Here you will find books with strong African (from Africa) roots or characters with a root from Africa. This includes tales and people from Africa or Americans with ancestors from Africa (I don’t like the term Urban fiction… it’s weird as if black folks only live in cities?). Anyway… This category is not genre specific, so you will find all genres so long as the emphasis of the books is focused with the topic.
Books are listed by author’s last name. A series will be counted as one entry. The summary of the first book will be the only summary given as later book summary may include spoilers. Titles are hyper-linked to their Goodreads page.
Note: Books on this list are here because they fit the criteria (unrestrictive) of the category. I am not saying these correctly depict the race or culture nor am I saying these books are well written or the opposite: they aren’t well written. They just simply fit the simple criteria.
laurie halse ANDERSON
As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight…for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.
Kek comes from Africa. In America he sees snow for the first time, and feels its sting. He’s never walked on ice, and he falls. He wonders if the people in this new place will be like the winter – cold and unkind. In Africa, Kek lived with his mother, father, and brother. But only he and his mother have survived, and now she’s missing. Kek is on his own. Slowly, he makes friends: a girl who is in foster care; an old woman who owns a rundown farm, and a cow whose name means “family” in Kek’s native language. As Kek awaits word of his mother’s fate, he weathers the tough Minnesota winter by finding warmth in his new friendships, strength in his memories, and belief in his new country.
This is how wars are fought now: by children, hopped-up on drugs and wielding AK-47s. Children have become soldiers of choice. In the more than fifty conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. What is war like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But until now, there has not been a first-person account from someone who came through this hell and survived. In A Long Way Gone, Beah, now twenty-five years old, tells a riveting story: how at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he’d been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts.
Callum is a naught, a second-class citizen in a society run by the ruling Crosses. Sephy is a Cross, and daughter of the man slated to become prime minister. In their world, white naughts and black Crosses simply don’t mix — and they certainly don’t fall in love. But that’s exactly what they’ve done. When they were younger, they played together. Now Callum and Sephy meet in secret and make excuses. But excuses no longer cut it when Sephy and her mother are nearly caught in a terrorist bombing planned by the Liberation Militia, with which Callum’s family is linked. Callum’s father is the prime suspect…and Sephy’s father will stop at nothing to see him hanged. The blood hunt that ensues will threaten not only Callum and Sephy’s love for each other, but their very lives.
Tyrell’s father is just out of jail, and Tyrell doesn’t know how to deal with that. It’s bad enough that his brother Troy is in foster care and that his mother is no help whatsoever. Now there’s another thing up in his face, just when he’s trying to settle down. Tyrell’s father has plans of his own, and doesn’t seem to care whether or not Tyrell wants to go along with them. Tyrell can see the crash that’s coming — with his dad, with the rest of his family, with the girls he’s seeing — but he’s not sure he can stop it. Or if he even wants to.
christopher paul CURTIS
Deza is the smartest girl in her class in Gary, Indiana, singled out by teachers for a special path in life. But the Great Depression hit Gary hard, and there are no jobs for black men. When her beloved father leaves to find work, Deza, Mother, and her older brother Jimmie go in search of him, and end up in a Hooverville outside Flint, Michigan. Jimmie’s beautiful voice inspires him to leave the camp to be a performer, while Deza and Mother find a new home, and cling to the hope that they will find Father.
heidi w. DURROW
Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. who becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy. With her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring mixed attention her way. Growing up in the 1980s, she learns to swallow her overwhelming grief and confronts her identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white.
sundee t. FRAZIER
When Minerva and Keira King were born, they made headlines: Keira is black like Mama, but Minni is white like Daddy. Together the family might look like part of a chessboard row, but they are first and foremost the close-knit Kings. Then Grandmother Johnson calls, to invite the twins down South to compete for the title of Miss Black Pearl Preteen of America. Minni dreads the spotlight, but Keira assures her that together they’ll get through their stay with Grandmother Johnson. But when grandmother’s bias against Keira reveals itself, Keira pulls away from her twin. Minni has always believed that no matter how different she and Keira are, they share a deep bond of the heart. Now she’ll find out the truth.
In turbulent 1968, Jessie Stackhouse, an African American freshman, is offered a scholarship to play hockey for Springvale Academy, an exclusive New Hampshire prep school. Jessie views admission to Springvale as his ticket to the Ivy League. Upon arrival, though, he encounters virulent racism, as he is beaten by a gang of town thugs and faces a terrifying fake lynching administered by his teammates. Jessie’s hockey coach is behind many of these cruelties, and despite the efforts of the headmaster, Jessie finds himself pushed nearly to the limit.
