Shirlene Green Newball (Part 2/3): A list of some black female writers you should read

by , under Shirlene Green Newball

Shirlene Green Newball*

In 2011, former President Barack Obama gave Maya Angelou the Presidential Medal of Freedom. A year later, it was presented to Toni Morrison (1931-2019), an icon of the black literature in the United States of America. She was born in Lorain, Ohio, being the second of four children from a middle African American working-class family.

Her novels include The Blue eyes, Sula, Song of Salomon, Tar Baby, Beloved, Jazz, Paradise, A Mercy, God Help the Child and The Source of Self-Regard. She also wrote articles for the Times Magazine, Black World, and Confrontation.

She was recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Pulitzer Prize, American Book Award, National Book Critics Award, and Pen/Saul Bellow Award, etc.

In her books, she captures the vivid life of African history in the USA and their cultural heritage. This topic unites Toni and Lucía Charún–Illescas (1950), a writer, journalist, translator, and activist born in Lima, Peru (South America), from an Afro-descent family being the oldest of seven siblings. Her passion for literature started at an early age by reading some of the famous writers. 

Her novel Malambo plays an important role in the Peruvian literature since it is the first fiction book written by an Afro-Peruvian woman and translated to English and Italian.  She also is the author of the book Latinoamericano en Hamburgo. Besides these books, Charún also has written articles and stories printed in several magazines.

She won the Lyra Prize for Short Stories. In 2013 the government of Peru awarded her with the Meritorious Personality of Culture Distinction.

For years, she has resided in Hamburg, Germany, about this she has said: “Soy y seré siempre limeña y no quiero que los lectores me crean una negra europeizada o agringada, que vive fuera de Perú hace cuchucientos años”.

In 2009, she participated in the seminary for Black Afro-descent Women and Latin-American Culture in Montevideo, Uruguay, along with Shirley Campbell Barr (1965), who is a renowned poet and activist from Costa Rica, Central America. She comes from a family of five daughters and two sons.

Her poems are compiled in Rotundamente Negra (Utterly Unequivocally Black), which, has been incorporated in the Costa Rican curricular education system. Her second book is Naciendo (Being Born). Her work has been printed in different magazines from several countries and translated into French, English, and Portuguese

Another notorious Central American writer is June Beer Thompson (1935-1986), poet, painter, and activist born in Bluefields, Nicaragua. She grew up in a middle-class family of ancestral mixture roots (indigenous, afro, and other) being the youngest of eleven children.

The pride of her black identity, the culture of the indigenous groups and the Afro ethics, who are the minority population in Nicaragua; being female, and the love for her country, were revealed in her writings and paintings. The same figures from her painting were the ones that came to life in her poems.

Her poems, Love Poem, Walk in de Moonlite, Chunku faam, Resarrection a’ de Wud, and others were published in Wani, Sunrise magazine, and Hermanas de Tinta: Muestra de poesía multiétnica de mujeres nicaragüenses. Her poems were written in Creole, English, and Spanish.

Beer is an icon for the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua because she is the first black woman poet. Four of her paintings were declared a national patrimony.

From Nicaragua, the waves of the Caribbean Sea takes us to Nassau, Bahamas home of Marion Bethel (1953), a poet, essayist, attorney, human right activist, and filmmaker.

She is well known for her anthologies of poems Guahanani, My Love and Bougainvillea Ringplay. Furthermore, her work has also been published in The Massachusetts Review, The Caribbean Writer, and Junction.

In 2012, her documentary Womanish Ways: Freedom, Human Right, and Democracy 1934-1962, received the Award in Documentary at the Urban Suburban International Film Festival in Philadelphia.

She has received the James Michener Fellowship in the Department of English at the University of Miami, and CARICOM award for her contribution to gender and justice.

Marion also won the Casa de Las Americas Prize for her poetry. It is the same one that was achieved by Ana Maria Gonçalves (1970), a Brazilian writer, English professor, and publicist born in Ibiá, Minas Gerais.

In 2002, she decided to write full time which resulted with the publication of her first book Ao lado e à margem do que sentes por mim (Beside and at the Edge of What you Feel for Me). In 2006, her second book Um defeito de cor (A Colour Defect) was printed.

She was included in the newspaper O Globo list for the best Brazilian books from the previous decade.

A lot of her work has been encompassing in anthologies printed in Italy and Portugal. Gonçalves also was residence writer at several universities including Stanford University, the same college where Veronica Chambers (1970), had a John S. Knight Journalism fellow. She is awriter and editor born in Panama and raised in Brooklyn, NY.

She is the author of Mama’s Girls, Having it All: Black Women and Success, Kickboxing Geishas: How Modern Japanese Women are changing their Nation, The Go-Between, Quinceanera Means Sweet Fifteen, and other.

She also has edited essays, Meaning of Michelle: 16 Writers on the Iconic First Lady and How Her Journey Inspires Our Own and Queen Bey: A Celebration of the Power and Creativity of Beyoncé Knowles-Carter.  

She is co-writer of Yes, Chef with Marcus Samuelsson that earned the James Beard Award; and 32 Yorks with Eric Ripert which, is one of The New York Times bestseller.

*Shirlene Green Newball is an Afro-Nicaraguan journalist and feminist who lives in Finland.


Angelou, M. (2007) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. London. Virago Press.

Adiche, C.  (2017) Half of a Yellow Sun. London. 4th Estate..

‘Afeto fértil, fértil poema: a líria de Jenyffer Nascimento’. Literafro, 10th July 2007. Available at:

Corriols M. & Rossman Y. (2014) 1st. edn. Hermanas de tinta: Muestra de poesía multiétnica de mujeres nicaragüenses. Managua.

‘Courageous Zimbabwean writer whose books addressed the taboos of her society’, The Guardian, 27th April 2005. Available at:

Chambers Website. Available at:

Evans, M. (1984) Black Women Writers ( 1950-1980). The United States of America.

Gay’s Website. Available at:

Habila, H. (2011). African Short Story. 1st. edn. Granta Publications. London.

Hurston, Z. (1998) Their Eyes were Watching God. HapperCollins Publishers. New York.

Henry, P.  ‘Great Expectations: An Interview with Ayobami Adebayo’, El Paris Review 8 August 2017. Available at:

Morrison, T. (1993) The Bluest Eye. Plume. United States of America.

Nndi’s Website. Available at:

Olaya, J.M. (2015) ‘Lucía Charún-Illescas, la primera novelista afroperuana’, Personajes afrodescendientes del Perú y América. Available at:

Smith, Z.  (2017) Swing Time. Penguin Books. United Kingdom.

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