- AUDRE LORDE- One of the pillars of queer literature, Audre Lorde is famous for her many works in poetry, her invention of the biomythography, and her essays. A self-described, “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” Lorde dedicated both her life and her talent to addressing injustices of racism, sexism, classicism, and homophobia. Each of her works remain relevant and tackle social issues that are still found today.
“When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” – Audre Lorde
2. JAMES BALDWIN-An American novelist, playwright, and activist. One of his novels If Beale Street Could Talk, recently won an Academy Award. His works delve into the effects of racism for both the oppressed and the oppressor. Unlike other authors, Baldwin’s slow approach to revealing racism is at first subtle, but as you travel deeper into both his essays and novels, you are transported into a realistic interpretation of racism–– that racism is not just a black or white area, but a complicated and messy grey web of multifaceted and harmful philosophies that need to be carefully analyzed to understand.
“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” – James Baldwin
3. ELIZABETH ACEVEDO- Elizabeth Acevedo is an award-winning slam poet and bestseller of her novel The Poet X. The book has gone on to receive: the 2018 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, the Walter Dean Myers Awards for Outstanding Children’s Literature, the 2018 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, and the Michael L. Printz Award for 2019. It was also a finalist for the Kirkus Prize. Her works not only blur the lines between prose and language, but they also question today’s philosophy of racism, physical presence, sexuality, and religious faith.
“Burn it! Burn it. This is where the poems are,” I say, thumping a fist against my chest. “Will you burn me? Will you burn me, too?” – Elizabeth Acevedo
4. ALICE DUNBAR NELSON-Poet, essayist, diarist, and activist. Her works exploring racism were largely rejected by publishers during her lifetime. As a highly successful journalist, she fought against the male-dominated field and was often denied recognition or payment for her articles. Her first collection, “Violets and Other Tales” (published in 1895), is referred to as the first-ever short story collection ever published by an African-American woman. Best known for her prose, Alice Nelson is one of the few authors of her time to portray the complicated reality of African American women during the Harlem Renaissance. Her portrayal includes women as intellectuals, addressing topics such as racism, oppression, family, work, and sexuality.
“It is dark, like the passionate women of Egypt; placid, like their broad brows; deep, silent like their souls. Within its bosom are hidden romances and stories, such as were sung by minstrels of old. From the source to the mouth is not far distant, visibly speaking, but in the life of the bayou a hundred heart-miles could scarce measure it.”
– Alice Dunbar Nelson
5. OCTAVIA E. BUTLER-
A multiple recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, she became in 1995 the first Science-Fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship. Her work changed the very grounds of Science Fiction. She shifted the idea of white male heroes saving other people’s, to allowing the reader to see people of different class, ethnicity, education, and gender and to contemplate them in new contexts. Her work often reflected contemporary issues, such as California Prop 187 which attempted to deny immigrants their rights before it was deemed unconstitutional.
“The thing about science fiction is that it’s totally wide open. But it’s wide open in a conditional way.” – Octavia E. Butler
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