Best Fiction of the Last Decade by BIPOC Authors

Authors of color have no doubt delivered exceptional stories in the last decade. From book-to-blockbuster debuts to Pulitzer Prize finalists, fiction by BIPOC authors has set a high bar for captivating storytelling. Which is why our professional booklovers at Literati have picked out some of the best novels by BIPOC authors in the last ten years for you to enjoy. 

These stories are crafted so deftly, you’ll find yourself thinking, feeling, and dreaming about the characters, plot, and settings for years to come. 

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This melancholic novel weaves tales of slavery into a fantastical narrative of mystical proportions. Hiram Walker, a young slave, is the master of multiple mysterious powers—the ability of photographic recall and earthly manipulation. Armed with these gifts, the young boy plans the impossible: to escape from the plantation he’s always called home. 

Image source: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/550171/the-water-dancer-by-ta-nehisi-coates/9780399590610/readers-guide/ 

Why this rose to the top:

  • Finding power in the darkest places
  • Coates’ emotional and lyrical prose enchants as well as his protagonist does
  • Infusions of magical realism will sparkle off the page
  • Heart-wrenching explorations into love, family, and what it means to be free

Everyone Knows You Go Home by Natalie Sylvester

There’s nothing scarier than a ghost story. But how about a ghost story of a spectral in-law that forces you to confront your family’s trauma? 

(Can someone leave the light on?)

Image source: https://www.jackjonesliteraryarts.com/publicity

Each year Isabel’s father-in-law appears to her during the celebration of Dia de los Muertos, hoping to reconcile with his estranged family. As Isabel and her husband settle into a Texas town that teeters on the US-Mexican border, the apparition reveals insight into her husband’s past, his father’s disappearance, and, ultimately, the immigrant experience. 

Why this rose to the top:

  • Complex, messy, realistic characters (and ghosts)
  • A treasure trove of family secrets
  • The thin border between the stories of the living and the dead, and the one that divides countries

Freshwater – Akwaeke Emezi

Akwaeke Emezi is a blazing new voice on the literary scene. Their storytelling journey, inspired by the metaphysics of Black spirituality, comprises video, performance, sculpture, and the written word. Their novel, Freshwater, explores the identity of self—in the fractured sense. Ada, a woman living in Nigeria who later moves to America, develops multiple selves as a result of being born “with one foot on the other side.” 

Image source: https://www.amazon.com/Freshwater-Akwaeke-Emezi/dp/0802127355 

Through original, mesmerizing storytelling, the novel explores mental illness, identity, and personal agency. 

Why this rose to the top:

  • A coming-of-age story told through the lens of mental illness
  • Multiple unreliable narrators
  • Storytelling that constantly reforms, reshapes, and reinvents itself
  • Mythological and mystical themes

Salvage the Bones – Jesmyn Ward

As Hurricane Katrina looms over the Gulf of Mexico, communities brace for impact. Among them, an impoverished Mississippi family that includes a pregnant 14-year-old daughter, her three scrappy brothers, and their alcoholic father. Jesmyn Ward, a talented wordsmith and Literati Book Club host, draws readers into the intimate experience of a community in crisis and a family with wounds to heal. 

Image source: https://www.amazon.com/Salvage-Bones-Novel-Jesmyn-Ward/dp/1608196267 

(You’ll also find this novel and others like it in Susan Orlean’s Literati book club!)

Why this is tops in the last ten years:

  • Revelatory and realistic portrayals of rural poverty
  • Extraordinary writing helmed by lyrical prose 
  • A compelling, draw-you-in narrative
  • A deep-dive into Mississippi culture 

The Marrow Thieves – Cherie Dimaline

Set in a distant future, the world of The Marrow Thieves is a dark one. The population is nearly decimated by global warming and growing numbers of people have lost the ability to dream. (Sounds like a nightmare… wait…) Only North America’s indigenous people still hold the power to dream. The secret lies in their bone marrow, making them a target for a desperate population. As his people are hunted and harvested, a 15-year-old and his band of friends fight for survival and for the legacy of their communities. 

Image source: https://www.amazon.com/Marrow-Thieves-Cherie-Dimaline/dp/1770864865 

Why this is tops in the last ten years:

  • Indigenous-focused storytelling
  • Dream theory that makes Inception look basic
  • History repeating itself
  • Edge-of-your-seat excitement

Build A More Beautiful Library with Literati

The influence of BIPOC authors in today’s contemporary lit-scape is profound. In Literati Book Clubs, you’ll have an arsenal of diverse tales at your fingertips. Each book club collection is curated by well-read authors, leaders, and activists. Who are they? Why, some of the world’s most inspiring people—like Malala Yousafzai and Stephen Curry! 

No matter which book club leader you choose, you can either get their monthly book picks delivered or opt to bring your own. Expand and enrich your library with new voices every month through Literati.

Sources: 

Art for Ourselves. Read BIPOC: A List of Books by Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color Writers. http://www.artforourselves.org/reviews/read-bipoc-a-list-of-books-by-black-indigenous-andor-people-of-color-writers 

Oprah Daily. 31 Best Native American Authors to Read in 2021. https://www.oprahdaily.com/entertainment/g34483103/native-american-authors/

Simon and Schuster. Anuradha Roy. https://www.simonandschuster.com/authors/Anuradha-Roy/ 
Natalie Sylvester. About.https://www.nataliasylvester.com/

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