Good Minds Suggest: Maria Tatar's Recommended African American Folklore

Posted by Goodreads on October 30, 2017
Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Rate this book
Clear rating
"I love to sail forbidden seas," Ishmael proclaims in Moby-Dick, and with those words he captured the driving desires of American literature's heroes.

That longing was nowhere more powerfully alive than in slave cabins, with songs and stories about breaking loose to freedom. Right alongside a robust oral storytelling tradition—all those frontier narratives that served as forerunners to the "classics"—was another storytelling culture, one rarely written down. Subversive rather than celebrated, these were the stories invented by African Americans.

But that's changing now. With The Annotated African American Folktales, professors Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Maria Tatar are bringing these tales to readers everywhere.

Gates is the author of numerous African American history volumes as well as the writer, producer, and narrator of many PBS documentaries, from Finding Your Roots to Africa's Great Civilizations. Tatar teaches folklore and mythology at Harvard University. Her books include The Classic Fairy Tales and Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood. Here Tatar recommends some notable African American folklore.



The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales by Virginia Hamilton
Rate this book
Clear rating
"Virginia Hamilton uses her own narrative powers to capture voices from the past in 24 folktales that include animal fables, fairy tales, John and Old Master stories, along with slave tales about freedom."


Mules and Men by Zora Neale Hurston
Rate this book
Clear rating
"In an ethnographic and anthropological feat, Zora Neale Hurston reclaims African American folklore and not only anthologizes tales, but also shows the collective in the heat of folkloric give-and-take in different social settings."


Tar Baby by Toni Morrison
Rate this book
Clear rating
"The trope of the black, sticky figure that traps through its muteness can be found in cultures the world over, but it also stands as a symbol of passive resistance and is animated by Toni Morrison to reimagine ancestral lore in powerful ways."


Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale by John Steptoe
Rate this book
Clear rating
"John Steptoe creatively rewrites an African folktale collected in the 19th century in this picture book dedicated to the children of South Africa and works his magic to preserve a story from the past while also making it relevant to readers today."


Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Rate this book
Clear rating
"In this addictive read by a master storyteller, the West African trickster god, Anansi, makes trouble in the lives of his two sons all the while reviving stories from the past and providing new opportunities for spinning tales and weaving plots."



Want more book recommendations from authors? Check out our Good Minds Suggest series.



Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Karin (new)

Karin "Black Folktales" by Julius Lester belongs on this list.


message 2: by Aissatou (new)

Aissatou All of these are among my favorites.


back to top