Our Judges’ Recommended Reads for Black History Month

Photo of Women's Prize Black History Month recommended reads

It’s Black History Month, and to celebrate, we asked the incredible 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction judging panel to pick just one book by a black female writer they’d like to recommend.

Find out more about our judges here, and head to the @WomensPrize Instagram for a chance to win all five of our judges’ fantastic recommendations. Enter now >

Photo of Bernardine Evaristo and a copy of Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands by Mary Seacole

Bernardine Evaristo: Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands

‘For Black History month, the book I’d like to recommend is Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands by Mary Seacole, and it was written in the 19th century. [Seacole] was a black Jamaican woman, who came to London, she went to the Crimean war where she set up a hotel for wounded soldiers, she was a businesswoman, she was a healer, she was such an interesting historical figure; but unfortunately she disappeared from the historical record for about a hundred years.’

Photo of Nesrine Malik and Negroland by Margo Jefferson for Black History Month recommended reads

Nesrine Malik: Negroland

I’d love to recommend Negroland by Margo Jefferson. The book is a memoir of growing up in the black bourgeoisie in 1950s and 1960s America, and tells a story of a class and black experience that is rarely, if ever, told.

Photo of Elizabeth Day with a copy of The Girl with the Louding Voice for Black History Month recommended reads

Elizabeth Day: The Girl with the Louding Voice

I have just finished The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré, and I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t already read it. It is such a vibrant, tender, beautiful novel and the heroine is this 14-year-old girl who has such a feisty spirit that I just fell in love with her, and fell in love with the book.

Photo of Vick Hope and a copy of Zadie Smith's novel Swing Time

Vick Hope: Swing Time 

‘When I was a young, mixed race girl growing up in Newcastle in the North of this country, I didn’t know that someone else was experiencing the world in the same way I was. So, a black writer that has had an impact on me personally, and who I hope other young girls will experience the impact of, would have to be Zadie Smith. So many of her protagonists, especially in Swing Time,  I remember looking at every page and thinking ‘Oh my gosh, it’s me.’ And that feeling, when you haven’t necessarily been represented, is illuminating and I found solace in her work.’

Photo of Sarah-Jane Mee and a photo of Afua Hirsch's book Brit(ish)

Sarah-Jane Mee: Brit(ish)

For Black History Month, I’d recommend – and I’m a bit biased here, as she’s a former colleague of mine – Afua Hirsch. She wrote a book called Brit(ish), and it was part memoir, part social commentary about what it was like to be black growing up in the eighties and how she really struggled to find her identity.

Head to the @WomensPrize Instagram  on Twitter for a chance to win all five of our judges’ brilliant Black History Month recommendations.

The Women's Prize Podcast

Tune into host Vick Hope and a line-up of incredible guests on our weekly podcast full of unmissable book recommendations.