How Many of These Black Women-Penned Books Have You Read?

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Jan 07, 2020

With the new year only a week old, many are just starting on their resolution to read more in 2020. Online magazine ZORA—inspired by and named after anthropologist and author Zora Neale Hurston—published a trove of inspiration on Tuesday (January 7) called the “The ZORA Canon.” It includes “the 100 greatest books ever written by African-American women” and spans 160 years of literature, including poetry, from 1850 to the present.

“This list is an exciting one: an accounting by Black women writers for Black women readers of the voices to listen to and value; of the voices that show us ourselves, interrogate ourselves, and, most importantly, value our consciousnesses,” author and The New York Times contributing opinion writer Kaitlyn Greenidge wrote in the list’s introduction, “It’s Time to Name the African-American Women’s Canon.”

In sections titled “A Fight for Our Humanity,” “A Rebirth of the Arts,” “Civil Rights & Black Power,” “The Strength of Self Worth,” “A Radical Future” and “A New Black Golden Age,” familiar writers and books are noted alongside some lesser known ones. Book lovers will find “The Red Record” by Ida B. Wells (1895), “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston (1937), “Coming of Age in Mississippi” by Anne Moody (1968) and “Native Guard” by Natasha Trethewey (2006) to name a few.

To compile the list, the ZORA staff turned to a group of contemporary Black women writers that included former vice president and senior editor for Atria Books at Simon & Schuster Malaika Adero; Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and professor Margo Jefferson; professor and author Ayana Mathis; author and sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom; professor of African-American studies and author Imani Perry; and author and English professor Jesmyn Ward.

If plowing through 100 books feels overwhelming, ZORA published the complementary list “10 Black Women Writers You Should Read Right Now” which features the next generation of authors.

To see the complete list, click here.