Our Friend is Here: Black History Month Edition is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond during the month of February, where Black authors are invited to celebrate being Black and Black books! Find the introduction post for Black History Month here.
In case you’re new to the Pond’s book recommendation posts, the recommendation posts are brought to you by Varian, the Pond’s very own Toadshifter who is knowledgeable in all kinds of magic! One of Varian’s ambitions is to get better at sewing, hence why whenever Varian has come up with their latest costume, they will always recommend a few books that inspired them!
Welcome back to our second book recommendations post for Black History Month at the Pond! We have had another wonderful and eventful week at the Pond. This week, I reviewed Yesterday is History, which is one of my favourite books so far this year, we had Nekesa Afia, who visited and talked about her adult historical mystery, Dead Dead Girls, and Ciannon Smart, who talked about her debut, Witches Steeped in Gold.
Last week, we closed the first week of Black History Month with 16 Black contemporary books. This week, we are going to celebrate and spotlight 20 queer Black books! We love these books – or, are very excited for them! – and we hope that you will read these books and enjoy them as much as we did.
King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender
Twelve-year-old Kingston James is sure his brother Khalid has turned into a dragonfly. When Khalid unexpectedly passed away, he shed what was his first skin for another to live down by the bayou in their small Louisiana town. Khalid still visits in dreams, and King must keep these secrets to himself as he watches grief transform his family.
It would be easier if King could talk with his best friend, Sandy Sanders. But just days before he died, Khalid told King to end their friendship, after overhearing a secret about Sandy—that he thinks he might be gay. “You don’t want anyone to think you’re gay too, do you?”
But when Sandy goes missing, sparking a town-wide search, and King finds his former best friend hiding in a tent in his backyard, he agrees to help Sandy escape from his abusive father, and the two begin an adventure as they build their own private paradise down by the bayou and among the dragonflies. As King’s friendship with Sandy is reignited, he’s forced to confront questions about himself and the reality of his brother’s death.
CW: This is a gem of a middle-grade book. King and the Dragonflies is a heartfelt, poignant, and bittersweet portrait of grief — and I loved it immensely.
- Follows Kingston “King” James, a Black boy who lives in the Louisiana bayou with his parents and is grieving the death of his older brother. When his former best friend goes missing and King is the last person to see him, he seeks him out.
- Despite being a short book, King and the Dragonflies profoundly explores sexuality and being a young gay Black boy surrounded by anti-gay sentiment, friendship, and grief.
- The atmosphere in this was incredible. It captures the air of living in the country – charming but also imperfect in its bigotry – and imbues it with hints of magical realism.
Legendborn by Tracey Deonn
After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.
A flying demon feeding on human energies.
A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.
And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.
The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.
She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.
CW: I’ve started the audiobook for this – finally! – and I’m so excited to dive in. There’s good reason why this book has a presence in the New York Times Best Selling list! Interested in a story that’s a Black and queer retelling of the King Arthur myth? Then read this with me.
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus
Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.
Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels–about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.
Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.
Junauda Petrus’s debut brilliantly captures the distinctly lush and lyrical voices of Mabel and Audre as they conjure a love that is stronger than hatred, prison, and death and as vast as the blackness between the stars.
CW: I have this book sitting on my bookshelf and I’ve promised myself that I’ll read this before the end of Black History Month. But look – a young adult romance between two Black teens, their faces on the cover? I want. I need.
Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.
Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .
This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.
CW: How cool does this book sound? I’m adding this book to the list, even though I haven’t got to it quite yet (this is sitting on my bookshelf as well!), because I adore retellings – especially ones that are queer. I cannot wait to dive into Kalynn’s imagining of Cinderella and see how this darker story will unfold.
Pet By Akwaeke Emezi
Pet is here to hunt a monster.
Are you brave enough to look?
There are no more monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. With doting parents and a best friend named Redemption, Jam has grown up with this lesson all her life. But when she meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colours and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question — How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?
