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by Monique Franz

In the summer of 2020, the world witnessed George Floyd beg for his life while an officer extinguished his voice. The tragedy provoked the world to listen to African American cries against police brutality and systematic disregard. Black Lives Matter grew into an international movement, and we as Blacks gained a refreshing increase in empathetic ears.

There were other voices who also needed to be heard. The rise in hate crimes against Asians, Latin Americans, Middle Easterners, and those of the LGBTQ community forced conversations of diversity and inclusion. Major publishing companies responded, acknowledging discrepancies in the diversity of their authors and decision-making leaders, and moved to amplify underrepresented voices.

10 Must Reads from Contemporary BIPOC Voices

For years, the publishing industry deemed the work of BIPOC authors as niche, as though only one BIPOC slot should exist at a time. James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and Amy Tan were slot holders for years. More recently, Terry McMillan, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Sandra Cisneros have stood in the diversity gap. But now, we have a growing buffet of underrepresented authors to enjoy. Here’s our list of contemporary “BIPOC books” you don’t want to sleep on.

BIPOC Fiction

The White Tiger is a dark comedy that lets you ride shotgun to the underside of Bangalore. Indian author, Aravind Adiga, unfolds caste and corruption through the eyes of driver Balram Halwai. Balram, the narrating protagonist, shares a witty (and disturbing) account of his rise from poverty to prosperity and drives you to that line dividing good and evil.

Nigerian author and Jesuit priest, Uwem Akpan, astounds readers with Say You’re One of Them. The heart-wrenching collection of stories, told through the eyes of children, illustrate the harsh realities in African countries like Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria, Benin, and Ethiopia. With ingenious imagery, Akpan highlights the vulnerability of children forced to exist in brutal circumstances of poverty, violence, and corruption.

Creatures of Passage by African American author, Morowa Yejide, takes a mythological drive through Washington, D.C. with protagonist, Nephthys, at the wheel. Nephthys drinks heavily over the loss of her twin and follows an eerie compulsion to taxi destitute passengers in her haunted ’68 Plymouth Belvedere. Each passenger carries a troubled story of their own, which collectively reveals the social and political landscape of D.C. during the 1980s.

Chinese American author, Ken Liu, engages the intellect and introduces you to Asian culture in The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. The Harvard graduate crafts imagination, science, and technology into mesmerizing characters existing from ancient China to post-apocalyptic civilizations. Liu’s inventive tales highlight themes of identity, culture, and the immigrant experience while captivating audiences with science fiction and fantasy.

The Icarus Girl by British-Nigerian writer, Helen Oyeyemi, follows a biracial child of a Nigerian mother and English father. Jess Harrison has trouble fitting in with her peers and becomes haunted by visions of a mysterious imaginary friend. Child’s play with TillyTilly grows sinister as her devious intentions manifest themselves. As the story unfolds, we are less enticed by TillyTilly’s magic and wonder if she has emerged from a realm darker than Jess’s imagination.

Bobbie from Bobbie Jean Lane TV reviews Kinsman Quarterly's Top 5 fiction favorites.

BIPOC Nonfiction

Comedian Trevor Noah has kept us in stitches for decades with his onstage comedy and commentaries on The Daily Show. In Born a Crime, Noah walks us through his childhood in South Africa’s apartheid. He describes what life was like being the illegal result of his Xhosa mother and Swiss father and in the country’s segregated townships. The book is an intriguing mix of personal anecdotes, social commentary, and political analysis—all with Trevor Noah’s comedic touch.

Modern Romance by Indian comedian, Aziz Ansari, and sociologist, Eric Klinenberg, explores the changing landscape of the dating scene. The book contains extensive research conducted from surveys, focus groups, and multicultural interviews, breaking down the impact of technology and social media on romantic relationships today. Ansari’s hilarious analysis of how people meet, date, and form relationships is a must-read for anyone navigating modern-day love.

Shonda Rhimes brought us Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, but she also emboldens readers to “go for it” in Year of Yes. Our sister talks about her struggles with anxiety and self-doubt, and then chronicles the year she says “yes” to opportunities outside of her comfort zone. The memoir-slash-self-help book inspires others to explore experiences with a positive outlook and with eagerness toward possibilities.

Crazy Love by Francis Chan has been a bestselling resource for Christians worldwide since 2008. The Chinese American author and speaker admonishes believers to forsake “lukewarm” faith to live a life of radical devotion to God. Chan uses biblical scripture and personal stories to inspire people to pursue deeper relationships with Christ as well as a more passionate, authentic spirituality.

The Other Side of Paradise by Jamaican-born poet and activist Staceyann Chin is a witty and inspiring memoir that offers an eye-opening perspective on the struggles of LGBTQ+ in Jamaica. Chin shares about her life growing up in Kingston with raw emotion and reflects on the racism, sexism, and homophobia that shaped her experiences.

Want to share other must-reads by BIPOC authors? Comment in the space below for Kinsman Quarterly’s next top 10 favorites.

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