THE AFRO YA

“Getting By” Is a Thoughtful Story about Attraction and Personal Growth

Latonya Pennington reviews “Getting By” by Jaire Sims, a thoughtful Own Voices coming-of-age novel about attraction and personal growth from the perspective of an autistic gay teenage Black male protagonist.

Pride Spotlight: Black Queer YA

Pride Spotlight: Black Queer YA

For Pride Month, Latonya Pennington celebrates six YA novels by Black authors featuring LGBTQIA+ protagonists.

“Black Girl Unlimited” Shows the Magic of Surviving and Thriving

“Black Girl Unlimited” Shows the Magic of Surviving and Thriving

In 2013, D.C. native Cashawn Thompson coined the phrase “Black girl magic” to celebrate the resilience and accomplishments of Black girls and women. Since then, the phrase has become a movement to acknowledge Black women from various fields and backgrounds. With her...

Most Anticipated 2021 Reads

Most Anticipated 2021 Reads

A new year means reading new books. While I don’t have a reading goal per se, I do have a long To Be Read list to get through. For every book that I already own, there are also yet-to-be-released books I want to read — not to mention books I won’t know I want to read...

Best Books to Give Black Readers This Holiday Season, 2020

Best Books to Give Black Readers This Holiday Season, 2020

Many of us have had our ability to read diminished by this stressful year, myself included. One thing that kept me reviewing books for this column was the hope that my review could either make the author happy or make a potential reader happy. Despite everything going...

“Black Enough” Showcases Blackness Joyfully and Honestly

“Black Enough” Showcases Blackness Joyfully and Honestly

The myriad experiences that Black people have are enough to make a tapestry. Due to racism, respectability politics, and other factors, only certain experiences get acknowledged. In the young adult fiction anthology Black Enough, sixteen Black young adult authors...

“How To Be Remy Cameron” Explores Identity with Complexity and Care

“How To Be Remy Cameron” Explores Identity with Complexity and Care

When other people define you based on labels, it can be hard for you to define yourself. This is the conflict at the center of Julian Winters’s second novel, How To Be Remy Cameron. After being assigned an essay about who he is, seventeen-year-old Remy Cameron must...

“Magnifique Noir Book 2” Exemplifies the Magic of Self-Care

“Magnifique Noir Book 2” Exemplifies the Magic of Self-Care

Created by Briana Lawrence, the illustrated novel series Magnifique Noir tells the story of Black queer young women as they come of age as young adults and as members of the magical girl team Magnifique Noir. Book 2 of the series picks up a few weeks after the ending...

Books to Give Black Readers This Holiday Season

Books to Give Black Readers This Holiday Season

This year, I’ve read so many great young adult and middle grade books by Black authors. From sci-fi fantasy academic studies to queer contemporary romance, it has been a banner year for the Afro YA blog. These books have not only entertained and informed me but also...

“A Dream So Dark” Is a Dark, Thrilling Return To Wonderland

“A Dream So Dark” Is a Dark, Thrilling Return To Wonderland

It has been ages since I have been emotionally invested in a book series. Last year, I reviewed L.L. McKinney’s A Blade So Black and was utterly delighted. When the sequel, A Dream So Dark, was announced, I couldn’t wait to return to the Nightmare Verse series. Alice...

“Opposite of Always” Teaches How to Value Love through Time Travel

“Opposite of Always” Teaches How to Value Love through Time Travel

Most romance stories usually follow the same formula. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy and girl have some misunderstandings but somehow manage to declare their love for each other and live happily ever after. In Justin A. Reynolds’s Opposite of Always,...

“The Black Veins” Is an Epic Adventure Filled with Magic and Family

“The Black Veins” Is an Epic Adventure Filled with Magic and Family

One mysterious night, Blythe Fulton, an Elemental Guardian, is magically compelled against her will. After reaching out to the magical government known as the Black Veins, Blythe’s family is kidnapped and taken to the Trident Republic. In order to save them, Blythe...

The Weight of the Stars Is a Gorgeous Novel about New Possibilities

The Weight of the Stars Is a Gorgeous Novel about New Possibilities

After an accident brings them together, Ryann Bird finds herself keeping track of space messages for her classmate Alexandria. Although they have a frosty start, the two eventually bond over their status as misfits and an appreciation of outer space. As Ryann begins...