CW: Told like a twisted fairytale or parable, Pet is a short yet powerful story about evil and monsters. This is such a compelling book and you will not be able to put it down.
- Follows Jam, a Black and trans teen with selective mutism, who accidentally summons the monster in her mother’s painting – and the monster, called Pet, is on the hunt for a monster in her best friend’s house.
- Set in a town of Lucille, where ‘angels’ (good and righteous people) have eliminated all ‘monsters’ (bad people) from the town.
- A fantastic story about the stories that society tells themselves – that just because you are told that bad people do not exist, it doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. It’s also about morality, being brave in the face of being told that everything that you knew was wrong, friendship, and justice.
All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.
Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren’t Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.
CW: Phenomenal, urgent, and illuminating. If there’s any book that you should read from this list, let it be All Boys Aren’t Blue.
- A memoir-manifesto for Black queer people everywhere; Johnson tells his story growing up, exploring topics such as masculinity, heteronormativity, the intersections of Black identity and being queer, and family.
- I loved how this book was incredibly accessible for younger readers, readers who may be unfamiliar with topics of queerness and identity, and brilliantly weaves storytelling into his memoir.
- I found the exploration of identity and how Blackness is experienced fantastic. Johnson delves into Black identity, and explores its many complex intersections (with sexuality, with masculinity, with history, with gender) without making it complex.
The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow
Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population.
Seventeen-year-old Janelle “Ellie” Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. Deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, humanity’s emotional transgressions are now grounds for execution. All art, books and creative expression are illegal, but Ellie breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. When a book goes missing, Ellie is terrified that the Ilori will track it back to her and kill her.
Born in a lab, M0Rr1S (Morris) was raised to be emotionless. When he finds Ellie’s illegal library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more. They’re both breaking the rules for love of art—and Ellie inspires the same feelings in him that music does.
Ellie’s—and humanity’s—fate rests in the hands of an alien she should fear. M0Rr1S has a lot of secrets, but also a potential solution—thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous road trip with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while making a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.
CW: I loved this book with my whole heart! I loved the demisexual representation in this, and I don’t think I’ve ever connected to a romance more. I had the pleasure of interviewing Alechia for Pride Month, where we talk about this book as well!
- Follows Ellie, a Black teen who runs a secret library, and M0R1s, an alien (named the Ilori) who, was raised to be emotionless, loves music. When her love for books and his love for music bring them together, they set off on a roadtrip to save the world.
- Set in a postapocalyptic world where aliens have invaded Earth and have prohibited all forms of art.
- Ellie is demisexual and the romance in this was stunning. I often struggle to connect to romances that don’t have emotional depth, so the fact that Ellie is demi and develops a romance that has such a strong and meaningful bond — I loved it.
Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett
Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.
Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.
Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on…
CW: I’m probably a broken record at this point, but Full Disclosure is a masterpiece, it’s one of my favourite books ever, and you all need to read this book, and I’m calling it required reading if you haven’t read it yet.
- The characters in this book are amazing; Simone’s dads, her two best friends, and Mikes. But my star of the book is Simone, a Black and HIV+ teen, and explores her sexuality in the book.
- I did not know much about HIV going into this book, and Full Disclosure explores living with HIV and how it shapes a person’s experience and life in a sensitive and genuine way. It offers well-researched insight of what it’s like to be a teen, and experiencing teenagehood, who lives with HIV.
The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum
Ryann Bird dreams of traveling across the stars. But a career in space isn’t an option for a girl who lives in a trailer park on the wrong side of town. So Ryann becomes her circumstances and settles for acting out and skipping school to hang out with her delinquent friends.
One day she meets Alexandria: a furious loner who spurns Ryann’s offer of friendship. After a horrific accident leaves Alexandria with a broken arm, the two misfits are brought together despite themselves—and Ryann learns her secret: Alexandria’s mother is an astronaut who volunteered for a one-way trip to the edge of the solar system.
Every night without fail, Alexandria waits to catch radio signals from her mother. And its up to Ryann to lift her onto the roof day after day until the silence between them grows into friendship, and eventually something more . . .
