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Celebrate the Leap from Black History Month to Women’s History Month with these 29 Books by Black Women Authors

Meet UMD Libraries at the crossroads of Black History Month and Women’s History Month with these titles curated to mark the Leap Year.

Text Celebrate the Leap from Black History Month to Women's History Month and covers of books.

February 29, more affectionately known as Leap Day, is a “bonus day” once every four years that helps our calendar more closely match up with Earth’s rotation around the sun. It just so happens to sit at the intersection of Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March), which we think makes it the perfect opportunity to celebrate both black history and women’s history. Spend this extra time exploring this list of 29 books by Black women authors, poets, and activists compiled by UMD librarians and staff.

  1. "The Fifth Season" by N.K. Jemison

    “This is the way the world ends…for the last time. A season of endings has begun. It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal, and long-dormant wounds rising up to fester. This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.” (From Hachette Book Group)

  2. "Legendborn" by Tracy Deonn

    "Sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews infiltrates a secret magical society that dates back to the time of King Arthur only to question her true loyalties in this contemporary fantasy series.” (From Simon and Schuster)

  3. "Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents" by Isabel Wilkerson

    "In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched, and beautifully written narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.” (From Penguin Random House)

  4. "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou

    "Here is a book as joyous and painful, as mysterious and memorable, as childhood itself. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide.” (From Penguin Random House)

  5. "Beloved" by Toni Morrison

    "Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. Sethe has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.” (From Penguin Random House)

  6. "Sing, Unburied, Sing" by Jemsyn Ward

    "A finalist for the Kirkus Prize, Andrew Carnegie Medal, Aspen Words Literary Prize, and a New York Times bestseller, this majestic, stirring, and widely praised novel from two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward, the story of a family on a journey through rural Mississippi, is a “tour de force” (O, The Oprah Magazine) and a timeless work of fiction that is destined to become a classic.” (From Simon and Schuster)

  7. "The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas

    "Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.” (From HarperCollins)

  8. "Hood Feminism" by Mikki Kendall

    "A collection of essays taking aim at the legitimacy of the modern feminist movement, arguing that it has chronically failed to address the needs of all but a few women.” (From Viking Press)

  9. "The Hill We Climb: an inaugural poem for the country" by Amanda Gorman

    "On January 20, 2021, Amanda Gorman became the sixth and youngest poet to deliver a poetry reading at a presidential inauguration. Taking the stage after the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden, Gorman captivated the nation and brought hope to viewers around the globe with her call for unity and healing.” (From Penguin Random House)

  10. "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker

    "A powerful cultural touchstone of modern American literature, The Color Purple depicts the lives of African American women in early-twentieth-century rural Georgia. Separated as girls, sisters Celie and Nettie sustain their loyalty to and hope in each other across time, distance, and silence. Through a series of letters spanning nearly thirty years, first from Celie to God, then from the sisters to each other, the novel draws readers into a rich and memorable portrayal of Black women—their pain and struggle, companionship and growth, resilience and bravery.” (From Penguin Random House)

  11. "A Raisin in the Sun" by Lorraine Hansberry.

    "Lorraine Hansberry’s award-winning drama about the hopes and aspirations of a struggling, working-class family living on the South Side of Chicago connected profoundly with the psyche of Black America—and changed American theater forever. The play’s title comes from a line in Langston Hughes’s poem ‘Harlem,’ which warns that a dream deferred might ‘dry up/like a raisin in the sun.’” (From Penguin Random House)

  12. "The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni" by Nikki Giovanni

    "When Nikki Giovanni’s poems first emerged during the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s, she immediately took a place among the most celebrated and controversial artists of our time. More than 50 years later, Giovanni still stands as one of the most commanding, luminous voices to grace America’s political and poetic landscape." (From HarperCollins)

  13. "Hunger: a memoir of (my) body" by Roxane Gay

    "With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.” (From HarperCollins)

  14. "Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More" by Janet Mock

    "With unflinching honesty and moving prose, Janet Mock relays her experiences of growing up young, multiracial, poor, and trans in America, offering readers accessible language while imparting vital insight about the unique challenges and vulnerabilities of a marginalized and misunderstood population. Though undoubtedly an account of one woman’s quest for self at all costs, Redefining Realness is a powerful vision of possibility and self-realization, pushing us all toward greater acceptance of one another—and of ourselves—showing as never before how to be unapologetic and real.” (From Simon and Schuster)

  15. "An Intimidation of Things Distant: the Collected Fiction of Nella Larsen" by Nella Larsen

