Looking for colorism books? You could spend hours searching online until you find exactly what you’re looking for, or you can simply scroll through this list of over 50 books I’ve compiled. The list includes a variety of books about Colorism and Colorism related issues ranging from illustrated children’s books, to fiction novels, to academic and scholarly publications. These books also span a range of cultures and ethnicities. When you’re done browsing, leave a comment and let us know which books seem most interesting to you!

Books About Colorism:

  1. Adams, Michael Vannoy- The Multicultural Imagination: Race, Color, and the Unconscious, 1996, Non-Fiction

    “…He does not assume that racism or ‘colorism’ will simply vanish if we psychoanalyse them, but shows how a non-defensive ego and a self-image that is receptive to other-images can move us towards a more productive discourse of cultural differences. Wide-ranging in its references and scope, this is a book that provokes the reader – analyst or not – to confront personally those unconscious attitudes which stand in the way of authentic multicultural relationships.”

  2. Ahmed, Nawshaba- Film and Fabrication: How Hollywood Determines how we SEE Colorism: A Cultural Reading, 2012, Non-Fiction

    “If how we are treated is determined by how we are SEEN then the question in order is what filters the eye? … Hollywood Films are now the major factor of how cultural identities are re/set. This paper shows that the representation of Asians in mainstream Hollywood is still a sensitive terrain of cultural collide as the Hollywood films continue to work as a mechanism to reinforce Colorism….”

  3. Arzu-Brown, Sulma- Bad Hair Does Not Exist, or Pelo Malo No Existe, 2014, Children’s Book

    This is a bilingual book aimed at celebrating the beauty of all hair textures.

  4. Barbee, Winifred G.- Coming Aware of Our Multiraciality: The Politics of Skin Color, 2006, Non-Fiction

    “This book details the history of Colorism, and the universal origins of racism…. The book places a different approach to race by showing how race impacts our lives through skin color gradation. Racism has many colors, and skin is the main determinant for Black and White issues…. Most health care workers accept that race may play a role in the client’s behavior, but do not know, understand, or ignore the relevance of color gradation…. On becoming aware of our Multiraciality, through color gradation, is helpful to all professionals including Police Officers. The book is analytical, but also offers solutions.”

  5. Bennett, Rhonda- Momma, I Wanna be Light-skinned: My Journey to Acceptance, 2015, Non-Fiction

    “…in “Momma I Wanna be Light-skinned: My Journey to Acceptance”, the author bravely and transparently narrates her journey to wholeness by establishing a new paradigm of self-perception. A perception not formulated by the opinion or approval of others but by introspection. Whatever occurrence that retarded your development and left you in a broken state, the author shares her new found positive outlook in hopes that you too can begin your own journey to acceptance.”

  6. Bird, Stephanie Rose- Light, Bright, and Damned Near White: Biracial and Triracial Culture in America, 2009, Non-Fiction

    “Anthropologist Stephanie Bird takes us into a world where people are struggling to be heard, recognized, and celebrated for the racial diversity one would think is the epitome of America’s melting pot persona. But being biracial or tri-racial brings unique challenges – challenges including prejudice, racism and, from within racial groups, colorism…. Bird shows us the history of biracial and tri-racial people in the United States, and in European families and events. She presents the personal traumas and victories of those who struggle for recognition and acceptance in light of their racial backgrounds…. This work includes a guide to tracing your own racial roots.”

  7. Boyd, Candy Dawson- Fall Secrets, 2004, YA Fiction*

    “The first volume of a new series follows the adventures of four girls at their first year at a performing arts junior high school, during which Jessie, a spirited young African-American girl, explores racial differences and hides a painful secret.”

  8. Brooks, Gwendolyn- Maud Martha, 1992, Fiction*

  9. Broyard, Bliss- One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life–A Story of Race and Family Secrets, 2007, Non-Fiction

    “Ever since renowned literary critic Anatole Broyard’s own parents, New Orleans Creoles, had moved to Brooklyn and began to pass in order to get work, he had learned to conceal his racial identity. As he grew older and entered the ranks of the New York literary elite, he maintained the facade. Now his daughter Bliss tries to make sense of his choices and the impact of this revelation on her own life. She searches out the family she never knew in New York and New Orleans, and considers the profound consequences of racial identity. With unsparing candor and nuanced insight, Broyard chronicles her evolution from sheltered WASP to a woman of mixed race ancestry.”

  10. Bryan, Ashley- Beautiful Black Bird, 2003, Children’s Book*

    “Long ago, Blackbird was voted the most beautiful bird in the forest. The other birds, who were colored red, yellow, blue, and green, were so envious that they begged Blackbird to paint their feathers with a touch of black so they could be beautiful too. Although Black-bird warns them that true beauty comes from within, the other birds persist and soon each is given a ring of black around their neck or a dot of black on their wings — markings that detail birds to this very day. Coretta Scott King Award-winner Ashley Bryan’s adaptation of a tale from the Ila-speaking people of Zambia reso-nates both with rhythm and the tale’s universal meanings — appreciating one’s heritage and discovering the beauty within. His cut-paper artwork is a joy.”

