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19 of the Best Books of 2021

black authors urban books

A bookworm is happiest when they’re surrounded by books — both old and new. Undoubtedly, 2021 was a great year for both fiction and nonfiction, with bestsellers like Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters and Second Place by Rachel Cusk. Whether you read memoirs or young-adult (YA) novels, 2021 was a fantastic year for book lovers. While we can’t squeeze in all of our favorites from 2021, we’ve rounded up a stellar sampling of must-reads. Here’s some of the year’s best books. 

“Crying in H Mart: A Memoir” by Michelle Zauner

black authors urban books

In her profound memoir Crying in H Mart , Michelle Zauner shares an unflinching view of growing up as a Korean American person — all while reflecting on losing her mother to terminal cancer. Author Dani Shapiro notes that the Japanese Breakfast musician “has created a gripping, sensuous portrait of an indelible mother-daughter bond that hits all the notes: love, friction, loyalty, grief.”

“The Prophets” by Robert Jones, Jr.

black authors urban books

In Robert Jones, Jr.’s lyrical debut novel, The Prophets , Isaiah and Samuel are two enslaved young men who find refuge in each other — and their love becomes both sustaining and heroic in the face of a vicious world. Entertainment Weekly writes that “While The Prophets’ dreamy realism recalls the work of Toni Morrison… Its penetrating focus on social dynamics stands out more singularly.” Now that’s a compliment.

“The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman

black authors urban books

At President Joe Biden’s inauguration, Amanda Gorman read her electrifying poem, “ The Hill We Climb .” Since then, it has been praised for its call for unity and healing. Vogue captures the feeling of reading the poem well, calling it “deeply rousing and uplifting.” 

“Beautiful World, Where Are You” by Sally Rooney

black authors urban books

New York Times bestselling author Sally Rooney has returned with a sharp, romantic drama, Beautiful World, Where Are You . Two separate relationships are in chaos, threatening to ruin friendships. Vogue  declares that the author has “invented a sensibility entirely of her own: Sunny and sharp.” 

“Somebody’s Daughter: A Memoir” by Ashley C. Ford

black authors urban books

Ashley C. Ford’s coming-of-age memoir, Somebody’s Daughter , centers on her childhood. Ford, a Black girl who grew up poor in Indiana, recounts how her family was fragmented by her father’s incarceration. With rich, unflinching writing, Ford has penned a debut for the ages. The memoir’s publisher perhaps puts the core of the book best, noting that Ford “embarks on a powerful journey to find the threads between who she is and what she was born into, and the complicated familial love that often binds them.” 

“Last Night at the Telegraph Club” by Malinda Lo

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Everyone remembers their first all-consuming love — and for Lily Hu, the teenage protagonist of Malinda Lo’s queer YA novel, that love is Kathleen Miller. Set in the 1950s in San Francisco,  Last Night at the Telegraph Club  is not just one of the year’s best, but one of Lo’s best. O: The Oprah Magazine notes that the novel is “proof of Lo’s skill at creating darkly romantic tales of love in the face of danger.”

“¡Hola Papi!” by John Paul Brammer

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In his memoir, ¡H ola Papi!: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons , advice columnist John Paul Brammer delves into his experiences growing up as a queer, biracial person. The  Los Angeles Times  writes that “Brammer’s writing is incredibly funny, kind, and gracious to his readers, and deeply vulnerable in a way that makes it feel as if he’s talking to only you” — and we couldn’t agree more. 

“Honey Girl” by Morgan Rogers

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In Morgan Rogers’ novel Honey Girl , Grace Porter is an overachiever — and certainly not the type of person to marry a stranger in Las Vegas. Or, at least, she didn’t think she was that type of person. As Grace navigates the messiness of adulthood, Rogers takes us on a journey that’s both heartfelt and unflinching, illustrating that love is all about risks — even when it comes to loving ourselves. 

“Aftershocks: A Memoir” by Nadia Owusu

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Nadia Owusu’s memoir, Aftershocks , reflects on her experience of being abandoned by her parents at a young age. Entertainment Weekly notes that “Owusu dispatches all of this heartache with blistering honesty but does so with prose light enough that it never feels too much to bear.”

