Looking Back, Reading Black: Popular Fiction and the Essence Bestsellers List

In honor of Black History Month and in conjunction with the daily book features BWSA is posting on Twitter, we are sharing the most popular works of fiction written for, about, and by Black people from ten and twenty years ago. Reflect with us on the many ways contemporary authors have taken up pen and paper to creatively detail the Black experience (Follow us @blkwomenstudies and see all of this month's book features using #28daysofBWS.)

Pulling from The Reading Blackness Project, I derived this by disaggregating Essence Magazine’s Bestseller’s List for Fiction, which was published monthly and was based on sells information culled from independently owned Black bookstores across the United States. The list and Essence Magazine, more generally, has been committed to centering the needs, thoughts, and desires of Black Women for nearly 50 years. Essence and its Bestsellers’ List are rich data sources for Black Women Studies researchers by providing depth and nuance to the ordinary lives of Black people while also celebrating the best of who we are and what we do.

2009 Hardcover

Midnight by Sister Souljah (appeared 9 times)

Dying for Revenge by Eric Jerome Dickey (appeared 5 times)

Up to No Good by Carl Weber (appeared 5 times)

She Had it Coming by Mary Monroe (appeared 3 times)

2009 Paperback

Queen Bitch (Part 4) by Deja King (appeared 7 times)

The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah (appeared 5 times)

True to the Game III by Teri Woods (appeared 4 times)

The Someday List by Stacy Hawkins Adams (appeared 4 times)

1999 Hardcover

Milk in My Coffee by Eric Jerome Dickey (appeared 8 times)

Abide With Me by E. Lynn Harris (appeared 5 times)

Blue Collar Blues by Rosalyn McMillan (appeared 6 times)

Something’s Wrong with Your Scale! By Van Whitfield (appeared 4 times)

1999 Paperback

One Better by Rosalyn McMillan (appeared 7 times)

A Do Right Man by Omar Tyree (appeared 6 times)

Sister, Sister by Eric Jerome Dickey (appeared 4 times)

When All Hell Breaks Loose by Camika Spencer (appeared 4 times)

- Dr. Jacinta R. Saffold, @concretestories