6 Black Women (Real and Fictional) Owning Their Power – Upspoken

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6 Black Women (Real and Fictional) Owning Their Power


As Black women, representation is always a struggle. Seeking out forms of media that display even a semblance of the women that we are is a lifelong journey and trying to learn from stories that don’t represent you in any way can be tough at times. We know, sometimes you just want to hear, see or read something by or for just you. But don’t worry, Black women are out here owning their power and showcasing women, just like us!

Now, it may not be TV or social media, but this throwback medium is giving us so much life. Yes, I‘m talking about BOOKS! We’re giving you six authors and book recommendations to bring you back! From fictional novels to autobiographies, these books (or maybe just their authors) give us examples of leading ladies who truly know how to own their power.

1) Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (Fiction) This 1937 novel is the best-known work of Zora Neale Hurston, telling the story of a young black woman’s journey to claiming her own destiny. From death in the family to abusive relationships, the main character, Janie Crawford, shows us how to persist. Life has its ups and downs and crazy turns, but what we can learn from Janie is that we must keep moving and put our needs at the forefront if we want to have a fulfilling life.

2) Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems by Robin Coste Lewis (Poetry) Winner of the National Book Award for Poetry, Robin Coste Lewis (in her debut poetry collection) provides unique meditation on the Black female figure across time. In Lewis’ collection, she explores a question that most of us have asked in some form or another at some point in our lives: Where do our ideas about the Black female form truly stem from? Through her poetry, Robin Coste Lewis creates a space where she, and we, can own our bodies, and in turn our own power.

3) We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union (Autobiographical) Nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, this book and its author inspires us to own our power. Gabrielle Union, actress and all-around QUEEN, embraces all that she is and the power that comes with that. From no make-up Monday videos on social media to walking in her black love, Gabrielle lives in her truth! And you should expect no less honesty from her book. In this raw and open compilation of essays, we’re reminded of how important self-awareness, confidence, support and the power of sharing our truth really is.

4) The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish (Autobiographical) Now, if you don’t know who Tiffany Haddish is, you might have been living under a rock for the past year. First, she brought us her breakout acting debut in Girls Trip and, then she brought us The Last Black Unicorn, a collection of extremely intimate and personal essays, that share pain, as well as all of the humor we’ve come to expect from this hilarious queen. Tiffany takes us back to growing up in one of the poorest neighborhoods in South Central L.A. and how she got through it by making people laugh. If that’s not owning your power over your circumstances, we don’t know what is.

5) And, for those of you who like romance, this sista is a romance genre superstar, Beverly Jenkins. With an extensive bookography not only will you get the strong Black women characters who get what they want, but you get historical fiction that doesn’t focus on the most traumatic parts of Black history.

Leaning into a time period of Black folks’ history that most overlook (19th century Black life), Beverly has made her mark on the romance world. You can start with her most recent book Chasing down a Dream: A Blessings Novel or take it back and start with her first book Night Song.

6) Now, don’t you say WHO when we give you our last author…sista K. Jemisin, or as we like to call her Nora, the next iteration of Octavia Butler. Nora has blown up the science fiction/ fantasy world, so much so that some critics hesitate to call her work fantasy because she breaks the rules! This former counseling psychologist and educator turned political, feminist, anti-racist blogger, turned author is owning her entire literary genre, which is why we’ll be sitting down tonight to one of her most recent books The Fifth Season.

We salute these fierce women and lean into them as a guide for owning our power and being the kind of women stories are made of.

Do you know of a literary queen giving you life? Tell us about her in the comments!

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  1. Ariel Wilbur 23/07

    Love this !!! I definitely did not know all of these women created such great literary content. Going to buy some of these ASAP 🙂