Did you know that reading stories can increase empathy? In light of recent events, I think empathy is ever more and more important for us all to cultivate. Many white people are looking for work they can do to help in the fight against racism and developing more empathy by reading the works of African American authors is one thing you can do right now. Today I want to share five amazing books by and about African Americans for adult readers. Look for lists for teens and kids coming soon.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (2018; 308 pages). Celestial and Roy are newly wed and just settling into their life together when Roy is sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. As a newlywed myself, this book had me questioning what I would do if the same thing happened to me. Would I be able to hold on through the years and support my husband? I want to think I would, but do we really know about things like that until they happen? We also have it on CD audiobook, Playaway audiobook, ebook via Hoopla, and downloadable audiobook.

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray (2019; 294). The lives of three sisters are thrown into disarray when the oldest sister Althea is arrested, along with her husband, for embezzling charity money donated by their community for flood relief. Althea leaves two teenage daughters struggling to cope in a community embittered by being duped and her adult sisters must step in to take care of them. The incident dredges up family secrets long buried as each sister faces this new reality and tries to figure out how to move forward without causing more damage. I was completely drawn in by these characters and the tough decisions they had to face. Also available on ebook via Overdrive.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay (2017; 306 pages). Roxane Gay’s powerful memoir examines the way that she has been treated and perceived because of her fat body. She is incredibly raw and vulnerable in this memoir, a must-read for anyone interested in body image. She speaks truths here that are not comfortable but that need to be said and acknowledged. We also have it on CD audiobook, ebook via Overdrive, and downloadable audiobook.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1969; 289 pages). This poetic memoir looks back on an anguished childhood split between the segregated South and the slums of California. Maya Angelou lived an amazing life and she writes so eloquently about trauma and the exquisite pain of childhood. It’s a modern classic and well worth a read or a reread if you last read it in high school.  We also have it on CD audiobook, ebook via Overdrive, and downloadable audiobook.

The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton (2018; 255 pages). You may be a little familiar with Mr. Hinton’s story from the movie or book Just Mercy, but this memoir about his years on Death Row for a crime he didn’t commit is absolutely riveting. Arrested at age 29, he spent 30 years in prison before being exonerated in 2015. We also have it on CD audiobook, Playaway audiobook, ebook via Overdrive, and downloadable audiobook.