CW: When I finished this book in the small hours of the night, I just clutched this book to my chest and wept. This is a beautiful book, beautifully sapphic, and one of my all time favourites.
- Set in the distant future on Earth, the story follows Ryann, a Black teen who is as fierce as she is protective of her friends. When she meets new-girl-in-town, Alexandria, the two strike up an unlikely friendship (and later, romance), reigniting Ryann’s dream to be among the stars.
- This is a book that’s about friendship, the weight of secrets, the weight of mistakes made in the past and their ripple effect across years. It’s about life! existence! love! oh heck, all the important things.
- Though this book has a ‘science-fiction’ context, at its heart it is a romance, it is a story about found family, and love in its smallest and greatest forms.
Running with Lions by Julian Winters
Bloomington High School Lions’ star goalie, Sebastian Hughes, should be excited about his senior year: His teammates are amazing and he’s got a coach who doesn’t ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah shows up to summer training camp, Sebastian realizes the team’s success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him. Determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the Lions, he sets out to regain Emir’s trust. But to Sebastian’s surprise, sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town’s streets, and bonding on the weekends sparks more than just friendship between them.
CW: If you love the idea of a young adult contemporary set in a soccer summer camp with lots of cocky and playful banter between boys, and also a soft boy who falls in love with an angsty boy, then I think you’ll love Running with Lions!
Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America edited by Ibi Zoboi
Black Enough is a star-studded anthology edited by National Book Award finalist Ibi Zoboi that will delve into the closeted thoughts, hidden experiences, and daily struggles of black teens across the country. From a spectrum of backgrounds—urban and rural, wealthy and poor, mixed race, immigrants, and more—Black Enough showcases diversity within diversity.
Whether it’s New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds writing about #blackboyjoy or Newberry Honor-winning author Renee Watson talking about black girls at camp in Portland, or emerging author Jay Coles’s story about two cowboys kissing in the south—Black Enough is an essential collection full of captivating coming-of-age stories about what it’s like to be young and black in America.
CW: A brilliant anthology that should be recommended reading for everyone who wants to read more diversely.
- Packed with an excellent range of stories, told my fantastic Black writers, and celebrates the diversity Black identity itself can be.
- Most of them are contemporary (with one example, which has elements of fabulism), but there were some stories with romances, about friendships, classism, racism, sexism, growing up, and the juxtaposition of history and the present.
- The queer stories in this were wonderful; namely: Out of the Silence by Kekla Magoon, Wild Horses, Wild Hearts by Jay Coles, Whoa! by Rita Williams-Garcia, and Kissing Sarah Smart by Justina Ireland.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.
When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….
But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.
Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognizing the love you deserve.
CW: Last year, I interviewed Kacen Callender upon their release for Felix Ever After. I am recommending this book, having seen so many people love this, saying that this book resonated with them. I’ve yet to read this book, which I am utterly ashamed to admit, but I will read this one day – and I know I’ll love this book too.
The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
Michael is a mixed-race gay teen growing up in London. All his life, he’s navigated what it means to be Greek-Cypriot and Jamaican—but never quite feeling Greek or Black enough.
As he gets older, Michael’s coming out is only the start of learning who he is and where he fits in. When he discovers the Drag Society, he finally finds where he belongs—and the Black Flamingo is born.
Told with raw honesty, insight, and lyricism, this debut explores the layers of identity that make us who we are—and allow us to shine.
CW: Raw, vulnerable, and fierce, The Black Flamingo is a coming-of-age poetry book that has stayed with me since I read it in exactly one year ago.
- Explores so many things so tightly without compromising an iota of depth and emotion. This book is packed with emotive verses, powerful imagery, and thought-provoking moments.
- I loved how this book was a big love letter to poetry – and how poetry is the avenue Michael uses to find himself, define himself, and understand himself.
