As a genre, young adult literature is still fairly young. Its modern iteration has only been around since the 1960s. And though YA readership has grown exponentially over the last decades, the diversity of the authors behind the books is in its infancy. But that is changing.
As the number of Black YA authors grows, so have their stories. These authors not only “show Black teens dealing with the same coming of age issues that any teen would deal with – falling in love, finding your place in the world, coming to terms with their sexuality,” but also “navigating issues like systemic racism and microaggressions,” says LaKeshia N. Darden, librarian and adjunct professor at Campbell University and Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury, Chair 2019-2021.
“These are very unique and real-world experiences for Black teens and that is why these stories are so important and so needed. There is no one Black experience,” she adds.
With input from Darden, we have curated a selection of established and new Black YA authors whose works have captured, through fiction, the experiences of Black young adults.
The list is by no means exhaustive. It includes a range of YA authors who span the decades, including authors who are definitive, debut, award-winning and bestselling. Their works feature a wide range of genres, including literary, speculative, fantasy, science fiction and romance.
Authors are listed in alphabetical order by last name.For every novelist we have included, there are scores more to be read and discovered. And like Black YA literature, this list will continue to grow.
Elizabeth Acevedo: The Afro-Latina poet’s novel, “The Poet X,” about a young woman finding her voice, made a huge impact winning the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the Pura Belpré Award, the Carnegie Medal and the Michael L. Printz Award. Acevedo followed “Poet X” with novels “With the Fire on High” and “Clap When You Land.”
Tomi Adeyemi: The author’s debut novel, the Hugo award-winning “Children of Blood and Bone” and its sequel “Children of Virtue and Vengeance” were both USA TODAY bestsellers. “Children of Blood and Bone,” about a young African girl who tries to bring back magic after it’s been taken by a dictator, is being developed for film. Adeyemi, who was named one of “Time” magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020, is currently working on the final book in her Legacy of Orisha trilogy.
Kwame Alexander: The award-winning poet and author of more than 35 books writes for children and young adults. He is a self-proclaimed fan of other YA novelists Jacqueline Woodson and Nikki Grimes. His novels include “He Said, She Said,” “Rebound” and “Swing.” His novel “The Crossover,” written in a mix of free verse and hip-hop poetry, won the 2015 Newbery Medal.
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Dean Atta: The British poet’s work often deals with the issues of identity and social justice. His debut novel, “The Black Flamingo,” follows the story of Michael, a mixed-race teen growing up in London who finds a sense of belonging with the Drag Society. The novel won a Stonewall Book Award in 2020.
Malorie Blackman: The British author has written myriad books for children and young adults, as well as for television. She is best known for her young adult series, “Noughts & Crosses,” which debuted in 2001 and whose most recent installment, “Crossfire” came out in 2019. The books have been adapted into a series in Britain and can be found on Peacock.
Roseanne A. Brown: The Ghana-born author is also a journalist, whose work has been featured by Voice of America. Her debut novel, “A Song of Wraiths and Ruin,” the first of a fantasy duology, is inspired by West African folklore. The sequel, “A Psalm of Storms and Silence”, is scheduled to be released later this year.
Mahogany L. Browne: This writers works include poetry collection “Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice” and poem “Black Girl Magic.” Her first YA novel, “Chlorine Sky,” a coming-of-age novel in verse, was released in January.
Kacen Callender: The prolific author – publishing six books in two years – writes for readers from middle grade to adult. They received the Lambda Literary Award and the Stonewall Book Award, for their middle-grade novel “Hurricane Child.” They followed up with the YA novels “This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story” and “Felix Ever After.” Their novel “King and the Dragonflies” won the 2020 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.
Brandy Colbert: The author of fiction and nonfiction won a Stonewall Book Award for her YA novel “Little & Lion,” about a bisexual teen dealing with her stepbrother’s bipolar diagnosis. Her other novels include “Pointe,” “Finding Yvonne,” “The Revolution of Birdie Randolf,” “The Only Black Girls in Town” and “The Voting Booth.”
Jerry Craft: The creator of award-winning comic strip “Mama’s Boyz,” is also the author of two YA graphic novels. His debut, 2019’s “New Kid,” about how a young man’s life is changed when he is enrolled in a prestigious private school, is a USA TODAY Bestseller and won the 2020 Newbery Medal and 2020 The Coretta Scott King Book Award. His follow-up, “Class Act,” released in 2020, is also a USA TODAY bestseller.
