This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
The last year has been particularly taxing for Black folk. Not only have we been dealing with coronavirus disproportionately impacting our community, we've also been reliving racial trauma following the death of George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests.
Black people have suffered but as 22-year-old inaugural poet Amanda Gorman notes, "even as we hurt, we grew." As we settle into a new year, 'joy' is the word we're focusing on and that means reading stories that uplift, inspire and make us feel proud of being Black.
There are plenty of novels that delve into the effects of systemic and historic racism on people's lives and which are important for us all to read and learn from – but it's also imperative to read stories that uplift Black people and show us winning.
Ahead is a collection of fiction books which focus on joy so that wherever you are, you can feel comfort in the fact that we, too, have happy endings.
The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory
Freelance writer Nikole Paterson and her actor boyfriend have been dating for five months. He can't spell her name correctly and he wears a man bun. The last thing Nikole expects when they go to a Dodgers game is a scoreboard proposal — and she needs to get out of it, fast. Carlos Ibarra, who is at the game with his sister, runs to Nik's aid and whisks her away from the camera crews as the video of the failed proposal goes viral.
Nik knows that in the bustling city of LA, a doctor like Carlos probably isn't looking for anything serious so she embarks on a wild rebound with him, filled with food, fun, and fantastic sex. But then their hook-ups go south and one of them has to be smart enough to apply the brakes.
Berkley The Proposal, $, available at Amazon
You Should See Me In A Crown by Leah Johnson
Liz Lighty has always believed she is too Black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed Midwestern town. But she has a plan to leave forever and to attend the elite Pennington College to play in their world-famous orchestra and to become a doctor. When the financial aid she was relying on falls through, her plans come crashing down – until she discovers her school's scholarship for prom king and queen. She's terrified of the spotlight but calls on all her Black Girl Magic to turn her dreams into reality.
Scholastic Press You Should See Me in a Crown, $, available at Amazon
Pride: A Pride & Prejudice Remix by Ibi Zoboi
We all know and love Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice and now the classic has been skilfully updated in a vibrant retelling starring all characters of color. Balancing cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love, Ibi Zoboi sets her remix in Bushwick, New York, where Zuri Benitez, an Afro-Latino, battles against the wealthy Darcy family who has moved in across the street. And so the familiar story unfolds, as Zuri watches her older sister, Janae, fall in love with Ainsley Darcy, all while she fights her own attraction to the arrogant and judgmental Darius Darcy.
Balzer + Bray Pride: A Pride & Prejudice Remix, $, available at Amazon
Love in Colour: Mythical Tales From Around The World, Retold by Bolu Babalola
New author Bolu Babalola modernizes 18 love stories – spanning Nigerian folk tales, Greek myths, and south Asian ancient tales – by removing sexism, racism, and violence from them. We meet a high-born Nigerian goddess who feels beaten down and under-appreciated by her gregarious lover, a young businesswoman who attempts to make a great leap in her company (and an even bigger one in her love life), and a powerful Ghanaian woman who is forced to decide whether to uphold her family's politics or follow her heart.
These vibrant stories navigate the most complex human emotion and try to understand why it holds us hostage while decolonizing tropes by forming new stories which already exist in cultures and communities around the world.
William Morrow Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold, $, available at Amazon
The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon
Meet Samiah Brooks, who never thought she'd be 'that girl' until she sees a live tweet of a horrific date which reveals the painful truth: she's been catfished by her three-timing boyfriend. Suddenly Samiah and her two girlfriends, London and Taylor, have gone viral. The three besties make a six-month pact: no men, no dating and to focus only on themselves, which means Samiah can concentrate on her career. Then the deliciously sexy Daniel Collins walks into her office… Is he too good to be true?
Forever The Boyfriend Project, $, available at Amazon
A Princess In Theory: Reluctant Royals by Alyssa Cole
Naledi Smith doesn't have time for fairytales, or constant emails claiming she's betrothed to an African prince. A former foster child, she's learned that the only things she can depend on are herself and the scientific method. An email won't convince her.
But Prince Thabiso, the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo, who is shouldering the pressure to find a wife, tracks down his missing betrothed. The chemistry between the prince and Naledi is electric, flirty, and exciting but after Naledi mistakes him for a pauper, will she discover the truth and become a princess after all?
Avon A Princess in Theory: Reluctant Royals, $, available at Amazon
With The Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo
High school senior Emoni Santiago has a daughter to care for and her Abuela to support. While she has tough decisions to make, she has to do what must be done. The one place she can truly lose herself in the kitchen, where she adds magic to everything she cooks, turning her dishes into straight soul food. She knows she doesn't have time for her school's culinary classes nor the money for the class trip to Spain but she continues to dream of working in a real kitchen someday. Faced with a multitude of barriers, she has no choice but to let her cooking talent break free.
Quill Tree Books With the Fire on High, $, available at Amazon
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