Non-fiction books written by women of color that shape modern literature


We’ve rounded up some amazing and must-see non-fiction books written by women of color, covering everything from immigration to celebrity culture.

Despite living in 2021, women of color are still disproportionately affected by issues of violence and oppression. In literature itself, they have spent centuries being erased or rewritten through colonial narratives.

With writers from Liberia to New York to India, we’ve rounded up seven recent works of non-fiction by women of color that are shaping modern literature and how we view the woman of color narrative.

Claudia Rankine, author of Only U.S. (Photo: Poetry Foundation)

Azadi by Arundhati Roy (2020)

Azadi (Is translated by freedom in Hindi, Urdu and Cashmere) is a series of political essays by Indian political activist Arundhati Roy. Known for her controversial views, many of which are not supported by the leading establishment in her home country, Roy is an outspoken human rights activist who has spent most of her literary career writing on the front lines. solidarity.

In Azadi, Arundhati Roy attacks the rise of Hindu nationalism in his country, the independence movement of Kashmir, fascism and freedom of expression. The book is based on a 1,000-page edition of Roy’s non-fiction collection, My seditious heart, which was published in 2019. Roy examines politics and literature, prompting readers to reflect on the meaning of freedom in a world of growing authoritarianism.

Photo: Penguin

Intimations by Zadie Smith (2020)

Zadie Smith’s Essay Series Accomplished Novelist Intimations still retains the intelligence, wit, and style of her fictional writing, with the striking intimacy and tenderness of her personal locking experiences. Intimations is a work of stark bewilderment and human curiosity, as Smith lays bare his attempt to collect the feelings and thoughts sparked by the racial justice movement and the pandemic.

Deeply intimate and deeply urgent, Intimations is a glimpse into the mind of one of the greatest storytellers of our generation – his anxieties, reliefs, sorrows and all, during one of history’s most extraordinary moments. Smith is a full professor of fiction at New York University and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and completely selflessly, royalties from the novel will go to two charities, The Equal Justice Initiative and The COVID- 19 Emergency Relief Fund for New York.

zadie smith, women of color
Photo: Penguin

Just Us: an American conversation by Claudia Rankine (2020)

Published in 2020, the critical importance of Claudia Rankine’s book has never been more urgent. Just Us: an American conversation seeks to get whites to consider how much their lives (and privileges) depend on racial order. The book is an amalgamation of Rankine’s actual encounters with friends and strangers, where the false comforts of spaces where our public and private lives intersect, such as the airport, theater, dinner, and voting booth are disrupted.

Just Us: an American conversation explores modern America, a country of complex race relations with a renewed spirit, albeit deeply divided by strong partisanship. In this moment of strong polarity, Rankine tirelessly questions his readers, navigating an investigation of human conversations to navigate the tense and painful American political climate.

just us women of color
Photo: Penguin

The Dragons, the Giant, the Women by Wayétu Moore (2020)

Representing an escape journey from the first Liberian Civil War, Wayétu Moore wrote a compelling dissertation on the personal and political forces that continue to affect many migrants across the world, drawing on his own experience as a immigrant to America.

Written in exhilarating prose, this deeply personal story is a moving tale of immigrant resilience, after Moore’s early childhood, as well as her years of adjusting to life in Texas as a black woman and immigrant, and her return. possible in Liberia. A fiercely authentic story about a family threatened by political violence, The Dragons, the Giant, the Women is a critical history of African immigration.

the Dragons
Photo: Pushkin Press

The ungrateful refugee: what immigrants never tell you by Dina Nayeri (2019)

In her non-fiction debut, Dina Nayeri paints a rich portrait of her experience as a migrant refugee escaping from Isfahan to Oklahoma, weaving the tales of her fellow asylum seekers as they attempted to navigate their lives amidst disruptive and traumatic political upheaval.

Stories of flight from ancestral hometowns, resettlement and racism collectively form a picture of the endless and resilient trauma, violence and hope of the refugee experience.

the ungrateful refugee, women of color
Photo: Allen & Unwin

Trick mirror by Jia Tolentino (2019)

Trick mirror is a series of nine essays by New Yorker journalist and editor Jia Tolentino. She boldly writes about millennial culture in all its glory: including topics like religion, drugs, feminism and the “cult of the difficult woman”.

Holistically, the book is an incredibly insightful and passionate cultural critic, exploring the fragmented temporal brilliance of adult millennials and how the concept of contemporary celebrity has permeated their subcultures.

misleading mirror, women of color
Photo: Random House Publishing

Know My Name – Chanel Miller (2019)

Known the world over as Emily Doe in the Brock Turner sexual assault case, Chanel Miller’s Know My Name is an astonishing identity recovery. Powerfully written, it embodies pain, power, anger and hope… and tells her story of grief and healing as she stood up against a criminal justice system designed to fail her. With resilience, strength, and extraordinary literary talent, Miller’s memoir guides readers through the trauma she faced before, during, and after the trial.

chanel meunier
Photo: Penguin


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