Christopher Paul Curtis: The author discovered he loved writing while taking breaks at a factory job where writing “became a refuge.” He’s best known for his award-winning children’s novels but he has written for young adults as well, most notably 2004’s “Bucking the Sarge.”
Tanita S. Davis: The author’s best-known novel, 2009’s “Mare’s War,” began as her college thesis. The novel, which won a Coretta Scott King Award, follows two teens who embark on a road trip with their grandmother, a WWII veteran, who shares stories of her past. The author’s other books include “A la Carte,” “Happy Families,” “Peas and Carrots” and “Serena Says.”
Tracy Deonn: The author has worked in live theater, game production and education. A recipient of 2021’s Coretta Scott King/Steptoe Award for New Talent, Deonn’s debut novel was 2020’s “Legendborn.” She has also contributed to the science fiction and fantasy anthology “From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back.”
Sharon Draper: The inaugural winner of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent in 1995, the author and educator was also named National Teacher of the Year in 1997. She has written myriad books for young adults, in addition to poetry and nonfiction. Among them, “Copper Sun”, “Forged by Fire,” and “The Battle of Jericho.”
Akwaeke Emezi: An acclaimed author of adult fiction, Emezi was named a “5 Under 35” honoree by the National Book Foundation. Their YA debut novel, “Pet,” explores the themes of identity and justice and was a National Book Award finalist, a Stonewall Book Award winner and a Walter Dean Myers Honor Book.
Sharon G. Flake: The author’s debut novel was 1998’s “The Skin I’m In,” a story of a 13 -year-old girl who learns to stand up for herself and love her skin. Her other YA titles include “Money Hungry,” “Begging for Change” and “Bang!” In January, she released “The Life I’m In,” a companion novel to “The Skin I’m In” about a young woman trapped in human trafficking.
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Lamar Giles: One of the founding members of the non-profit organization We Need Diverse Books (WNDB), Giles (who has written under L.R. Giles), writes for teens and adults. His first YA thriller, “Fake ID,” was an Edgar Award nominee, as was his follow-up “Endangered.” His most recent, 2020’s “Not So Pure and Simple,” is a coming-of-age story that focuses on societal pressure and toxic masculinity.
Nikki Grimes: Like many YA authors, Grimes pens books for children as well, and has authored more than 50 titles. She has also been an inspiration for many YA authors, including Kwame Alexander. Her YA titles include “A Girl Named Mister,” “Bronx Masquerade,” “Between the Lines.”
Candice Iloh: The poet and essayist’s debut novel, 2020’s “Every Body Looking,” was a finalist for the National Book Award and a Michael L. Printz Award honoree. The novel follows the journey of Ada for her freshman year at a historically Black college where she learns to make choices for herself, her future and her place in the world.
Tiffany D. Jackson: The author’s debut book, “Allegedly,” was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. She won the Coretta Scott King/Steptoe Award for New Talent in 2019, after the publication of her second, critically acclaimed novel, “Monday’s Not Coming.” Other novels include “Let Me Hear a Rhyme” and “Grown.”
Alaya Dawn Johnson: A writer of speculative fiction for both adult and YA readers, Johnson’s “The Summer Prince,” takes place four hundred years in the future where a young artist, June, and the Summer King, Enki, stage revolutionary art that fuels a rebellion. Her second YA title, 2014’s “Love Is the Drug” follows Emily Bird, a picture-perfect student who, after a chance meeting with a government agent, awakens several days later with no memory of the past few days. That title was a Nebula award winner.
Angela Johnson: The author and poet started out as a children’s book author but eventually branched out to YA novels. She won both the Coretta Scott King Award and the Michael L. Printz Award for her YA novel “The First Part Last,” which follows the story of Bobby who, on his 16th birthday, finds out he is going to become a father. Her other YA novels include “Heaven,” “Looking for Red,” and “A Certain October.”
Leah Johnson: The author’s debut novel, “You Should See Me in a Crown,” was the inaugural pick in Reese Witherspoon’s YA Book Club and was a 2021 Stonewall Honor Book. Currently, she is a Lambda Literary Emerging Writers Fellow. Her second novel, “Rise to the Sun” is due in July.
Julius Lester: The late author was also a civil rights activist, musician and educator, who taught at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Lester wrote nonfiction and novels for children, young adults and adults. He was awarded the Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award. Among his YA works are “When Dad Killed Mom,” “This Strange New Feeling” “Guardian” and “Time’s Memory.”
