Black Lives Matter Reading List

Right now our publishers are seeing unprecedented demand for anti-racist literature and stories that highlight Black experiences. At Turnaround, we have a long history of supporting publishers who amplify Black voices and shed essential light on the systemic racism that Black people face everyday. We want to use our platform to continue to get these books into the hands of readers, and to that end we’ve mined our back-list to create a repository of recommendations to help.

We also encourage you to check out the various lists complied by our publishers, including Feminist Press, The New Press, and Seven Stories.

And head here for more ways to show support and donate.

Non Fiction

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Text Publishing, 9781925240702, £10.99

In the 150 years since the end of the Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment (the abolition of slavery), the story of race and America has remained a brutally simple one. It is the story of the black body, exploited to create the country’s foundational wealth, violently segregated to unite a nation after a civil war and, today, still disproportionately threatened, locked up and killed in the streets. How can America reckon with its fraught racial history? Between The World And Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ attempt to answer that question.

Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America by Kristian Williams, AK Press, 9781849352154, £17.50

We have reached a point in history where the systemic nature of police brutality can hardly be denied – and yet, many deny it. Each new case, they say, was perpetrated by a mere bad apple on the force. In Our Enemies in Blue, Kristian Williams gives the lie behind that assumption due consideration. Though his focus is on US policing, the same problems are echoed in police forces in the UK and around the world.

They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abudurraqib, Melville House, 9781911545224, £9.99

In a collection of essays published by the New York Times, MTV, and Pitchfork, among others – along with original, previously unreleased essays – Hanif Abdurraqib explores the political, social, racial condition of our world today through the language of music and culture. From discussions over public displays of affection at a Carly Rae Jensen show to the everyday threats to the lives of black Americans, including his own, Abdurraqib provides a lens through which to view our world, so that we might better understand ourselves.

Listen, Whitey! The Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975 by Pat Thomas, Fantagraphics, 9781606995075, £35.99

Noted music producer and scholar Pat Thomas spent five years in Oakland, California, researching Listen, Whitey! While befriending members of the Black Panther Party, Thomas discovered rare recordings of speeches, interviews and music by noted activists Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, Elaine Brown, The Lumpen and many others that form the framework of this definitive retrospective. Listen, Whitey! also chronicles the forgotten history of Motown Records.

James Baldwin: The Last Interview, Melville House, 9781612194004, £12.99

“I was not born to be what someone said I was. I was not born to be defined by someone else, but by myself, and myself only.” James Baldwin lived by that creed. When, in the fall of 1987, the poet Quincy Troupe travelled to the south of France to interview a critically ill James Baldwin, they knew it was his last chance to speak at length about his life and work. The result is one of the most eloquent and revelatory interviews of Baldwin’s career, ranging widely over his youth in Harlem, his friendship with Miles Davis and Toni Morrison and his thoughts on race.

Toni Morrison: The Last Interview, Melville House, 9781612198736, £12.99

In this wide-ranging collection of thought-provoking interviews – including her first and last – Toni Morrison, whom Barrack Obama called a “national treasure”, talks with a wide variety of people, from Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Bill Moyers to obscure bloggers. She details not only her writing life and her influences, but also her other careers as a teacher and as a publisher, as well as the gripping story of her family. In fact, Morrison reveals here that her Nobel Prize-winning novels, such as Beloved and Song of Solomon, were born out of her family’s stories – such as those of her great-grandmother, born a slave, or her father, escaping the lynch mobs of the South. Morrison hereby weaves yet another fascinating and inspiring narrative – that of herself.

Martin Luther King Jr.: The Last Interview, Melville House, 9781612196169, £12.99

As the Black Lives Matter movement gains momentum, and books like Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen swing attention toward the racism, it’s as urgent now as ever to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., whose insistence on equality and peace defined the Civil Rights Movement and forever changed the course of American history. A true icon, whose insistence on equality and peace defined the Civil Rights Movement and forever changed the course of American history, his words and interviews are collected here in a unique volume, highlighting the wisdom and teachings he shared with the world.

Black in White America 1963-1965 by Leonard Freed, Reel Art Press, 9781909526778, £49.95

In 1962, white photojournalist Leonard Freed was on assignment in Berlin. He photographed an African-American soldier standing in front of the wall. The irony of this soldier defending the USA on foreign soil while African-Americans at home were fighting for their civil rights resonated with Freed. From 1963 to 1965, he captured the plight of African Americans; the great struggle for racial equality within a deeply segregated, racist society.

