I enjoyed Lakita Wilson’s new middle grade novel, Be Real, Macy Weaver! about a middle schooler who lies about her life to form new friendships. Today, I’m chatting with Lakita about the parallels in her and Macy’s life, her relationship with fashion, and why she wrote about a different kind of bad parent. You’ll enjoy this conversation!
A (not by any means exhaustive) list of 83 superb young adult novels by black authors featuring black protagonists. Get stacking!
Black middle-grade books are a rarity. Trust me, in sourcing the books for this book list, it was hard to find recommendations. Many recommendations were also historical fiction, which is good and well, but not always my jam.
Sometimes Black people and Africans need books about mundane issues. So whether it’s books about female friendships or even about food — sign me up. In this list of Black middle-grade books, you’ll find only books by Black authors featuring Black protagonists.
Alexis Nedd is an entertainment writer whose foray into YA fiction is a new novel, Don’t Hate the Player. Alexis and I chat about her new book, the similarities between her and her main characters, the dark side of gaming, and how her day job as a journalist prepared her for this novel. She also shares her intriguing journey to becoming a YA author. Enjoy!
Magic Pointdexter is her family’s “ugly duckling.” Her father is an ex-NBA player, her sister a famous cheerleader, and her late grandmother was also a ceiling-shattering cheerleader. Magic is awkward, chubbier than your typical cheerleader, and loves sweets more than anything else. But she’s decided: she’s going to cheer camp to try her hand out at becoming a Honeybee. Her best friend and child star Capricorn is coming with her (mostly for moral support — Cappie is an athletic, talented dancer). But once they arrive at camp and get sorted into teams by ability, Magic and Cappie’s friendship starts to show cracks.
Ebony Zayzay is the author of the new picture book, The Adventures of Keva: The Power of the Trees. I read and loved this story about caring for the environment and the myriad ways the environment looks after us. Ebony Zayzay has also recently started a publishing company called Zayzay Literary Co. We talk about writing a picture book, getting into publishing, being inspired by African culture, and writing about Black joy and Black kids loving the outdoors.
After reading Last Gate of the Emperor, I was pleased to interview co-authors Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel Makonnen. You may already know Kwame Mbalia from his Tristan Strong series. Prince Joel Makonnen is the great-grandson of the last Ethiopian monarch, Emperor Haile Selassie. We chatted about writing a good fantasy story, Ethiopian culture, creating an engaging, accessible story, and their partnership as co-authors. This is such a fantastic, enlightening interview and Kwame’s responses (especially) are entertaining to read.
Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry is Joya Goffney’s debut YA novel. It follows list-making high-schooler Quinn whose journal full of *very* private lists and confession is stolen. The thief then blackmails her into completing the items on one of her lists, one of which is telling her parents that she did not actually get into Columbia, the university she already told them she was accepted into. Quinn is convinced that her blackmailer is Carter Bennett, the last person to have had her journal. But when a page of her journal is posted on Instagram, Quinn is desperate enough to join forces with Carter to find the blackmailer.
Kai is from a family of dancers, and he seems to be the odd man out. The family has been invited to their Auntie Nina’s wedding, and Kai and his siblings will have roles in the wedding. Kai immediately becomes worried because he has a history of messing up his moves. He even tripped over someone the last time he tried the electric slide.
Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger’s mom says he’s “charming as a verb” — and she’s right! Henri’s parents are Haitian immigrants. While his dad is their building’s Super, his mom is studying to become a firefighter. He’s popular at his high school and runs a successful dog walking business. The thing is: he tells customers that there’s an entire network of dogwalkers, of which he’s just one. When his neighbor and fellow high schooler Corrine’s mother hires him to walk their dog, Corrine quickly uncovers his sham of a company.
In Love Is a Revolution, Nala Robertson is a big Black girl who lives with her cousin Imani and Imani’s parents. Imani is an environmental activist with the group Inspire Harlem. When Nala attends Imani’s birthday open-mic night, she meets a charismatic young man named Tye. Tye is also an activist who is immediately drawn to Nala. Nala is eager to impress and starts a series of lies, telling Tye that she is a vegan and pretending to be active in community work at her grandmother’s home for the elderly.
The two soon start dating but the relationship is obviously built on lies. Nala quickly becomes uncomfortable, worrying that Tye only likes her for the fake persona she created.
In Off to See the Sea, a boy is cajoled into bath time, and with his mother’s help and an active imagination, bath time becomes a more whimsical and enjoyable experience.