This list is in no particular order owing to the fact that all of the following writers of color are completely rad and deserve your undivided and immediate attention.
Cutting straight to the chase, here is a definitive list of the writers of color you need in your life right this instant.
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1. Tiphanie Yanique
Tiphanie Yanique is a Caribbean-American writer whose poetic background echoes in all of her work, whether in her essays or fiction. Yanique has been praised across the board for her earnest stories and lyrical poems that stem largely from her roots and heritage in the Virgin Islands. Her talents expand from poetry to essays and even reach all the way to children’s literature; it’s safe to say she has something for just about everyone.
About How to Escape from a Leper Colony: The inhabitants of an island walk into the sea. A man passes a jail cell’s window, shouldering a wooden cross. And in the international shop of coffins, a story repeats itself, pointing toward an inevitable tragedy. If the facts of these stories are sometimes fantastical, the situations they describe are complex and all too real.
2. Isabel Allende
Isabel Allende is perhaps the most seasoned writer on our list and with the longest canon. All of the pain and the suffering that Allende has endured in her life has culminated in hundreds and hundreds of pages of fairytale-like works that blends her Latina heritage with a much older style and open letter portraiture of the author’s life. Her body of work will bring you to the brink and bring you back better and stronger than ever.
About Paula: When Isabel Allende’s daughter, Paula, became gravely ill and fell into a coma, the author began to write the story of her family for her unconscious child. In the telling, bizarre ancestors appear before our eyes; we hear both delightful and bitter childhood memories, amazing anecdotes of youthful years, and the most intimate secrets passed along in whispers. With Paula, Allende has written a powerful autobiography whose straightforward acceptance of the magical and spiritual worlds will remind readers of her first book, The House of the Spirits.
3. Roxane Gay
If you’re looking for complete honesty and to find someone who can put the thoughts you’ve always had into works look no further than Roxane Gay. Over her several novels, Gay has exhibited the unique talent of being completely honest while also making her audience laugh and think about the things they’ve always thought they knew. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll look deep inside yourself to find your truth.
About Bad Feminist: Essays: In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.
4. Junot Díaz
With probably the most illustrious education of anyone on this list, Junot Díaz used his Ivy League education to craft some seriously award-winning work. What is altogether unique about Díaz’s body of work is the way he fictionalizes his own life while also folding in themes from fantasy, sci-fi, and elements of magical realism via his protagonist, Yunior.
About The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao: Oscar is a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd who—from the New Jersey home he shares with his old world mother and rebellious sister—dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, finding love. But Oscar may never get what he wants. Blame the fukú—a curse that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations, following them on their epic journey from Santo Domingo to the USA. Encapsulating Dominican-American history, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao opens our eyes to an astonishing vision of the contemporary American experience and explores the endless human capacity to persevere—and risk it all—in the name of love.
5. Sherman Alexie
It is basically impossible to talk about influential writers of color within the last 50 years without talking about Sherman Alexie. Alexie has not only produced volumes of incredibly insightful and prolific prose and poetry but has even made his mark in the movie world. Alexie uses every bit of his upbringing in the Coeur d’Alene tribe of Spokane to fill his books with perfectly fleshed out characters, themes, and conflicts.
About Indian Killer: A serial murderer called the Indian Killer is terrorizing Seattle, hunting, scalping, and slaughtering white men. Motivated by rage and seeking retribution for his people’s violent history, his grizzly MO and skillful elusiveness both paralyze the city with fear and prompt an uprising of racial brutality. Out of the chaos emerges John Smith. Born to Indians but raised by white parents, Smith yearns for his lost heritage. As his embitterment with his dual life increases, Smith falls deeper into vengeful madness and quickly surfaces as the prime suspect. Tensions mount, and while Smith battles to allay the anger that engulfs him, the Indian Killer claims another life. With acerbic wit and chilling page-turning intensity, Alexie takes an unflinching look at what nurtures rage within a race both colonized and marginalized by a society that neither values nor understands it.