What started as a week-long celebration in February 1926 by Carter G. Woodson was later expanded into a month-long observance in 1976 that continues on today, but the aim has always been the same: to honor the legacy and contributions of African Americans throughout U.S. history.
Black History Month’s 2024 theme, “African Americans and the Arts,” highlights the influence of African Americans “in the fields of visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, culinary, and other forms of cultural expression.”
We love this theme and what better way to show our appreciation for incredibly talented black authors and narrators than to shine a light on some our favorite audiobooks published within the last year!
The Braid Girls
Written by Sherri Winston, narrated Erin Ruth Walker, Tyla Collier, and Jade Wheeler
A heartwarming middle-grade novel about friendship, sisterhood, and entrepreneurship.
Maggie, her best friend, and her new half-sister team up to create the ultimate hair-braiding business in their neighborhood, but the Braid Girls aren’t the only hairstylists on the scene when a rival starts up her own braiding business at summer camp.
A former journalist, Winston writes stories centering around issues such as self-esteem, anti-blackness, and generational trauma. She refers to The Braid Girls and another one of her books, Lotus Bloom and the Afro Revolution, as “hair lit”.
Written by Lesa Cline-Ransome, narrated by Tyla Collier, Kevin R. Free, Rebecca Lee, Jaime Lincoln Smith, Dion Graham, and Angel Pean
In the Jim Crow South, an interracial friendship between two girls goes tragically wrong in this YA novel that pays homage to the female victims of white supremacy.
Jackson, Mississippi: 1930s. Lamb, a shy black teenager, begins a secret friendship with a white girl who loans her a book she loves. In doing so, she sets off a calamitous series of events that pulls in her mother, charming hustler uncle, estranged father, and brother—and ends in a lynching.
Cline-Ransome said the story of For Lamb was sparked after a trip to the Legacy Museum and Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama in 2018. Surprised by the number of women who were victims of lynching, she decided she wanted to memorialize them. Her historical research for the novel landed her with the name of her titular character – Lamb.
Coconut Drop Dead
Written by Olivia Matthews, narrated by Janina Edwards
The third book in the Spice Isle Bakery Mysteries, this cozy mystery is blended with West Indian culture and familial warmth.
Brooklyn’s annual Caribbean American Heritage Festival is finally here! Lyndsay Murray, co-owner of the Spice Isle Bakery, is thrilled to be one of the event’s food vendors. But the day’s festivities are cut short when the lead singer of an up-and-coming reggae band dies. The police think it’s a tragic accident, but Lyndsay’s cousin Manny asks her to help prove it was murder.
The series is set in the Little Caribbean neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York that Matthews herself grew up in.
Girls with Bad Reputations
Written by Xio Axelrod, narrated by Benjamin Charles and Tyla Collier
The second book in The Lillys, a unique, sizzling series set in the high-stakes world of the music industry.
Mikayla Whitman, struggling under the pressure to be the perfect daughter, picks up a pair of drumsticks and forever alters the rhythm of her life. Though she finds a home with her bandmates, she fights to keep her past and present separate.
Tyrell Baldwin, recently released from prison for a crime he didn’t commit, is searching for a fresh start. He takes a job as a tour-bus driver for the up-and-coming all-girl band, the Lillys, and finds himself getting close with Kayla.
But when a tabloid exposé threatens to destroy Ty’s newfound peace and Kayla’s carefully guarded secrets, Kayla’s forced to make the impossible choice between pursuing her dreams or accepting the unforgiving music industry’s demands.
Axelrod grew up in the music industry and pulled from her experiences when she started writing the series. While writing the first book, The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes, she said the biggest challenge was giving the reader a behind-the-scenes look at the day-to-day grind of being a working musician.
We see a lot of the glitz and glam at concerts and on awards shows. But it’s a job just like any other job. The difference is, when you make a mistake, the whole world sees it.
Neighbors and Other Stories
Written by Diane Oliver, narrated by Emana Rachelle
An exceptional literary feat from a crucial once-lost figure of letters, this bold and haunting story collection examines the day-to-day perils of Jim Crow racism.
A remarkable talent far ahead of her time, Diane Oliver died in 1966 at the age of 22, leaving behind these crisply told and often chilling tales that explore race and racism in 1950s and 60s America. These are incisive and intimate portraits of African American families in everyday moments of anxiety and crisis that look at how they use agency to navigate their predicaments.
In this first and only collection by a masterful storyteller finally taking her rightful place in the canon, Oliver’s insightful stories reverberate into the present day.
In her article for The Paris Review, Tayari Jones writes “Oliver demonstrates a gorgeously layered understanding of the range of Black life in the South,” balancing both the personal and the political.
Written by Jake Lamar, narrated by Leon Nixon
This noir crime novel takes a daring look at the vibrant jazz scene of midcentury Harlem and of one man’s dreams of making it big and finding love in a world that wants to keep him down.
Harlem, 1936. Clyde “The Viper” Morton boards a train from Alabama to Harlem to chase his dreams of being a jazz musician. When his talent fails him, he becomes caught up in the dangerous underbelly of Harlem’s drug trade, leaving him to decide what he’s willing to give up and what he wants to fight for.
Lamar is an African-American writer born in the Bronx, New York, and has been living in Paris, France for almost 30 years. Viper’s Dream was originally written as a radio drama and produced by France Culture; Lamar then adapted his radio script into the novel he envisioned.