Read the NAACP Literary Image Award Nominees

By Desmond Hunnighen
March 15, 2021
Hamilton Grange Library

For over fifty years, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has celebrated outstanding performances and achievements in film, television, and literature from an African American perspective via its Image Awards. There is an extensive list of categories in the literary section of the awards—too many to list here—which is a great thing. We wanted to highlight three categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, and Debut Author. Read about the nominated works below and click through to their catalog record if you'd like to borrow one from the Library. 

You can see the complete list of literary nominees here, and tune in for the televised NAACP Image Awards on March 27.


Book Cover of The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half byBrit Bennett

Separated by their embrace of different racial identities, two mixed-race identical twins reevaluate their choices as one raises a black daughter in their southern hometown while the other passes for white with a husband who is unaware of her heritage.

Book Cover of Lakewood

Lakewood by Megan Giddings

Forced to drop out of school to help support her family, Lena takes a lucrative job as a secret laboratory subject before devastating side effects make her question how much she can sacrifice. 

*Also nominated in the category of Outstanding Literary Work–Debut Author

Book Cover of The Awkward Black Man

The Awkward Black Man: Stories byWalter Mosley

Bestselling author Walter Mosley has proven himself a master of narrative tension, both with his extraordinary fiction and gripping writing for television. The Awkward Black Man collects seventeen of Mosley's most accomplished short stories to display the full range of his remarkable talent. Mosley presents distinct characters as they struggle to move through the world in each of these stories—heroes who are awkward, nerdy, self-defeating, self-involved, and, on the whole, odd. He overturns the stereotypes that corral Black male characters and paints a subtle, powerful portrait of each of these unique individuals. Touching and contemplative, each of these unexpected stories offers the best of one of our most gifted writers.

Book Cover of Riot Baby

Riot Baby byTochi Onyebuchi

Rooted in foundational loss and the hope that can live in anger, Riot Baby is both a global dystopian narrative and an intimate family story with quietly devastating things to say about love, fury, and the black American experience. Ella and Kev are brother and sister, both gifted with extraordinary power. Their childhoods are defined and destroyed by structural racism and brutality. Their futures might alter the world. When Kev is incarcerated for the crime of being a young black man in America, Ell—through visits both mundane and supernatural—tries to show him the way to a revolution that could burn it all down.

Book Cover of Black Bottom Saints

Black Bottom Saints byAlice Randall

A celebrated columnist, nightclub emcee, and fine arts philanthropist draws inspiration from the Catholic Saints Day books while reflecting on his encounters with legendary black artists from the Great Depression through the post-World War II years.


Book Cover of  We're better than this

We're Better Than This: My Fiight for the Future of our Democracy byElijah Cummings

A memoir by the late Congressman details how his experiences as a sharecroppers' son in volatile South Baltimore shaped his life in activism, explaining how government oversight can become a positive part of a just American collective.

*Also nominated in the category of Outstanding Literary Work–Debut Author

Book cover of A black women's history of the united states

A Black Women's History of the United States by Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross

Two award-winning history professors and authors focus on the stories of African American women slaves, civilians, religious leaders, artists, queer icons, activists, and criminals in a celebration of black womanhood that demonstrates its indelible role in shaping America.

reckoning with race in America

Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America  byMichael Eric Dyson

Long Time Coming grapples with the cultural and social forces that have shaped our nation in the brutal crucible of race. In five beautifully argued chapters—each addressed to a black martyr from Breonna Taylor to Rev. Clementa Pinckney—Dyson traces the genealogy of anti-blackness from the slave ship to the street corner where Floyd lost his life—and where America gained its will to confront the ugly truth of systemic racism. Ending with a poignant plea for hope, Dyson’s exciting new book points the way to social redemption. Long Time Coming is a necessary guide to help America finally reckon with race.

Book cover of A promised land

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

A deeply personal account of history in the making—from the president who inspired us to believe in the power of democracy.

African American travel and the road to civil right

Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Right by Gretchen Sorin

The true story behind the award-winning film of the same name explores the role of travel in civil rights, the specific impact of the automobile on African-American life, and the cultural importance of Victor and Alma Green’s famous Green Book.

Read more: Q&A with Author Gretchen Sorin on her book Driving While Black at NYPL


a story of hope, justice and freedom

A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice and Freedom byBrittany Barnett

An award-winning attorney presents an urgent call for justice system reform in the story of a disadvantaged, African American single mother from the rural South who was separated from her young daughter and sentenced to life in prison for a first-time offense.

Finding blackness in a whiteworld

Greyboy: Finding Blackness in a White World by Cole Brown

Cole Brown has heard it all before: token, bougie, Oreo, Blackish; the things we call the kids like him. Black kids who grow up in white spaces, living at an intersection of race and class that many doubt exists. He needed to get far away from the preppy site of his upbringing before he could make sense of it all. Through a series of personal anecdotes and interviews with his peers, Cole transports us to his adolescence and explores what it's like to be young and in search of identity. He digs into the places where, in youth, a greyboy's difference is most acutely felt: parenting, police brutality, Trumpism, depression, and dating, to name a few.

Book cover of The Compton Cowboys

The Compton Cowboys by Walter Thompson-Hernandez

Tells the story of the Compton Cowboys—a group of African American men and women who defy stereotypes and continue the proud, centuries-old tradition of Black cowboys in the heart of one of America's most notorious cities.

Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

Summaries provided via NYPL’s catalog, which draws from multiple sources. Click through to each book’s title for more.