  11. Bynum, Betty K.- I’m a Pretty Little Black Girl!, 2013, Children’s Book

    “I’m a Pretty Little Black Girl! introduces adorable Mia, who wakes with her hair just-a-going every which-a-ways! With her abundant energy and joy leading the way, readers follow Mia as she plays with her friends who are all shades, shapes and sizes. There’s tall Kia, Keisha the reader, Charlotte her best friend, Dina Rose-Marie the artist, Imani the dancer, Anna who loves sports, Ruby the singer, and honey-haired Tracy. Mia finds that Pretty is within herself and her friends, and being pretty is way beyond what the mirror shows.”

  12. Burrell, Tom- Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority, 2010, Non-Fiction*

    “In this powerful examination of “the greatest propaganda campaign of all time”—the masterful marketing of black inferiority, aka the BI Complex—Burrell poses ten disturbing questions that will make black people look in the mirror and ask why, nearly 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, so many blacks still think and act like slaves. Burrell’s acute awareness of the power of words and images to shift, shape, and change the collective consciousness has led him to connect the contemporary and historical dots that have brought us to this crossroads.

    Brainwashed is not a reprimand—it is a call to action. It demands that we question our self-defeating attitudes and behaviors. Racism is not the issue; how we respond to media distortions and programmed self-hatred is the issue. It’s time to reverse the BI campaign with a globally based initiative that harnesses the power of new media and the wisdom of intergenerational coalitions. Provocative and powerful, Brainwashed dares to expose the wounds so that we, at last, can heal.”

  13. Christina, Kimberly and India Sheana- Brown is Beautiful (Rise Little Kemet Book 1), 2015, Children’s Book

    “Brown is Beautiful is the first book in the Rise Little Kemet series. This book explores the different shades of brown typically found in ethnic families. Colorism is a topic that many ethnic children experience and understand as early as three years old! Oftentimes the experience goes without being addressed leaving children subject to re-define themselves through European standards of beauty and ultimately lowered self-esteem. Brown is Beautiful celebrates the different shades of melanoid people and helps families open up a healthy discussion of Colorism between parent and child.”

  14. Crawford, Margo Natalie- Dilution Anxiety and the Black Phallus, 2008, Non-Fiction

    “After the “Black is Beautiful” movement of the 1960s, black body politics have been overdetermined by both the familiar fetishism of light skin as well as the counter-fetishism of dark skin. Moving beyond the longstanding focus on the tragic mulatta and making room for the study of the fetishism of both light-skinned and dark-skinned blackness, Margo Natalie Crawford analyzes depictions of colorism in the work of Gertrude Stein, Wallace Thurman, William Faulkner, Black Arts poets, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and John Edgar Wideman. In Dilution Anxiety and the Black Phallus, Crawford adds images of skin color dilution as a type of castration to the field of race and psychoanalysis. An undercurrent of light-skinned blackness as a type of castration emerges within an ongoing story about the feminizing of light skin and the masculinizing of dark skin. Crawford confronts the web of beautified and eroticized brands and scars, created by colorism, crisscrossing race, gender, and sexuality. The depiction of the horror of these aestheticized brands and scars begins in the white-authored and black-authored modernist literature examined in the first chapters. A call for the end of the ongoing branding emerges with sheer force in the post–Black movement novels examined in the final chapters.”

  15. Crutcher, Jessica- I Love Me and the Skin I’m In, 2016, Children’s Book

    ” Follow Jessica on her journey to understanding what it means to love yourself despite how others may view you. See how Jessica handles the challenges of bullying, and learns to love the skin she is in.”

  16. Davis, Sheridan- Pretty for a Dark Skin Girl, 2014, Non-Fiction

    “Pretty for a Dark Skin Girl navigates its readers through this journey of how author, Sheridan S. Davis, conquered low self-esteem and is now at a place of confidence in God. She she also reveals many life lessons and nuggets she’s gathered along this journey, and passes them on to each reader. Pretty for a Dark Skin Girl is a story of trials, triumphs, and it’s a testament of the power of God.”

  17. Flake, Sharon G.- The Skin I’m In, 2007, YA Fiction*

    “Maleeka suffers every day from the taunts of the other kids in her class. If they’re not getting at her about her homemade clothes or her good grades, it’s about her dark, black skin. When a new teacher, whose face is blotched with a startling white patch, starts at their school, Maleeka can see there is bound to be trouble for her too. But the new teacher’s attitude surprises Maleeka. Miss Saunders loves the skin she’s in. Can Maleeka learn to do the same?”

  18. Grihm, Amanda and J. Emil Grihm- The Dark Skinned Sister, 2015, Fiction

    “At the early age of 10, Mindy was flung into a dark abyss of lies that made the world believe it was okay to create barriers against, and inflict pain upon, dark skinned people. Mindy learned that no one was more cruel and biased against her dark skin than other dark skinned people, including some members of her family. Being treated as though she did not matter while thoughtless, hurtful statements about dark skin were made by ignorant and bigoted people kept Mindy in constant fights for respect. Her opponents came from everywhere and Mindy was forced to battle colorism and racism her entire life…. until one day she looked in the mirror and saw the beautiful eyes of an undefeated, unwavering, self-assured Mindy staring back at her.”

