Who are your favorite authors of color?

Excelsior Bev recently asked her students who their favorite African American authors were, and we thought that was a fun question, but that we’d broaden it a bit.

#1:  Alexandre Dumas (Jr) hands down– though I didn’t know he was black until recently!   He’s not so great with his female characters (who are either paper dolls or evil villains), but his books are so much fun that I forgive him.

After that I know there are a lot of worthy POC authors who write amazing award winning serious fiction (and I did like Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and Their Eyes Were Watching God, but as worthy books, not fun books), but I really like popcorn books.  I really do.   So that means people like Lisa Yee and Justina Chen.  I also love almost all of A. Lee Martinez’s books.

Scalzi had a post the other month talking about the “read just women and people of color” challenge someone was doing, and I asked for recommendations for fun light stuff, but the only person who replied has a very different definition of “light” than I do (pro-tip:  Stephen King is not light).  That post also indicated to me that romance novelist Courtney Milan is a POC, which I didn’t know (I like her stuff!).  Recommendations for light stuff welcome in the comments!  (I did read some Marta Acosta light vampire stuff, and it was ok, but not worth owning.) (#2 owns the first but not the second book.)

#2 ZOMG, N. K. Jemisin all day long.  Saladin Ahmed.  Justina Chen Headley (again).  Y. S. Lee.  Nnedi Okorafor.  Dia Reeves.  Michelle Sagara (her stuff sometimes makes #1 cry on airplanes).  Gene Luen Yang.  I recently read Sofia Samatar’s award-winning novel and liked it.

And, as everybody should already know, Octavia E. Butler is objectively one of the best science fiction authors of all time.  (But not light!)

Start there!

Of course, we’re of a couple of minds about these segregated lists.  Well, not really.  It’s just a nuanced stand.  We hate the need for these separate lists and we wish that people would be included on the regular lists of “best of” because many *belong* there.  However, society isn’t there yet, so these lists are a way for people to broaden their horizons so that they can come into contact with amazing authors they wouldn’t normally read.  Being on one of these segregated lists should in no way preclude someone from going on the more general lists of “best of” and we should think really hard when we make a general “best of” list about composition to make sure we’re not running into implicit biases.  A standard procedure is to think about the best POC or female etc. author not on the general list and to compare him or her to the worst person on the general list (iterating to the next underrepresented person etc.).  More often than should be the case, that person really belongs on the general list too and was not included because of subconscious biases.  Eventually, thinking about people from underrepresented groups while making the list rather than after the list is made becomes more automatic.

One place where there are plenty of authors of color is the banned books list.  Boo.

Got anyone else we should read?  Spend your tax refund on books!  Or save it and use your library.

23 Responses to “Who are your favorite authors of color?”

  1. MSWR Says:

    I don’t have any suggestions (yet? maybe if I take some time to think about it and sift through my recently-read list), but I wanted to say thanks for this post, and for the suggestions. I, too, enjoy the lighter side of fiction most of the time, especially historical romance, and I’m excited to give Courtney Milan a try. I look forward to readers’ suggestions, too! I found through reading a lot of different sub-genres of romance in the last few years that I don’t often like contemporary romance, because I don’t identify with anyone ethnically (I’m a POC who mostly grew up in a white family). But I don’t mind so much if people aren’t ethnically like me in a historical or paranormal romance, since they’re usually all so different from me in a lot of other respects. And I suspect there weren’t a lot of hapa women in Regency England, so there’s that.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      The first one is always free… The Duchess War (The Brothers Sinister Book 1)

      And actually, there were some hapa women in England– you can see them pop up on medieval POC (see link in sidebar) from time to time! The literal regency is such a short time period, but they definitely show up in “long” regency. Recall the opening of Japan in 1853 and the Opium wars preceding that. And trade prior to that (the Netherlands traded with Japan even if the rest of Europe did not, and the rest of the East was open for trade).

  2. grrlpup Says:

    Light, warm YA: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, by Jenny Han. Can’t wait for the sequel!

  3. Miser Mom Says:

    Langston Hughes. Light, I don’t know, but I love the music of his poetry:

    See that lady
    dressed so fine?
    She ain’t got boogie-woogie
    On her mind —

    But if she was to listen
    I bet she’d hear,
    Way up in the treble
    The tingle of a tear.

    Be-Bach!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      The only Hughes I can bring to mind is “What happens to a dream deferred?” which I feel like I practiced performing for something when I was younger. A teacher of mine liked it.

  4. Bardiac Says:

    Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the sequel are delightful (and light, sort of). Sherman Alexie is amazing, and is Louise Erdrich, but not “light.”

  5. Steel Magnolia Says:

    Tananarive Due is only kinda “light” but her work is amazing and smart and she’s got lots of books to choose from.

  6. MutantSupermodel Says:

    Sandra Cisneros! I just read Caramelo and it was beautiful. Junot Diaz is awesome. I really like Haruki Murakami. Charles Yu’s How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe was wonderful. I liked Never Let Me Go by Kazu Ishiguro but hated Remains of the Day. Kokoro by Natsume Soseki is a classic as is Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Marquez. I really liked Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. I wasn’t a big fan of Rushdie although reading him on the train did lead to someone trying to perform an exorcism on me so that was interesting. Melissa de la Cruz wrote The Witches of East End series. Paulo Coehlo’s The Alchemist is beautiful.

    I kind of like not knowing about the author when I pick something up. I ask if a book is good and then I look into the author if I like it. However, I did notice that last year I pretty much read books only by women. This year, most of the books I’ve read have been by women as well. I would like to read more books by people of color though. Every time I do, I generally enjoy the experience because it really takes me away.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I think we’re less likely to come into contact with authors of color because there are fewer of them and they’re less likely to be recommended, because you know, racism. So sometimes it is necessary to seek out different experiences and perspectives because we’re less likely to just come across them.

  7. Cloud Says:

    Hmmm… in addition to the authors you’ve already mentioned, I’ve read some of Malinda Lo’s stuff and liked it. I’ve heard great things about Daniel Jose Older, but haven’t had a chance to check him out yet. I am thoroughly enjoying the Crossed Genres collection he edited, called Long Hidden. The author list from Crossed Genres would probably be a good place to start to look for me people, too. Have you read anything by Sherman Alexie? I like his writing. You might enjoy Zen Cho- I liked the novella of hers I read (http://tungstenhippo.com/content/perilous-life-jade-yeo). I’ve heard good things about Greg van Eekhout, but have only read a short story of his so far (I liked it).

    That’s what I can come up with off the top of my head. I’ll come back and add to the list if more ideas come to me later.

  8. sophylou Says:

    Natasha Trethewey, recent Poet Laureate — I love her specific blend of history, poetry, and historical methodology.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Interesting. I usually don’t read poetry, but…

      • sophylou Says:

        She does have a nonfiction book out called “Beyond Katrina,” but I like her poetry better. She has an interesting voice, a kind of controlled anger that shows up in very compelling ways in her live readings (she teaches at Rich Private University near me and I’ve gotten to hear her read a lot).

  9. MutantSupermodel Says:

    Oh, Richard Blanco! “He is the first immigrant, the first Latino, the first openly gay person and the youngest person to be the U.S. inaugural poet.”


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