My Heroes: On Travel Memoirs by Black Women Writers

For far too long, travel writing has been dominated by (self-declared) rugged white dudes who leave their domesticity behind and go off in search for … whatever, whatever. I hit peak dude narrative when I waded through a well written but annoying adventure memoir about a guy who went on a epic journey because he couldn’t decide if he should get married or not.

There’s white guy inducted (he thinks) into tribal society, white guy leaves corporate America, white guy ad infinitum. I’m grateful for the addition of badass women over the last 20 years or so to the travel section — finally, in spite of decades of women adventurers.

But the shelf has lacked for color. There are more voices out there. Nneka Okona has compiled a reading list for those looking for new perspectives in travel narrative.

The words of other black women, the traveling, wanderlusting ones who had gone before me, experienced the same things I had or other things I hadn’t, were ministry to my soul. Before travel memoirs became a phenomenon, before the Elizabeth Gilberts and Cheryl Strayeds of bestselling contemporary travel writing, there were Black women writers trailblazing in this ever-shifting genre. — My Heroes: On Travel Memoirs by Black Women Writer

Talk to travelers of color, they’ll tell you their experiences are different. Okono’s list gives readers a place to learn what that experience is for black women travelers — or for black women travelers to see themselves in the genre.