  19. Lee, Kiara- Light-Skinned, Dark-Skinned or In-Between?Children’s Book

  20. Meju, Twala and Daniel Flores- Mommy, Why is My Skin So Dark?, 2015, Children’s Book

    “3 year old Amani was always curious as to why the tone of her skin was so different from her brother and mother. No longer did she plan to wonder. Instead she asked, “Mommy, Why Is My Skin So Dark?” Mommy, Why Is My Skin So Dark is a sincere approach to etching beauty, uniqueness and pride into our various characteristics and cultures. Twala Meju transformed a conversation that hatched between mother and daughter into an opportunity to encourage and empower little girls of all colors and hues.”

  21. Gabriel, Deborah- Layers of Blackness: Colourism in the African Diaspora, 2007, Non-Fiction

    This is the first book by an author in the UK to take an in-depth look at colourism – the process of discrimination based on skin tone among members of the same ethnic group, whereby lighter skin is more valued than darker complexions. The African Diaspora in Britain is examined as part of a global black community with shared experiences of slavery, colonization and neo-colonialism. The author traces the evolution of colourism within African descendant communities in the USA, Jamaica, Latin America and the UK from a historical and political perspective and examines its present impact on the global African Diaspora.

  22. Glenn, Evelyn- Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters, 2009, Non-Fiction

    “Shades of Difference addresses the widespread but little studied phenomenon of colorism—the preference for lighter skin and the ranking of individual worth according to skin tone. Examining the social and cultural significance of skin color in a broad range of societies and historical periods, this insightful collection looks at how skin color affects people’s opportunities in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and North America. Is skin color bias distinct from racial bias? How does skin color preference relate to gender, given the association of lightness with desirability and beauty in women? The authors of this volume explore these and other questions as they take a closer look at the role Western-dominated culture and media have played in disseminating the ideal of light skin globally.”

  23. Golden, Marita- Don’t Play in the Sun: One Woman’s Journey Through the Color Complex, 2005, Non-Fiction*

    “‘Don’t play in the sun. You’re going to have to get a light-skinned husband for the sake of your children as it is.’ In these words from her mother, novelist and memoirist Marita Golden learned as a girl that she was the wrong color. Her mother had absorbed “colorism” without thinking about it. But, as Golden shows in this provocative book, biases based on skin color persist–and so do their long-lasting repercussions… From Halle Berry to Michael Jackson, from Nigeria to Cuba, from what she sees in the mirror to what she notices about the Grammys, Golden exposes the many facets of “colorism” and their effect on American culture. Part memoir, part cultural history, and part analysis, Don’t Play in the Sun also dramatizes one accomplished black woman’s inner journey from self-loathing to self-acceptance and pride.”

  24. Golden, Marita- SKIN: An Interactive Journal For Women Who Want to Heal The Color Complex, 2012,Non-Fiction

    “A workbook to be used by women working to heal the effects of colorism and the color complex”

  25. Hall, Ronald E.- The Melanin Millennium: Skin Color as 21st Century International Discourse, 2012, Non-Fiction

    “This volume addresses the issue of skin color in a worldwide context. A virtual visit to countries that have witnessed a huge rise in the use of skin whitening products and facial feature surgeries aiming for a more Caucasian-like appearance are taken into account. The book also addresses the question of whether using the law has helped to redress injustices of skin color discrimination, or only further promoted recognition of its divisiveness among people of color and Whites.”

  26. Hamilton, Virginia- Cousins, 1990, YA Fiction*

    “Cammy has a happy life and a great family, except for one little problem: a cousin who thinks she’s better than everyone else. It’s true that Patty Ann is beautiful, talented, and bright, but to Cammy she’s also vain, conceited, and mean-spirited. Sometimes Cammy wishes that Patty Ann would disappear, just vanish in a puff of smoke. But when the unthinkable happens and Patty Ann is lost forever, Cammy struggles to atone for her bad feelings toward someone so close.”

  27. Herring, Cedric; Verna M. Keith and Hayward Derrick Horton- Skin Deep: How Race and Complexion Matter in the “Color-Blind” Era, 2003, Non-Fiction

    “Why do Latinos with light skin complexions earn more than those with darker complexions? Why do African American women with darker complexions take longer to get married than their lighter counterparts? … Skin Deep provides answers to these intriguing questions. It shows that although most white Americans maintain that they do not judge others on the basis of skin color, skin tone remains a determining factor in educational attainment, occupational status, income, and other quality of life indicators. Shattering the myth of the color-blind society, Skin Deep is a revealing examination of the ways skin tone inequality operates in America. The essays in this collection-by some of the nation’s leading thinkers on race and colorism-examine these phenomena, asking whether skin tone differentiation is imposed upon communities of color from the outside or is an internally-driven process aided and abetted by community members themselves. The essays also question whether the stratification process is the same for African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans. Skin Deep addresses such issues as the relationship between skin tone and self-esteem, marital patterns, interracial relationships, socioeconomic attainment, and family racial identity and composition.”

