Three influential books featuring Black stories you should read


Graphic courtesy of Canva.

Shamiya Smith, Culture Contributor

This previously ran in our February print issue.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God, a classic of the Harlem Renaissance, tells the story of Janie Crawford and her journey in search of a sense of identity. Through Janie’s journey she experiences love as well as life’s sorrow and joy, and in the end, she comes home to herself in peace. 

I rate this novel four stars. After reading then re-reading this book, I felt simply at peace. It was like a breath of fresh air. Janie’s life story is miraculous, and I love how Hurston was able to show how Janie was content and embraced her life – both the good and the bad – instead of moping around. 

The writing style stuck out to me. I loved the language and prose she utilizes throughout the novel. Janie was a well-crafted character; she refused to be bitter and sulk on all the bad things, and instead, accepted it all as it made her stronger. Although I do believe some parts of the book were dragged out, and the novel was a slow read for me, I genuinely loved Their Eyes Were Watching God, and it will always be on my recommendation list. 


Girl, Woman, Other

If you love a novel that talks about race, sexuality, gender, identity, or simply recognizes those qualities in people, I suggest you read Girl, Woman, Other. The novel follows twelve different British Black women and their walks of life. All these women are in some way connected, giving us a grand finale when most of the characters meet.

I give this book five stars. The inclusivity of this novel is honestly what did it for me; Evaristo gave us the past, present, and future of all the characters, making it extremely engaging. The characters’ backgrounds and their subsequent accomplishments really inspired me to want to be exceptional. I found myself identifying with almost all of the characters’ struggles and successes, Amma especially. Amma represented creativity and innovation; she knew what she wanted and knew exactly how she was going to get it. Girl, Woman, Other was absolutely exceptional. 

Entertainment Weekly said it “Deserves every accolade, and more,” and described it as “Pure, vivid life on every page.” I completely agree with this and I definitely don’t think it is a reach. This book truly made me feel emotions that I have never felt when reading. 


Parable of the Sower

​​If you want to read a good science fiction novel, Parable of the Sower follows 15-year-old Lauren Olmina and her family in 2025 in a post-apocalyptic society after a climate disaster. Lauren was born with hyper empathy syndrome as a result of her mother’s drug usage during her pregnancy. As a result of the syndrome, Lauren is able to feel the physical and mental pains and pleasures of those around her. After a huge fire destroys their compound, the Olmnia family are forced to leave. Lauren’s end goal is to find a new home for her and her new family as well as create a new belief system called Earthseed. 

I give this novel a four out of five stars rating. I was engrossed in this book, especially considering at the time, I was not an avid book reader. This novel genuinely helped me see the world through a different lens. I could easily relate a lot of the events happening in the book to current events in the real world. 

I did not expect this book to be as prophetic as it was, but it was spiritually enlightening for me. It felt as if I was reading a religious text. It was extremely eye-opening when it talked about societal issues. I also believe Lauren is a relatable character when it comes down to her personality and her actions. After finishing the book, I was extremely eager to read the sequel, Parable of the Talents.