We Read Too IOS app developer Kaya Thomas explores trends in Black literature

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“I was going to the library and bookstores and book fairs in school, and I would see a very specific set of books,” Thomas says. “By the time I got to high school, I started to get really frustrated wondering why there weren’t any books that I was being exposed to that had Black characters, or were by Black authors. I started doing my own research and realized that those books existed — they just weren’t on bestseller lists, or displayed in the library or at the bookstore.”

“Once I realized that anyone can create an app, it was a huge moment for me to understand that I can build real things that people can use and put it out for them to be able to access,” she says. “Technology can sometimes seem like such a black box, this magical thing. But once the veil was ripped away, I realized I could build something that could potentially solve problems.”

Science Fiction, Fantasy, and World Building with Black Characters

Pioneered by authors such as Octavia E. Butler, N.K. Jemisin, and Nnedi Okorafor, science fiction and fantasy books by Black authors have been booming. Octavia E. Butler is my favorite author, but her stories aren’t necessarily appropriate for kids and young adults. 2020 saw some incredible debuts in Young Adult (YA), such as “A Song of Wraiths and Ruin” by Roseanne A. Brown, and “A Song Below Water” by Bethany C. Morrow. Often speculative fiction helps readers imagine new worlds, possibilities, and futures, and it’s essential that these books do not create worlds where Black people no longer exist. With more authors and books in this genre, young Black readers can imagine and envision themselves in a whole new way.
 

Intersections of Blackness and Queerness in YA

There have been more Black LGBTQIA authors writing stories for young people with LGBTQIA characters. “Felix Ever After” by Kacen Callender, “You Should See Me in a Crown” by Leah Johnson, and “Pet” by Akwaeke Emezi are all great recent reads to start with. Although culturally we’re in a moment where identifying as LGBTQIA has gained more acceptance in the Black community, historically Black LGBTQIA folks have struggled to find their place. Seeing stories, for example, about trans teens helps create awareness and representation, which is so important. The more stories that are written, the more young people in the Black community will know that there is a space for them.

 

Coming of Age: Memoirs for Young (Black) Adults

Most autobiographical tales aren’t focused on the teenage perspective. In 2020, at least two books were released that do just that: “Black Girl Unlimited” by Echo Brown and “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson. Both are must-reads and can help both young folks and adults alike unpack issues of identity, mental health, and trauma. One of the big trends I’ve seen in literature for young people in the Black community is an increasing acceptance of the multifaceted nature of being Black and the overarching Black experience, like acknowledging mental illness and mental-health problems, and the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning, intersex, and asexual and/or ally) community. We all have these different identities and that’s the beauty of a lot of these new stories coming out that embrace the idea that there’s not just one way to be Black.
 

Exploring some of the trends Thomas had seen, she notes how Science Fiction and fantasy books by Black authors “have been booming”, noting that how as speculative books often create new worlds and possibilities, “it’s essential that these books do not create worlds where Black people no longer exist.”

 

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