  28. Hobbs, Allyson- A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, 2014, Non-Fiction

    “Countless African Americans have passed as white, leaving behind families and friends, roots and communities. It was, as Allyson Hobbs writes, a chosen exile. This history of passing explores the possibilities, challenges, and losses that racial indeterminacy presented to men and women living in a country obsessed with racial distinctions.”

  29. hooks, bell- Skin Again, 2004, Children’s Book*

    “The skin I’m in is just a covering. It cannot tell my story. The skin I’m in is just a covering. If you want to know who i am You have got to come inside And open your heart way wide. Celebrating all that makes us unique and different, Skin Again offers new ways to talk about race and identity. Race matters, but only so much-what’s most important is who we are on the inside. Looking beyond skin, going straight to the heart, we find in each other the treasures stored down deep. Learning to cherish those treasures, to be all we imagine ourselves to be, makes us free. Skin Again celebrates this freedom.”

  30. hooks, bell- Happy to be Nappy, 2001, Children’s Book*

    “Celebrates the joy and beauty of nappy hair.”

  31. Huguley, Piper- A Most Precious Pearl, 2015, Fiction

    This historical romance novel chronicles the adventures of Asa Caldwell, a wounded war veteran, and Mags Bledsoe, recently demoted from manager at a textile mill in Georgia and replaced by Asa. Mags’s recent demotion threatens to foil her plans for revenge against the mill owner who lynched her childhood sweetheart. As they clash against each other, Asa and Mags lead each other to renewed passion.

  32. Hunter, Margaret L.-  Race, Gender, and the Politics of Skin Tone, 2005, Non-Fiction*

    “Race, Gender, and the Politics of Skin Tone tackles the hidden yet painful issue of colorism in the African American and Mexican American communities. Beginning with a historical discussion of slavery and colonization in the Americas, the book quickly moves forward to a contemporary analysis of how skin tone continues to plague people of color today. This is the first book to explore this well-known, yet rarely discussed phenomenon.”

  33. Jablonski, Nina G.- Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color, 2012, Non-Fiction

    “Living Color is the first book to investigate the social history of skin color from prehistory to the present, showing how our body’s most visible trait influences our social interactions in profound and complex ways. In a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion, Nina G. Jablonski begins with the biology and evolution of skin pigmentation, explaining how skin color changed as humans moved around the globe. She explores the relationship between melanin pigment and sunlight, and examines the consequences of rapid migrations, vacations, and other lifestyle choices that can create mismatches between our skin color and our environment. Richly illustrated, this book explains why skin color has come to be a biological trait with great social meaning— a product of evolution perceived by culture. It considers how we form impressions of others, how we create and use stereotypes, how negative stereotypes about dark skin developed and have played out through history—including being a basis for the transatlantic slave trade. Offering examples of how attitudes about skin color differ in the U.S., Brazil, India, and South Africa, Jablonski suggests that a knowledge of the evolution and social importance of skin color can help eliminate color-based discrimination and racism.”

  34. Jackson, Michelle Gordon- Light, Bright and Damn Near White: Black Leaders Created by the One Drop Rule, 2014, Non-Fiction

  35. Jha, Meeta Rani- The Global Beauty Industry: Colorism, Racism, and the National Body (Framing 21st Century Social Issues), 2015, Non-Fiction

    “The Global Beauty Industry is an interdisciplinary text that uses beauty to explore topics of gender, race, class, colorism, nation, bodies, multiculturalism, transnationalism, and intersectionality. Integrating materials from a wide range of cultural and geo-political contexts, it coalesces with initiatives to produce more internationally relevant curricula in fields such as sociology, as well as cultural, women’s/gender, media, and globalization studies.”

  36. Katz, Karen- The Colors of Us, 2002, Children’s book

    “A positive and affirming look at skin color, from an artist’s perspective. Seven-year-old Lena is going to paint a picture of herself. She wants to use brown paint for her skin. But when she and her mother take a walk through the neighborhood, Lena learns that brown comes in many different shades. Through the eyes of a little girl who begins to see her familiar world in a new way, this book celebrates the differences and similarities that connect all people.”

  37. Kerr, Audrey Elisa- The Paper Bag Principle: Class, Colorism, and Rumor in the Case of Black Washington, D.C., 2006, Non-Fiction

    “The only attempt to document rumor and legends relating to complexion in black communities, The Paper Bag Principle looks at the divide that has existed between the black elite and the black ‘folk.’ Audrey Kerr examines how these folk beliefs—exemplified by the infamous “paper bag tests”—inform color discrimination intraracially. Kerr argues that proximity to whiteness (in hue) and wealth have helped create two black Washingtons and that the black community, at various times in history, replicated “Jim Crowism” internally to create some standard of exceptionalism in education and social organization…. The Paper Bag Principle focuses on three objectives: to record lore related to the “paper bag principle” (the set of attitudes that granted blacks with light skin higher status in black communities); to investigate the impact that this “principle” has had on the development of black community consciousness; and to link this material to power that results from proximity to whiteness.”