“Klara and the Sun” by Kazuo Ishiguro

black authors urban books

What if an artificial intelligence (AI) assistant had feelings? In Kazuo Ishiguro’s latest novel,  Klara and the Sun , Klara is an Artificial Friend who wonders if friendship is possible. The Financial Times called the Never Let Me Go author’s latest “a deft dystopian fable about the innocence of a robot that asks big questions about existence.”

“100 Boyfriends” by Brontez Purnell

black authors urban books

Brontez Purnell’s romantic, intoxicating book, 100 Boyfriends , is a look at the romantic lives of queer men who are striving to find out not just where they belong, but where they can shine. Author Bryan Washington praised the collection, writing that “Each story in 100 Boyfriends is a minor eclipse: stunning in scope, technically blinding, and entirely miraculous.”

“One Last Stop” by Casey McQuiston

black authors urban books

In Casey McQuiston’s big-hearted romance novel, One Last Stop , August meets Jane on a New York City subway — but she doesn’t realize just how fateful their chance encounter is at first. New York Magazine called the novel “an earnest reminder that home — whether that means a time, a place, or a person — is worth fighting for,” and we wouldn’t expect anything less from the  Red, White & Royal Blue author. 

“Afterparties: Stories” by Anthony Veasna So

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In Afterparties , Anthony Veasna So weaves together tenderhearted stories about the lives of several Cambodian American characters. Although the stories vary quite a bit in terms of content, author George Saunders writes that they are all “powered by So’s skill with the telling detail,” and are much like “…beams of wry, affectionate light, falling from different directions on a complicated, struggling, beloved American community.”

“Malibu Rising” by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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In Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel Malibu Rising , readers meet four famous siblings as they throw their annual end-of-summer party in Malibu. However, over the course of 24 hours, family drama ensues. The Washington Post calls this read “a fast-paced, engaging novel that smoothly transports readers.”

“Let Me Tell You What I Mean” by Joan Didion

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Between 1968 and 2000, award-winning journalist and essayist Joan Didion wrote 12 pieces about a variety of well-known figures, ranging from Ernest Hemingway and Nancy Reagan to Martha Stewart. Now, these works have been gathered in the essay collection Let Me Tell You What I Mean . Bret Easton Ellis writes that Didion’s “prose remains peerless,” so, if you’re a fan of the iconic writer, this is a must-read. 

“Intimacies” by Katie Kitamura

black authors urban books

Intimacies is Katie Kitamura’s fourth novel, following 2017’s critically acclaimed A Separation . In it, an interpreter for the International Court at the Hague gets drawn into a political scandal after agreeing to translate for a former world leader and potential criminal. The novel is a fascinating investigation into the instability of language and how it influences identity. Dana Spiotta describes Intimacies as “a haunting, precise, and morally astute novel that reads like a psychological thriller.”

“Detransition, Baby” by Torrey Peters

black authors urban books

In Detransition, Baby , Torrey Peters tells a witty and nuanced story about partnership, parenthood and identity. About the novel, Ginny Hogan from the New York Times states “[Detransition, Baby upends] our traditional, gendered notions of what parenthood can look like.”

“Second Place” by Rachel Cusk

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In Rachel Cusk’s novel Second Place , a follow up to her brilliant Outline trilogy, a woman invites an artist she admires to live in her remote guesthouse for the summer. As the stay unfolds, a series of unexpected events spurs revelations about womanhood, marriage and security. About Second Place , Jenny Singer from Glamour writes “there is mayhem; surprising sweetness and brilliant observations tumble from every page.”

“Sellout: The Major-Label Feeding Frenzy That Swept Punk, Emo, and Hardcore ” by Dan Ozzi

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In Sellout: The Major-Label Feeding Frenzy That Swept Punk, Emo, and Hardcore , rock critic Dan Ozzi traces the stories of eleven separate bands that transitioned from the indie scene to achieve mainstream success in the ‘90s. Including interviews and anecdotes from bands like Green Day, Jimmy Eat World and Blink-182, this is a must-read for any music lover.


black authors urban books

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African American Authors: URBAN FICTION

What is Urban Fiction?

Urban Fiction, or "Street Lit", are books that are gritty, raw and set in dangerous or violent urban landscapes. The storylines of these books tend to focus on tough African American characters with strong themes of survival by any means necessary. Street lit can also be referred to as "Hip Hop Lit" or "Gangsta Lit". There is very often frank treatment of drugs, sex and violence and the books are written in a very casual style, often times with non-standard grammar and slang. --"Urban Grit: A Guide to Street Lit".

