black writers autobiographies
[Photos via Samantha Irby, Bassey Ikpi]

The recent nationwide protests in the wake of several incidents of police brutality have caused a shift in the country. People are becoming more aware of the intense racism Black people deal with every day. Others are making it a point to support Black lives on the ground, on social media and with their coin.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the publishing industry, where Black authors have had their books top the New York Times Best Seller list since the protests began. Many of these books are ones that tackle racism, such as So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. Others are memoirs that unveil the writer’s lived experience and address not only racism but the intersectionality of having multiple marginalized identities. Below is a list of 10 autobiographies written by Black authors.

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I’m Still Here: Black Dignity In A World Made For Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

Austin Channing Brown’s memoir about growing up in a predominantly white suburb and learning to love her Blackness is a poignant look at how America often falls short in its efforts to achieve equality. She recounts how her parents named her Austin to help her navigate the world easier, due to the fact that nonwhite-sounding names often affect people from even being considered for a job. Brown also addresses the influence that “white, middle-class, Evangelicalism” has had on racism in America. Readers will enjoy learning about Brown’s life and come away feeling empowered. 

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

All Boys Aren’t Blue is a memoir by journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson. In it, Johnson delves into his life experiences as a queer Black man, from being bullied at the age of 5 to his first relationships to spending time with this family. The book explores many important themes beyond the toxicity of racism—Johnson also addresses consent, gender identity, marginalization and Black joy. His frank and thought-provoking look at his lived experiences and the world around him make this book an engrossing read.

Hunger: A Memoir Of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

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Hunger galleys hanging out in my editor's office. Out 6/13/17.

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Prominent LGBTQIA+ author and journalist Roxane Gay recounts her experience with her weight and society’s obsession with women’s external appearance in Hunger. Gay describes her body as “wildly undisciplined”—in the book, she explains the constant dichotomy between “self-comfort and self-care.” She explores her past and the traumatic event that shaped her adulthood and how she “ate in the hopes that if [she] made [herself] big, [her] body would be safe.” Gay’s memoir will make readers reexamine their relationship with their self-image and how they operate in the world around them. 

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How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones

Award-winning author Saeed Jones’ memoir is a coming-of-age tale about his experience growing up Black and queer in the South. Jones addresses the fight that one must have to truly become oneself and how each relationship shapes who we ultimately become. “People don’t just happen. We sacrifice former versions of ourselves. We sacrifice the people who dared to raise us. The ‘I’ it seems doesn’t exist until we are able to say, ‘I am no longer yours,’” Jones writes. How We Fight For Our Lives is a moving look at the intersectionality of race, gender and sexuality, detailing how each plays into one’s own personhood. 

Redefining Realness: My Path To Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock

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In the last few weeks, as people yearn to raise their consciousness, I’ve been asked many 101 questions about black trans womanhood. Instead of doing additional labor of educating cis folks, I will direct folks to my books — REDEFINING REALNESS (2014) and SURPASSING CERTAINTY (2017). Both center my experience living at the intersections of blackness, trans-ness and womanhood. My first memoir Redefining Realness broke ground for being the first book to center a young trans person’s journey toward the self, and is largely set in my native Hawaii where as an adolescent I created myself in a world not yet ready for a girl like me. It’s anchored in the quest for authenticity, the transformative power of trans sisterhood, and the resiliency and agency of sex workers. My followup Surpassing Certainty follows me as I fled smalltown Honolulu to make something of myself in New York City — as a journalist — in my twenties. Young adulthood is fraught with so much and Surpassing Certainty tackles the complicatedness of navigating and surviving a very white publishing industry that didn’t see it for black girls no less one who chose to live as “stealth” in order to make it in the door. They’re available in all formats (hardcover, paperback, e-book, kindle and audio) everywhere books are sold as well as libraries across the country. I would also recommend reading books by other phenomenal black trans women including @doroshow @ladydanefe @tonidnewman @dominiquet.a.r.jackson and iconic trailblazer The Lady Chablis. #girlslikeus #blacktranslivesmatter #amreading