  38. Kein, Sybil- Creole: The History and Legacy of Louisiana’s Free People of Color, 2000, Non-Fiction

    Creole, a comprehensive, multidisciplinary history of Louisiana’s Creole population. Written by scholars, many of Creole descent, the volume wrangles with the stuff of legend and conjecture while fostering an appreciation for the Creole contribution to the American mosaic. A study that necessarily embraces issues of gender, race and color, class, and nationalism, it speaks to the tensions of an increasingly ethnically mixed mainstream America.

  39. Larson, Nellla- Passing, 1929, Fiction*

    Passing confronts the reality of racial passing. The novel focuses on two childhood friends Clare and Irene, both of whom are light-skinned enough to pass as white, who have reconnected with one another after many years apart. Clare has chosen to pass while Irene has embraced her racial heritage and become an important member of her community. The novel examines how people pass on many different levels and in many different ways. Some forms of passing are perfectly acceptable while others can lead to disaster.”

  40. Machado, Ana Maria- Nina Bonita, 1996, Children’s Book*

    “This beautiful and charming story deals with a sensitive subject in a sensitive way. “Black is beautiful” to a little white rabbit and while trying to discover the secret that will make him black, readers get a funny, yet educational introduction to genetics”

  41. Monroe, Carla- Race and Colorism in Education, 2015, Non-Fiction

    “Although colorism is a well-known concept in the social science community, few scholars have investigated its role and implications in the field of education. This volume presents the connections between race and colorism in P-16 schooling by questioning how variations in skin tone, as well as related features such as hair texture and eye color, complicate the educational experiences of students. It traces the historical foundations of colorism in the United States while outlining its contemporary relevance in U.S. education…. this volume explores colorism from an international standpoint by focusing on immigrants and refugee populations.”

  42. Moore-Chambers, Robin- Dark Skin, Light Skin, Straight or Nappy… It’s All Good, 2011, Children’s Book, Coloring Book

    “Dark Skin, Light Skin, Straight or Nappy is an educational coloring book for all children and the adults in their lives. Although this book is about African-American children, it encourages all children to be confident in who they are and what they look like.”

  43. Morrison, Toni- The Bluest Eye, 1970, Fiction*

    “Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl, prays every day for beauty. Mocked by other children for the dark skin, curly hair, and brown eyes that set her apart, she yearns for normalcy, for the blond hair and blue eyes that she believes will allow her to finally fit in.Yet as her dream grows more fervent, her life slowly starts to disintegrate in the face of adversity and strife. A powerful examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity, Toni Morrison’s virtuosic first novel asks powerful questions about race, class, and gender with the subtlety and grace that have always characterized her writing.”

  44. Morrison, Toni- God Help the Child, 2015, Fiction*

    “God Help the Child—the first novel by Toni Morrison to be set in our current moment—weaves a tale about the way the sufferings of childhood can shape, and misshape, the life of the adult. At the center: a young woman who calls herself Bride, whose stunning blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and confidence, her success in life, but which caused her light-skinned mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love. There is Booker, the man Bride loves, and loses to anger. Rain, the mysterious white child with whom she crosses paths. And finally, Bride’s mother herself, Sweetness, who takes a lifetime to come to understand that ‘what you do to children matters. And they might never forget.’”

  45. Neely, Kirleen- Straight Talk: A Mother-Daughter Conversation about Self-acceptance and Learning to Love your Hair, 2014, Children’s book*

    “Media images and culture play enormous roles in how we see the world and more importantly how we see ourselves. Straight Talk, uses hair as a vehicle to spur conversation about the common cultural experience of hair-shaming that many African American girls experience. The book uniquely uses actual historical facts as a tool to help the child understand the message behind self-love. The tough topic of slavery and it’s impact on African American hair-esteem is discussed in a sensitive child friendly manner. The book is based on Dr. Neely’s clinical research on dominate standards of beauty and hair-esteem for women of color. The message of self-acceptance transcends race and culture, this book can be appreciated by boys and girls of all races.”

  46. Norwood, Kimberly Jade- Color Matters: Skin Tone Bias and the Myth of a Postracial America, 2013, Non-Fiction

    “In the United States, as in many parts of the world, people are discriminated against based on the color of their skin. This type of skin tone bias, or colorism, is both related to and distinct from discrimination on the basis of race, with which it is often conflated. Preferential treatment of lighter skin tones over darker occurs within racial and ethnic groups as well as between them. While America has made progress in issues of race over the past decades, discrimination on the basis of color continues to be a constant and often unremarked part of life. In Color Matters, Kimberly Jade Norwood has collected the most up-to-date research on this insidious form of discrimination, including perspectives from the disciplines of history, law, sociology, and psychology. Anchored with historical chapters that show how the influence and legacy of slavery have shaped the treatment of skin color in American society, the contributors to this volume bring to light the ways in which colorism affects us all–influencing what we wear, who we see on television, and even which child we might pick to adopt. Sure to be an eye-opening collection for anyone curious about how race and color continue to affect society, Color Matters provides students of race in America with a wide-ranging overview of a crucial topic.”

