2018: breakthrough black literary moments

December 27, 2018
78 Picks

To be honest, 2018 was truly one of the strongest years for the exposure of Black art in a long time. Black Excellence takes no breaks, but Black visibility is something else entirely. This year in literature brought us more than a hundred narrative-challenging, question-posing, and heartbreaking, and unshakeable breakthrough moments for Black writers of literature, non-fiction, and poetry. From Victor LaValle’s breaking barriers in graphic novels with his reimagining of Mary Shelley in Destroyer to the open-hearted and historic memoirs of Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors’ When They Call You A Terrorist, the written word was the vehicle for prolific creative expression. Here are a small few whose work fits that description:

Tomi Adeyemi – Children of Blood and Bone

An instant YA classic, Children of Blood and Bone was unquestionably a stunning debut from the 24-year old Nigerian-American Tomi Adeyemi. One of thee most talked about books of the year, period. Children brought readers into the magical world of Orisha where West African-inspired Gods and Goddesses empower a chosen few to carry the burden of fighting a cruel dominant culture and the responsibility to win. Debuting on the New York Times Best Seller list for young adults, the highly anticipated novel was a breakthrough moment for Adeyemi and the trilogy.

Darnell L. Moore – No Ashes in the Fire

Until all Black people are seen, none of us can be. And journalist Darnell L. Moore’s deeply personal memoir invited readers a view from his seat as a Black gay man. In No Ashes in the Fire Moore, like a surgeon, deconstructs the delicate intersections of race, gender, and orientation in the three worlds it must occupy: the Black community, LGBTQ+ community, and the white heteronormative mainstream. An activist in his own right, Moore’s work has always campaigned the rights and liberation of Black people around the world. His humanity shines bright through this brave piece of storytelling.

Michelle Obama – Becoming

Michelle Obama’s first post-White House book, Becoming painted a frank and honest picture of her journey as a Black woman, daughter, wife, mother, scholar, and First Lady. Becoming the top-sellingg book of 2018, Becoming has already broken literary records. Just two months after its release, the acclaimed memoir has sold more than 3.8 million copies: making it one of the fastest selling non-fiction books of all time. In the UK, Obama is the first woman since J.K. Rowling to have a #1 Christmas book and the first woman writer of color to capture the number one spot, ever!

Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele – When They Call You A Terrorist

Another autobiographical collection of essays on this list is Patrisse Khan-Cullors powerhouse “When They Call You A Terrorist”. Titled in reference to the FBI’s surveillance of so-called ‘Black Identity Extremist’, the memoir is coming of age story several times over. With zero glamorization, Khan-Cullors chronicled the life that led to the creation of the Black Lives Matter movement. From the poor hood she grew up in on the wrong side of L.A. to her first arrest and experiences with civil disobedience, we see the evolution of a woman, mom, educator, and freedom fighter in the 21st century. This moment was Khan-CUllors to narrator. Not the media, not Twitter, and not those who uphold white supremacy.

Victor LaValle’s Destroyer (honerable mention)

Victor LaValle’s Destroyer comic first debuted in 2017, but with new installments and infectious buzz, 2018 was LaValle’s breakthrough year. A wonderfully imaginative 6-issue comic series, Destroyer follows a young scientist named Josephine Baker who is stricken with grief after her 12-year-old son is killed by police. Believed to be the last living descendent of thee Dr. Frankenstein, Baker takes cues from her infamous ancestry she brings the boy back to life.