Today is World Book Day. It is an annual event that celebrates authors, readers, illustrators, copyrighters, and books. This day was established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1995.
But why was the date chosen? Originally, the idea was suggested in 1923, by the writer Vicente Clavel Andres from Valencia, Spain, to honour the Spanish writer, Miguel de Cervantes since April 23rd, was the day of his death. However, later it was chosen because it was also the date that William Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso died.
There are many book genres: horror, crime, sci-fiction, fantasy, romance, adventure, art, history, cooking etc., but regardless of the kind of books you like to read, there’s no doubt that hundreds of pages of a book can educate, inspire, let us create another world, get lost in time, and even make us travel.
I would like to share with you 3 of my favourite books written by great female authors:
1-We should all be Feminist, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is an adaption to short essays from her speech given on TEDx talk by the same name. Throughout 52 pages, she offers her readers a definition of feminist based on her unique experiences in life. In the twenty-first century, she considers that it should be rooted in inclusion and awareness.
One of my favourite phrases of the book is: ” So I decided I would now be a happy African feminist who does not hate men. At some point I was a happy African feminist who does not hate men and who likes to wear lip gloss and high heels for herself and not for men”.
2-The Bluest Eye, is Toni Morrison’s first novel and continues to be one of her most powerful ones. Toni uses the four seasons of the year to narrate the story of Pecola Breedlove, an eleven-year-old black girl, who desires that her eyes turn blue so she can be beautiful and be loved like other girls because she is often called “by names”. Toni, on several occasions mentioned that she wanted to point out “how hurtful racism is”.
3-Sister Outsider, is a collection of 15 essays and speeches by Audre Lorde, which develops topics like sexism, racism, homophobia, and class that were spoken during her trips, interviews, and letters. One of the elements that I like the most of this book is that she spoke about racism among the black community which is a silent topic.
So after knowing my favourite books, can you mention yours? I invite you to list them below.
A lot our writers are great editors of books, newspapers, and essays. Veronica Chambers, our previous author, was an editor at Newsweek, Glamour, and The New Times Magazine, been the first black woman with that title. Yvonne Vera (1964-2005), also edited several anthologies by African women writers.
She was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, studied and imparted English Literature at Njube High School. Years after, she immigrated to Canada where she completed her higher studies and worked.
While she was studying her first collection of short stories Why Don´t you Carve other Animals (1992) was published in Toronto Magazine. A year later her novel Nehanda, was printed followed by Without a Name, Under the Tongue, Butterfly Burning, and The Stone Virgins. Her writing discloses topics of colonialism, sexism, racism, war, oppression, and others.
Many of her works were shortlisted and won awards like Commonwealth Prize for Africa, Germany Literary Prize, Macmillan Writer’s Prize for Africa, the Swedish Pen Tucholsky Prize, and others.
Vera was the director at the National Gallery, a similar position that Victoria Santa Cruz (1922-2014), had at the National Folklore School in Peru.
This Afro-Peruvian poet, choreographer, composer, and activisthad 10 siblings who were taught the Afro-Peruvian culture by her parents who were a painter, dancer, writer, and playwright. Along with her younger brother, they cofounded Cumanana the first black theatre.
At an early age, children rejected Victoria in her neighbourhood because of her colour skin; they shouted at her: “Black, Black”. This gave her the courage, braveness, and creativity to write her emblematic poem Me gritaron Negra (They called me Black) was dramatized.
She received awards and honours from the Peruvian and French governments. Her works had been exhibited in museum and festivals in several countries. Her peak moment was in 1968, when her group Teatro y Danzas Negras del Perú performed at the Olympics in Mexico City. Her art pieces are collected on CD or web platforms.
Santa Cruz used lyrics and music as instruments to declare her poems. Likewise, Elcina Valencia Córdoba (1963), used these same techniques years later in her works.
She is a writer and musician from Buenaventura, Colombia (South America), She learned her artistic interest from her mother who was a musician. At the age 17, she wrote her first poem for one of her high school teachers.
During her career she participated in several local, national, and international events. In 1991, the Roldanillo Rayo Museo organized an even to present her poetry. This made a huge impression on the directors of the museum, so they decided to publish her first book entitled Todos somos culpaples (We Are all Guilty).
Other literary works attributed to her are Rutas de autonomía y caminos de identidad, Susurros de palmeras, Analogías y anhelos, Pentagrama de pasión.
She had received the Almanegra equivalent to Almamadre given to the most prestigious writers, National Prize of Erotic Poetry a recognition plaque; and recently she was listed between the most outstanding women of Valle de Cauca.