  47. Olson, Maria Leonar- Mommy, Why’s Your Skin so Brown?, 2013, Children’s Book

    “For ages 3-9. Mommy Why’s Your Skin So Brown is a mother’s explanation to her bi-racial children about why her skin color is darker than theirs. It was inspired by frequent questions from strangers who assumed that the author was the nanny to her own lighter-skinned children, causing her children to wonder about the reason for these questions. This book may serve as a consciousness-raising piece for caring communities and to prevent people from letting their curiosity overwhelm their manners.”

  48. Phillips, Delores- The Darkest Child, 2004, YA Fiction

    “Rozelle Quinn is so fair-skinned that she can pass for white. Her ten children are mostly light, too. They constitute the only world she rules and controls. Her power over them is all she has in an otherwise cruel and uncaring universe. Rozelle favors her light-skinned kids, but Tangy Mae, 13, her darkest-complected child, is the brightest. She desperately wants to continue with her education. Her mother, however, has other plans. Rozelle wants her daughter to work cleaning houses for whites, like she does, and accompany her to the ‘Farmhouse,’ where Rozelle earns extra money bedding men. Tangy Mae, she’s decided, is of age. This is the story from an era when life’s possibilities for an African-American were unimaginably different.”

  49. Price-Thompson, Tracy; TaRessa Stovall, Elizabeth Atkins, and Desiree Cooper- Other People’s Skin: Four Novellas, 2008, Fiction

    “In Other People’s Skin, Tracy Price-Thompson and TaRessa Stovall, along with fellow authors Elizabeth Atkins and Desiree Cooper, take on one of the most controversial topics within the African-American community: the self-hatred caused by intra-racial prejudice and the ongoing obsession with skin tone and hair texture. In other words, the skin/hair thang among black women. It begins with TaRessa Stovall’s “My People, My People,” in which a successful advertising executive acquires firsthand knowledge of prejudice when her clients insist on using light- rather than dark-skinned models. Next comes Tracy Price-Thompson’s award-winning story “Other People’s Skin,” a tale set in 1970s Louisiana, where a dark-skinned young woman must come to terms with the bigotry of her light-skinned family. “New Birth,” by Desiree Cooper reveals the intense roles that money, class, and skin color play in the intra-racial relationship between Catherine, a wealthy, light-skinned lawyer, and Lettie, her dark-skinned house cleaner. Finally, Elizabeth Atkin’s “Take It Off” tells the story of a biracial girl who hides her coarse, braided hair from her friends at a mixed-race university in Detroit. Other People’s Skin is the most innovative and varied anthology of sisterhood and unity to date. Each novella entertains, challenges, and, most important, offers healing to the reader — no matter what her race, skin tone, or state of mind.”

  50. Rawles, Calida Garcia- Same Difference, 2010, Children’s Book*

    “Same Difference is a charming book for young readers (4-8 year olds) that addresses the sensitive and sometime divisive issues of beauty and identity. It has a lyrical, upbeat air that begs to be read aloud and offers an engaging rhyme pattern for young children. Vivid illustrations capture the spirit and innocence of Lida and Lisa, two first cousins who find themselves at odds with each other over their physical differences. With the help of their wise grandmother, the girls soon realize that their bond is deeper than what they see and our differences are what make us beautiful.”

  51. Reger, Wibke- The Black Body of Literature: Colorism in American Fiction, 2009, Non-Fiction, German

  52. Rondilla, Joanne and Paul Spickard- Is Lighter Better?: Skin-Tone Discrimination among Asian Americans, 2007, Non-Fiction

    “Colorism is defined as ‘discriminatory treatment of individuals falling within the same ‘racial’ group on the basis of skin color.” In other words, some people, particularly women, are treated better or worse on account of the color of their skin relative to other people who share their same racial category. Colorism affects Asian Americans from many different backgrounds and who live in different parts of the United States. Is Lighter Better? discusses this often-overlooked topic. Joanne L. Rondilla and Paul Spickard ask important questions such as: What are the colorism issues that operate in Asian American communities? Are they the same issues for all Asian Americans—for women and for men, for immigrants and the American born, for Chinese, Filipinos, Koreans, Vietnamese, and other Asian Americans? Do they reflect a desire to look like White people, or is some other motive at work? Including numerous stories about and by people who have faced discrimination in their own lives, this book is an invaluable resource for people interested in colorism among Asian Americans.”

  53. Russell, Kathy; Midge Wilson, Ronald Hall- The Color Complex (Revised): The Politics of Skin Color in a New Millennium, 2013, Non-Fiction*

    “A courageous, humane, and provocative examination of how differences in color and features among African Americans have played and continue to play a role in their professional lives, friendships, romances, and families.”

  54. Scott, Chaundra- Beautiful Shades, Children’s Book

    “Share in this heartwarming story of a mother, teaching her daughter to love her skin tone. Allow your little one to find the beauty in all shades of color.”

