The literary world has seen its fair share of timeless classics and overnight bestsellers through the years. However, nearly all of these famous literary bestsellers share one thing in common—they were penned by white authors.
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series have become holiday favorites while Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games have all been transformed from popular novels into box office hits. Throughout history, literature has been dominated by authors of Caucasian descent, limiting the diversity in the literary and entertainment industry.
However, there are countless extraordinary writers to support and they hail from different cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. Here are five incredible books that are written by authors of color and span a diverse range of genres. By reading them and you can do your part to encourage diversity in popular culture.
1. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
Murakami is perhaps one of the most notable modern Japanese authors as his books have been translated into over fifty languages and sold across the world. His writing, which often dips into a dream-like fantasy, is thought-provoking and open-ended, allowing different readers to perceive his work differently.
One of his most famous works, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage dives into the mind of its protagonist, railroad engineer Tsukuru Tazaki. After his close childhood friends abandon him without warning, Tazaki spirals into a depression that later leads him onto a journey for closure and self-discovery. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki is ultimately a rich, stimulating read that can pull a reader’s heart into a multitude of diverse directions. Purchase a copy here!
2. Hunger: A Memoir of My Body by Roxane Gay
Haitian American writer, professor, and activist Roxane Gay is unapologetically bold. Her books tackle a variety of real-life, controversial issues as she shares her experiences. Her vulnerability and strength are best exemplified by her bestselling book Hunger.
Hunger: A Memoir of My Body details how Gay’s life was completely changed after she was raped at the age of twelve. It describes how she turned to food for comfort and battled insecurities in a judgemental world. Gay’s powerful words force readers to realize the painful, uncomfortable truths that society often neglects and allows them to relate to some of Gay’s own inner turmoil and insecurities. You can find the memoir here.
3. Legend by Marie Lu
Chinese American author Marie Lu has become one of young adult fiction’s biggest writers with her series The Young Elites and her trilogy Legend. Lu has consistently woven her life experiences into her books. Her memories that range from witnessing soldiers preparing for the Tiananmen Square massacre at the age of 5 to working as an art director of a video game company have inspired several scenes and aspects of her novel Legend.
Legend tells the story of the dystopian United States, in the lives of two young teenagers – wanted criminal Day Altan Wing and military prodigy June Iparis – who become embroiled in the conflicts and conspiracies of their country. As they unravel the corrupt secrets of the society, they form an unlikely team. Overall, Legend and the other books in the trilogy feature a diverse cast of characters that provides greater representation for minorities. Buy your own copy here!
4. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
African American writer and Harvard graduate Colson Whitehead has topped the NYT Bestsellers List and taught at prestigious universities like Columbia and Princeton. His latest book, The Underground Railroad, has won praise from President Obama and Oprah and been awarded the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award.
The Underground Railroad explores the journeys of two slaves – Cora and Caesar – who try to escape to freedom from the cruel, brutal plantations. Whitehead combines true historical details, raw emotion, and concepts from his imagination to create an alternate history in which the Underground Railroad isn’t just a clandestine collection of safehouses but a literal network of trains that run underneath the southern United States. Though The Underground Railroad takes time over a hundred years before present day, it still makes readers ponder and reflect on issues rooted in the past that still plague the nation today. You can purchase a copy here.
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Gabriel Garcia Marquez was a Colombian novelist and journalist known for his magical realism. In his novels, he often combined real-life settings and historical events with elements of peculiar fantasy. His writing warps reality by nestling supernatural twists like flying carpets and invisible doctors in the characters’ everyday lives.
His style of magical realism manifests in his award-winning, bestselling novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. His dreamy imagery and eclectic writing style bring life to the town of Macondo, which is inhabited by several generations of the Buendia family. As the town evolves from isolated and idyllic to war-torn and plagued by imperialist capitalism, the members of the family go through their own journeys and struggles. Overall, Marquez’s writing weaves the rich history and culture of Latin America into his work. Copies of this novel can be found here.
To read more insightful, thought-provoking, and creative works of literature penned by authors of color, check out Goodreads’ list of popular books written by non-white authors!
Photo Credit: Florin Gorgan on Flickr