For over 100 years, International Women’s Day has celebrated all women who contribute to the workplace and to society, often without equal recognition or reward. Though every life is its own story, common themes of strength, perseverance, and stubborn optimism unite women’s experiences across time and place. Choose from below to find a fascinating read that explores gender equality through the lens of fiction.
Check It Out Category: Diverse and Inclusive Spotlights
Explore Black voices through the decades during Black History Month and beyond!
The Classics: 20th Century
Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
Twelve-year-old Sophie Caco is removed from her impoverished village and sent to live in New York with her mother, a woman she barely knows. There she learns about a terrible truth that shadows her family.
Relationship fiction / Lyrical prose / Emotional
Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
1948, Los Angeles: The mortgage payment’s coming due, so Easy Rawlins accepts the assignment of finding Daphne Monet, a blonde torch singer with a penchant for jazz and criminal black consorts. In his search through a sleazy, fearful city, he is lucky to be under the protection of the murderous Mouse who wants a piece of the action.
Historical mystery / Hard-boiled / Gritty
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
When Janie Starks returns home, she seeks identity and independence as the small southern black community buzzes with gossip about the outcome of her affair with a younger man.
Southern literary fiction / Moving / Engaging
The Contemporaries: 21st Century
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
A novel about faith, science, religion, and family that tells the deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief, narrated by a fifth year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford school of medicine studying the neural circuits of reward seeking behavior in mice.
Psychological fiction / Eloquent / Quietly poignant
Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge
Coming of age as a free-born Black girl in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie Sampson is all too aware that her mother, a physician, has a vision for their future together: Libertie will go to medical school and practice alongside her. But Libertie feels stifled by her mother’s choices and is constantly reminded that, unlike her mother, Libertie has skin that is too dark. When a young man from Haiti proposes to Libertie and promises she will be his equal on the island, she accepts, only to discover that she is still subordinate to him and all men. As she tries to parse what freedom actually means for a Black woman, Libertie struggles with where she might find it-for herself and for generations to come.
Historical fiction / Richly detailed / Immersive
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Twin sisters, inseparable as children, ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds, one black and one white.
Relationship fiction / Sharp and rich writing / Character-driven
What Fiction Staff are Loving Right Now
Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby
Compelled by poverty to agree to a lucrative final heist that will allow him to go straight, a skilled getaway driver finds his efforts complicated by racial dynamics and the ghosts of his past.
Crime fiction / Atmospheric / Action-packed
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
Eleanor Bennett’s death leaves behind a puzzling inheritance for her two children, Byron and Benny: a traditional Caribbean black cake, made from a family recipe with a long history, and a voice recording. In her message, Eleanor shares a tumultuous story about a headstrong young swimmer who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder. Can Byron and Benny reclaim their once-close relationship, piece together Eleanor’s true history, and fulfill her final request to ‘share the black cake when the time is right’?
Family fiction / Engrossing / Lush
The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers
To come to terms with who she is and what she wants, Ailey, the daughter of an accomplished doctor and a strict schoolteacher, embarks on a journey through her family’s past, helping her embrace her full heritage, which is the story of the Black experience in itself.
Coming-of-age story / Richly layered / Haunting poignancy
Black History Month (and any month!) offers a great time to add books featuring Black protagonists to the top of your reading list. We suggest these 18 page-turners of all genres, featuring joyful moments and happy endings. Click on any cover that strikes you for full book information.
What is it about Talia Hibbert’s books that has won the hearts of our readers’ advisors? Peek over the shoulders of MPPL staff to learn six reasons why they are infatuated, and join us for a live virtual conversation on Saturday, July 17 to hear from the author herself. Can’t wait? Try a reading date with Get a Life, Chloe Brown, the first of the Brown Sisters trilogy, as ebook or e-audio on Hoopla.
Real and Relatable Characters
“I enjoy how real both her male and female characters are. They have many facets to them and they are normal people with things like tough pasts, mental health issues, and/or disabilities, and I find that so refreshing and relatable.”
What We Already Love but More
“I love that the sisters make reappearances throughout the whole trilogy and that there is overall a general kindness to these books even in the enemies-to-lovers trope. Speaking of tropes: Hibbert covers a bunch of them (fake dating, enemies to lovers, person teaching other person to LIVE), but because she has such superb character development and banter between characters it feels like fresh takes on the tropes.”
Ultramodern with Ease
“I liked that the writing was effortlessly contemporary. There are references to social media and other bits of modern life that don’t feel clunky like they sometimes do when an author is trying to seem ‘with it.’ It feels like the author could be writing about her own life — that’s how real the characters, places, and social media bits feel.”
Accessibility and Tone
“A way in for me was when I was trying to stretch my reading, and I was able to do so easily thanks to the humor and not-often-talked-about issues. I’d probably recommend to a reader looking for a more contemporary/real-life (right now) romance with a bit of humor. I’d definitely mention the fun back and forth/quirkiness between the characters. So romantical!”
“The book I read had two Black main characters, a bisexual lead, two non-Christian religions, and a mental health subplot, and still managed to be funny and fun to read.”
Delicious Audio Productions
“I love the snappy dialogue, and the audiobooks’ narrators are fabulous!! Yes, I’m swooning!”
Added note: Steamy Encounters
Talia is renown for romance with lots of sizzle. Whether you are looking for more stories with equal heat or some that lean into slow-burn simmer instead, we can suggest just the right recipe!
“The Black Family” is this year’s Black History Month theme. It is brought to us by the organization that founded Black History Month, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. For more information on the association and to browse past themes, click here. Collected below are some fictional stories to enjoy all year round that embrace this year’s theme on the Black family.
The Travelers by Regina Porter
A first novel by an award-winning playwright follows the experiences of two American families, one black and one white, against a backdrop of historical events from the 1950s through the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency.
It’s Not All Downhill From Here by Terry McMillan
Confident that her best days are still ahead, a successful businesswoman relies on close friends and her resourcefulness when an unexpected loss turns her world upside down.
No One Is Coming To Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts
A tale inspired by The Great Gatsby is set in the contemporary South and follows the difficulties endured by an extended black family with colliding visions of the American dream.
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
Learning after a half-century of family life that their house on Detroit’s East Side is worth only a fraction of its mortgage, the members of the Turner family gather to reckon with their pasts and decide the house’s fate.
Red At The Bone by Jaqueline Woodson
As Melody celebrates a coming of age ceremony at her grandparents’ house in 2001 Brooklyn, her family remembers 1985, when Melody’s own mother prepared for a similar party that never took place in this novel about different social classes.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
When her new husband is arrested and imprisoned for a crime she knows he did not commit, a rising artist takes comfort in a longtime friendship, only to encounter unexpected challenges in resuming her life when her husband’s sentence is suddenly overturned.
A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
Explores the legacy of racial disparity in the South through the story of three generations of an African American family in New Orleans.
Homecoming by Yaa Gyasi
Two half-sisters, unknown to each other, are born into different villages in 18th-century Ghana and experience profoundly different lives and legacies throughout subsequent generations marked by wealth, slavery, war, coal mining, the Great Migration and the realities of 20th-century Harlem.