The African American Experience: #LemonadeSyllabus

The African American Experience blog photo

Discussion sparked by Beyonce Knowles-Carter’s 2016 album Lemonade led to the creation of the Lemonade Syllabus hashtag. Candance Marie Benbow collected the titles in this guide. Below are links to JMRL-owned resources from the guide that “speak to Black women from classics in fiction to Black feminist theory to inspirational and self-care guides.” 

Fiction and Literature 

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

Kindred by Octavia Butler 

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

Brothers and Sisters by Bebe Moore Campbell

Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine by Bebe Moore Campbell

What Looks Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage

Homemade Love by J. California Cooper

Some Love, Some Pain, Some Time by J. California Cooper

In Search of Satisfaction by J. California Cooper

Daughters of the Dust by Julie E. Dash

Mourner’s Bench by Sanderia Faye

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson

Mules and Men by Zora Neale Hurston 

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston 

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

The Complete Fiction of Nella Larsen (Passing, Quicksand and the Stories) by Nella Larsen

Praisesong for the Widow by Paule Marshall

Sugar by Bernice McFadden 

Disappearing Acts by Terry McMillan

Getting to Happy by Terry McMillan

Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Sula by Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Bailey’s Cafe by Gloria Naylor

Mama Day by Gloria  Naylor

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

Balm by Dolen Perkins-Valdez 

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez 

The Street by Anne Petry

Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo by Ntozake Shange

Orleans by Sherri L. Smith 

The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah

The Good Negress by A.J.Verdell

Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker 

The Color Purple by Alice Walker 

The Way Forward is with a Broken Heart by Alice Walker 

You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down by Alice Walker 

Dessa Rose by Sherley Anne Williams 


Non-Fiction and Autobiography

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

Even the Stars Look Lonesome by Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou

Something Like Beautiful : One Single Mother’s Story by Asha Beandele 

Gal: A True Life by Ruthie Mae Bolton  

A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown

A Taste of Power: A Black Women’s Story by Elaine Brown

Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lies, Lessons & Love Affairs by Pearl Cleage

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody

Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur

No Disrespect by Sister Souljah


Black Feminist Studies 

The Black Woman: An Anthology by Toni Cade Bambara 

Blues Legacies and Black Feminisms: Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday by Angela Y. Davis

Women, Race and Class by Angela Y. Davis

When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America by Paula Giddings

Words of Fire: Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought by Beverly Guy-Sheftall

Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks 

All About Love: New Visions  by bell hooks 

Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood  by bell hooks 

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde

“Welfare is a Women’s Issue” by Johnnie Tillmon

“A Black Feminist Statement” by The Combahee River Collective


English & Critical Theory 

Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route by Saidiya Hartman

Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination by Toni Morrison 

Killing the Black Body: Race Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy Roberts


Historical & Cultural Studies 

Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and Foundations of a Movement  by Angela Y. Davis 

The Sisters are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America by Tami Winfrey Harris 

Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America by Melissa Harris Perry 

Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America by Charisse Jones and Kumea Shorter-Gooden

Creating Black Americans; African-American History and Its Meaning 1619 to Present by Nell Irvin Painter

Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting by Terrie M. Williams 


Inspiration & Self-Care

All the Joy You Can Stand: 101 Sacred Power Principles for Making Joy Real in Your Life by Debrena Gandy

Journey to the Well by Vashti McKenzie 

One Day My Soul Just Opened Up: 40 Days and 40 Nights Toward Spiritual Strength and Personal Growth by Iyanla Vanzant


Religion & Womanist Theology
Katie’s Cannon: Womanism and the Soul of the Black Community by Katie Canon 

Righteous Discontent : the Women’s Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880-1920 by Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham 

Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica by Zora Neale Hurston



No Mirrors in My Nana’s House by Ysaye M. Barnwell 

The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamiltonn 

An American Girl: Addy Series by Connie Rose Porter

President of the Whole Fifth Grade by Sherri Winston 


Poetry & Photography

Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People by Nikki Giovanni

Black Death by Zora Neale Hurston 

Voyage of the Sable Venus: and Other Poems by Robin Coste Lewis 

The Moments, the Minutes, the Hours by Jill Scott

for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf  by Ntozake Shange 


Theater, Film & Documentary

A Raisin in the Sun

Daughters of the Dust

Eve’s Bayou

I Will Follow 

Middle of Nowhere

The Color Purple

The Princess and the Frog

The Secret Life of Bees

The Wiz

Their Eyes Were Watching God

What Happened, Miss Simone? 

Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues 


Looking for more reading suggestions? JMRL encourages you to use What Do I Read Next? to receive personal recommendations from JMRL librarians.

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