Kekla Magoon: A self-proclaimed “book dork,” Magoon is an award-winning author of such YA books as “How It Went Down,” “The Rock and the River,” “Fire in the Streets” and “Light it Up.” She also co-wrote the NAACP Image Award-winning “X: A Novel” with Ilyasah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X. The novel follows the formative years of the late activist.
Janet McDonald: The late author practiced law before becoming a novelist and, after writing her memoir, “Project Girl” she turned to YA fiction. Her first novel, 2001’s “Spellbound,” was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Her other novels include “Brother Hood,” “Chill Wind” and “Off-Color.”
Candice “Cam” Montgomery: The author, who tends bar at night, writes YA novels and has been featured in anthologies, writing about Black teens across all intersections. She has written two YA novels, “Home and Away” and “By Any Means Necessary.”
Brittney Morris: The author has both written for video games and young adults. Her debut novel, “Slay” follows a teen game developer as she fights to protect the game she created and the Black gaming community she holds dear. Her most recent work was authoring “Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales – Wings of Fury.” “The Cost of Knowing,” about a Black teen with the power to see into the future, is scheduled for a spring release.
Bethany C. Morrow: The author writes for both adult and YA audiences in an array of genres including speculative, fantasy and historical fiction. Her YA titles include “So Many Beginnings” and “A Song Below Water.” She has also contributed to the anthology “Take the Mic: Fictional Stories of Everyday Resistance.”
Shelia P. Moses: The poet, author, playwright and producer is known for both her nonfiction and YA novels. Her 2004 novel, “The Legend of Buddy Bush,” was a National Book Award finalist and Coretta Scott King Honoree. Her novel “Joseph” was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Her other books include “The Baptism,” “The Return of Buddy Bush” and “Joseph’s Grace.”
Maika and Maritza Moulite: Together, the sisters have co-authored two YA novels. Their debut was “Dear Haiti, Love Alaine,” where an intricate prank lands a high school journalist in hot water. Their recent novel, “One of the Good Ones,” which follows Happi Smith on a journey after the death of her older sister, was released this year to rave reviews.
Walter Dean Myers: The late and storied author wrote more than 100 books, from picture books to YA to nonfiction. He was awarded the ALA’s Margaret A. Edwards Award for his body of work. He was the first Michael L. Printz winner for excellence in young adult literature, the first Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement and a nominee for the Hans Christian AndersenAward. His novels include “Monster,” “Hoops,” “Motown and Didi,” and “Lockdown.”
Marilyn Nelson: A professor emeritus at the University of Connecticut and former poet laureate of Connecticut, Nelson has written in prose and verse. Her novels include “Pemba’s Song”, “American Ace” and “Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem, which received a Coretta Scott King honor.
Nnedi Okorafor: The USA TODAY bestselling author coined the term Africanfuturism, referring to it as a sub-category of science fiction. Her YA novels include “Akata Witch,” “Akata Warrior” and “Ikenga”.
Tochi Onyebuchi: The author has worked in criminal justice, the tech industry and immigration law, but he is best known as a writer of YA fantasy novels, including “Beasts Made of Night,” “Crown of Thunder” and “War Girls.” His latest novel, “Rebel Sisters,” a sequel to “War Girls,” came out in 2020.
Ben Philippe: The author and screenwriter teaches at Barnard College and has written such publications as Vanity Fair and The Guardian. His YA novel “The Field Guide to the North American Teenager,” was a William C. Morris YA Debut Award winner. His next book is a memoir-in-essays called “Sure, I’ll Be Your Black Friend,” due out in April.
Jason Reynolds: A prolific and award-winning author of YA novels and poetry, Reynolds’ first novel, “When I Was the Greatest,” won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent in 2015. “Ghost,” the first installment in his Track Series, was a National Book Award finalist. In 2020 he was named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature at the Library of Congress.
Justin A. Reynolds: Before becoming an author, Reynolds was a registered nurse, specializing in hematology and oncology. His debut novel, 2019’s “Opposite of Always,” is in development for film. His second novel, “Early Departures,” published in 2020. The author’s “Miles Morales: Shock Waves,” a Spider-Man graphic novel, is due to be released in June.
Martha Southgate: The novelist and essayist is best known for her adult novel, “Third Girl From the Left,” but Southgate is also the author of YA novels including “Another Way to Dance,” about an aspiring Black ballerina and “The Fall of Rome,” which takes place in a private boys boarding school in New England. She won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for new talent in 1997.
