Nilah Ate the Blog

Illustration, books, and baking… probably

A Reading List for Magical Negroes + Book Giveaway

Yes. I saw The American Society for Magical Negroes trailer.

I’m not going to talk about the trailer. What I do want to talk about is the very interesting reaction to it.

It seems like there was a lot of hype before the trailer was released based on the title of the movie. In recent years, we’ve seen discussion online about the Magical Negro trope as well as the role of Black characters in speculative fiction.

The Magical Negro is a trope that has long plagued literature as well as cinema, in which a Black side character is introduced to help the white protagonist along their journey. This character often possesses some special trait or mystical power, but ultimately their role is to give the white protagonist purpose or help them with their problems, and then they die, or disappear as mysteriously as they appeared, or what have you.

These days, as tales of wizards and superheroes capture the imagination, there is a hunger for narratives that flip the Magical Negro trope on its head, so that the term signifies not subservience, but power. Less Magical Negro, more Black Magic.

One of the more interesting things to come out of such discussions was a meme on Twitter imagining what the Harry Potter series would look like if it took place at an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities).

The meme lives on on Tiktok.

Mainstream media and big commercial successes in the Western world often falter when it comes to including marginalized communities. There is a noticeable hierarchy to who gets to play the role of Main Character. Cis, straight, able-bodied white men come first, then cis, straight, able-bodied white women, and then everyone else must jockey for position. It’s why reimaginings like Harry Potter HBCU take on a life of their own on the Internet. Stories tell us about ourselves and the world around us, so of course we all crave to imagine ourselves as the Main Character.

Luckily, there are plenty of writers and artists putting in the work.

The cover of Blood at the Root, illustrated by Hillary D Wilson. A young Black man in a black hoodie stands in front of a large tree in a foggy, nighttime landscape. He holds his palms poised over an open book and candles emitting eerie blue flames.
Cover illustrated by Hillary D Wilson

I got the idea for this list because I was reading reactions to The American Society for Magical Negroes trailer and someone dropped the beautiful cover of Blood at the Root. You want Harry Potter HBCU? This is the book, written by LaDarrion Williams, and it hits stores May 7, 2024.

But let’s not stop there. Read on, and I’ll share a few other titles for the reader hungry for spectacular, unapologetic Black magic.

And when you’re done with the list, keep reading to win a free book.

I don’t publish reading lists much, because inevitably I will leave off some perfectly wonderful book that deserved to be included. Up front, I’m an author, not a book blogger. That means I spend a greater amount of time writing than reading. This list features books I have read. If you’ve read an excellent book that you want people to know about, please drop it in the comments! I love a good book rec.

Artie and the Wolf Moon

The Cover of Artie and the Wolf Moon, illustrated by Olivia Stephens. A young Black girl runs through a moonlit field flanked by two black wolves.
Cover illustrated by Olivia Stephens

Author: Olivia Stephens
Growing Up: ★★★
Transformations: ★★★★
Family Ties: ★★★★★

Grief, community, photography, and werewolves. Artie and the Wolf Moon tells the story of a girl named Artie who stumbles upon her mother turning from a wolf into a human! Artie has questions of course, and her mother introduces her to a past and a legacy she never knew. Artie and the Wolf Moon is a story of self-discovery and the power of family buoyed by Stephens’s moody art. When you’re done gushing over Artie, move on to Stephens’s current project, Darlin’ and Her Other Names, and the graphic novel adaptation of Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, written by Kwame Mbalia and illustrated by Stephens.

The Black Mage

The cover of The Black Mage, illustrated by DJ Kirkland. A Black teenage boy, a grinning crow perched on his shoulder, and a white teenage girl with blonde hair and glasses sit on a stack of books. The girl holds a wand in one hand, the tip glowing. The boy holds a book in one hand and a glowing orb in the other.
Cover illustrated by DJ Kirkland

Authors: Daniel Barnes, DJ Kirkland
Wizarding School: ★★
Funny: ★★★
Stylish Fight Scenes: ★★★★

I imagine The Black Mage is close to what many people were expecting when they heard the title The American Society for Magical Negroes. It’s clear satire of American race dynamics and the magic school subgenre, down to the punny title. In The Black Mage, you will not be surprised what the Klan has been up to. When St. Ivory Academy admits its very first Black student, it sets off a chain of events that puts two students on the path to discovering the academy’s secrets and righting past wrongs. Barnes writes a witty, fast-paced story, paired with Kirkland’s beautifully illustrated fight scenes and hero poses. Enjoy this story of magic students taking on the institution of racism. 

