Reading Recommendations · African American Fiction
A selection of notable recent additions to our collection.
T. L. Tyson left the go-nowhere town of Swamp Creek, Arkansas to earn a Ph.D.in Black Studies. He returns home to make peace with the hard life he remembers only to find that his beloved sister has died. The bizarre circumstances of her death and the revelation of secrets held by a former teacher make for a suspenseful yet disturbing story of rural family poverty and survival.
Antonio and Natasha are two teenagers in love in 1990s Harlem. When Antonio is jailed for the murder of his father, the two start writing letters to each other and continue corresponding for ten years. Their lives take very different paths, but their words are intimate and real in what E. Lynn Harris calls “a literary gem.”
The passing of African-American author Octavia Butler will be felt keenly among readers of her deeply moral works of fantasy and science fiction. In the final book published before her death, Butler provides a subtle examination of racism and species interdependence as backdrop to the tale of a young vampire seeking her true past and identity.
A successful L.A. businesswoman tries to save her 18 year-old daughter who battles bipolar disorder. Trina’s illness lands her in the hospital on mandatory “72 hour holds” forcing her mother Keri to confront both the health insurance industry and Trina’s father, who denies her illness. A complex family drama that addresses the stigma of mental illness in the black community.
One of the first African-American authors to gain national attention, Charles Chestnutt hailed from Ohio. This is the first time his short stories about the North are collected in one volume. Chestnutt captured the changing landscape of America for both blacks and whites between the Civil War and World War I.
Cat Anderson is living the good life in Atlanta with a satisfying job and great friends when her teenage daughter shakes things up. Phoebe demands more information about her absent father, compelling Cat to face the biggest lie she’s ever told. And when a business deal turns shady, she must protect the integrity of the company she’s worked so hard to build.
In her seventh collection, novelist, playwright, and short story writer Cooper intimately explores the lives of young black women seeking, for better or for worse, love, material wealth, fulfillment, and redemption.
Rising R&B singer Phoenix sat at a piano that once belonged to Scott Joplin and apparently channeled the great composer’s music. Twenty years have passed and Phoenix is on the verge of stardom, when the ragtime musician comes back to torment her busy days and sleepless nights. A haunting novel of music, memory, and love that lasts beyond life.
Armentia is a half-black/half Cherokee slave girl who marches on the “Trail of Tears,” the forced relocation of Indian tribes to reservations in Oklahoma in 1838. In the course of great suffering, Armentia finds comfort in her faith in Jesus and in the scriptural stories of exodus. The author based the heroine of this powerful historical novel on the life of her ancestor.
This collection of fourteen moving and well-crafted stories depicts the varied experiences of African Americans in and around Washington, D.C., in the last century. Jones was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for his novel, The Known World.
A deadly automobile accident a decade ago still haunts the women of the Jackson family. Now 25, Aria Jackson wants to marry and begin a family. But when a medical crisis arises, Aria conceals the truth for fear of jeopardizing her happiness. Here is a moving story of African-American women and the secrets and lies that torment a family.
A Jamaican couple relocates to London following World War II, amid the simmering racial tensions that beset a crumbling British Empire. Hortense and Gilbert take a room in the home of Queenie, whose husband has not returned from service in India, initiating conflicts of race and class that ultimately bring the two families closer together.
Rootless and pregnant, 38-year-old Sherry embarks on a trip with her mother from a small town in Nevada to a family reunion in Birmingham, Alabama. The cross-country drive becomes a journey of self-discovery for Sherry, as family stories are shared and a long-buried secret is revealed.
With three kids in college, a husband in mid-life crisis, and two mothers depending on her, Marilyn has lost touch with her own dreams. Just when she’s ready to pursue a new career, life surprises her and changes her plans. With a bold sense of humor and the help of her devoted girlfriends, Marilyn gains insight into what she needs to be happy.
Easy Rawlins is desperate for money to treat his daughter’s rare blood disease. Tempted to hook up with an old friend and hold up an armored car, he takes instead a case that relocates him to San Francisco. It’s the late 1960's, and from Watts to Haight-Ashbury, Easy meets some wild characters in this new addition to Mosley’s popular detective series.
In the third installment of the series, the suave duo of Paris Minton and Fearless Jones contend with a blackmail scheme, a dead body, and the arrival of Minton’s unwelcome cousin, Ulysses “Useless” S. Grant. The evocative atmosphere of 1950s Los Angeles and Mosley’s talent for lively storytelling contribute to this sleek period crime story.
In the volatile summer of 1969, Chicago private investigator Smokey Dalton travels to New Haven with his young son and a friend, to track down Daniel Kirkland, a missing Yale student. Connecticut offers Smokey its own brand of racism and Daniel’s history of radical politics ignites his emotions about Vietnam, race, and violence.
A native of the Bahamas, Bert Williams achieved celebrity as a performer in vaudeville and Broadway musical theater at the turn of the last century. In becoming the highest paid black performer of his day, however, Williams paid a heavy price psychologically. Phillips fictional treatment of Williams’ life is literary, impressionistic, and absorbing.
An interracial family in Princeton begins to unravel when the charming but rebellious teen son is gravely injured. Painful flashbacks shed light on his father’s struggle from poverty to the upper echelon of academia, while his sister’s present-day narration exposes the conflicted lives that have resulted. A layered drama that raises hard social questions.
From the small hints Mark Twain gave about the history of Jim, the runaway slave in Huckleberry Finn, Rawles crafts in dialect this fine story of love, slavery, and freedom. Sadie and Jim grew up on a plantation, fell in love, and married, only to be separated after the death of their master. In the story of the hard life that follows, Sadie never forgets her true love.
Three friends in Chicago struggle with issues of self-esteem and interpersonal relationships in Roby’s convincing and heartfelt portrayal of friendship and support among African American women.
In a contemporary retelling of Howard’s End, a British professor and his African-American wife raise three children in a Massachusetts college town. Following the husband’s affair, the son departs for England where he studies under the tuition of his father’s academic rival. A wise satire of culture, race, and politics from the author of White Teeth.
In 1970, Angela Edwards leaves sleepy Tulsa for the bright lights of Los Angeles, where Blaxploitation is the hot trend and breaking into the business demands compromises. Years later, it is Angela’s passion for film that provides a connection to the women of her family in this stylish, multigenerational story of black women revealing secret pasts.
In her fourth intense outing, LAPD homicide detective Charlotte Justice reopens a cold case, the Smiley Face Shooting, that heats up explosively following the drive-by shooting of a toy company CEO, his young wife, and two Muslim businessmen.
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