- The book largely explores Michael’s gay identity and his phases of questioning, what it’s like being Black and mixed race, the imperfection and earnestness of family, and the relationships that shape who he is. And then, he finds drag – place and people that allow him to not really find himself, but let him come into who he always was.
Yesterday is History by Kosoko Jackson
Weeks ago, Andre Cobb received a much-needed liver transplant.
He’s ready for his life to finally begin, until one night, when he passes out and wakes up somewhere totally unexpected…in 1969, where he connects with a magnetic boy named Michael.
And then, just as suddenly as he arrived, he slips back to present-day Boston, where the family of his donor is waiting to explain that his new liver came with a side effect—the ability to time travel. And they’ve tasked their youngest son, Blake, with teaching Andre how to use his unexpected new gift.
Andre splits his time bouncing between the past and future. Between Michael and Blake. Michael is everything Andre wishes he could be, and Blake, still reeling from the death of his brother, Andre’s donor, keeps him at arm’s length despite their obvious attraction to each other.
Torn between two boys, one in the past and one in the present, Andre has to figure out where he belongs—and more importantly who he wants to be—before the consequences of jumping in time catch up to him and change his future for good.
CW: Quite frankly, it is currently emotionally impossible for me to shut up about this book. I recently reviewed this and highly, highly recommend it – and while you’re at it, check out the awesome interview I did with Kosoko Jackson!
- Follows Andre, a Black teen and a cancer survivor, who inherits the ability to time travel after receiving a liver transplant. When he falls into the 1960’s, he meets a boy, and later feels torn between a love from the past and a new and unexpected one in the present.
- I love everything about this book; the stunning and memorable characters, the beautiful story, the time travel, and even the complex romance, which culminates into a fantastic love triangle.
- I love the questions that this book asks: Is there a time for love? Does love have a ‘chance’? Can love extend and exist, independent of the confines of time and space?
By Any Means Necessary by Candice Montgomery
On the day Torrey officially becomes a college freshman, he gets a call that might force him to drop out before he’s even made it through orientation: the bee farm his beloved uncle Miles left him after his tragic death is being foreclosed on.
Torrey would love nothing more than to leave behind the family and neighborhood that’s bleeding him dry. But he still feels compelled to care for the project of his uncle’s heart. As the farm heads for auction, Torrey precariously balances choosing a major and texting Gabriel—the first boy he ever kissed—with the fight to stop his uncle’s legacy from being demolished. But as notice letters pile up and lawyers appear at his dorm, dividing himself between family and future becomes impossible unless he sacrifices a part of himself.
CW: Love the idea of a second-chance romance with a queer romance, set in college, and explores poverty, gentrification, race, and sexuality, then read By Any Means Necessary! This is a book I desperately want to read – it sounds like something I will love – and I’m excited for future-me who finally reads this.
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Hello, Niveus High. It’s me. Who am I? That’s not important. All you need to know is…I’m here to divide and conquer. – Aces
Welcome to Niveus Private Academy, where money paves the hallways, and the students are never less than perfect. Until now. Because anonymous texter, Aces, is bringing two students’ dark secrets to light.
Talented musician Devon buries himself in rehearsals, but he can’t escape the spotlight when his private photos go public.
Head girl Chiamaka isn’t afraid to get what she wants, but soon everyone will know the price she has paid for power.
Someone is out to get them both. Someone who holds all the aces. And they’re planning much more than a high-school game…
CW: I finished this book and… whew. I finished this book during a flight and I just… stared at my Kindle, shocked, stunned, and amazed by this incredible and wild story. This releases in June 2021, so get ready friends – you need this.
- This book lulls you in for, like, one page, and then takes off and takes you for a wild ride about secrets, status, and an anonymous texter out to destroy.
- Set in a elite and predominantly white boarding school, I love that Ace of Spades delves into racism and classism in academia.
- This story also explores the fraught space and intersection between being a person of colour and queer identity, that being queer is an authentic experience but can also have consequences in queer communities.
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.
But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.
The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?