Nic Stone: The author’s novel “Dear Martin” and its sequel, “Dear Justyce,” were both USA TODAY bestsellers. “Dear Martin” tells the tale of Justyce McAllister who writes a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. about his teachings when Justyce finds himself in a perilous situation. Stone is also the author of “Odd One Out”, “Jackpot” and “Shuri: A Black Panther Novel.”
Liara Tamani: Among her many pursuits, Tamani has attended law school, worked as a marketing coordinator and taught yoga and dance. Her novel 2017 novel “Calling My Name,” was a PEN America Literary Award and Golden Kite Award finalist. Her most recent novel, 2020’s “All the Things We Never Knew,” is a novel of first loves and features the love story of Carli and Rex, who meet on their Texas high school basketball court.
Mildred D. Taylor: The author, whose work spans the decades, told the American Library Association that each of her books is based on her or her family’s experiences. The winner of multiple Coretta Scott King Awards, she received their Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2020. She was awarded the 1977 Newbery Medal for one of her best-known novels, “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.” Her other works include “Song of the Trees,” “Let the Circle Be Unbroken,” and “All the Days Past, All the Says to Come.”
Angie Thomas: The author and activist’s debut novel, 2017’s “The Hate U Give,” began as her senior project at Belhaven University. The novel went on to become a USA TODAY bestseller and was eventually made into a film in 2018. Her most recent novel, “Concrete Rose,” a follow-up to “The Hate U Give” was published in January and, like its predecessor, is a USA TODAY bestseller.
Renée Watson: An educator, activist and novelist, Watson founded the I, Too Arts Collective whose mission is to build upon writer Langston Hughes’ legacy by nurturing underrepresented communities in the creative arts. Her 2017 YA novel “Piecing Me Together,” won a Coretta Scott King Award and Newbery Honor. Her other novels include “This Side of Home,” “Watch Us Rise,” co-written with Ellen Hagan and “Love is a Revolution”.
Alicia D. Williams: The author’s first novel, “Genesis Begins Again,” follows the life of 13-year-old Genesis Anderson who hates her dark skin and natural hair and finds solace, self-love and her own voice through music. Williams was awarded the 2020 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent. Her second book is a children’s book about Zora Neale Hurston titled “Jump at the Sun.”
Rita Williams-Garcia: The author has been publishing YA novels since the 1980s. Her 2009 novel “Jumped” was a National Book Award finalist for Young People’s Literature. Her other novels include “Every Time a Rainbow Dies,” “No Laughter Here” and “Clayton Byrd Goes Underground.” Her latest novel, “A Sitting in St. James,” is due in May.
Ashley Woodfolk: This author worked in publishing for more than a decade before she turned to writing full-time. Her debut novel was 2018’s “The Beauty That Remains.” She followed it up with 2020’s “When You Were Everything.” Her most recent work is the Flyy Girls series, having published the first two installments, “Lux: The New Girl” and “Micah: The Good Girl”, in 2020. They will be followed by “Noelle: The Mean Girl” in March and “Tobyn: The It Girl” in August.
Jacqueline Woodson: The prolific and award-winning author, who was recently named a 2020 MacArthur Fellow and Hans Christian Anderson Award winner, writes for all ages, though she primarily is known for her young adult novels. Arguably her best known, “Brown Girl Dreaming,” won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Other works include “Miracle Boys,” “After Tupac and D Foster,” and “I Hadn’t Meant to Tell You This.”
Nicola Yoon: The Jamaican-American author, who writes her first drafts by hand, is a National Book Award finalist, a Michael L. Printz Honor Book recipient and a Coretta Scott King New Talent Award winner. Two of her novels, “Everything, Everything” and “The Sun Is Also a Star,” were USA TODAY bestsellers and both turned into major motion pictures. Her latest novel, “Instructions for Dancing,” is due out this year.
Ibi Zoboi: The Haitian-American author’s most recent novel, the USA TODAY bestseller “Punching the Air” was co-written with Yusef Salaam, who was exonerated after being wrongly convicted of rape. The novel, written in verse, is about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated and received critical acclaim. Zoboi’s first YA novel, 2017’s “American Street,” was a National Book Award finalist. Zoboi later followed that novel up with “Pride,” a re-telling of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” set in Brooklyn.