“Piecing Me Together” Is a Gorgeous Collage of Self-Discovery

“Piecing Me Together” Is a Gorgeous Collage of Self-Discovery

As a Black non-binary queer person, my life and my identity are made up of a variety of experiences and influences. While I’m more aware of who I am now, there was a time when I just wasn’t sure about it. In Renée Watson’s beautifully written book Piecing Me Together,...

“The Poet X” Is a Testament to Self-Expression

“The Poet X” Is a Testament to Self-Expression

As a teenager and budding poet, the very first verse novel I can recall reading is Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes. Told from the point of view of many diverse high school students in a slam poetry style, it wasn’t hard for me to enjoy. However, the brief glimpses...

“Miles Morales: Spider-Man” Is a Down to Earth Read

“Miles Morales: Spider-Man” Is a Down to Earth Read

Spider-Man is both a title and a character that has morphed and evolved over time. Although it began as the story of Peter Parker, Spider-Man has since become a mantle taken up by people such as Korean American Cindy Moon and Afro-Latino Miles Morales. At the time of...

“This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story” Is the Rom-Com We Need

“This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story” Is the Rom-Com We Need

I’ve always had a soft spot for romantic comedies. Romance isn’t taken too seriously and there is almost always an interesting cast of characters along for the ride. When it comes to romantic comedies involving LGBTQ+ characters, there are all too few in the world. As...

“The Dark Fantastic” Fills an Imagination Gap in Youth Media

“The Dark Fantastic” Fills an Imagination Gap in Youth Media

As someone who came of age with the Harry Potter series, it is astounding I barely noticed how few Black characters were in the books. After all, the focus of the books was on the main characters Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley. Although Hermione...

“A Blade So Black” Is a Fantastic Take on “Alice in Wonderland”

“A Blade So Black” Is a Fantastic Take on “Alice in Wonderland”

Alice in Wonderland always struck me as a really dreamy metaphor for coming of age. The versions of Alice in Wonderland I know best are from the video game Kingdom Hearts and the 2010 live-action Disney film. Both media have their protagonists growing as heroes and as...

How Fantasy Ignited My Reality

How Fantasy Ignited My Reality

I fell in love with fantasy when I started reading the Harry Potter series as a kid. A fourth-grade classmate brought Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fireto school for our teacher to read aloud. She only read one or two chapters, but it interested me enough that I got...

Shadowshaper, Art, and Reclamation

Shadowshaper, Art, and Reclamation

As a poet and lover of music, fiction, and other creative media, I’ve always considered art to be magical. There is something fantastic about how a poem or a song goes from the creator to another person and makes them connect to things. In Daniel José Older’s urban...

The Many Different Loves of “Let’s Talk About Love”

The Many Different Loves of “Let’s Talk About Love”

When people think of love, romantic love comes to mind. It is often tied with sexual attraction and the act of sex, seemingly inseparable. As a result, asexual people who experience romantic attraction but not sexual attraction have a hard time explaining their...

The Unforgettable Nerdiness of Felicia Abelard

The Unforgettable Nerdiness of Felicia Abelard

From the moment I started reading young adult literature, I enjoyed many things about the genre. I liked how there were subgenres like fantasy, contemporary, and verse novels (i.e., books written in poems that tell a story). I liked reading about teenagers who save...

Nicola Yoon’s “Everything, Everything” Is Everything

Nicola Yoon’s “Everything, Everything” Is Everything

As a teen, I had a soft spot for contemporary YA romance. I especially enjoyed the romance in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares. I liked these books because the female characters showed me that even if you had personal issues, you could...

Why Afro YA Matters

Why Afro YA Matters

When I was a teen, the most relatable young adult book I ever read was The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. The Outsiders validated my experiences with being out of place among my peers and made me feel that my own story could be valuable someday. However, it also made me...

The Afro YA promotes black young adult authors and YA books with black characters, especially those that influence Pennington, an aspiring YA author who believes that black YA readers need diverse books, creators, and stories so that they don’t have to search for their experiences like she did.

Latonya Pennington is a poet and freelance pop culture critic. Their freelance work can also be found at PRIDE, Wear Your Voice magazine, and Black Sci-fi. As a poet, they have been published in Fiyah Lit magazine, Scribes of Nyota, and Argot magazine among others.