Córdoba is part of the committee of Buenaventura to preserve the folklore from the South Pacific same role Zora Neale Hurston(1891-1960), played for the USA folklore collection.
She was inborn in Eatonville, Florida (USA), she was the fifth of eight children from a marriage of a carpenter-preacher and a schoolteacher. She attended school at a late age (13); however, she achieved a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology.
She was a great novelist, playwright, and researcher. From 1921 to 1935 she published in magazines several stories and essays, for example, John Redding Goes to Sea, Spunk, Muttsy, The Fire and the Cloud, The Great Day etc.
In 1934, she published her first novel John’s Gourd Vine, which was acknowledged by the critics. Following were Mules and Men, Their Eyes were Watching God, her masterpiece, Tell My Horse, Moses, Man on the Mountain,Dusk Tracks on the Road and Seraph on the Suwanee.
Hurston won several literary and alumni awards during her career. In 1956, she received an award for Education and Human Relations at Bethune-Cookman College.
During her career, Hurston traveled to several countries to compile the history of the black communities. Angela Nzambi (1971), born in Lia, a district in Bata, Equatorial Guinea (Africa), also collected oral history of her community to be used in her books.
This writer, feminist and human activist who reside in Valencia, Spain is actively campaigner for the black community and migrants.
Nzambi literature work includes Nguisi, based on an oral tradition from her village and stories of her personal life. Biyaare (Stars) describes different characters that had shown like stars. Her third book Mayimbo (Wanderings) won the International Justo Bolekia Boleká Prize for African Literature.
She also participated in the production of a collective literature Navidad dulce, Navidad (Nativity, Sweet Nativity) and 23 Relatos sin Fronteras (23 Stories without Borders).
A lot of the authors listed before are considered feminists, so is the case of our last recognized author who is an energetic writer and art producer from Brazil. Jenyffer Nascimento’s (1993), born in Paulista, Pernambuco; desire to write started at an early age, but it wasn’t until she completed her teenage that she got to express her anger, anguish, and hopes true her rap lyrics.
Nascimento describes in her poems social issues, relation with the land or city, black pride, love, black woman experiences, among other topics.
Her book Terra Fértil(Fertile Land)is a collection of poems that demonstrates the experiences of black women from the outskirt of São Paulo. Her works have also been published in Pretextos de Mulheres Negras (Pretext of Black Women), which, compiles the work of 22 contemporary black writers.
In 2011, former President Barack Obama gave Maya Angelou the Presidential Medal of Freedom. A year later it was presented to Toni Morrison (1931-2019), an icon of the black literature in the United States of America. She was born in Lorain, Ohio, being the second of four children from a middle African American working-class family.
Her novels includeThe Blue eyes, Sula, Song of Salomon, Tar Baby, Beloved, Jazz, Paradise, A Mercy, God Help the Child and The Source of Self-Regard. She also wrote articles for the Times Magazine, Black World, and Confrontation.
She was recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Pulitzer Prize, American Book Award, National Book Critics Award, and Pen/Saul Bellow Award, etc.
In her books, she captures the vivid life of African history in the USA and their cultural heritage. This topic unites Toni and LucíaCharún–Illescas (1950), a writer, journalist, translator, and activist born in Lima, Peru (South America), from an Afro-descent family being the oldest of seven siblings. Her passion for literature started at an early age by reading some of the famous writers.
Her novel Malamboplays an important role in the Peruvian literature since it is the first fiction book written by an Afro-Peruvian woman and translated to English and Italian. She also is the author of the book Latinoamericano en Hamburgo. Besides these books, Charún also has written articles and stories printed in several magazines.
She won the Lyra Prize for Short Stories. In 2013 the government of Peru awarded her with the Meritorious Personality of Culture Distinction.
For years, she has resided in Hamburg, Germany, about this she has said: “Soy y seré siempre limeña y no quiero que los lectores me crean una negra europeizada o agringada, que vive fuera de Perú hace cuchucientos años”.
In 2009, she participated in the seminary for Black Afro-descent Women and Latin-American Culture in Montevideo, Uruguay, along with Shirley Campbell Barr (1965), who is a renowned poet and activist from Costa Rica, Central America. She comes from a family of five daughters and two sons.
Her poems are compiled in Rotundamente Negra(Utterly Unequivocally Black), which, has been incorporated in the Costa Rican education curricular system. Her second book is Naciendo (Being Born). Her work has been printed in different magazines from several countries and translated into French, English, and Portuguese.