Urban fiction primarily centers on but is not entirely exclusive to African American characters which is a testament to how this wildly popular genre is not defined by the color of one's skin but rather the literary content itself.

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Urban Authors

Ten Black Urban Authors You Should Definitely Check Out


Here’s A List of Ten Black Urban Authors You Cannot Help But Love

As a lover of literature and an avid reader, myself, I live for a good piece of urban fiction, and these urban authors never cease to amaze me. They each offer an unorthodox way of storytelling and a superb level of penmanship that essentially makes their work all the more rich and unique. Chapter after chapter, they captivate you with their authentic delivery, unapologetically penning cultural stories, within the Black community, that some wouldn’t even have the courage to vocally tell.

In my opinion, each of these authors have contributed greatly to the African-American, urban literature genre, as a whole. And, for that, you cannot help but appreciate their penmanship. Here are TEN urban authors you should definitely check out.

Urban Authors

Somewhere along the realm of urban authors, you’ve definitely heard of her. Born in Chicago, Illinois, Jessica N. Watkins is an author and publisher, most known for her acclaimed  Secrets of A Side Bitch series, among a plethora of others. Though writing had been a love of Watkins’ since an adolescent, it wasn’t until her teen years, after she gave birth to her son, that she began to take writing seriously. Since then, Watkins’ book credits only seem to be going up. Now in her thirties, to date, Watkins is one of the most notable authors of the African-American romance and urban fiction genre, as she has garnered a worldwide following of dedicated readers.

Connect with Jessica N. Watkins on social media:

Website Twitter Facebook Instagram

2.  Wahida Clark

Urban Authors

This woman’s real-life story is as intriguing as the fictitious stories that she writes. While serving a ten-year sentence in prison, to cope with her incarceration, Wahida Clark began writing stories that would later turn into full-blown New York Times bestseller novels. She’s most popular for penning her infamous cold-blooded thug love, gangsta fiction.  The self-proclaimed ‘Queen of Street Lit’ is among the most well-respected urban authors. Now a free woman, Clark is the CEO of her own publishing company, Wahida Clark Presents Publishing, which she successfully runs out of East Orange, New Jersey.

Connect with Wahida Clark on social media:

3.  Jade Jones

Urban Authors

This authoress, Jade Jones , finally found her light at the end of the tunnel, and that light was the art of storytelling. Though her passion for creative writing and poetry stemmed from her early years in elementary school, it was Jones’s troubled lifestyle and need for an outlet to vent, as a teen, that eventually led her to fall back in love with the pen. From homelessness to stripping, Jones realized that she wanted more, she wanted better. Her knack for storytelling soon came back, full force, as she used her broad imagination and real-life experiences to write books, crafting relatable storylines and captivating characters. Now residing in Atlanta, Georgia, Jones is the best-selling author of the renowned Cameron  and When A Rich Thug Wants You series—holding 20+ other titles under her belt.  Jones is also a screenwriter and the CEO of Jaded Publications.

Connect with Jade Jones on social media:

4.  Ashley & JaQuavis

Urban Authors

Meet urban authors Ashley and JaQuavis Coleman . A dynamic duo and a power couple. This couple is, for sure, a force to be reckoned with, especially when it comes to the world of urban literature. Both embodying a mutual love for storytelling, they’ve collectively written books, deeming them as one of the most successful writing pairs in the game. At the tender age of seventeen, the, now, wedded couple was discovered by world-renowned author and screenwriter Carl Weber. They received publishing deals, and, immediately, their careers took off, as they were latterly named the youngest African-American co-authors to hit New York Times bestsellers list. Since then, they’ve also each made a name for themselves, separately, as well as world recognition for their joint titles, such as their lengthy, notorious  The Cartel book series.

Connect with Ashley & JaQuavis on social media:

Website:   Ashley & JaQuavis 

Twitter @Novelista @RealJaQuavis

Facebook Author Ashley Antoinette Real JaQuavis

Instagram @AshleyAntoinette @RealJaQuavis

5.  David Weaver

Urban Authors

He didn’t wait for directions; instead, David Weaver paved his own road to success, right from behind the bars of his jail cell. While in prison, serving a five-year sentence, Weaver made the decision to start his very own publishing company, Smart Black and Rich Publications (David Weaver Presents). Today, after completing his sentence, Weaver is now an esteemed author and CEO of one of the most thriving black digital publishing companies in the United States, and he has written a number of fiction novels, including his highly-celebrated Bankroll Squad books.

