Strong Black Female Leads

Takoma Park LibraryStaff Picks

Strong Black Female Leads

  "The man may be the head but the women is the neck."- Maria Portokalos, My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Do you find it hard to identify strong black women in books? Well, I've never had that problem since I've actively gone on the search for these books since being in undergrad. In celebration of this being Black History Month I want to focus on the diaspora; now yes, I understand Black History Month is only celebrated in the United States and has nothing to do with anybody in the continent of Africa. I'm actively choosing to include some African authors since I think these books will do a great job at showing everybody the depth of literature where a black female is the focus and also the heroin! Regardless of the culture black women have always been the focal point of the family unit. I hope that you all enjoy not only the more popularly known titles that I have chosen to discuss but also the less popular titles that I have chosen. 

Binti Series by Nnedi Okorafor
So I'm starting off this list with a cheat but once you've read it I know you will think it justified. This series, Binti, is written by Nnedi Okorafor who is a Nigerian Author; Nnedi focuses on Science Fiction. Binti focuses on the journey that Binti has to take in order to attend the best university in the galaxy; which just so happens to be on a different planet! Though the journey was only supposed to take a few days it ends up taking so much more time because she is faced with her people's biggest enemy, the Meduse. The only way that she is able to survive this trip is because of some "junk" that she found on her home planet. Binti: Home is the second book in this current trilogy where Binti travels back to her home planet for the first time after being at university for a few years. Thankfully the actual trip does not have any surprises that Binti is not expecting but, once she gets home she learns so much about herself. She is addressed with the difficulty of knowing that she has changed during her time at university as well as she does not completely know her family either. They, as most families do, have kept secrets from her but now thanks to her orb she is forced to address these secrets. Binti: Masquerade once again focuses on Binti and how she continues to understand all the new discoveries that she has made about her family and herself in the second book. Without spoiling this book too much I'm going to say that she of course saves the world, showing people just how cool it is to be a female with all her power and knowledge!
Kindred by Octavia Butler
Kindred is a classic, let’s face it, but I feel classics still need to be addressed and thankfully this is the last one I'm going to talk about in this list! Kindred was written by Octavia Butler, a black science fiction writer. The main female character Dana is introduced very early on in this book since the book is written in her perspective. Just like everybody else who is an artist she works a day job at the temp agency while at night she works on her book. She met her husband at her day job after he published his first novel; which he was able to support both of them based on. The main portion of this book focuses on how Dana travels from current day with her husband to anti-bellum slavery with her ancestor. It takes the reader and Dana a while to figure out who her ancestor is but also why she keeps being pulled back to anti-bellum slavery. But once you do, this book begins to open up a world of understanding that you didn't think was possible. This book, though very simply written, is extremely complex in many ways; the main two are race and slavery. If you think science fiction is not the genre for you I'd recommend giving this book a try; it doesn't read like a science fiction book to me, it reads more like a fiction or even historical fiction book!  

Queenie by Candice- Caty-Williams
Queenie focuses on the life of Queenie Williams, it reads like a fiction book but feels like a non-fiction book. Let me just start off by saying Queenie has been through some "thangs." Her boyfriend ends up asking for a break, which lets all face it means that they broke up, but of course when he asked for that the rest of her life began to fall apart. While going through a rabbit hole of problems Queenie deals with sexual abuse, mental abuse, physical abuse and trauma. As Queenie is a second generation Jamaican immigrant her parents and grandparents don't believe in therapy and tell her she isn't allowed to go to therapy. This book really helps to address problems that both immigrants have and black women have in their everyday lives. Though Queenie did some things that had me as a reader like "what?!" there is a truth in some of the decisions that she made while she was attempting to figure her life out. 

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
My Sister, the Serial Killer is a novel written in the perspective of an older sister that has to deal with her younger sister constantly killing men that she was dating. This book takes place in modern time Nigeria and is written by a Nigerian author; that allows for the reader to get a subtle look at the country and the cultural cues. At the beginning Korede thinks that her baby sister, Ayoola, just accidentally killed someone which is why she helps her to clean it up but she soon finds out that this will not be the only murder she helps to cover up. What makes any of the other men different than the first? Well, Korede has had a crush on a doctor at her job for a while and he ends up dating her sister Ayoola. Korede has to decide whether she wants to help protect her sister or if she wants to help protect that man she works with and loves.  

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
Nervous Conditions is a book that brings to light the importance of your gender, school and family in this classic Zimbabwean novel. Out of all the books discussed today this would be the one that you are least likely to know about and that along with the simple and beautiful writing is why I love this book so much! Nervous Conditions takes place in Rhodesia when Tambu is dealing with the death of her older brother. Within her family they cannot afford to send everyone to school so they chose to send her oldest brother, Nhamo, because he is both smart and the eldest. But, when he is killed during his time in the European school Tambu's parents need to decide whether they are going to send her or Chido to school in Nhamo's place. The problem with that is that Tambu wants to go to secondary school but she is a girl and needs to stay home to help take care of things while her brother Chido is bad at school and her parents want to send him. This is an encouraging story of how one girl fights against her parents, cultural norms and poverty in her fight for education.