Navigating grief and loss is a universal human experience that often leaves us seeking solace, understanding, and a sense of connection. In times of sorrow, literature has the power to offer companionship, empathy, and valuable insights. This curated list serves as a compassionate guide through emotions that accompany such challenging moments.
From poignant stories to insightful reflections, these books have the potential to provide comfort, encouragement, and a profound understanding of the complexities of grief and loss. Whether you are personally grappling with loss or seeking to support someone dear to you, our book recommendations offer perspectives that may guide you through healing and resilience.
For our recommendations, read on.
NOTES ON GRIEF
Author: CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE
Notes on Grief, born from the aftermath of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s father’s death in 2020 amid the global pandemic, is a poignant meditation on loss, memory, and resilience. Amid the separation enforced by COVID-19, Adichie reflects on her personal grief experience, touching on familial and cultural aspects, as well as the inevitable feelings of loneliness and anger. With her trademark precision of language and a blend of devastating detail and honest humor, Adichie intertwines her father’s life story, from surviving the Biafran war to his role as a statistics professor, to the pandemic days connecting with family over video chat in Abba, Nigeria. Notes on Grief is not only a timely masterpiece but a timeless addition to Adichie’s literary legacy—a treasure to be cherished and shared.
BUTTER HONEY PIG BREAD
AUTHOR: FRANCESCA EKWUYASIA
Butter Honey Pig Bread spans three continents, weaving together the lives of three Nigerian women—Kambirinachi and her twin daughters, Kehinde and Taiye. Kambirinachi, believing herself to be an Ogbanje or Abiku, struggles with the choice to defy her non-human nature and stay alive, fearing the consequences. Trauma drives a wedge between the family, causing Kehinde to distance herself, as she finds her path as an artist seeking to raise a family of her own, despite her fear that she won’t be a good mother. Taiye, burdened by guilt, seeks solace in casual relationships but discovers fulfillment through a love for food.
After over a decade apart, Taiye and Kehinde return to Lagos, confronting their shared past and striving for reconciliation. Butter Honey Pig Bread explores the consequences of choices, the complex dynamics of motherhood, the blurred boundary between spirit and mind, and the journey of healing and rediscovering home. Themes of queer love, loss, friendship, faith, and family intertwine in this compelling narrative.
AUTHOR: YAA GYASI
Yaa Gyasi’s follow-up to her acclaimed national best seller, Homegoing, is a powerful, raw, intimate, deeply layered novel about a Ghanaian family in Alabama.
Gifty is a fifth-year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford School of Medicine studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after a knee injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her. But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family’s loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised, whose promise of salvation remains as tantalizing as it is elusive. Transcendent Kingdom is a deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief—a novel about faith, science, religion, love.
IN SEARCH OF EQUILIBRIUM
AUTHOR: THERESA LOLA
Theresa Lola’s debut poetry collection, In Search of Equilibrium, is an extraordinary study of death and grieving. Where the algorithms of the body and the memory fail, Lola finds the words that will piece together the binary code of family and restart the recovery program. In doing so, these unflinching poems work towards the hard-wired truths of life itself—finding hope in survival, lines of rescue in faith, a stubborn equilibrium in the equations of loss and renewal.
An Unusual Grief
AUTHOR: Yewande Omotoso
How do you get to know your daughter when she is dead? This is the question that haunts Mojisola as she grapples with the sudden loss of her daughter, Yinka and the unresolved fractures in their relationship. Mojisola is forced to confront the dysfunctions of her life that have led her to this point, evading her errant husband and mourning their estranged daughter alone.
Mojisola’s grief takes her from Cape Town to Johannesburg where she holes up in Yinka’s apartment, unearthing the life that she had built for herself there. Walking a mile in Yinka’s red high-heeled shoes, Mojisola slips into a clandestine underworld, where she learns to break free from the bondage of the labels, wife and mother.
In this new world of feline companions, reignited talents and hazy weed-filled afternoon teas with Yinka’s landlady Zelda, Mojisola’s understanding of life and her place within it, is built anew. An Unusual Grief is a bold and unflinching tale of one women’s unconventional approach to life and loss.
AUTHOR: Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor
When a young man is gunned down in the streets of Nairobi, his grief-stricken father and sister bring his body back to their crumbling home in the Kenyan drylands. But the murder has stirred up memories long since buried, precipitating a series of events no one could have foreseen. As the truth unfolds, we come to learn the secrets held by this parched landscape, hidden deep within the shared past of a family and their conflicted nation. Spanning Kenya’s turbulent 1950s and 1960s, Dust is spellbinding debut from a breathtaking new voice in literature.
GRIEVING WHILE BLACK
AUTHOR: BREESHIA WADE
When discussing grief work in the context of anti-Blackness, the focus is often on the sorrow experienced by those oppressed by white supremacy. Breeshia Wade urges non-Black individuals to recognize how their unexplored grief contributes to the suffering of Black people.
Grief, typically understood as sorrow following a loss, is redefined by Wade as something broader—connected to our fears, loves, and aspirations. Drawing on her experiences as a Black woman and her work with individuals at the end of life, she ties sorrow not only to specific incidents but also to the ongoing trauma inherent in systemic oppression.
Wade challenges us to rethink power dynamics, accountability, and boundaries, emphasizing the sustained effort required to address systemic trauma in our personal connections. Recognizing our moral duty to confront our own grief, she provides a roadmap for self-discovery and healing, inviting readers to reconnect with their innate wholeness.