  55. Sinclair, April- Coffee Will Make You Black, 1994, Fiction*

    “Jean “Stevie” Stevenson lives in Chicago’s South Side, a neighborhood that acutely feels the social changes of the 1960s. Curious and witty, bold but naïve, Stevie ponders questions such as what makes good hair, and which skin shade is better in light of “Black Is Beautiful.” Amid the War on Poverty, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., race riots, and the Black Power movement, Stevie grows into a socially aware young adult with a burgeoning sexuality and pride in her identity. Learning as much from her mother’s strictness, her father’s steady encouragement, and her grandmother’s strength as she does from her wild friend Carla and her white teacher Nurse Horne, Stevie makes the sometimes harrowing, often hilarious, always enthralling journey into adulthood.”

  56. Sorrell, Deidra- The Germ: Talking to Children About Racism and Diversity, 2015

    “The Germ focuses on a young girl named Ruby after she witnesses a report of local racially based police brutality on the television news. As a result, she feels confusion and anxiety and turns to her family for answers and support. The Germ gently discusses racism, multiculturalism and tolerance without blaming or shaming any race.”

  57. Spellers, Regina and Kimberly Moffitt- Blackberries and Redbones: Critical Articulations of Black Hair/Body Politics in Africana Communities, 2010, Non-Fiction

    “This text features engaging scholarly essays, poems, and creative writings that all examine the meaning of the Black anatomy in our changing global world. The body, including its hair, is said to be read like a text where readers draw certain interpretations based on signs, symbols, and culture. Each chapter in the volume interrogates that notion by addressing the question, as a text how are Black bodies and Black hair read and understood in life, art, popular culture, mass media, or cross-cultural interactions. The aptness of this work lies in its ability to provide a meaningful and creative space to analyze body politics- highlighting the complexities surrounding these issues within, between, and outside Africana communities.”

  58. Swain-Bates, Crystal- Big Hair, Don’t Care, 2013, Children’s book

    “Lola has really really REALLY big hair, much bigger than the other kids at her school, but that doesn’t stop her from telling anyone who will listen just how much she LOVES her hair! It´s not always easy being a kid. Designed to boost self-esteem and build confidence, this beautifully illustrated picture book is aimed at boys and girls who may need a reminder from time to time that it’s okay to look different from the other kids at their school. Big Hair, Don’t Care is available in English, French, and German.”

  59. Tademy, Lalita- Cane River, 2001, Fiction

  60. Tarpley, Natasha Anastasia- I Love My Hair!, 2001, Children’s book

    “This whimsical, evocative story about a girl named Keyana encourages African-American children to feel good about their special hair and be proud of their heritage. A BlackBoard Children’s Book of the Year.”

  61. Taylor, Barbara Nevins; Jeanine Downie and Fran Cook- Bolden– Beautiful Skin of Color: A Comprehensive Guide to Asian, Olive, and Dark Skin, 2005, Non-Fiction

    “It’s a fact of DNA: If you can trace your roots back to Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, India, Latin America, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, the South Pacific, or any group of Native Americans, your genes react similarly to genes in the darkest skin. And chances are, you may have received confusing advice — or no advice at all — about how to care for your skin. Although nearly half the population of the United States shares the hallmarks of skin of color, many dermatologists and beauty consultants routinely prescribe remedies created for Caucasian skin without understanding how sensitive and easily damaged skin of color is. It’s no wonder, then, that many women and men of color continually battle skin problems, and it takes a terrible toll on their self-esteem. Finally, Beautiful Skin of Color unlocks the particular secrets of your skin and provides the answers you’ve been searching for. Dr. Fran Cook-Bolden and Dr. Jeanine Downie, internationally recognized dermatologists and women of color, and Barbara Nevins Taylor, an award-winning reporter on skin and hair issues, offer clear, specific advice to help you achieve and maintain a healthy, gorgeous complexion. In a quick-reference, A-to-Z format, using examples drawn from personal and professional experience, Dr. Cook-Bolden and Dr. Downie explain why problems occur, and then prescribe reliable remedies and groundbreaking new procedures specifically created for skin of color. Throughout this comprehensive guide, the doctors show you how to work with your skin and hair — and your dermatologist — to create your own unique skin-management program. A long-overdue and much-needed resource, Beautiful Skin of Color is certain to help you look and feel your best.”

  62. Tharps, Lori L.- Same Family, Different Colors: Confronting Colorism in America’s Diverse Families, 2016, Non-Fiction

    “In this unprecedented book, Lori L. Tharps explores the issue in African American, Latino, Asian American, and mixed-race families and communities by weaving together personal stories, history, and analysis. The result is a compelling portrait of the myriad ways skin-color politics affect family dynamics in the United States. Tharps, the mother of three mixed-race children with three distinct skin colors, uses her own family as a starting point to investigate how skin-color difference is dealt with.

  63. Thomas, Joyce Carol- The Blacker the Berry, 2008, Children’s Book

    “Black is dazzling and distinctive, like toasted wheat berry bread; snowberries in the fall; rich, red cranberries; and the bronzed last leaves of summer. In this lyrical and luminous collection, Coretta Scott King honorees Joyce Carol Thomas and Floyd Cooper celebrate these many shades of black beautifully.”

