4 Controversial Black Authored Texts That Have Resonated With Me as an Emergent Asian American Writer

By Kathy L. Nguyen | Published 2.23.23
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Each of these books has been considered, and some are still considered, highly controversial texts. These books have been banned from libraries and heavily criticized by those challenged by that individual author's powerfully transgressive worldview. 

Each text reveals a strikingly different perspective yet each highlights the condition of what it is to be a person of color existing in a post-colonial, eurocentric western world. I do not agree with the viewpoints of some of these authors and neither will you: that isn't the point. 

As an undergrad, this is the first book I had been introduced to that expressed the cruel realities of being a person of color granted the opportunity to be educated in the West, in this case in France. Fanon postulates that the result of this education is isolation and alienation from that person's ethnic community or country of origin.

This is definitely not a beach read, the language is dense and sophisticated. The ideas expressed are compliquée. However, it's an important text written with sharp wit, expressing raw truth and vulnerability.

2. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

I hadn't read this book in many years but when I was revisiting it for the preparation of this article I found myself getting sucked in and reading through 4 chapters in a sitting. 

Ellison is a master storyteller and this nonlinear internal narrative and stream-of-conscious style which delineates into madness is just my cup of tea! I've always been an edgelord at heart so this text speaks to my soul. His prose is effortless and this is a book that can be enjoyed by those reading with a critical lens as well as in leisure. 

3. By Any Means Necessary by Malcolm X

X describes a worldview and critiques white America in a way that might be hard for many to hear. A legendary, powerful orator, X articulates his controversial viewpoints concisely and articulately. His boldness is striking and his strength of even stating many of his transgressive ideas is awe-inspiring.

His rage and frustration are palpable and his interpretations of Islam are insightful. This is a text that'll challenge many.

4. Trick Baby by Iceberg Slim

I wasn't sure if I should have even included this book on my list due to the fear of being misunderstood. No, of course I believe pimping is wrong and of course I believe that all physical, emotional, and sexual violence against women is wrong as well. Folks, this is popular literature and it was written with the intention to scandalize.

What makes this book special is that it's able to transport the reader, whatever his or her background, to the underground world of illegal sex work. He introduces us to the language, the slang, the values, and the motivations of those involved in the trade and humanizes it in an entertaining and engaging way.

I wish that I had more exposure to more texts written by people of color. I wish that there had been a woman author that I could have included in this list, however, I wanted to be authentic and only include books that I've actually read. 

Although I am a working writer, I have never studied English, rhetoric, nor journalism beyond what was required to earn my degree in fine art. Thus, I do not even know if I have the authority or criterion to speak about literature. What I do know is that each of these texts has had a powerful effect on me. 

Each of these texts pushes the envelope and if you are ready to expand your perspective, I suggest you give them a try. Who knows what'll happen?