    "Between 1926 and 1930--the golden era of the Harlem Renaissance--Nella Larsen became the first black woman to be awarded a Guggenheim fellowship. Here, for the first time in one volume, are Larsen's novels 'Quicksand' and 'Passing' with corrected endings, along with three short stories." (From catalog description)

  16. "Kindred" by Octavia E. Butler

    "Dana’s torment begins when she suddenly vanishes on her 26th birthday from California, 1976, and is dragged through time to antebellum Maryland to rescue a boy named Rufus, heir to a slaveowner’s plantation. She soon realizes the purpose of her summons to the past: protect Rufus to ensure his assault of her Black ancestor so that she may one day be born. As she endures the traumas of slavery and the soul-crushing normalization of savagery, Dana fights to keep her autonomy and return to the present.” (From Penguin Random House)

  17. "Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neal Hurston

    "One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston.” (From HarperCollins)

  18. "Brown Girl Dreaming" by Jaqueline Woodson

    "Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement.” (From Penguin Random House)

  19. "Black Girls Must Die" Exhausted by Jayne Allen

    "The first novel in a captivating three-book series about modern womanhood, in which a young Black woman must rely on courage, laughter, and love—and the support of her two longtime friends—to overcome an unexpected setback that threatens the most precious thing she’s ever wanted.” (From HarperCollins)

  20. "Americanah" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    "Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be Black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post–9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.” (From Penguin Random House)

  21. "Memphis" by Tara M. Stringfellow

    "A spellbinding debut novel tracing three generations of a Southern Black family and one daughter’s discovery that she has the power to change her family’s legacy. Unfolding over seventy years through a chorus of unforgettable voices that move back and forth in time, Memphis paints an indelible portrait of inheritance, celebrating the full complexity of what we pass down, in a family and as a country: brutality and justice, faith and forgiveness, sacrifice and love." (From Penguin Random House)

  22. "On Beauty" by Zadie Smith

    "On Beauty is the story of an interracial family living in the university town of Wellington, Massachusetts, whose misadventures in the culture wars—on both sides of the Atlantic—serve to skewer everything from family life to political correctness to the combustive collision between the personal and the political. Full of dead-on wit and relentlessly funny, this tour de force confirms Zadie Smith’s reputation as a major literary talent.” (From Penguin Random House)

  23. "Poems of Phillis Wheatley: a Native African and a Slave" by Phillis Wheatley

    "Poems and letters of the first significant black American writer who knew no English when she was brought from Africa to Boston as a child in the eighteenth century.” (From catalog description)

  24. "The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde" by Audre Lorde

    "Collected here for the first time are more than three hundred poems from one of this country's major and most influential poets, representing the complete oeuvre of Audre Lorde's poetry. Lorde published nine volumes of poetry which, in her words, detail ‘a linguistic and emotional tour through the conflicts, fears, and hopes of the world I have inhabited.’" (From the back cover)

  25. "Ain't I a woman: Black Women and Feminism" by bell hooks

    "Examining the impact of sexism on black women during slavery, the devaluation of black womanhood, black male sexism, racism among feminists, and the black woman's involvement with feminism, hooks attempts to move us beyond racist and sexist assumptions. The result is nothing short of groundbreaking, giving this book a critical place on every feminist scholar's bookshelf.” (From Routledge Taylor and Francis Group)

  26. "Annie Allen" by Gwendolyn Brooks

    This 1949 book of poetry about the life of an African American girl, Annie Allen, won Brooks the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, making her the first African American to win the award.

  27. "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow" is Enuf by  Ntozake Shange

    "From its inception in California in 1974 to its Broadway revival in 2022, the Obie Award–winning for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf has excited, inspired, and transformed audiences all over the country for nearly fifty years. Passionate and fearless, Shange’s words reveal what it meant to be a woman of color in the 20th century.” (From publisher description)

  28. "Binti" by Nnedi Okorafor

    "Winner of the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award for Best Novella. Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.” (From Tor Publishing Group)

  29. "A Song Of Wraiths and Ruin" by Roseanne A Brown

    "The first in a gripping fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore in which a grieving crown princess and a desperate refugee find themselves on a collision course to murder each other despite their growing attraction.” (From HarperCollins) Roseanne A. Brown is a UMD alum.

Inspired to leap into more writing by Black women? These collections and websites will introduce you to many inspiring writers.

Thanks to Judy Markowitz, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Librarian and Nneka Chisholm, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, for their contributions to this list. 

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