5 Books Every Young Black Woman Needs To Read
When I was a little girl, I had few role models. I remember looking up to the women in my family, and a few television icons, but I quickly recognized that the women who dominated mainstream media didn’t look like me. Not the Disney Princesses in the movies, or some of my personal favorites, singers Shania Twain and Cher.
It didn’t bother me much at the time, because I appreciated different people and cultures. But like many black parents, my mother wanted to make sure that I knew black was beautiful. She let me watch all the Disney movies my heart desired, but she also introduced me to beautiful black women elsewhere. In black sitcoms like Family Matters and A Different World, which portrayed smart and funny African-American families, in popular musicians like Destiny’s Child and Aaliyah, and in books by talented and witty black authors.
All of these things helped shape my love for the black community, but as far as my self-esteem, the books helped the most. I would read authors like Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison and feel empowered to love myself. Of all the books I read as a teen, these five books helped me to feel the strongest and most secure in my identity as a black woman.
by christianna wiggins
The Skin I'm In by Sharon G. Flake
This coming-of-age book is about a young girl named Maleeka. Maleeka is bullied because of her dark skin complexion and handmade clothes. She decides to befriend a few popular girls in school and do all of their homework for them, in exchange for borrowing nicer clothes and appearing like she has cool friends
Throughout the book, Maleeka struggles with morality and self-esteem and is forced to confront her personal family issues and the true source of her insecurities, her skin. This is a quick but insightful read, in which Flake empowers women of color to love themselves and the beautiful skin they are in.
i know why the caged bird sings by toni morrison
Maya Angelou bares it all in this impeccably written autobiography. The writer and poet details her tumultuous childhood from age three to age eighteen. From the time Maya and her brother were toddlers, they were bounced around between their grandmother and both of their parents. In each new space, they found themselves struggling to fit in based on their shy personalities, socioeconomic class, and race. As the siblings deal with heavy familial issues, readers also see Maya confronting her insecurities around being a young African-American woman and how that shapes her perspective.
The book deals with sexuality, independence, and race in a unique and compelling manner, as we watch Maya overcome her fears and emerge as a strong and resilient woman .
The Bluest Eye by toni morrison
Toni Morrison’s debut novel follows an 11-year-old girl named Pecola whose only wish is to have bright blue eyes and be as beautiful as America’s beloved white children. That summer, Pecola suffers a devastating injury and is throttled into a complex journey of self discovery, which confronts racism and self-hatred head on. Through Pecola, Morrison dissects low self-esteem in young African-American women, as it relates to a lack of representation, and displays the importance of self-love.
The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America by Tamara Winfrey Harris
In this compelling novel, Harris confronts all of the negative stereotypes against black women and shows how real women are fighting against these distorted caricatures of themselves. The author covers everything from the mammy stereotype to oversexualized media portrayals of black women, to prove that black women are more than stereotypes and we will prosper regardless. This book is a bit heavy but it covers intersectional feminism in a way that is overlooked in many young adult novels. It’s a good introduction to what it means to be black and a woman in today’s society.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
In this book-turned-movie classic, Alice Walker gets real about the struggles of being a black woman in the early 1900s. The book follows a young woman named Celie who is abused her entire life from everyone around her. Celie is told by her own husband repeatedly that she is black, ugly, poor, and on top of that, a woman.
Feeling completely broken, Celie turns to God and her sister Nettie, who is the only person that has ever loved her, to express herself and find her voice. While Celie’s story is a bit older, and at times difficult to read because of its rawness, the power of its message remains. It teaches young women to love themselves and serves as a reminder that no one is allowed to dictate your value.