I created the Onward Book Club, which takes place on my Instagram via a live chat, as a way of spotlighting, studying, and celebrating the work of Black female authors. If you would like to join the Onward Book Club, membership is simple — just read along with us, as we explore the rich creative and cultural offerings of these extraordinary writers! And here’s a suggestion — if you are a member of an existing book club, why not ask your group to make a commitment to reading more books written by Black women? My hope is that this page will offer you suggestions and inspiration. You can see all the posts using #onwardbookclub.
Please feel free to watch and share these videos with your own reading groups. As always, I suggest that you buy your books through Black-owned bookstores. My favorite is Elizabeth’s of Akron, owned by my friend Rachel Cargle. — which also has very good reading lists about Black authors.
Thank you…and onward!
Lauren Wilkinson is a first time novelist of extraordinary intelligence and talent. AMERICAN SPY is a Cold War thriller that both embraces and transcends the spy genre — telling the captivating story of Marie Mitchell, a Black FBI agent who gets recruited by the CIA for a mysterious mission in West Africa. This is a book of rare sensibilities about divided loyalties, the dangers of imperial power, morally ambiguous missions, and what it means to be a good American
THE YELLOW HOUSE is a memoir of masterful, mythic proportions. Sarah M. Broom tells the story of her family’s history in a humble yellow house in a poor neighborhood of New Orleans before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina?. Written with intimacy, heartbreak, poetic language and a reporter’s desire to get to the bottom of the truth, this book is a vast landscape. Broom won the prestigious National Book Award in non-fiction for this masterpiece.
Jesmyn Ward is arguably the most important contemporary American author. Versatile, brilliant, elegant, she is a master of both fiction and non-fiction. She’s the recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant, and she twice won the National Book Award for fiction. SING, UNBURIED, SING is a novel about a young bi-racial boy on terrifying road trip through Mississippi with his checked-out mother, his baby sister, and the ghosts (literally) of his family’s wrecked past. Ward is regularly compared to Faulkner — and for very good reason. This novel is simply epic.
Trethewey is one of the most celebrated poets in America today. She won the Pulitzer Prize, and also served as our country’s Poet Laureate for two term. MEMORIAL DRIVE is her memoir about the story that has haunted her for decades — the murder of her mother, back in the 1980s, by an abusive partner. This is one of the most delicately and beautiful-constructed memoirs I’ve ever read, and it’s also an education about what it means to be bi-racial girl raised in the Deep South.
Dr. Trent (whom Oprah once called the favorite guest she’d every interviewed) is simply the most extraordinary woman I’ve ever met. Raised in poverty in Zimbabwe, the victim of both racist and patriarchal abuses, Dr. Trent was married off at age 14, and had three children by the time she was 20. Yet she had a dream: To get a Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degree, and to return to her community and build schools for girls like herself. This memoir shows how she did it, and encourages all women to live by their dreams.
This is a beautifully-executed collection of essays about Bernard’s experience as a Black woman moving through traditionally white spaces in America (especially academia, and the entire State of Vermont.) It’s also a memoir of the deep love that passes between grandmothers, mothers, and daughters — and a story of how both friendship and marriage can heal intergenerational wounds.
Dr. Harper is one of the mere 2% of Black women doctors working in America — and she’s on the front lines, as an Emergency Room doctor. In this exquisitely-written, incredibly humane, and inspiring memoir, she tells the story of how she found healing for her own wounds by becoming a healer of others. She also discusses the institutional racism within the medical community, and the ways in which poverty and oppression are medical issue within themselves.
This book is a searing, moving, and tightly-memoir and historical exploration of the failures of the American feminist movement to show up for Black women. Kendall also explores the prison of “respectability politics”, and breaks down the steps through which white women can move from being mere allies, to being actual accomplices.
I think of Dr. Cooper as her own weather system. She’s a powerful and brilliant feminist scholar. Her memoir, ELOQUENT RAGE, presents a strong and moving argument for the ways in which white women have let their Black sisters down again and again throughout history. This book is essential reading for anyone who calls herself a feminist — and it’s also a beautiful and vulnerable story of Brittany’s own journey.