Skye: Friends, I cannot believe this was a debut! You Should See Me in a Crown was one of my absolute favorite YA contemporaries of 2020, and for good reason.
- The heartfelt story follows the adventures of bright, ambitious band kid Liz Lighty as she contends for prom queen in her small (and mostly white) town of Campbell, Indiana—hoping to score the illustrious financial aid promised to prom royalty in order to secure a place in her dream school to pursue medicine.
- Along the way, she falls for new kid and fellow prom-queen-competitor Mack. While their adorable sapphic romance blossoms, she grapples with the effort of carving out a space for herself in a place that isn’t meant for her.
- I thought this book was such a faithful and true representation of how fighting for yourself can be empowering and fulfilling, but also exhausting. The story is so warm and so engaging, and all the core characters are incredibly lovable and easy to root for.
If you’re in the mood for something a little more light-hearted but still immensely compelling, you absolutely cannot go wrong with Liz’s story. I’m so glad that teens—especially Black teens—growing up today will have this book.
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
Odd-mannered, obsessive, withdrawn, Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She’s used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly a monster, as they accuse, she’d be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remained of her world, save for stories told around the cookfire.
Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, the Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship’s leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster, who they consider to be less than human.
When the autopsy of Matilda‘s sovereign reveals a surprising link between his death and her mother’s suicide some quarter-century before, Aster retraces her mother’s footsteps. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer and sowing the seeds of civil war, Aster learns there may be a way off the ship if she’s willing to fight for it.
CW: This book is heavy, hard-hitting, and unforgiving. But, it is also phenomenal and brilliant for its multi-dimensional yet accessible portrayal of systemic oppression.
- Follows Aster, an intersex and autistic healer that lives in the lower decks of the HSS Matilda, a massive spacecraft that is carrying a population of humans to the next Promised Land after Earth was decimated centuries ago.
- Explores a variety of themes, all amazingly executed with a powerful and unforgettable story that centers on the mystery of the deaths of the HSS Matilda’s leader, the Sovereign, and her mother — slavery, systemtic oppression, generational trauma, racism, sexism, power, mental illness, religion, class, possession — so, so many things.
- This is science-fiction at its finest: incredible and vivid world-building, sociopolitical themes, and excellent discourse about history and the future.
Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole
While her boss the prince was busy wooing his betrothed, Likotsi had her own love affair after swiping right on a dating app. But her romance had ended in heartbreak, and now, back in NYC again, she’s determined to rediscover her joy–so of course she runs into the woman who broke her heart.
When Likotsi and Fabiola meet again on a stalled subway train months later, Fab asks for just one cup of tea. Likotsi, hoping to know why she was unceremoniously dumped, agrees. Tea and food soon leads to them exploring the city together, and their past, with Fab slowly revealing why she let Likotsi go, and both of them wondering if they can turn this second chance into a happily ever after.
CW: If you were a fan of the Reluctant Royals series, don’t miss on this cute f/f novella!
- Follows Likotsi, a Black lesbian advisor to the prince of Thesolo, rekindles her romance with Fabiola, a Black queer jewelry maker.
- This is an love to hate to love again romance, and also a second chance romance! It may be a short book but the romance was so lovely, cute, and sexy as well.
- The chemistry between them was so good! Filled with so many good tropes, this is such a good short read.
Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She’s a straight A, work-through-the-summer certified high achiever. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that.
This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her father’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows.
In New York, she’s able to ignore all the annoying questions about her future plans and falls hard for her creative and beautiful wife, Yuki Yamamoto. But when reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.
CW: I’ve seen people talk about this and I’m so excited for its release in two weeks. This adult novel about figuring out ‘what is next’ grappling with expectations and family, and also with a very queer romance between two Black women is going to be phenomenal. I cannot wait for Honey Girl.
Found a book that you want to buy?
Awesome! Thanks to Victoria Lee for this wonderful resource of Black-owned indie bookstores in the US and this list of Black-owned indie bookshops in the UK, you can now purchase these books from this list of Black-owned indie bookshops: