Black books: Lilliam Rivera

This year, I’ve invited non Black people who are in someway connected to youth literature to share a list of 5-10 books written or illustrated by Blacks that will appeal to children. I asked for anything from board books and graphic novels to biographies and adult crossover. The authors or illustrators could be living or dead, U.S. residents or not. The results have been quite amazing! 

Lilliam is busy!! In addition to all she does in real life, she has two books coming out this year, that’s four books in three years! But who’s counting!! hahaha Of course she writes a lot! If you follow Lilliam on Twitter, you know she’s not one to bite her tongue. Her words are real. She’s a fierce ally, a true co-conspirator. Her recommendations here will appeal particular to older teen readers. I think she may be the only guest in this series who recommends poetry.





Here’s Lilliam’s list.



1. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler.(Four Walls Windows, 1993)

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I’ve read almost all of Butler’s work but this novel is her most profound and so disturbingly of this moment.

2. Not so Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles. (Quill Tree, Jan 2020)

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I love how Giles examines toxic masculinity in this still very funny young adult novel.

3. Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert. (Litte, Brown, 2017)

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Brandy always finds way of writing compelling characters struggling to find their voice.

4. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. (Bloomsbury, 2018)

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I read this book and scenes still haunt me to this day. This is for mature students but it is so needed.

5. Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes (Dial, 2001)

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I love Nikki Grimes’ work, especially this book that captures so many different voices and the power of poetry.

6. Black Enough : Stories of Being Young and Black in America edited by Ibi Ziboi (Balzer+Bray, 2019)

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This is such a great collection of short stories that highlights all the different ways of being young.

7. Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson (Bloomsbury, 2017)

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I love the way Renée always writes her characters with such tenderness and love.

8. The Black Automaton by Douglas Kearney (Fence Books, 2017)

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Douglas is one of my favorite poets and this collection just pushes against form and font.

Lilliam Rivera is an award-winning writer and author of the young adult novels Dealing in Dreams (Simon and Schuster, March 2019) and The Education of Margot Sanchez (Simon and Schuster, February 2018) Her forthcoming titles are the middle grade novel Goldie Vance: The Hotel Whodunit (Little, Brown, March 2020) and the young adult novel Never Look Back (Bloomsbury, Sept. 2020). Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Elle, to name a few. Lilliam lives in Los Angeles.

Contact Lilliam via email Lilliamsrivera at or follow her on Twitter @lilliamr