A selected list of novels, short stories, poetry and essays about African American history and the African American experience.
An eleven-year-old runaway slave, a nine-year-old freed by her master, and a seven-year-old son of a plantation owner find themselves alone during the Civil War and must rely on each other to survive.
Jed, middle-class, black and gay in 1980s' Chicago, hopes to find freedom and acceptance in Berlin, as did William Bradshaw in Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories. Darryl Pinckney's writing style and plot structure weave stream of consciousness, reflection and critical commentary, into a uniquely modern story.
The Bluest Eye (1970) is the first novel written by Toni Morrison. It is the story of eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove—a black girl in an America whose love for its blond, blue-eyed children can devastate all others—who prays for her eyes to turn blue: so that she will be beautiful, so that people will look at her, so that her world will be different. This is the story of the nightmare at the heart of her yearning and the tragedy of its fulfillment.
This poetry has the full-hearted voice of rap, beat, hip-hop, and will pull you in, as Goodwin firmly, beautifully shatters everyone's assumptions and preconceptions.
Isabel, a young American Revoluntionary-era slave, wades through the dangerous shoals of staying loyal to her disabled sister, spying for the rebels, and facing her Tory master's cruelty. This book was a National Book Award finalist. Be sure to check out the sequel, Forge, as well.
A compilation of poetry (1974 - 2004) by Rita Dove, who was the first African American United States Poet Laureate, 1993-1995. The subject matter and form of her work are diverse and expansive.
Ten plays by prominent and emerging African American women playwrights. Reflective of modern issues, many of these plays are in formats which are theatre breakouts
This collection of short stories by celebrated fantasy author Nalo Hopkinson is incredibly original and beguiling. The stories throw you straight into new and fantastic worlds that you will wish to stay in longer. Whether it be the quirky and adorable world of “Miss Emily Breakfast,” or the chilling coming of age “The Easthound,” this is a collection you will not be able to put down.
During World War II, 18-year-old Ida Mae Jones passes for white so she can join the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), serve her country, and fulfill her lifelong dream of flying. Smith tells a riveting story about a little-known chapter of World War II history, set against the backdrop of Jim Crow America.
In Tananarive Due’s first short story collection, the reader is presented with a combination of haunting speculative fiction and horror that will astound. Intense and packed with emotion, these tales truly take advantage of the short story format, fitting mystery, despair, death and hope into tightly wound and rich worlds. Whether you find yourself lost in Gracetown, Florida or flung into a sparse apocalyptic future, Due’s stories will transport you far away from the everyday.
Just as his strength is about to give out, Morris, a young U.S. Navy enlistee, is pulled out of the waters of Pearl Harbor by a sailor who later perishes from one of the relentless Japanese Imperial Army torpedo attacks. When Morris returns home to Boston, he calls upon his rescuer's sister, Beatrice, to pay his respects. The comfort they offer each other is a godsend, while the sexual attraction they feel is as compelling as it is forbidden. Beatrice is black and Morris is white, and during the early 1940s Beatrice’s friends and relatives believe that nothing but trouble will come from this liaison. Morris tells no one about Beatrice because he is married and has a young baby that he has yet to get to know.
Poet and writer Nikki Giovanni's insights and words are as sharp and precise as ever. She speaks truth not only to power, but to all of us, and in language that is clear, bold and cannot be misconstrued.
When Raina’s African-American mother and Nancy’s Japanese-American father fall in love and move in together, the grown-ups’ peers object to the relationship. The daughters, on the other hand, are highly competitive basketball players totally immersed in the rivalry between their South Central Los Angeles high schools. And Nancy quietly grapples with her one-sided attraction to Raina.
Whitehead's previous genre explorations are synthesized into a lean and horrifying prison novel ripped from the pages of history. His writing has become so even and cool that you don't feel the shank sliding into your gut as you finish the story.
In a decaying America society, set in the not-too-distant future, 18-year-old empath Lauren Olamina leads a band of refugees from Southern to Northern California, sustained by belief in their new philosophy, Earthseed.