Another notorious Central American writer is June Beer Thompson (1935-1986), poet, painter, and activist born in Bluefields, Nicaragua. She grew up in a middle-class family of ancestral mixture roots (indigenous, afro, and other) being the youngest of eleven children.
The pride of her black identity, the culture of the indigenous groups and the Afro ethics, who are the minority population in Nicaragua; being female, and the love for her country, were revealed in her writings and paintings. The same figures from her painting were the ones that came to life in her poems.
Her poems, Love Poem, Walk in de Moolite, Chunku faam, Resarrection a’ de Wud, and others were published in Wani, Sunrise magazine, and Hermanas de Tinta: Muestra de poesía multiétnica de mujeres nicaragüenses. Her poems were written in Creole, English, and Spanish.
Beer is an icon for the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua, because she is the first black woman poet. Four of her paintings were declared national patrimony.
From Nicaragua, the waves of the Caribbean Sea takes us to Nassau, Bahamas home of Marion Bethel (1953), a poet, essayist, attorney, human right activist, and filmmaker.
She is well known for her anthologies of poems Guahanani, My Love and Bougainvillea Ringplay. Furthermore, herwork has also been published in The Massachusetts Review, The Caribbean Writer, and Junction.
In 2012, her documentary Womanish Ways: Freedom, Human Right, and Democracy 1934-1962, received the Award in Documentary at the Urban Suburban International Film Festival in Philadelphia.
She has received the James Michener Fellowship in the Department of English at the University of Miami, and CARICOM award for her contribution to gender and justice.
In 2002, she decided to write full time which resulted with the publication of her first book Ao lado e à margem do que sentes por mim(Beside and at the Edge of What you Feel for Me). In 2006, her second book Um defeito de cor(A Colour Defect) was printed.
She was included in the newspaper O Globo list for the best Brazilian books from the previous decade.
A lot of her work has been encompassing in anthologies printed in Italy and Portugal. Gonçalves also was residence writer at several universities including Stanford University, same college where Veronica Chambers (1970),had a John S. Knight Journalism fellow. She is awriter and editor born in Panama and raised in Brooklyn, NY.
She is the author of Mama’s Girls, Having it All: Black Women and Success, Kickboxing Geishas: How Modern Japanese Women are changing their Nation, The Go-Between, Quinceanera Means Sweet Fifteen, and other.
She also has edited essays, Meaning of Michelle: 16 Writers on the Iconic First Lady and How Her Journey Inspires Our Ownand Queen Bey: A Celebration of the Power and Creativity of Beyoncé Knowles-Carter.
She is co-writer of Yes, Chef with Marcus Samuelsson that earned the James Beard Award; and 32 Yorks with Eric Ripert which, is one of The New York Times best seller.
How many black female literatures have you read? Choose your favourites and read.
You sure have heard of famous activists like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Daisy Bates, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Coretta Scott King, and Angela Davis to mention are just few black women who participated in the civil rights movement in the United States of America.
Black women have played a pivotal and heroic role in the struggle of civil rights and the rising of black movements by being activists and writers.
Black female writer’s involvement in literature dates back to the 1950s. Once they were aware of their powers and the liberation of themselves, they used them to depict and expand black literature as an alliance for the fight.
Margaret Walker, Ntozake Shange, Gayl Jones, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, June Jordan, Toni Cade Bambara, Alice Walker, Mari Evans, and others were part of the writers that built black literature in the USA to tackle topics such as gender, race, sexuality, violence, patriarchal, misogynist, immigration, and others.
It may be endless to compile in a single list all the distinguished black female writers because they are so many. However, after reading some of these writers listed below I decided to extend my research for new ones and ask my friends for their recommendable black female writers.
How much literature written by black female writers have you read?
This list below contains 20 badass black women writers from different generations, countries, and continents who have influenced me because; there are women of the same race, have similar experiences like mine, and evoke emotions. I hope you can read one or more because they are all worthy of your time; choose your favourites, do your research, and share this list with others.
Ayòbámi Adébáyò (1988) was born in Lagos, Nigeria (Africa), but shortly her family moved to the state of Osun, located in the southwest.
In 2017, the Canongate Books published her novel Stay with Me thatimmediately was listed by Wellcome Book Prize, Baileys Women Prize for Fiction, and the 9mobile Prize for Literature.
Many of Adébáyó’s writings have been printed in magazines and anthologies.
The New York Times once wrote about her, “She writes not just with extraordinary grace but with genuine wisdom about love and loss and the possibility of redemption”.
This young writer studied with Margaret Atwood and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (1977), who is one of the most known black female writers globally.
