Black-led and created book clubs create a safe space for individuals that are looking to discuss historic, emotional and/or fictional work by authors of color. During the pandemic, many of us turned to books as a way of escaping reality, and book clubs are the opportunity to share this similar feeling with other like-minded individuals. In these online and in-person communities, it's often more heartwarming to be surrounded by Black women while reading a text that touches on misogynoir, colorism or fatphobia.
If you've been itching to discuss a Toni Morrison book or searching for a group of Black bibliophiles, here's eight book clubs that cater toward Black authors.
NoName Book Club was created by Chicago rapper and poet NoName to highlight progressive books from queer writers and writers of color. The club's motto "reading material for the homies" reflects the community-chosen monthly picks on topics like capitalism, mass incarceration, revolution and imperialism. Along with hosting monthly chats for their 12 chapters throughout the country, they also provide incarcerated people with copies of the readings.
Founder Glory Edim shared on her site that the purpose of Well-Read Black Girl is to “address racial inequity in publishing and pay homage to the literary legacies of Black women writers like Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Maya Angelou.” Books like Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom and You Should See Me In a Crown by Leah Johnson are two of the books in their reading collection. The organization has expanded to hosting a yearly festival with speakers and authors, and this year’s virtual festival will be held October 26 to October 30th.
Located in 14 cities across the US and online, Mocha Girls Read is a safe space for Black women interested in meeting like-minded women that have an interest in conversation surrounding literature.
If you're not located on the West Coast, they host meetings in other cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Richmond. Regardless of gender, age or race, Mocha Girls Read reads everything and is open to Black women only.
Among young adult novels and Black feminist fiction, The Free Black Women’s Library has a book for any reader. Brooklyn native OlaRonke Akinmowo sought to create a free library of books written by Black women. They’re currently attempting to create a bookmobile and reading room in Bedford-Stuyvesant, but for now, you can keep up with them via their Instagram.
Content creator Jouelzy, who created Smart Brown Girl, wanted to empower Black and brown women via readings. Their current book for September is The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw, and they’ve read other books aligning with intimacy, history and fatphobia. Not to mention, Jouelzy makes the reading experience very interactive by creating syllabi and thought-provoking questions to incite discussion about the readings.
The digital storytelling platform Prim runs OKHA, which is described as a queer, Black book club. Based in London, OKHA has read multiple books by Black British authors like Black, Listed: Black British Culture Explored by Jeffrey Boakye and This is Us: Black British Women and Girls by Kafayat Okanlawon. Their choice of books seek to provide a safe space to discuss topics on Black ancestry and the queer community.
Founded in 1987 as the oldest Black book club in America, The Bibliophiles was created by a group of Black women after being inspired by Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Each year, their group chooses 5-6 books that revolve around a specific theme. For example, this year’s theme is social justice, and their book choices include Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson and The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.
Chicago-based book club Black Girls Read was created by Cynthia Okechukwu to read and discuss books written by Black women in the entire African diaspora. The group meets monthly both in-person and virtually to discuss their literary and non-fiction book choices. In a 2019 interview with Love Black Chicago, Okechukwu shared that she was inspired by Well-Read Black Girl and her passion for reading to organize her book club.