Connect with David Weaver on social media:

Twitter Facebook Instagram

6.  Mercy B

Urban Authors

Mercy B. Carruthers , a native of Memphis, Tennessee, is a national best-selling, award-winning author and entrepreneur with nearly forty book titles attached to her name. Widely known for her distinctive way of crafting classic characters through her work of urban fiction and romance, the 26-year-old is certainly a force to be reckoned with, as she is killing the industry, one book at a time. Through her literary work, Carruthers has been able to use her God-given talents as a platform to inspire and educate other aspiring writers and entrepreneurs.

With her publishing company, Mercy B Publications, she has since acquired a wide range of clients—through coaching, publishing, strategizing, and even consulting. Deeming herself as ‘The Literary Heroine’, Carruthers is, without a doubt, the go-to girl for all things literary. Along with being an author and publisher, she is now the Editor-In-Chief of her own magazine, Written In Color ,   which serves as a print publication for authors.

Connect with Mercy B on social media:

7.  Eric Jerome Dickey

Urban Authors

You couldn’t deny it if you wanted to; Eric Jerome Dickey is definitely considered a veteran in the literary field. His outstanding contributions to the genre of contemporary urban fiction, alone, speaks for itself. Holding nearly twenty-three years in the industry, Dickey has honed himself into an illustrious novelist, breaking social barriers within the African-American community, through his writings, time and time again. His latest release happens to be The Blackbirds , which hit the bookstands last April.

Connect with Eric Jerome Dickey on social media:

Urban Authors

Her name is Shan, but that’s Myss Shan to you. This Louisiana bred, Texas fed, shelf-clearing authoress is the epitome of a girl boss. An author, herself, co-owner of publishing company Shan Presents, and the founder of the African American Book Expo, Myss Shan is taking the world of urban authors by storm. Already knowing that she was born to write, in 2011, Shan took a leap out on faith and published her debut book, Rozalyn . It instantly became a best-seller, and, one year later, she found herself signing to David Weaver’s publishing company, Smart Black and Rich Publications, becoming the first lady of the African-American-based publishing company. Since then, Shan has published an abundance of urban fiction novels, selling thousands of copies–book by book.

Connect with Myss Shan on social media:

9.  Leo Sullivan

Urban Authors

There isn’t anyone quite like Leo Sullivan. He’s a versatile writer, with even more versatile stories to tell. Breaking out with his debut novel, Life (Life Without Hope) , the   novel   became a mega-hit, as it has since sold over one hundred thousand copies, to date. Even today, it still serves as an urban street classic, and, years later, Sullivan just keeps dynamically dropping classic after classic. The seasoned author birthed his own literary and film company, back in 2011, called Sullivan Productions LLC. Unquestionably, Leo Sullivan continues securing his seat at the top of the book industry, umpteen years later.

Connect with Leo Sullivan on social media:

10.  Jamila T. Davis

Urban Authors

If there isn’t anyone else ‘doing it for the culture’, author, prison reform activist, and motivational speaker Jamila T. Davis certainly is. Hailing from Jamaica Queens, New York, the 40-year-old has had a long line of trials and tribulations, but, somehow, someway, she has managed to find her triumphant ending. From a self-made millionaire to an inmate, her life soon went from fame and fortune to tragedy and turmoil. After being convicted of bank fraud, Davis was sentenced to twelve and a half years in a federal prison. She was stripped of her freedom and, most of all, stripped of her sanity. But, through it all, Davis found solace in herself, embarking on a journey of inner healing. While dealing with life behind bars and seeing the everyday struggles of imprisonment, with her own two eyes, she began turning her pain into purpose, using her own personal experiences to inspire others. She wrote the celebrated Voices of Consequences Enrichment Series , a three-part, self-help curriculum book that was designed to empower fellow incarcerated women. Her other releases include She’s All Caught Up and  The High Price I Had To Pay– both gaining worldwide notoriety. As of late, Davis recently collaborated with Wahida Clark, debuting a fictional book series, titled  The Pink Panther Clique. She also helped produce the reality show Left Behind , a docuseries following the lives of children of incarcerated women.

Connect with Jamila T. Davis on social media:

Website Twitter Instagram Facebook

Who are some of your favorite urban authors? Leave your comments!

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