10 Authors Like Yaa Gyasi: Dive Into Your Next Favorite Historical Novel

Discover our guide to the best historical authors like Yaa Gyasi, and pick up your next favorite novel today.  

Yaa Gyasi is a Ghanaian-American novelist who has received critical acclaim and several prominent awards for her impressive contributions to the historical genre through her written work, including Homegoing, Transcendent Kingdom, and No Home. As a famous Black author and woman, Gyasi’s work emphasizes the modern themes of racism, oppression, heritage, and identity. She’s inspired millions worldwide to share their stories through the spoken and written word. 

Best Authors Like Yaa Gyasi Ranked

1. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 1977 –

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Photo of author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie smiling at the camera

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian author who has written novels, short stories, and nonfiction works. With the pen name Amanda N. Adichie, Chimamanda is credited with “attracting a new generation of readers to African literature.” 

Notable works by Adichie include Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, and Americanah. Purple Hibiscus received critical acclaim and the high honor of the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book in 2005. Adichie has also had essays and short stories published in The New Yorker. She strives to shine a light on the Nigerian people and educate readers on their history, culture, and way of life. 

“You must never behave as if your life belongs to a man. Do you hear me?” Aunty Ifeka said. “Your life belongs to you and you alone.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun
Half of a Yellow Sun
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 562 Pages - 11/12/2008 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

2. Hala Alyan, 1986 –

Hala Alyan
Photo of author Hala Alyan staring into the camera

Hala Alyan is a Palestinian-American author, poet, and clinical psychologist. Her stories, poems, and work focus on trauma, addiction, and cross-cultural behavior. She’s the recipient and winner of many esteemed awards, including the winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Arab American Book Award for poetry. 

Alyan’s most notable works include her debut novelSalt Houses, and The Arsonist’s City. In her novels and poems, Alyan strives to provide a detailed look at the hardships and culture of her homeland to provide readers with insight into the effects and impacts that war, violence, and peace can have on any culture of people.

“Nostalgia is an affliction. Life a fever or a cancer, the longing for what had vanished wasting a person away. Not just the unbearable losses, but the small things as well.”

Hala Alyan, Salt Houses
Salt Houses
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Alyan, Hala (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 338 Pages - 05/02/2017 (Publication Date) - Harper (Publisher)

3. Luvvie Ajayi Jones, 1985 – 

Luvvie Ajayi Jones is a New York Times bestselling author and speaker who started blogging nearly 20 years ago. As a Nigerian-American woman, Jones aims to share her cultural struggles, hardships, and big wins with readers all over the globe. She hosts two podcasts and loves sharing her thoughts on pop culture, faith, and politics. 

Her breakout novelI’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual, catapulted Jones into stardom in the literary world and has allowed her to create an impressive fan base. She’s also written Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual and the popular children’s book Little Troublemaker Makes a Mess. 

“A successful life is one lived on my own terms, not one where I end every day more tired than the last. And if everyone else around me is happy but I’m empty, then I have betrayed myself.”

Luvvie Ajayi Jones, The Fear-Fighter Manual
I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Ajayi, Luvvie (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 09/13/2016 (Publication Date) - Henry Holt and Co. (Publisher)

 4. Rémy Ngamije

Rémy Ngamije is a Rwandan-born writer and photographer. His debut novel, The Eternal Audience of One, is an inspiring coming-of-age story of migration, family, and war from the perspective of the young protagonist, Séraphin. His writing gives readers an inside look at the challenges of being a young adult during unrest in any society or culture. Rémy is the recipient of the Africa Regional Prize of the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.  Ngamije also founded and created the literary arts organization Doek in Namibia. 

“Isn’t that what apologies are? Acknowledgment of guilt and shame. And the other person takes your wrongdoing and agrees to carry it and let you be human again. That’s why I don’t believe weak people can forgive. What you’re going to do when a weak person forgives you? They can’t harm you, they can’t take anything from you. Forgiveness from the weak is just words.”

Rémy Ngamije, The Eternal Audience of One
The Eternal Audience of One
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Ngamije, Rémy (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 383 Pages - 08/10/2021 (Publication Date) - Gallery/Scout Press (Publisher)

5. Lolá Ákínmádé Åkerström

Lolá Ákínmádé Åkerström
Photo of author Lola Akinmade Åkerström smiling at the camera

Lola Akinmade Åkerström is a Nigerian writer and photographer who lives in Sweden. Lola grew up in Nigeria and moved to the United States at age 15, where she completed school and fell in love with writing. She initially pursued Journalism as a career and explored development before discovering her true passion in photography.  

Lola’s debut novelIn Every Mirror She’s Black, dives deep into what it means to be a Black woman in a white male-dominated society. It explores racism, classism, and tokenism and gives the reader an inside look at what Black women face in modern society. 

“She was used to being the sole Black woman in many rooms, but this place, the air floating around her, felt different. It was blown-up bubble gum, slowly shrinking in on her.”

