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Black lesbian fiction is the result of the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Black writers and activists were very unhappy with the way black women and their issues were portrayed. Thus, they took matters into their own hands and amplified the voice of black women by incorporating intersectional feminism into their works.
While the queer movement in literature has its own heritage, the stories of black lesbians often get lost. Now that the decolonization of our shelves has become essential to overthrow white supremacy in the literary industry, this fascinating sub-genre of literature must be included in our respective TBRs.
The protagonists exist at the intersection of racism, sexism, homophobia and humanity’s propensity to survive, against all odds. They not only facilitate the expansion of our horizons, but also reflect the unhealthy culture in which we were raised. They help re-evaluate our innate beliefs, verify our conditioning, and also open us up to a whole world of authors whose socio-political commentary is of the utmost importance to the unlearning process. Therefore, this list of black lesbian fiction can be a good starting point for someone who wants to expand their literary landscape and venture into the world of top literature! Good reading!
Under the trees of Udala de Chinelo Okparanta
When civil war broke out in Nigeria, Ijeoma was only 11 years old. When she is sent back for her safety, she meets another girl and falls in love with her. As her nation grows, so does she. When this side of hers is revealed, Ijeoma realizes that she must hide it from the world, as living and loving freely is always frowned upon by her society. A beautiful story of sexual awakening in the midst of political unrest and how the heart continues to love despite the violence to which it is subjected, this novel is timeless from the start!
In another place, not here by Dionne Brand
This is a black lesbian fiction book about two Caribbean women who find solace in each other amid political upheaval. Elizete wishes to escape the island where her home is located and move to a place where existing does not feel like a war. Verlia returned to the same island, hoping for a revolution. Poetic and stimulating, the unique writing style and fascinating narrative arc will make you want to revisit this book over and over again.
Here is the sun from Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn
Having learned to capitalize on her sexuality to make ends meet, Margot is determined to stop her sister, Thandi, from walking down the same path. When she learns of plans for a new hotel threatening her village, for the first time, she realizes an opportunity for economic independence and a chance to admit her love for another woman. As their community life is disrupted, each woman must face her past wounds and find a balance between the responsibilities they have and the freedom they desire.
Coffee Will Make You Black by April Sinclair
Set in the 60s of Southside Chicago, this story follows Stevie, a young black woman who grew up amid the civil rights and black power movements. The book is based on a time when the representation of blacks in the mainstream media was low or nonexistent. Stevie does her best to fit in, but after Dr. King’s assassination, she decides to rebel against the system in her own way and refuses to use bleach on her skin. She is also baffled by how she can be more attracted to her school nurse than to her teenage boyfriend. The story of Stevie’s sexual and socio-political awakening is important and to say the least compelling!
Say Jesus and come to me by Ann Allen Shockley
After the brutal harassment of two prostitutes, Reverend Myrtle Black travels to Nashville to organize the protest of local women and speak out against the rampant racism and sexism plaguing their society. That’s when she meets Travis Lee, a woman who has hit rock bottom and is only looking for peace. However, things quickly get complicated when Travis experiences a deep emotional and physical connection with Myrtle. Will society accept a love like theirs, or will their lives come under scrutiny for following the path of free love?
Pieces of her by AC Mims
Naima and Tasha seem to have the dream life! Their daughters are adorable and they live in a beautiful neighborhood. Then Allison steps in, inciting Naima’s long buried desires. Will she move away from everything she’s built so far to explore her real self? And is this long lost self the one she always wants to be?
Niya: Rainbow Dreams by Fabiola Joseph
Even after being exposed by her best friend, Niya still tries to fight the part of herself that loves girls. Before pursuing her dream of becoming a rock star, she must first accept every bit of her identity. Jamilla’s family life weighs on her. Forced to face an extreme monstrosity every day, she slowly gives up on life. It is then that she befriends Niya and thus tells a story of unconventional friendship and strong sexual tension.
The Heart Doesn’t Fold by Makeda Silvera
When Maria dies, she leaves everything to her grandson while her granddaughter, Molly, has to deal with the bitterness Maria always had for her. Molly walks in the past and remembers the times in her childhood when she received the unmitigated generosity of her grandmother. Does Molly’s love for another woman paint her in a bad light in her grandmother’s eyes? This book is a nuanced and complicated story about strong female characters and how we sometimes have to break free from suffocating love in order to be who we are.