Always Another Country by Sisonke Msimang, World Editions, 9781642860009, £11.99

Born in exile, in Zambia, to a guerrilla father and a working mother, Sisonke Msimang is constantly on the move. Her parents travel from Zambia to Kenya and Canada and beyond with their young family. Always the outsider, and against a backdrop of racism and xenophobia, Sisonke develops her keenly perceptive view of the world. In this sparkling account of a young girl’s path to womanhood, Sisonke interweaves her personal story with her political awakening in America and Africa, her euphoria at returning to the new South Africa, and her disillusionment with the new elites.

Parenting For Liberation by Trina Greene Brown, Feminist Press, 9781936932849, £19.95

Parenting for liberation, written by activist and mother Trina Greene Brown who founded the multimedia platform of the same name, fills a critical gap in currently available resources for liberated parenting. Pairing personal stories from her successful podcast series with open-ended prompts designed to inspire reflection and creativity, the book provides guidance for those seeking to dismantle harmful narratives about the Black family, initiate difficult conversations on social issues with their children, and find community with other parents who share their struggle.

But Some of Us Are Brave by Akasha (Gloria T.) Hull, Patricia Bell Scott & Barbara Smith, Feminist Press, 9781558618985, £21.99

From literary essays on major writers to pieces on how black women contributed to the blues, this is the ultimate text for black women’s studies. First published in 1982, But Some of Us Are Brave has been used in classrooms and universities ever since. The essays capture everything from a black women’s place in art to racism and sexism, feminist thought and lesbian studies to political theories and ideologies. Not only does the book provide essential materials for academics and students, it is popular with general readers.

New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Writing by Women of African Descent edited by Margaret Busby, Myriad Editions, 9781912408740, £14.99

Twenty-five years after Margaret Busby’s historical Daughters of Africa was published to international acclaim – this companion volume brings together the words of writers from across the globe – Antigua to Zimbabwe, Angola to the USA – to honour a unifying heritage while showing the remarkable range of creativity from the African diaspora. Arranged chronologically, New Daughters of Africa illustrates an uplifting sense of sisterhood and the links that endure from generation to generation, as well as common obstacles writers still negotiate around issues of race, gender and class.

Federal Reports on Police Killings by U.S. Department of Justice, Melville House, 9781612196541, £18.99

Federal Reports on Police Killings is a collection of the complete reports from the Department of Justice’s landmark investigations of police violence in three major American cities. Rather than frame the collection with an introduction, the book will open with the brief DOJ statement about the decision to close the investigation into the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 – an event that animated the Black Lives Matter movement and can be interpreted as a catalyst for the DOJ’s inquiries into law enforcement. The reports that follow speak for themselves.


A More Perfect Union by Tammye Huf, 9781912408894, Myriad Editions, £12.99

When Henry O’Toole escapes the Irish famine and sails to America, he doesn’t expect the anti-Irish prejudices that await him. Determined never to starve again, he changes his name to Henry Taylor to secure a job and safeguard his future. Traveling south to Virginia, he meets Sarah, a slave woman torn from her family and sold to another plantation. There she must navigate the power system of the white masters, as well as the hierarchy of her fellow slaves.

Training School for Negro Girls by Camille Acker, 9781936932375, Feminist Press, £14.99

In her debut short story collection, Camille Acker unleashes the irony and tragic comedy of respectability onto a wide-ranging cast of characters, all of whom call Washington, DC, home. Unapologetic and resilient, these women challenge monolithic assumptions of black identity. A TSA agent who has never flown, a girl braving new worlds to play piano, a teacher caught up in a mayoral race. In this debut collection of stories, each of them navigate life’s ‘training school’ – with its lessons on gentrification and respectability – while fighting to create a vibrant sense of self.

Passage by Khary Lazarre-White, 9781609808815, Seven Stories Press, £11.99

Passage tells the story of Warrior, a young black man navigating the snowy winter streets of Harlem and Brooklyn in 1993. Warrior is surrounded by deep family love and a sustaining connection to his history, bonds that arm him as he confronts the urban forces that surround him – both supernatural and human – including some that seek his very destruction. Warrior isn’t even safe in his own mind. He’s haunted by the spirits of ancestors and of the demons of the system of oppression. Every memory in the novel is the memory of thousands of black families. Every conversation is a message both to those still in their youth and those who left their youth behind long ago. Passage is a novel for then and now.