Lola Akinmade Åkerström, In Every Mirror She’s Black
In Every Mirror She's Black: A Novel
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Ákínmádé Åkerström, Lolá (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 420 Pages - 09/07/2021 (Publication Date) - Sourcebooks Landmark (Publisher)

6. Zadie Smith, 1975 –

Zadie Smith
Photo of author Zadie Smith speaking into a microphone

Zadie Smith is an English novelist and short story writer whose breakout novel, White Teeth, became an instant bestseller in 2000. The book also won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Betty Trask Award and was adapted for television in 2002. 

Smith also published The Autograph Man, Swing Time, Grand Union, and the short story collection, The Morality of the Novel. As well as having a successful writing career, Smith is a tenured professor at New York University, where she teaches creative writing. As a writer, Smith strives to emphasize the stories of passion in Jamaican characters and wants these stories to impact readers around the world.

“Every moment happens twice: inside and outside, and they are two different histories.”

Zadie Smith, White Teeth
Sale
White Teeth: A Novel
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Zadie Smith (Author) - Lenny Henry, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Ray Panthaki (Narrators)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 04/24/2018 (Publication Date) - Random House Audio (Publisher)

7. Jesmyn Ward, 1977 –

Jesmyn Ward
Photo of author Jesmyn Ward smiling at the camera

Jesmyn Ward is an American novelist and literature professor at Tulane University. Her second novelSalvage the Bones, won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2011. As an author and storyteller, Jesmyn specializes in fictional stories that share unique narratives of Black culture and racism in the United States.

As a resident of New Orleans in 2005, Jesmyn and her family were heavily impacted by Hurricane Katrina and its disastrous effect on the city. After Hurricane Katrina, Jesmyn did not write creatively for over three years. Since then, her most notable works include Men We Reaped, Sing, Unburied, Sing, and The Fire This Time.

“Sometimes the world don’t give you what you need, no matter how hard you look. Sometimes it withholds.”

Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing
Where the Line Bleeds: A Novel
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Ward, Jesmyn (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 258 Pages - 01/16/2018 (Publication Date) - Scribner (Publisher)

8. Toni Morrison, 1931 – 2019

Toni Morrison
Photo of author Toni Morrison smiling off-camera

The voice of a generation, Toni Morrison was an American novelist and the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, tells the story of an 11-year-old Black girl in America and explores many themes regarding racism and classism that still exist today. 

Other notable works by Toni Morrison include Song of Solomon, Beloved, and Sula. Aside from her remarkable literary career, Morrison received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and a National Humanities Medal. She is easily one of the most influential African American female authors ever to exist, and the world is forever indebted to her contributions to literature and humanity. 

“She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.”

Toni Morrison, Beloved
Song of Solomon: A Novel (Vintage International)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Morrison, Toni (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 354 Pages - 07/24/2007 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

9. Marlon James, 1970 –

Marlon James
Photo of author Marlon James smiling to the camera

Marlon James is a Jamaican novelist who experienced significant rejection from various publishers before finally getting his big break with his first novel, John Crow’s Devil. His most recent work, Black Leopard, Red Wolf, is a New York Times Bestseller. 

His notable novels include The Book of Night Women, winner of the 2010 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and was a finalist in the National Book Critics Circle Award. His next novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings, explored the fictional assassination attempt on Bob Marley and caused quite a controversy in its depiction of Jamaica. For aspiring authors, James stands as a symbol of perseverance and never giving up, no matter how often your work gets turned down. 

“You know, most of this feminism business was nothing more than white American women telling non-white women what to do and how to do it, with this patronizing if-you-become-just-like-me-you’ll-be-free bullshit.”

Marlon James, A Brief History of Seven Killings
A Brief History of Seven Killings (Booker Prize Winner): A Novel
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • James, Marlon (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 688 Pages - 10/02/2014 (Publication Date) - Riverhead Books (Publisher)

10. Paul Beatty, 1962 –

Paul Beatty
Photo of author Paul Beatty smiling off-camera

Paul Beatty is an American novelist and writing professor at Columbia University. His novel, The Sellout, received critical acclaim and won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Booker Prize. Beatty is the first Man Booker from the United States ever to receive this award. 

Throughout his career, Beatty’s most memorable works in poetry and short stories creatively implement humor and irony to share the struggles of being Black in the United States. His first novelThe White Boy Shuffle, highlighted the struggles of young Black men in modern times and was widely revered by the genre and readers worldwide. You might also be interested in these authors like Amor Towles.

“I don’t care if you’re black, white, brown, yellow, red, green, or purple.’ We’ve all said it. Posited as proof of our nonprejudicial ways, but if you painted any one of us purple or green, we’d be mad as hell.”

Paul Beatty, The Sellout
The Sellout: A Novel
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Beatty, Paul (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 306 Pages - 03/03/2015 (Publication Date) - Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Publisher)

Ready to write your own novel? Check out our guide on how to write a backstory!

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