Blood Debts

The cover of Blood Debts, illustrated by Khadijah Khatib. A Black teenage boy and a Black teenage girl stand back to back, looking at the viewer, a large moon behind them. The boy holds a skull in one hand. The girl holds a candle.
Cover illustrated by Khadijah Khatib

Author: Terry J. Benton-Walker
Contemporary Fantasy: ★★★
Generational Magic: ★★★★
ALL the Drama: ★★★★★★★★★★★

Set in modern day New Orleans, Blood Debts is about magical families at war. Sixteen-year-old twins Clement and Cristina Trudeau are the heirs to a magical dynasty, in conflict with white and black magical families in their community. Years ago a white heiress was murdered, their grandmother was lynched, and feuds and secrets continue to disrupt their lives. Now they’re out to discover the truth, but they’ve got to unite their family to the cause, first. Blood Debts has a huge cast and takes a lot of twists and turns, but Benton-Walker does some fascinating things with world-building. There’s curses, gods, zombies, and a whole lot of intrigue. The sequel, Blood Justice, is on its way April 23, 2024.


The cover of the graphic novel Brooms, illustrated by TeoDuVall. A collage of various characters float on a blue background. Clockwise, from top left: an Indigenous woman, a Black woman wearing a cap, a Black man, two Black and Indigenous girls, a young Black woman riding a broom, and an East Asian woman riding a broom. Above the title are small figures riding brooms and racing through the air, casting spells at each other.
Cover illustrated by Teo DuVall

Authors: Jasmine Walls, Teo DuVall
Witches: ★★★
Alternate History: ★★★
Illegal Broom Races: ★★★★★

It’s the 1930s, US witch populations are monitored closely by the government, and broom racing has emerged as an exciting sport that has the power to change a witch’s fortunes. Mattie and Emma are Choctaw and Black and need to raise money to avoid being sent to residential school. Their cousin Luella, whose powers were sealed away long ago, is a living testament to what they have to lose. Luella introduces them to Loretta and Billie Mae, who together hope to raise enough money to move out west where Black witches can race legally, and Cheng-Kwan, who leads a double life: a dutiful son to her parents by day, and a carefree racer by night. Brooms gives focus to marginalized characters whose stories are often lost in both the fantasy and historical fiction genre, and it’s also a delightful excuse to pore over DuVall’s fine line work.

Fate of Flames

The cover of Fate of Flames shows a city scape under a gathering storm.

Author: Sarah Raughley
Magical Girls: ★★★★
Elemental Magic: ★★
Monster Battles: ★★★

This book feeds my inner magical girl who grew up on Sailormoon and Shoujo Kakumei Utena. In the world of Fate of Flames, super-powered women known as Effigies that wield elemental magic and protect the world from monster invasions are international celebrities. Maia Finley is one of the Effigies’ many fans, whose world is turned upside down when she inherits the fire Effigy’s power. Now she must get up to speed on using her new abilities while also bringing her team of quirky personalities together. If you vibe with magical girl stories and ensemble casts, the Effigies trilogy is for you.

The Jumbies

The cover of The Jumbies, illustrated by Vivienne To. A Black girl creeps cautiously through a dark forest, glowing yellow eyes peering down at her. Two Black boys peek out from behind a tree nearby.
Cover illustrated by Vivienne To

Author: Tracey Baptiste
Folk Magic: ★★★
Monstrous Foes: ★★
Friendship: ★★★

Now it’s time to dive into Caribbean folklore. The Jumbies is a retelling of the Haitian tale The Magic Orange Tree. Young Corinne La Mer is a brave, strong girl missing her deceased mother. She isn’t afraid of anything, not scary stories, not the dark forest she wanders into on her island home. But something follows her out of the forest, and it’s not a simple woodland creature. Corinne comes face-to-face with a monstrous force that threatens to take away everything she loves. The Jumbies is a spooky tale, perfect for middle-grade readers, and make sure you continue the adventure with Rise of the Jumbies.