Essays, poetry, memoirs and fiction comprise this collection of writings by African American Women, who lived during the nineteenth-century. There are familiar and well-known women: Sojourner Truth, Harriet Jacobs and Ida B. Wells-Barnett, however there are many more who deserve attention.
Thirteen-year-old Jojo lives in southern Mississippi with his baby sister, their neglectful mother, their grandfather, and their dying grandmother. When their mother Leonie gets a call that their father Michael is being released from prison, they embark on a road trip full of revelations that may harm, as much as heal.
Morrison's book is at once a family saga and a coming of age story about Macon "Milkman" Dead, a child born under auspicious signs. Only one of the Nobel Prize-winning author's outstanding works, readers should also explore classic titles like The Bluest Eye, as well as Morrison's more recent work (Love, A Mercy).
Award-winning poet Natasha Trethewey's collection explores race through the history of the United States. The poems are personal and historical. Natasha Trethewey was United States Poet Laureate, 2012 - 2014.
In 1939 with the reluctant blessing of her Philadelphia Negro family, classical singer Delia Daley marries David Strom, a German Jewish émigré, who teaches physics at Columbia University. Delia masterfully transmits her musical gifts to their three children, but the seething racial hatred of the era constricts and jeopardizes their lives to such a degree that the family’s Jewishness becomes totally eclipsed.
Daniel Cumberland was a free Black man studying law in Massachusetts when he was kidnapped and sold as a slave in the South. Unable to settle into his old life after a friend buys his freedom, he becomes a Loyal League operative, fighting undercover. Janeta Sanchez is a proud Cubana living with her father in Florida until he is arrested, and she believes that she can secure his release by gathering information for the Confederacy from the Loyal League. This unlikely pair is forced to work as a team, and their prickly relationship is complicated by their growing attraction to each other.
A fantasy and historical novel that explores the experience of American slavery through the eyes of Cora, who escapes on a railroad that runs underground in antebellum America. Her experiences as she journeys from Georgia to the north are amazingly portrayed by Whitehead. The book often lurches from the gruesome violence that defined slavery to a world of fantasy, with all of it grounded in the horrific reality of slavery.
Roxane Gay levels a breath-taking punch with the story of Mireille Duval Jameson, who is kidnapped and held for ransom where she is beaten, raped and mentally abused. When released, she is in severe shock and suffering from PTSD, all of which brings up unspoken family issues. Without sensationalism and with great truth, the novel is a response to the notion of closure and complete healing for victims of PTSD, but also about a type of healing that allows a victim to have a life. A therapist tells her that she will get better, but she will never get over what happened.
Robin Coste Lewis, Los Angeles Poet Laureate, uses words, metre, rhyme and format to examine the artistic representation of black female enslavement through the millenniums.
It is not very often that a book merits being called brilliant--this one does. A historical novel about slavery, adventure, dashed dreams, and unexpected possibilites, all portrayed in language that is lush, evocative and revelatory. Edugyan has the ability to meld plot, characterization and language to perfection.
A collection of essays, speeches, numerous types of reviews, which examine and celebrate African American heritage. Her ability to see and express unique perspectives on many subjects will make readers think and see the world around them in a new way.
In a post apocalyptic Africa, Onyesonwu is born as a product of powerful magic and shameful rape. Ostracized by both local tribes, Onye and her mother live a quiet life. But Onye soon comes to realize that the circumstances surrounding her birth have imbued her with unexpected magical power. As she fights to learn to wield her natural gift, she must also break free from the confines of her expected role in life.
In this near future post Zombie apocalypse, civilian troops are sent into Manhattan to flush out the remaining undead after the major firefights decimated their number. Mark Spitz is a member of one such three person squad, scouting out old office buildings and trying to come to terms with the trauma of having survived the worst of it. But reconstruction of everyday life is not going as smoothly as the reports would have the general populace believe and Spitz may soon be in store for something a lot worse than the drudgery of straggler patrol.