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Writer, producer and transgender rights activist Janet Mock offers an unflinching look at her life growing up poor, trans and multiracial. In Redefining Realness, Mock begins the book with her “coming out story” and dives into the transphobia she experienced and struggled to unlearn. “I struggled for years with what my perception of trans womanhood was, having internalized our cultures skewed, biased views and pervasive misconceptions about trans women,” she writes. Mock’s memoir is a truly inspirational take of a woman fighting to find herself and live the life she wants.

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Zami: A New Spelling Of My Name by Audre Lorde

Poet and writer Audre Lorde had a prolific effect on both Black writers and culture. In Zami, Lorde is frank in recounting her life story, from her childhood to coming of age in the 1950s. Lorde infuses her writing with the same emotion as her poems. She describes in beautiful detail the women in her life and how they shaped the woman she would become, both as a writer and an outspoken activist. 

No Ashes In The Fire by Darnell L. Moore

No Ashes In The Fire is a heart-wrenching tale about Darnell L. Moore’s life and a traumatic incident in his childhood. At 14 years old, Moore was nearly set on fire by a group of neighborhood boys who were harassing him because they thought he was gay. The book not only recounts this incident but Moore’s journey to finding himself and becoming a Black Lives Matter activist and writer. He also writes about his support system, his family and friends and even his hometown of Camden, New Jersey. 

I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, And Other Reasons I’ve Put My Faith In Beyoncé by Michael Arceneaux

Michael Arceneaux focuses on the intersectionality of being Black and queer in America in this witty and honest memoir. Broken up into essays, he talks about his relationships with his parents—how his father questioned him about being “funny,” how he came out to his mother and the challenges he faced along the way to becoming a writer. This book is equal parts humor and heartache, and readers looking for a reminder of how important it is to be oneself and be outspoken in this day and age will find something to enjoy. 

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Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby

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all my children!! 📸 @citylitbooks

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Samantha Irby’s hilarious collection of essays is the follow-up to her 2017 bestseller, We Are Never Meeting In Real Life. In Wow, No Thank You, Irby brings her unique brand of wit and wisdom to the page as she talks about her life experiences, from buying too many face masks to being “mommed” at a bar to making mason jar salads. Throughout it all, Irby maintains her inimitable sense of humor while talking about those relatable, embarrassing and wonderful moments in life. 

I’m Telling The Truth, But I’m Lying by Bassey Ikpi

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Over Christmas, I did a Book giveaway for folks who wanted the book but couldn’t afford to get it (For any reason). I got way more messages than my checking account could handle and my wonderful publishers stepped in. Those books are going out this week. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ One of the people requested an autographed copy for a dear friend and I’m a pushover so… I only have six of my own books—including the uncorrected proof— in my possession and since I’ll already be at the post office, who want? ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ If we can get my IG account to 11k I’ll give away a few more.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐂𝐀𝐓𝐂𝐇:⁣⁣ *must be following me⁣⁣ *must like this post⁣⁣ *must leave a comment about whatever⁣⁣ *must be in the continental US for a physical copy⁣ *must be a dope ass human ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I’ll pick someone (or two) at random so make the comment count. ⁣⁣Edit: Christ on a cracker, y’all! I didn’t mean to imply you needed to compliment! As a Leo, I appreciate it but really just a comment about anything! ⁣ #bookgiveaway

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Bassey Ikpi’s essay collection focuses on her childhood in Nigeria to moving to Oklahoma to her mental breakdown in her 20s. Ikpi was hospitalized and eventually diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. Now she uses her platform to explore the effect that mental health stigmas can have on a person getting treatment and coming to terms with their diagnosis. I’m Telling The Truth, But I’m Lying is a brutally honest memoir fit for anyone struggling to acknowledge their truth. 

Which books are on your reading list? Let us know in the comments below.