Sixteen-year-old Scotch struggles to fit in—at home she’s the perfect daughter, at school she’s provocatively sassy, and thanks to her mixed heritage, she doesn’t feel she belongs with the Caribbeans, whites, or blacks. And even more troubling, lately her skin is becoming covered in a sticky black substance that can’t be removed. While trying to cope with this creepiness, she goes out with her brother—and he disappears. A mysterious bubble of light just swallows him up, and Scotch has no idea how to find him. Soon, the Chaos that has claimed her brother affects the city at large, until it seems like everyone is turning into crazy creatures. Scotch needs to get to the bottom of this supernatural situation ASAP before the Chaos consumes everything she’s ever known—and she knows that the black shadowy entity that’s begun trailing her every move is probably not going to help.
Scotty compares herself to tofu: no flavor unless you add something. And it’s true that Scotty’s friends, Misha and Falcone, and her brother, Keone, make life delicious. But when a terrible accident occurs, Scotty feels responsible for the loss of someone she hardly knew, and the world goes wrong. She cannot tell what is a dream and what is real. Her friends are having a hard time getting through to her and her family is preoccupied with their own trauma. But the prospect of a boy, a dance, and the possibility that everything can fall back into place soon help Scotty realize that she is capable of adding her own flavor to life.
Bobby is your classic urban teenaged boy — impulsive, eager, restless. On his sixteenth birthday he gets some news from his girlfriend, Nia, that changes his life forever. She’s pregnant. Bobby’s going to be a father. Suddenly things like school and house parties and hanging with friends no longer seem important as they’re replaced by visits to Nia’s obstetrician and a social worker who says that the only way for Nia and Bobby to lead a normal life is to put their baby up for adoption.
Set in a middle-class neighborhood in Atlanta in the 1980s, the novel revolves around James Witherspoon ‘s two families the public one and the secret one. When the daughters from each family meet and form a friendship, only one of them knows they are sisters. It is a relationship destined to explode when secrets are revealed and illusions shattered. As Jones explores the backstories of her rich yet flawed characters the father, the two mothers, the grandmother, and the uncle she also reveals the joy, as well as the destruction, they brought to one another ‘s lives.
Kate is devastated to find herself back in a group home after a peaceful year of living with her loving foster parents, Lynn and Ted. The fantasy life of having the perfect family has come to an abrupt end and Kate’s reeling from having to return to the place she’s fought so hard to avoid. Sad and lonely, Kate soon falls prey to the dangerous affections of Percy, a good looking but shady young man. He treats her well at first, manipulating her already broken heart, and soon a cycle of controlling and abusive behavior begins. Now Kate finds herself trapped and unable to be the strong, independent girl she’s tried her whole life to be. But this Brooklyn-born girl is never one to let a bad situation keep her down for too long. Told in Kate’s sassy, witty voice, Bad Boy is all about staying strong and remaining true to yourself even when it seems like the whole world is out to get you.
(note: This book has supernatural themes. Just a warning as many people go in without knowing.)
Micah will freely admit that she’s a compulsive liar, but that may be the one honest thing she’ll ever tell you. Over the years she’s duped her classmates, her teachers, and even her parents, and she’s always managed to stay one step ahead of her lies. That is, until her boyfriend dies under brutal circumstances and her dishonesty begins to catch up with her. But is it possible to tell the truth when lying comes as naturally as breathing?
At the prestigious Harlem Academy of Creative and Performing Arts, students are destined to realize their uptown dreams—as long as friends, haters, and crushes don’t trip them up. . . La-La Nolan’s killer voice could make her a superstar, but she’s more focused on scoring the attention of Ziggy Phillip—the cute Jamaican boy in her class. But a singing competition against her arch rival could cost her both Ziggy and her spot at the Academy. . . The daughter of the school’s director and voice coach, Reese Allen has to work harder than everyone else to prove herself. But all Reese wants is to be a hip hop producer—a path her mother will never approve of. . . Even though it’s clear that Ziggy loves the ladies, he has to keep his passion for dance a secret from his father. But then his brother discovers Ziggy’s ballet shoes and threatens to tell all—unless Ziggy gets him into the Academy too. . . No one’s a better actress than Jamaica Kincaid Ellison. She’s even acted her way out of the boarding school her parents think she’s still attending and into the Academy. She’ll do anything to achieve her dream—unless her lies destroy everything. . . If that weren’t enough drama, rumor has it that the Academy may close at the end of the year. Can these gifted students put their talents to the test to save it?