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, 9781617755880, Akashic Books, £11.99

Aster lives in the lowdeck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, 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. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer, Aster learns there may be a way to improve her lot – if she’s willing to sow the seeds of civil war.

The Wonderous and Tragic Life of Ivan & Ivana by Maryse Conde, trans. by Richard Philcox, 9781912987092, World Editions, £12.99

Ivan and Ivana are twins with a bond so strong they become afraid of their feelings. As young adults in Paris, Ivana joins the police while Ivan walks the path of radicalisation. Unable to live with or without each other, become perpetrator and victim in a wave of violent attacks. With her most impressive novel to date, this master storyteller offers an impressive picture of a colourful yet turbulent 21st century.

The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert, 9781368053297, Disney-Hyperion, £15.99

Marva was born ready for this day. She’s always been driven to make a difference in the world, and what better way than to vote in her first election? Duke is so done with this election. He just wants to get voting over with so he can prepare for his band’s first paying gig tonight. Only problem? Duke can’t vote. When Marva sees Duke turned away from their polling place, she takes it upon herself to make sure his vote is counted. Romantic and triumphant, The Voting Booth is proof that you can’t sit around waiting for the world to change… but some things are just meant to be.

Boonoonoonous Hair! by Olive Senior and Laura James, 9781926890227, Tradewind, £6.99

In this vibrant and exquisitely illustrated picture book, written by Commonwealth Prize-winning Jamaican-Canadian Olive Senior and with pictures by the acclaimed artist Laura James (the team that created Anna Carries Water), a young black girl learns to love her bouncy, voluminous, boonoonoonous hair.

Graphic Novels

Incognegro by Warren Pleece & Mat Johnson, 9781506705644, Dark Horse, £16.99

Zane Pinchback, a reporter for the New York-based New Holland Herald, is sent to investigate the arrest of his own brother, charged with the brutal murder of a white woman in Mississippi. With a lynch mob already swarming, Zane must stay ‘incognegro’ long enough to uncover the truth behind the murder in order to save his brother – and himself. Suspenseful, unsettling and relevant, Incognegro is a tense graphic novel of shifting identities, forbidden passions, and secrets that run far deeper than skin colour.

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates, 9781302904159, Marvel, £29.50

National Book Award winner and New York Times Best-Selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates (Between the World and Me) confronts Black Panther with dramatic upheaval in this astounding run. When a superhuman terrorist group sparks an uprising, Wakanda will be thrown into turmoil.

Black Panther by Priest: The Complete Collection, 9780785192671, Marvel,  £29.50

Black Panther reinvented as a sharp and witty political satire? Believe it! T’Challa is the man with the plan, as Christopher Priest puts the emphasis on the Wakandan king’s reputation as the ultimate statesman, as seen through the eyes of the U.S. government’s Everett K. Ross.

LaGuardia by Tana Ford & Nnedi Okorafor, 9781506710754, Dark Horse, £16.99

Set in an alternative world where aliens have come to Earth and integrated with society, LaGuardia revolves around a pregnant Nigerian-American doctor, Future Nwafor Chukwuebuka who has just returned to NYC under mysterious conditions, who smuggles an illegal alien plant named “Letme Live” through customs and security. There, she and Letme become part of a growing population of mostly African and shape-shifting alien immigrants, battling against interrogation, discrimination and travel bans, as they try to make it in a new land.

Freedom Bound by Warren Pleece, 9781910775134, BHP Comics, £14.99

Freedom Bound explores Scotland’s uncomfortable connections with the history of slavery. Warren Pleece’s graphic novel, Freedom Bound, follows the interconnected stories of three enslaved people living in Scotland before Scots Law proved slavery illegal. From mountainous countryside to the inner city, Freedom Bound explores Scotland’s unsettling history of slavery and the injustices perpetrated through the decades.

What We Don’t Talk About by Charlot Kristensen, 9781910395554, Avery Hill, £11.99

Adam and Farai are an interracial couple that have been together for two years. Farai has  finally persuaded Adam to introduce her to his parents, but the visit turns out to be a horrible experience for Farai. She starts to feel uneasy and ostracised. When confronted about this experience Adam tries to play down the situation and does not show any understanding for his partner’s concerns. Then things get a whole lot worse and Farai has to question if she can be with a man whose family does not accept her and who is not willing to face the difficulties related to an interracial relationship.

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