She was born and grew up in the east of Nigeria, Africa from an Igbo family with six children. She studied in the United States of America where she said: “My roommate had a single story of Africa, a single story of catastrophe and there was no possibility of being similar to her in any way”.
Her work has been translated nearly into thirty languages. She is the author of The Thing Around Your Neck, Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, Americanah, and We should all be Feminist. She also had publications in big journals such as The New Yorker, Financial Times, Granta etc. She had received distinguished awards such as Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, National Book Critics Circle, Women Prize for Fiction, and others.
A year earlier, Zadie Smith (1975), also won the prestigious literary Women Prize for Fiction (the same Adichie won). Sadie Smith, her given name, is a contemporary novelist, essayist, and storywriter born in the northwest of London from a Jamaican mother and an English father. She has four siblings.
Smith’s first novel was published in 1997; titled White Teeth followed by The Autograph Man, On Beauty, NW, and Swing Time. She also has a collection of essays Changing My Mind.
She received the Whitbread First Novel and Guardian First Book Award among many others. She has been twice listed for the Granta 20 Best Young British Novelists and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
Smith’s novel NW was produced into a BBC television film. Likewise, two of Nigamerican writer Nnedi Okorafor (1974), works also have been adapted into short films.
She calls herself a Nigamerican (Nigerian-United States of America) writer because she is a descendant from Igbo parents that migrated to the USA and could not return because of the Nigerian Civil War.
Okorafor was diagnosed with scoliosis at teenage witch demanded intense therapy for her recovery. However, after she regained ability to walk she was unable to continue with her passion for sport so, she took a creative writing class and published her first novel.
In her collection of novels and stories, she reflects West African heritage and her life in the USA. Some of her books and comics are Binti, Who fears Death, Zahrah the Windseeker, Awata Witch, Lagoon, She Shadow Speaker, Amphibious Green, Kabu Kabu, Hello Moto, Black Panther: Long live the King, Shuri, and others.
She has obtained remarkable awards such as The Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa, Africana Book Award, Carl Brandon Parallax, Andre Norton, Golden Duck, World Fantasy, among others.
Alike writer Audre Lorde’s(1934-1992), parents also were immigrants from the West Indies to New York, USA where they procreated three daughters, she being the third.
Her career was fervent in voicing out sexism, racism, homophobia, gender, and classism as an instrument for action and change. While still being in high school, her first poem was printed in Seventeen Magazine.
Lorde is the author of The First Cities, Cables to Rage, From a Land Where Other People Live, Coal, The Black Unicorn, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, The Cancer Journals, A Burst of Light etc.
She also wrote periodicals for Amazon Quarterly, The Massachusetts Review, Red War, The Black Woman, The Village Voice, The Iowa Review, and a lot of others.
Among awards and honours she earned the National Book Award for Poetry, National Endowment for the Arts Residency Grant, Woman of the Year Award, New York State’s Poet Laureate from 1991 to 1993, and Broadside Press Poet’s Award etc.
Lorde was a lesbian openly known same as Roxane Gay (1974), who is bisexual, a unique writer, commemorator, professor, and editor who was born in Omaha, Nebraska (USA), from Haitian ancestries.
Her career began at age 12, consequence of sexual harassment she experienced. Gay is the author of novels and essays An Untamed State, Bad Feminist, World of Wakanda, Difficult Woman, Ayiti, Hunger, and Not that Bad.
Her works have won awards such as Pen Centre USA Freedom to Write, Eisner, Lambda Literary, and others.
Gay’s writings appear in The Guardian, Best American Mystery Stories, Best Sex Writing, Tin House, The New York Times, and others.
In partnership with Medium platform, she created Gay Magazine and recently she started the production of a black feminist podcast labelled Hear to Slay.
Maya Angelou (1928-2014), is a renowned poet, storyteller, auto-biographer, playwright, journalist, and actress born in St. Louis, Missouri (USA), also shared a passion for radio journalism. She was a strong activist who contributed to the civil right movement and worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
She published volumes of poetries, essays, and plays, as well as many children, cook, and picture books.
Her work includes seven extraordinary autobiographies: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas, Gather Together in my Name, The Heart of a Woman, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes, A Song Flung Up to Heaven, and Mom and Me and Mom.
Moreover, on January 20th, 1993, at the presidential Inauguration of Bill Clinton, she recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning”this recitation being the second time at a similar event that something of this kind was done. (Robert Frost recited “The Gift Outright” at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration).
Several of her writings received merited awards and honours from over seventy universities like the University of Arkansas, Ohio State University, Atlanta University, and others.