walter dean MYERS
A Harlem drugstore owner was shot and killed in his store, and the word is that 16-year-old Steve Harmon served as the lookout. Was he involved or was he simply in the wrong place at the wrong time? An amateur filmmaker, Steve transcribes his trial into a movie script, showing scene by scene how his life was turned around in an instant.
vaunda micheaux NELSON
A documentary novel of the life and work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem bookseller. ‘You can’t walk straight on a crooked line. You do you’ll break your leg. How can you walk straight in a crooked system?’ Lewis Michaux was born to do things his own way. When a white banker told him to sell fried chicken, not books, because Negroes don’t read,’ Lewis took five books and one-hundred dollars and built a bookstore. It soon became the intellectual center of Harlem, a refuge for everyone from Muhammad Ali to Malcolm X. In No Crystal Stair, Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson combines meticulous research with a storyteller’s flair to document the life and times of her great uncle Lewis Michaux, an extraordinary literacy pioneer of the Civil Rights era.
Akata Witch: Akata Witch (book 1)
Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are African, but she’s albino. She’s a terrific athlete, but can’t go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits. And then she discovers something amazing—she is a “free agent,” with latent magical power. Soon she’s part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But will it be enough to help them when they are asked to catch a career criminal who knows magic too?
Basketball has always been an escape for Finley. He lives in gray, broken Bellmont, a town ruled by the Irish Mob, drugs, violence, and racially charged rivalries. At home, he takes care of his disabled grandfather, and at school he’s called “White Rabbit”, the only white kid on the varsity basketball team. He’s always dreamed of getting out somehow with his girlfriend, Erin. But until then, when he puts on his number 21, everything seems to make sense. Russ has just moved to the neighborhood. A former teen basketball phenom from a privileged home, his life has been turned upside down by tragedy. Cut off from everyone he knows, he now answers only to the name Boy21—his former jersey number—and has an unusual obsession with outer space. As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, “Boy21” may turn out to be the answer they both need.
Hanna simply wants to be loved. With a head plagued by hallucinations, a medicine cabinet full of pills, and a closet stuffed with frilly, violet dresses, Hanna’s tired of being the outcast, the weird girl, the freak. So she runs away to Portero, Texas in search of a new home. But Portero is a stranger town than Hanna expects. As she tries to make a place for herself, she discovers dark secrets that would terrify any normal soul. Good thing for Hanna, she’s far from normal. As this crazy girl meets an even crazier town, only two things are certain: Anything can happen and no one is safe.
anne SCHRAFF & paul LANGAN
Bluford High: Lost and Found (book 1); A Matter of Trust (book 2); Secrets in the Shadows (book 3); Someone to Love Me (book 4); The Bully (book 5); The Gun (book 6 – also titled Payback); Until We Meet Again (book 7); Blood is Thicker (book 8); Brothers in Arms (book 9); Summer of Secrets (book 10); The Fallen (book 11); Shattered (book 12)
Note: There are about 20 books in the series. I’m choosing to feature the covers of only 12 of the books. The series’ title is hyper linked to the Goodreads compilation page.
Welcome to Bluford High. This widely acclaimed teen series set in an urban high school features engaging, accessible writing and appealing, contemporary storylines. Darcy Wills is in big trouble. And she does not know where to turn for help. First there was the mysterious stranger who started following her. Then there was the threatening note left on her desk at Bluford High School. And now her sister has disappeared. Forced into a desperate race against time, Darcy must take action to save her sister–and her fragile family–before it is too late.
In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever. Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily. Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept “separate but equal.” Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.
brian F. WALKER
He couldn’t listen to music or talk on the phone without her jumping all over him about what they listened to up in Maine, or how they talked up in Maine, or how he better not go up to Maine and start acting ghetto. Maine. Anthony’s mother didn’t even know where it was until he’d shown it to her on a map, but that still didn’t stop her from acting like she was born there. Anthony “Ant” Jones has never been outside his rough East Cleveland neighborhood when he’s given a scholarship to Belton Academy, an elite prep school in Maine. But at Belton things are far from perfect. Everyone calls him “Tony,” assumes he’s from Brooklyn, expects him to play basketball, and yet acts shocked when he fights back. As Anthony tries to adapt to a world that will never fully accept him, he’s in for a rude awakening: Home is becoming a place where he no longer belongs.