The best memoirs on Black family life in America

The Books I Picked & Why

The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother

By James McBride

The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother

Why this book?

I rarely read books a second time, but this book is an exception. McBride writes with charm and humor about his family of twelve children living in the projects in Red Hook, Brooklyn. His mother refused to admit she was white while raising her children with her Black minister husband. Coming-of-age, racial identity, and family secrets are ever-present themes in this powerful and poignant narrative.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Between the World and Me

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between the World and Me

Why this book?

Not since James Baldwin, then Toni Morrison does anyone write more intelligently about the struggles of Black families in America. In this letter to his son, Coates explores the painful truth about becoming a Black man in America. “They made us into a race. We made ourselves into a people.”


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Fire Shut Up in My Bones

By Charles M. Blow

Fire Shut Up in My Bones

Why this book?

With polished language and measured pace, Blow tells a fascinating coming-of-age story of growing up in a small Louisiana town. As the youngest in a family of five boys raised by a schoolteacher mother, with the help of her extended family, he unveils his struggles with sexual identity and masculinity.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Becoming

By Michelle Obama

Becoming

Why this book?

In this intimate memoir of a future first lady of the United States, we learn how the author’s father modeled hard work while her mother taught her to stand up for herself. From her older brother, with whom she shared a bedroom, divided by a hanging bedsheet, Obama learned to exhibit poise and grace when faced with the dizzying contradictions of success.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Men We Reaped: A Memoir

By Jesmyn Ward

Men We Reaped: A Memoir

Why this book?

Jesmyn Ward writes lucidly about losing five men in her life in five years. Their deaths force her to confront the reality that they all died because they lived in fear of the racism and poverty that smothers Black families and relationships.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Closely Related Book Lists

Distantly Related Book Lists

Random Book Lists