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Black lesbian fiction is the result of the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Black authors and activists were very dissatisfied with the way black women and their issues were portrayed. So they took matters into their own hands and amplified the voices of black women by incorporating intersectional feminism into their works.
While the queer movement in literature has its own legacy, stories of black lesbian women often get lost. Now that decolonizing our bookshelves has become essential to overthrowing white supremacy in the literary industry, this fascinating subgenre of literature needs to be included in our respective TBRs.
The protagonists exist at the intersection of racism, sexism, homophobia and humanity’s propensity to survive, outweighing all odds. They not only facilitate the broadening of our horizons, but also reflect the unhealthy culture in which we were raised. They help reassess our innate beliefs, check our conditioning, and also open us up to a whole world of authors whose sociopolitical commentary is of utmost importance to the process of unlearning. Therefore, this list of black lesbian fiction can be a good starting point for someone who wants to expand their literary landscape and venture into the world of high-profile literature! Good reading!
Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
When civil war broke out in Nigeria, Ijeoma was only 11 years old. When she is fired for her safety, she meets another girl and falls in love with her. As his nation grows, so does it. When this side of hers is revealed, Ijeoma realizes that she must hide it from the world because living and loving freely is always frowned upon by her society. A beautiful story of sexual awakening in the midst of political turmoil and how the heart continues to love despite the violence it suffers, this novel is immediately undeniable!
Somewhere Else, Not Here by Dionne Brand
This is a black lesbian fiction book about two Caribbean women who find solace in each other amid political upheaval. Elizete wants to flee the island where her home is and move to a place where existing doesn’t feel like a war. Verlia returned to the same island, hoping for a revolution. Poetic and thought-provoking, the unique writing style and compelling story will have you wanting to revisit this book again and again.
Behold the Sun by Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn
Having learned to capitalize on her sexuality to make ends meet, Margot is determined to stop her sister, Thandi, from walking the same path. When she learns of plans for a new hotel threatening her village, for the first time she realizes an opportunity for economic independence and a chance to confess her love for another woman. As their community life is turned upside down, each woman must come to terms with her past wounds and find a balance between the responsibilities she has and the freedom she desires.
Coffee will make you black by April Sinclair
Set in 1960s Southside Chicago, this story follows Stevie, a young black woman growing up amid the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. The book is based on a time when black representation in mainstream media was low to non-existent. Stevie tries her best to fit in, but after Dr. King is murdered, she decides to rebel against the system in her own way and refuses to use bleach on her skin. She is also baffled by how she may be more attracted to her school nurse than her teenage boyfriend. Stevie’s sexual and sociopolitical awakening story is significant and undeniable, to say the least!
Say Jesus and Come to Me by Ann Allen Shockley
After two prostitutes are brutally harassed, Reverend Myrtle Black travels to Nashville to organize local women in protest and speak out against the rampant racism and sexism that plagues their society. It is then that she meets Travis Lee, a woman who has hit rock bottom and seeks only peace. However, things get complicated as soon as Travis experiences a deep emotional and physical connection with Myrtle. Will society accept a love like theirs, or will their lives come under scrutiny for walking the path of free love?
Pieces of Her by AC Mims
Naima and Tasha seem to have the dream life! Their daughters are adorable and they live in a beautiful neighborhood. Then Allison enters the scene, prompting Naima’s long-buried desires. Will she step away from everything she has built so far to explore her true personality? And is this long-lost self who she still wants to be?
Niya: Rainbow Dreams by Fabiola Joseph
Even after being told off by her best friend, Niya still tries to fight the girl-loving part of herself. Before pursuing her dream of becoming a rock star, she must first accept every bit of her identity. Jamilla’s family life weighs on her. Forced to face an extreme monstrosity every day, she slowly gives up on life. It is then that she befriends Niya and thus unveils a story of unconventional friendship and high sexual tension.
The Heart Does Not Bend by Makeda Silvera
When Maria dies, she leaves everything to her grandson while her granddaughter, Molly, has to deal with the bitterness Maria has always had for her. Molly travels down memory lane and reminisces about the times in her childhood when she received her grandmother’s unfailing generosity. Does Molly’s love for another woman paint her in a bad light in her grandmother’s eyes? This book is a nuanced and complicated story featuring strong female characters and how we sometimes have to break free from suffocating love to be who we are.