Here are some of my favourite novels written by authors of colour that taught me something about relationships. Research shows that reading is a great way to develop your understanding of people who are both the same as and different from you. And reading about relationships that are outside your social circles is a powerful way to gain new perspectives on their dynamics, challenges and successes.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid: Set in Philadelphia, US, about a young woman of mixed heritage working for a wealthy white family. Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2020. Very readable and a sophisticated treatment of racism, fetishization, power and white privilege in the context of relationships. One of my favourite novels ever.
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates: Set in the context of slavery and the underground in the US, there are themes of romance, family relationships, and human solidarity that I learnt a lot from.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Set in Nigeria, the US and the UK, it traces the journey of a young woman and her relationships, as well as the immigrant experience and themes of culture clash and how to express your identity and politics. It won the 2013 U.S. National Book Critics Circle Award. All her novels are wonderfully written.
Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson: Set in South East London, this debut novel of 2021 is a beautifully written romance between two young people, subtly evoking the challenges of being a young Black man in London.
Ordinary People by Diana Evans: Set in South East London, this novel traces the marriages of two couples and the challenges of growing apart.
Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas: The prequel to the incredible novel and film, The Hate U Give, this is just as compelling, and great on young adult interethnic relationships and sex, politics, expressing your identity and gang life in the US.
Real Life by Brandon Taylor: A beautifully written and poignant novel about graduate life in the US, LGBT relationships, repression, inequality, abuse and grief. Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2020. One of my favourite novels ever.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: The story of a relationship under pressure from one partner being in prison from a racial injustice in the US.
Queenie by Candice-Carty Williams: Hilarious and poignant debut novel from South East London author on the brutal realities of dating as a Black woman. Winner of the British Book Awards Book of the Year 2020.
Love after Love by Ingrid Persaud: A novel about a widow, her son and her gay lodger set in Trinidad and the US. Really insightful on all three characters’ perspectives and their relationships over time.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo: A fabulous set of intertwined portraits of a wide range of women in this Booker Prize 2019 winner.
The Translator by Leila Aboulela: Published in 1991, a beautiful story of a Sudanese immigrant woman who moves to Scotland and her new relationship. One of my favourite novels ever.
Waiting to Exhale by Terri McMillan: The first of four brilliant and hilarious novels, about four Black women with inadequate men and their friendship. Also a 1995 film, which I’ve just watched: it’s still just as relevant and the women still look super stylish! How Stella Got Her Groove Back is another of hers.
The One Who Wrote Destiny by Nikesh Shukla: An emotional novel about the generations of a a Gujarati family in Bradford with connections to Kenya. Themes include racism, parental obligation and cancer.
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: A fabulous, thought-provoking collection of short stories about the experience of being Nigerian in America. Plenty of relationship themes, including loneliness, betrayal and prejudice.
I recommend using local bookshops to buy your books where possible, or Hive where you choose a local bookshop when you pay, and Hive make a donation to them.