7 Books by Queer Black Writers to Read in Honor of James Baldwin’s Birthday

James Baldwin (Photo credit: Sophie Bassouls/Getty Images)

If you are at an active reader of Black, queer authors, you have likely stumbled upon (or intentionally sought out) the work of James Baldwin. His books, ranging from Giovanni’s Room, published in 1956, The Fire Next Time, published in 1963, and If Beale Street Could Talk, published in 1974 and recently adapted into a film by Barry Jenkins, crafted space for queer Black writers. And now, more LGBTQ Black authors are widening the lane that he trailblazed. Authors with multiple marginalized identities—Baldwin was both Black and gay—often experience erasure.

In Baldwin’s case, the 2016 documentary by Raoul Peck based Baldwin’s life and unfinished novel Remember This House largely erased Baldwin’s queerness, and many queer authors of color have expressed dismay over feeling tokenized and invisible in a publishing culture that still prioritizes stories by white people. Now, more and more LGBTQ Black authors are continuing to create a landscape where they don’t have to choose. The books below offer a starting point for those looking to expand their readership of queer Black authors with a focus on books recently or soon to be published.  

Build Yourself a Boat
Camonghne Felix
{ Breakbeat Poets }
Released: April 23, 2019
$16.00

Build Yourself a Boat, Felix’s debut poetry collection, pairs well with Hood Witch as each prioritizes illustrations of strength and survival from the perspective of Black women. Plus, neither book ever feels like trauma porn.

The Marked Ones: Uprising
TreVaughn Malik Roach-Carter
{ Lulu.com }
Released: May 31, 2019
$23.95

 I’m often saddened by the lack of genre fiction told from a queer Black perspective—if you’ve felt similarly, Roach-Carter’s series is one worth reading. Telling the story of superhuman siblings, it’s an adventurous tale that sits well within the world of young adult science fiction and fantasy novels.

The Stars and The Blackness Between Them
Junauda Petrus
{ Dutton Books for Young Readers }
Released: September 17, 2019
$17.99

It’s rare to come across a book from the perspective of a young Black character, let alone two, but this debut young -dult novel alternates between the perspective of Audre and Mabel, Black girls who find romance just in time for everything to fall even further apart. It’s a lyric novel, and one that shakes up what romance looks like in young adult. Queer young-adult novels have historically been very white, but books like this one suggest that the tides are changing in a positive way. 

A Dream So Dark
LL McKinney
{ IMPRINT }
Released: September 24, 2019
$18.99

Readers who enjoy “opposites attract” love stories will love Aminah Mae Safi’s second novel. Cheerleader Sana Khan and filmmaker Rachel Recht fall into a twist-and-turn-filled romance. The cover has garnered praise for being so explicitly WLW in a time when many LGBTQ covers artfully disguise the couple to pander to straight readers.

By Any Means Necessary
Candice Montgomery
{ Page Street Kids }
Released: October 8, 2019
$17.99

By Any Means Neccesary dives into the intersection of race and sexuality through the lens of its main character, Torrey, a gay Black college student. Though the crux of the book is complex, exploring family ties and what parts of ourselves we do and don’t choose to give up for the sake of family, it still centers around a romance.

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Hood Witch
Faylita Hicks
{ Acre Books }
Released: October 15, 2019
$16.00

Hood Witch examines what power looks like when reclaimed by Black women and nonbinary people. Considering the unique path of survival that queer Black people have to claim in our society, often alone, there’s something comforting about reading stories of resilience.

Full Disclosure
Camryn Garrett
{ Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers }
Released: October 29, 2019
$26.50

Camryn Garrett’s debut novel follows a Black, HIV-positive teen as she explores her first romantic relationship. There are few books that discuss what it’s like to live with HIV, especially those that are light, relatable, and told through the lens of a young Black girl. I imagine this is a book that many readers will hold close.

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by Rachel Charlene Lewis
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Rachel Charlene Lewis is the Senior Editor at Bitch. She has written about culture, sex, sexuality, and identity for publications including Teen Vogue, Refinery29, Glamour, Autostraddle, Ravishly, SELF, StyleCaster, The Frisky (RIP), The Mary Sue, and elsewhere. Her literary work, reviews, and interviews have been published in Catapult, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Normal School, Publisher’s Weekly, The Offing, and in several other magazines. She is on Twitter and Instagram, always.