature
- Reasons to not stop here and use this list as a introduction to reading BIPOC
Daughters of The NRI By Reni K. Amayo
Daughter of the NRI embodies the trope of two siblings split up at birth: one leads a life of royalty and the other navigates a war-torn existence. Based in the West African mysticism and the author’s weaving in of Orishian cosmology, the power and magic by twins comes to fruition. This novel explores how two women can topple a corrupt monarchy.
This story is a testament to femine power, embracing the self, and reliance on elders for advice. A near-death experience of one of the characters initiates the fusion of the twin’s power and magic within her because she should not have survived.
Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq
Split Tooth is an inspiring memoir and coming-of-age story by the Inuktitut author and throat singer, Tanya Tagaq. Her narrative is about her childhood growing up in Nunavut in the 1970s. She bends the genre of poetry and prose to illustrate her heartwarming, dark, and compelling story. Through this book, she navigates the mythical and literal landscape of her arctic town. She experiences attending the residential school system in Canada as an indigenous young woman, carrying the stories of her family and heritage to interpret the calamity and good times in her life, and journeying to become an Inuktitut woman.
Some of the most notable features of her memoir is that it chronicles her life in relation to indigenous ways of knowing about nature. While it includes the quintessential teenage experiences like bullying, puberty, and friends, her writing adds nuance to this narrative because she understands that her struggle is holistically tied to a cyclical and spiritual existence.
Slay By Brittney Morris
This highly anticipated novel by Brittney Morris is centered around the experience of a young Black girl programming her own video game. In her life she splits time between school, the fictional world she creates, and dreaming about potentially attending Spelman College. She exudes Black Girl Magic in every way. Her video game, while an underground and highly coded world, celebrates Black excellence and is an enclave for Black players all over the world to be themselves and duel with cards that are symbolic of Black culture (i.e. Black Love--the excellence dizzies your opponent, Weave--an amazing longhaired do used to strike your opponent).
Enjoy the interactive Slay Card game on the author’s website and get in contact with the amazing author. She is super easy to reach at @Brittneymmorris. Look out for her newest book project that will come soon.
Taj Mahal Series By Indu Sundaresan
Sundersan leads us on a saga detailing the political changes led by women from the harems of the Mughal Empire. The first book chronicles the experiences of Mehrunissa, an Arabic girl that came from modest beginnings and ended up being the most powerful empress in the Mughal Empire. She arranged powerful marriages, drafted constitutions, and advised the king.
The rest of the books follow her rule and the experiences of her posterity leading to the story of how and why the Taj Mahal was built. The Taj Mahal is an amazing architectural wonder that is dedicated to the niece of Mehrunissa. While that niece was more a traditional woman that tried to undo the great things that Mehrunissa did, the building is a testament to the influence of Mehrunissa because without her the building would not be possible.
Homegoing By Yaa Gy'asi
Homegoing traces the families of two sisters through the history of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. One sister lives a life of privilege, despite being forced to marry an upper class White man on the Gold Coast, and the other sister experiences a voyage that will forever mar the lives of her posterity. The latter one’s journey traces the Middle Passage and how she is enslaved and lives a hard life in the United States. Each chapter switches to both sisters and their families to emphasize the duality of their new identities through separation.
A Thousand Splendid Suns By Khaled Housseni
This novel by an Afghan-American author depicts the story of thirty years of Afghanistan history as it unfolds in the same family. Mariam and Laila are brought together by war-torn conflict, loss, and fate. Their family finds salvation in love, faith, and friendship through the hard times. Therefore, this book is about resilience and obstacles that women have to face with a double war of actual war and the hidden battles of patriarchy. This read inspires many people to look at the power of women to endure and heal through loving friendship and this is shown through its debut on the New York Times bestseller list multiple times.
The Worst Best Man By Mia Sosa
Mia Sosa writes from an Afro-Latinx perspective that includes detailing food, traditions, and cultural norms of her heritage. That shapes the background of her “sassy” and “steamy” romantic comedy. She truly delivers a great fictional story about a Brazilian wedding planner that was ghosted at the altar by her fiancee. After this event has barely blown over, she must work with the man that convinced her fiancee to leave (the worst best man in history). The irony of both her profession and unfortunate position in this unfolds as revenge, and eventually, shows her the reason that she was not well-matched for her former fiancee, but the universe is tugging her in a different direction by developing a romance with someone else.
Call To Action
Commit to Keep Reading BIPOC Authors
We hope that you take the courageous leap to transverse literary worlds by reading more BIPOC writers. One of the reasons that people have to be so intentional about this reading and finding textual mirrors is because the cannon is built on exclusion. For instance, what books were you taught are good literature in school or what books are over advertised? Usually, the answer to this question is books by White authors. Forge a new path in your reading of some of these amazing books and let us know your favorites in the comments