10 Powerful Books That Center Black Women's Health

by Natalie Kiser

January 17, 2022 at 5:15pm PM EST

books-center-Black-women-health

Bookshop/Amazon.

If you’re looking for a way to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s work and legacy, vote with your wallet and cultivate a more informed, anti-racist and relevant understanding of how health intersects with race in our culture (or, better yet, all all three!), filling out your bookshelf and your to-read pile with books by Black authors who are experts on the subject is the logical first step.

women of color healthcare access

Related story The Real Reasons Women of Color Lack Access to Health Care

Whether it’s through talking about medical bias, mental health, combining activism with self-care or some thorough introductions and studies of reproductive justice — the Black woman-led movement that encompasses not only abortion access but access to all resources for raising happy, healthy kids — these are a few titles that can help you dig a bit deeper and give a more thorough foundation for being able to talk about health equity in the United States (and around the world).

Now, to be clear, you should always prioritize a reading list that includes authors from all different backgrounds. Think: If every POV you take in about health, about sex, about gender, about politics comes from someone who is white or from one (hyper-privileged) socioeconomic background — you’re getting a fraction of a fraction the story and a fraction of the information you need to form a solid understanding.

For readers who are non-Black POC and white readers especially, these are also great tools for lifting your own weight and doing your own research instead of asking your Black loved ones to shoulder any of that burden for you. So if you’ve noticed your reading list has felt a bit homogenous and more than a little incomplete, take this moment  to make a lasting change and support Black authors who are telling necessary stories and contextualizing important information.

Reading, listening and learning won’t replace taking necessary actions to dismantle white supremacy, but it’s a good start to making yourself the most informed and empathetic person you can be.

A version of this story was published June 2020.

Our mission at SheKnows is to empower and inspire women, and we only feature products we think you’ll love as much as we do. Please note that if you purchase something by clicking on a link within this story, we may receive a small commission of the sale and the retailer may receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes.

Photo : Amazon.

‘Reproductive Justice: An Introduction’

Centering the experiences of Black women and other WOC, scholar-activists Loretta J. Ross and Rickie Solinger give an intersectional analysis of how gender, class and race factor into how women understand and access healthcare and what it means for the fight for equality. 

'Reproductive Justice, Volume 1: An Introduction' $33.54 Buy now Sign Up

Reproductive Justice: An Introduction (Reproductive Justice: A New Vision for the 21st Century Book 1) $19.99 on Amazon.com Buy now Sign Up

Photo : Amazon

Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good

Health reading doesn’t need to be all about pain. Author and editor adrienne maree brown explores how Black feminist approaches to healing and happiness can redefine the “work” of activism to inspire joy and healing. 

Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good (Emergent Strategy) $14.39 on Amazon.com Buy now Sign Up

'Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good' $18 Buy now Sign Up

‘Birthing Justice: Black Women, Pregnancy, and Childbirth’

An important part of conversations about reproductive justice is all the ways Black mothers/people giving birth are given less control over their bodies during their birthing processes — often finding themselves subject to “policing, coercion, and disempowerment” at the hands of medical professionals, social services and community resources that should be there to help. Looking to mother, scholar and activist perspectives, Birthing Justice considers what birthing. pregnancy and childbirth can and should be for Black moms. 

Birthing Justice: Black Women, Pregnancy, and Childbirth $68.34 Buy now Sign Up

Birthing Justice: Black Women, Pregnancy, and Childbirth 68.34 on Amazon.com Buy now Sign Up

Photo : Amazon

‘I’m Telling the Truth But I’m Lying’

A collection of essays from Bassey Ikpi, a Nigerian American, writer, mental-health advocate and founder of the Siwe Project (a non-profit promoting mental health in the global Black community), that tackles her experiences with Bipolar II disorder and the experience of how you relate to your own mental health, how you want the world to see you and all the ideas we have of what “normal” is supposed to feel like.

I'm Telling the Truth, but I'm Lying: Essays $11.49 on Amazon.com Buy now Sign Up

Photo : Amazon

‘Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, And Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements’

As activism and community organizing is essential for equality in the health space, this book on how organizing informed by healing justice, long-term commitments, cultural sensitivity, creative strategizing, and collaboration between intersectional identities can make for a better world. 

Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements $11.99 on Amazon.com Buy now Sign Up

'Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements' $20.66 Buy now Sign Up

Photo : Amazon

Policing the Womb: Invisible Women and The Criminalization of Motherhood

A more big-picture look at the systemic ways pregnant people are policed, surveilled and denied basic rights, Michelle Goodwin’s Policing the Womb looks at how the U.S. came to be so dangerous for pregnant people (particularly low-income and Black pregnant people).

Policing the Womb: Invisible Women and the Criminalization of Motherhood $27.59 Buy now Sign Up

Policing the Womb: Invisible Women and the Criminalization of Motherhood $14.60 on Amazon.com Buy now Sign Up

Photo : Amazon

‘Medical Bondage: Race, Gender and the Origins of American Gynecology’

Exploring how the history of gynecological medicine is deeply intrenched in racism, violence and misinformation at the expense of Black women’s bodies, Deirdre Cooper Owens tackles how the effects of that exploitation are still felt today.

Medical Bondage: Race, Gender and the Origins of American Gynecology $24.96 Buy now Sign Up

Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology $22.63 on Amazon.com Buy now Sign Up

Photo : Amazon

‘Killing the Black Body’

A 1997 book that is recognized for disrupting racist and biased media messages about Black Women and how racism and coercion has affected Black motherhood. 

Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty [Paperback] [1998] 1st Edition, 2nd Printing Ed. Dorothy Roberts $88.44 on Amazon.com Buy now Sign Up

Photo : Amazon

‘Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present’

Exploring the history of western medicine experimenting on Black bodies, this book shows how bias, pseudoscience and social Darwinism has lead to exploitation and mistreatment of Black individuals in medicine. 

Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present $4.99 on Amazon.com Buy now Sign Up

Photo : Amazon

‘Just Medicine: A Cure for Racial Inequality in American Health Care’

Dayna Bowen Matthew unpacks how the racial and ethnic biases in the medical community lead to institutional inequality and ultimately the major disparities in healthcare that disproportionately harm Black and brown individuals. 

''Just Medicine: A Cure for Racial Inequality in American Health Care'' $20 Buy now Sign Up

Just Medicine: A Cure for Racial Inequality in American Health Care $16.99 on Amazon.com Buy now Sign Up