Earlier this month, legendary author Toni Morrison passed away at age 88. She was known for dissecting the complexities of gender and race with novels like The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and Beloved. As a prominent writer in the 1970s and the first black woman fiction editor at Random House, Morrison inspired many to use writing not only for self-expression, but also for change. These are four black women writers who are following in Morrison’s footsteps:
Zadie Smith is a British novelist and essayist whose work has been changing critical perspective for the last two decades. She is a fiction novelist, short-story writer, and a contributor for The New Yorker. Her first novel, White Teeth, paints the portrait of a multicultural London through the eyes of mixed-race families. Her work reveals how race and ethnicity influence gender politics and self-esteem issues young girls face as they become women. Her New York Times bestseller, Swing Time, follows two brown girls as they take different paths in the entertainment industry, but continue to be judged for their skin tones and ethnicities.
CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE
When Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s 2012 TEDTalk on feminism and social equality went viral, she was among many influential people listed in Fortune’s World’s Greatest Leaders list for 2017. She has received similar praise from the literary community, and received an honorary degree from Yale University this past May. Adichie eventually adapted the TEDTalk into a book-length essay, titled We Should All Be Feminists. In it, she discusses how feminism must adapt to the twenty-first century, and how it is no longer viable without considering diversity and awareness.
Roxane Gay is a jack (or writer) of many trades. She is a New York Times op-ed columnist, television & film writer, and a fiction novelist. Her work ranges from culturally based thought pieces ctiquing rape culture to fictional love stories set in the Marvel Universe. Her most notable work is Bad Feminist, a collection of essays that deconstructs the definition of feminism and questions what gender equality would look like.
Akwaeke Emezi, an emerging Nigerian writer and artist, has received critical acclaim for her debut novel, Freshwater. The novel follows a young Nigerian girl named Ada who, in her senior year of college, experiences an intensely spiritual self-transformation. Emezi’s honors and awards include the Women’s Prize for Fiction, the Lambda Literary Award, and is one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35.” Along with creative fiction, Emezi has also written for drama series’ on HBO and Freeform. Her second novel, Pet, is set to release next month.