The cover of Legendborn, illustrated by Hillary D Wilson. A teenage Black girl with thick, curly hair summons magic, which materializes as red and blue flames along her arms.
Cover illustrated by Hillary D Wilson

Author: Tracy Deonn
Arthurian Legend: ★★★★
Generational Magic: ★★★
Ghostly Possession: ★★

I love Arthurian legend, so Legendborn was an insta-buy for me. Sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews attends University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill following the sudden death of her mother, and soon stumbles upon a secret magical society. Long ago, King Arthur and his Knights of the Roundtable possessed magic and have passed their powers to their descendents through the centuries. These modern-day knights, called Scions, protect the world from magical threats and may also have something to do with the death of Bree’s mother. Legendborn pits Southern Black magic against the institutional magic represented by the Scions, with Bree caught in the middle. There’s monsters, romance, and twists to keep you turning the page. The next book, Bloodmarked, is out now, with Oathbound projected to hit stores in 2025.

The Marvellers

The cover of The Marvellers, illustrated by Khadijah Khatib. A Black girl with her hair in box braids wearing a white cloak stands confidently in the middle of the cover, shadowy magic hovering over her upheld hand. A blonde white girl and a Black boy with dreadlocks holding a small furry animal in his arms, both in white cloaks, stand behind the Black girl. The trio form a triangle in front of a large building with tram cars traveling on cords overhead.
Cover illustrated by Khadijah Khatib

Author: Dhonielle Clayton
Magic School: ★★★
International Magic: ★★★
Kids Solving Mysteries: ★★★

The Marvellers is a lush magic school tale that brings together characters from a wide array of cultures and backgrounds. Ella Durand is a new enrollee at Arcanum Training Institute and the school’s very first Conjuror. Conjurors have a bad rep in the international magic community, however, and Ella is virtually alone in the face of suspicion and bullying from students and faculty alike. She finds friendship in unexpected places and when her favorite teacher goes missing, it’s Ella and her friends to the rescue. The Marvellers takes a look at how prejudice and injustices can go unchecked even in environments that pride themselves on open-mindedness. It is in equal parts whimsical, heart-warming, funny, and riveting, and you’re in luck, the sequel, The Memory Thieves, is out.


A teenage Black girl, her curly black hair gathered in a high ponytail on the top of her head, stands in pajamas and fuzzy slippers holding a white feather in one hand. A semi-flat cityscape is painted behind her with streets arranged in a grid format, buildings and trees dotting each block.
Cover illustrated by Shyama Golden

Author: Akwaeke Emezi
Low Fantasy: ★★
Monsters: ★★★
The Quest for Truth: ★★★★

Pet is an unusual story. The magic is so understated that you’d almost believe you’re reading a contemporary story except for the talk of monsters and an underlying uneasy feeling from the prose. Then fifteen-year-old Jam knocks over a painting in her mother’s studio and a monster steps out. The creature, which calls itself Pet, informs Jam that it’s come to hunt a monster. Jam joins the hunt to protect her community and starts on a dark path to uncover terrible truths. This is a quick read and a quiet, thoughtful story about monsters hiding in plain sight. If you enjoy Pet, you can revisit the world with Emezi’s follow-up novel, Bitter.

That Self-Same Metal

The cover of That Self-Same Metal, illustrated by Fernanda Suarez. A teenage Black girl, her curly black hair arranged high on her head, wears an Elizabethan dress. She holds a sword in one hand, the other hand is raised, and the sword's blade is in the process of melting and forming a half-circle that frames the girl's head.
Cover illustrated by Fernanda Suarez

Author: Brittany N. Williams
African Gods: ★★★
William Shakespeare and Friends: ★★★★
Girls with Swords: ★★★★★

I love all my children equally, but I must say, this is one of my faves on the list. Taking place in ye olden times, we are introduced to sixteen-year-old Joan Sands and her twin brother, James, whose family possess magic abilities bestowed upon them by the Orishas. Joan and James are also members of William Shakespeare’s theater troupe. The Fae walk among humans in London and have inspired a Shakespeare play or two, but lately they’ve become a bit bloodthirsty, and that spells trouble for Joan’s family and friends. Luckily she has potent magic of her own. Full of actors, artists, and mischievous Fae, this book is rowdy and hysterical at moments, and bone-chilling in others. Look for the sequel, Saint-Seducing Gold, arriving Spring 2024.

