Chances are, you’ve either heard of or read the work of Rupi Kaur. The Indian Canadian poet and artist went viral first on Instagram, and from there her self-publishedmilk and honeysold well over a million copies.
But Rupi Kaur isn’t the first woman of color to reach this level of fame, but her work serves as a reminder that we should all be reading more literature by women of color. Our stories are so rarely told, but they are no less worth telling and reading. Here are 17 texts to add to your reading list, some more well-known than others.
There is poetry and prose, fiction and nonfiction. If your high school English class left you wanting for more than too many books by old white dudes, this roundup has you covered. Add them to your cart ASAP.
Trust No Aunty by Maria Qamar
This hilarious and too-accurate illustrated guide to dealing with South Asian aunties is filled with gorgeous Desi pop art. You can follow the brilliant artist Maria Qamar on Instagram for a better understanding of what her work is like. You can bet I’ll be brining this one to the next family function.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This book-length essay is adapted from Adichie’s TED Talk of the same name, and argues and analyzes what it means to be a feminist. Someone hand these out to the other half, please.
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Namesake follows an Indian American immigrant couple from Kolkata to Boston before focusing on their firstborn son, Gogol. Lahiri is talented beyond words; her prose is gorgeous and direct to the point where the first time I read this I wept in public at how accurate it was in capturing specific moments of the Indian American experience.
God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Roy’s debut novel follows a pair of fraternal twins, whose lives are affected by love laws that dictate “who should be loved and how much.”
Some Say The Lark by Jennifer Chang
Chang’s second collection of poems is haunting in its mastery of syntax and diction. For a glimpse at Chang’s work, check out this “Being Women: Poetry and Imagination” feature on the New York Times.
We Wear The Mask: 15 True Stories of Passing in America edited by Brando Skyhorse and Lisa Page
Page and Skyhorse’s anthology explores the idea of passing as it applies to gender, race, and more through 15 essays.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
This science fiction novel from 1993 takes place in the year 2020 and explores ideas like climate change, corporate greed, and income inequality.
Topdog/Underdog by Suzan Lori-Parks
This play from 2001 follows adult two brothers and explores what it means to be a family. It won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Smith’s fifth novel explores identity, race, class, friendship, and dance.
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
In this novel, a 10-year-old girl and her mother living in Canada invite a Chinese refugee into their home.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Pachinko explores Korean-Japanese culture and follows several Korean characters who migrate to Japan.
The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
Bui’s graphic novel/illustrated memoir explores past and future with regard to parenthood, immigration, and displacement.
Cancer Journals by Audre Lorde
Lorde’s memoir explores her journey with breast cancer, and showcases the writer’s talent and background in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Gyasi’s debut historical fiction novel follows two sisters born in separate villages in eighteenth century Ghana, each unaware that the other exists. The two grow up to lead startlingly different lives: one marries an Englishman and leads a life of comfort while the other is sold into slavery.
What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons
Clemmons’s debut novel loosely focuses on her own experiences caring for her mother, who was diagnosed with cancer.
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
Yet another brilliant debut novel, We Need New Names tells the story of a Zimbabwean girl coming into the US.
We’re Going To Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union
Union’s collection of autobiographical essays is a reminder of how crazy accomplished and cool this woman is.