  64. Thurman, Wallace- The Blacker the Berry, 1929, Fiction*

    “This novel, associated with the Harlem Renaissance, is considered groundbreaking for its exploration of colorism and racial discrimination within the black community, where lighter skin was often favored, especially for women. The novel tells the story of Emma Lou Morgan, a young black woman with dark skin. It begins in Boise, Idaho and follows Emma Lou in her journey to college at USC and a move to Harlem, New York City for work. Set during the Harlem Renaissance, the novel explores Emma Lou’s experiences with colorism, discrimination by lighter-skinned African Americans due to her dark skin. She learns to come to terms with her skin color in order to find satisfaction in her life.”

  65. Walker, Alice- In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, 1983, Non-Fiction*

    “Alice Walker speaks out as a black woman, writer, mother, and feminist in thirty-six pieces ranging from the personal to the political. Among the contents are essays about other writers, accounts of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the antinuclear movement of the 1980s, and a vivid memoir of a scarring childhood injury and her daughter’s healing words.”

  66. Wilder, JeffriAnne- Color Stories: Black Women and Colorism in the 21st Century (Intersections of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture), 2015, Non-Fiction

    “This book offers an in-depth sociological exploration of present-day colorism in the lives of black women, investigating the lived experiences of a phenomenon that continues to affect women of African descent.”

  67. Weems, Mary E.- Blackeyed: Plays and Monologues, 2014, Drama

    Blackeyed is a collection of plays and monologues. The topics covered in the book include housing and foreclosure, suicide, assault, mental health, the Black male experience, and more. The book intersects with critical race theory because the majority of this work positions race at the center of the experiences of the fictional or fictionalized characters. Embedded in these chapters are the interweaving of personal and ancestral stories, news reports, informal conversations, observations, interviews, and online research expressed in language unapologetically Black, critical, reflexive, and proud. Blackeyed can be used as a class text in theatre, education, creative writing, communication, women’s studies, sociology, and African American studies undergraduate and graduate courses. It can also be used by theatre practitioners, including actors and directors, working in community, regional and national theatre settings. Individuals including qualitative researchers interested in exploring more affective possibilities or arts-based researchers can also read this collection as an example of methodological exemplar. Finally, anyone interested in the Black experience as well as the specific topics covered in this book can read this collection of plays as one might read a collection of short stories.

  68. Willis, Teresa Ann- Like A Tree Without Roots, 2012, YA Fiction*

    “This … debut novel dissects the interior world of Jasmine Simmons, an African American teenager, whose hatred of her dark skin and kinky hair propels her on a journey of self-love and acceptance. It’s the last week of school for Jasmine and her African, Haitian, Puerto Rican, Jamaican and Dominican classmates. While sitting in class, Jasmine tries to will herself invisible as her teacher reads an article about a group of Black girls who, when shown a Black doll, start screaming and scampering…. Throughout the novel, Jasmine is tormented by the evil voice inside that constantly reminds her of her racial inferiority. But after spending time with her grandmother, and after beginning a two-year rite of passage program with other girls who share her pain of being dark-skinned in a world that privileges and prizes light skin, Jasmine begins to see herself through new eyes. At the heart of Like A Tree Without Roots is the story of the untreated trauma of African Descended people. People whose ancestors suffered through slavery. Their rich, improvisational yet often tragic history is woven throughout the narrative, making it an achingly gritty yet brilliantly triumphant story of affirmation and healing.”

  69. Webb, Sarah (editor)- Colorism Poems, 2017, Poetry

Have you read any of the books on this list? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

*Books I’ve read and/or recommend

NOTE: Book descriptions acquired from online libraries and retailers.


  • Sandra D. Garza

    Beautiful! What a wonderful resource! Your blog is a great resource and I thank you for your labor. I always look forward to your posts and appreciate all you do to focus on healing.

    • Thank you, Sandra! That’s very encouraging, and I’m glad the work is reaching the audience it’s meant to reach. Thanks for taking the time to comment, and if there’s anything more you’d like to see from the site, please let me know.

  • This is a great list! Thank you for curating it. I’ve read quite a few books on this list in researching my novel which came out a few weeks ago: A Most Precious Pearl, which is also about colorism in Winslow, Georgia in 1919. I hope you check it out!

    • Hi Piper! Thanks for reaching out and telling us about your book! Congratulations on the new release. I actually just heard about it via Twitter a few days ago, and it’s high on my priority list to read. I will also remember to add it to this list asap.

  • Rhonda

    Hi Sarah! Thank you so much for mentioning my book, “Momma, I Wanna be Light-skinned: My Journey to Acceptance”. I look forward to reading the other books on your list.

  • Hello,

    It is commendable for you to invest the time and care to relate these publication to many of us who might otherwise not come to know about them. Kudos to the authors who taken creative challenge to address the theme of colorism for young people, it is encouraging to them. Little to question readers of variable generations might benefit from savoring the books.
    My book, Waiting for Regina, publishing by Barnes and Noble Nook Press Print, could be adding to your updated list. It obtained favorable reviews on Goodreads. The story draws attention on colorism without saying the word once in a youth drama, fictional memoir set in the latter 1980’s Long Island. I hope you may learn more about this novel, nonethless, thank you for providing this timely article.

    Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/waiting-for-regina-curtis-jackson/1125420442?ean=9781538008201

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