A Wish After Midnight

The cover for A Wish After Midnight. On the top of half stands a fountain in moonlight. On the bottom, a city alleyway, the walls covered in graffiti. Two headshots sit at either sides of the author line: one of a young Black woman in color, the other of a young Black woman in sepia.

Author: Zetta Elliott
Wish Upon a Star: ★★★
Time Travel: ★★★★
Fish Out of Water: ★★

Fifteen-year-old Genna wishes for a different reality, and gets more than she bargained for when she’s transported back to Civil War-era Brooklyn. With no way to get back to her own time, Genna focuses on survival. She finds herself on the eve of the 1863 draft riots, and if that wasn’t bad enough, Genna’s crush is also transported to the same time. This is a low-fantasy story that focuses on the characters, bringing the reader into their struggles. Fans of Octavia Butler’s Kindred will enjoy this young adult time travel tale and its sequel, The Door at the Crossroads.

And if this is still not enough for you, check out this reading list at The Reclaimed Bookshop. Look for “Magical Books by Black Authors.”

A Very Magical Negro Book Giveaway

Y’all, I buy way too many books.

I buy so many books that I was having trouble finding some of the books I wanted to include on this list, and as I was looking for them, I discovered I bought The Memory Thieves twice.

Sure, I could just keep both copies, but as you can imagine from the fact that I buy way too many books, I’m low on shelf space. So alas, The Memory Thieves part deux must go.

That’s where you come in. Please take this book.

No purchase necessary. Keep scrolling for details on how to enter!

The cover of The Memory Thieves, illustrated by Khadijah Khatib. A Black girl with her hair in box braids wearing a green cloak holds a box. Magical yellow light pours from the open box as curling dark tendrils creep toward it. Behind the girl, a Black boy with dreads and a blonde white girl hold swords at the ready.
Cover illustrated by Khadijah Khatib

The fantasy adventure sequel to the instant New York Times and #1 Indie Bestseller, The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton! Return for Year Two at the global magic school in the sky in The Memory Thieves.

“The Marvellers deserves the highest compliment I can give a book: I want to live in this world.” —Rick Riordan, #1 New York Times bestselling–author

Eager to wield their stapiers for Marvel Combat, Ella, Brigit, and Jason are back for their second year at the Arcanum Training Institute. With Ella’s celebrity growing throughout the Marvellian world after thwarting the Ace of Anarchy’s diabolical plans, it’s proving hard for her to focus on her coursework. But back home in New Orleans the Conjure community isn’t too happy about her return to the skies for another year learning to become a Marveller. As if life wasn’t complicated enough, Ella soon discovers more dangerous secrets about the Conjure architect who built the school.

Before she can dig deeper, a mysterious magical illness sweeps through the Institute, and Ella lands at the top of the suspect list. Can Ella and her friends save themselves and the Marvellian world before chaos breaks loose?

No purchase necessary. In accordance with international sweepstakes laws, this giveaway is available to United States residents only. The sender—that’s me—pays postage. Participating in this giveaway will not register you for a mailing list, newsletter, or any such regular correspondence. A working e-mail address is required to win. Your contact information will be saved until a winner is selected and then will be deleted. Only one prize is available and one winner will be selected. 

The winner will be selected at random. Once contacted, the winner will have 72 hours to reply. If the winner fails to reply, they forfeit the prize and a new winner will be selected.

The giveaway closes on Thursday, March 7 2024 at 11:59 pm EST.

To enter the giveaway: fill out the short form below.
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Nilah is an author and illustrator from the United States.


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