Literary Fiction by People of Color discussion

recent, delightful books by african american authors

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message 1: by jo (new)

jo | 1031 comments today wilhelmina wrote a post at Constant Reader (message 7 here) about a topic that has been widely discussed here, i.e. the fact that the general american readership is unexposed to books by african american authors because they get shelved in the "african american" section of the bookstore and, as it goes, unless you are african american you're not going to look into that section. which sucks so much, it makes me want to weep in my hands (and yes, mina, i have observed too that "african american" shelves contain all possible genres, from cookbooks to travel books to nonfiction to theory to classics to fiction to poetry).

so i thought that maybe people might like to mention some recent african american books that are not by walter mosley, toni morrison, edward p. jones, colson whitehead, percival everett, john edgar wiseman, chris abani, and the other african american writers who are either very popular (morrison) or so exemplary that they constitute the new "canon" of african american literature (abani), or both. you know, the little nuggets of pleasure that escape both book clubs that don't have african american members and the classrooms of our diversity-oriented (says i without sarcasm) universities.

i wish i could start, but i am much more likely to benefit from such listmaking than to contribute to it!

message 2: by Wilhelmina (new)

Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments I'll probably add more later, but for now I want to mention two authors that I think are wonderful: Anthony Grooms and Bridgett M. Davis. Davis' book, Shifting Through Neutral, was an incredibly beautiful coming-of-age story focusing on a girl's relationship with her father. Grooms has an excellent book of short stories, Trouble No More, and a wonderful novel, Bombingham: A Novel, which briefly starts in the Vietnam War, but quickly moves into the soldier's memories of growing up in Birmingham during the Civil Rights era. Oh, and so I don't forget, if Denise Nicholas had not been a well known actress, her book Freshwater Road would have been taken MUCH more seriously. All of these are books that I would place solidly in the category of literary fiction, and I recommend them highly.

message 3: by Wilhelmina (new)

Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments Another author who is truly wonderful is Tayari Jones. I think that everyone should read her exquisite novel, Leaving Atlanta: A Novel. It is written from the viewpoint of children growing up in Atlanta at the time of the Atlanta Child Murders, as Tayari herself did. She skillfully shows the way that children hold on to the concerns of childhood while living through a nightmare. I love Tayari's second book, The Untelling, as well. I think that her skill as a writer is even more developed in this novel, and I am very eager to see what she will have for us next!

message 4: by Wilhelmina (new)

Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments Someone else had better post soon - I can keep this up for quite a while!

Two books set in interesting historical periods that I just love are This Side Of The Sky by Elyse Singleton and October Suite: A Novel by Maxine Clair. Singleton's book follows the lives of two lifelong friends, from the pre-WWII days when opportunities for Black women in the South were severely limited through the changes that came from moving north in the WWII period. Clair's novel is set in the midwest in the 1950's, with a protagonist who is a young African American teacher, living in a very restrictive but changing society. Both books are beautifully writen, the characters are well developed and interesting, and both authors clearly researched these time periods scrupulously. Both are great reads that I couldn't put down.

message 5: by jo (new)

jo | 1031 comments thank you so much, mina!

i tried to edit the group's bookshelves today but it doesn't work very well and now i don't have the option to edit any more (where did it go?). i think it's some inconsistency with the new goodreads, but maybe it's me being clumsy. anyway, the books you suggest would make a pretty awesome bookshelf, dontcha think?

message 6: by William (new)

William (be2lieve) | 1316 comments Mod
Mat Johnson, "Drop", Kenji Jasper, "Dark", and Kuwana Haulsey, "Angel of Harlem", are all young Af-Am authors with notable books. Although all are good I hesitate to call them "delightful". Perhaps Diane McKinney-Whetstone's "Leaving Cecil Street" would. I don't know if Denise Nichols celebrity hurt or helped her sales but Freshwater Road got tremendous reviews and I will be reading it in the next couple of weeks.

message 7: by Wilhelmina (new)

Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments I don't know if I would call Leaving Cecil Street: A Novel "delightful", but I certainly thought that it was powerful. Diane McKinney-Whetstone is an excellent writer. Tumbling is probably my favorite book of hers, but Cecil Street is probably my second favorite. I had heard that Cecil Street had been optioned for a movie by actress S. Epatha Merkerson.

message 8: by Wilhelmina (last edited Dec 16, 2008 08:21AM) (new)

Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments Over in Carleen Brice's website , today's blog lists some upcoming books for 2009. In addition to her own book, Children of the Waters: A Novel, the books that look good to me are:

Best African American Essays: 2009,
(there's also a companion book, Best African American Fiction: 2009)
The Book of Night Women,
and probably Sag Harbor: A Novel.

She also links to the Publishers Weekly 2009 list:

Over there, I'm excited about

Triangular Road: A Memoir from the great Paule Marshall, and
The Ancestors by Tananarive Due, Brandon Massey, and L.A. Banks, and a number of nonfiction books.

Carleen also mentions that Tayari Jones is finishing up her third novel, The Silver Girl, and she also has links to lists for other writers of color. Looks like we'll have some good books to choose from next year!

message 9: by Qiana (last edited Dec 20, 2008 01:06PM) (new)

Qiana | 189 comments These are excellent suggestions. My "to read" shelf is getting longer than my "read" shelf...

I'm not sure what I can add to this list that hasn't already been said, so I'm going to use the opportunity to encourage everyone to visit the "Graphic Novel" section of their bookstore to check out these comics by (or about) people of color:

I just finished Sentences: The Life Of M.F. Grimm, a cautionary tale about a drug dealer/rapper in New York. Surprisingly good and the artwork has a spare, but cinematic quality.

I can't say enough good things about Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow - the story is engrossing and moving without being sappy in the way that stories about "black heroes" tend to be. Another story from the Segregation era is Incognegro. One of my favorites this year is Abouet's African graphic novel, Aya. I am dying to read her recently published sequel, Aya of Yop City!

If you like strips like the Boondocks, you should definitely get to know Keith Knight. He released a collection recently: The Complete K Chronicles (but you can also find the strip online pretty easily).

message 10: by Wilhelmina (new)

Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments I loved Aya and I definitely want to get Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow. My grandson's interest in baseball has revived my own. I got him the magnificent We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson for Christmas. He's still a little young for it, but I think he'll like it.

I know that New Orleans Noir wasn't the most popular book that we've read, but in 2010, Edwidge Danticat is editing Haiti Noir for the mystery series. That sounds interesting!

message 11: by Rashida (new)

Rashida | 264 comments Carleen Brice had a piece published in the Post about this idea of hers, so maybe there will be some wider "publication" after all! Been awhile since I html'd something, so here, at least is the tiny url:

message 12: by Wilhelmina (new)

Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments Great! Good for you, Carleen! This is really getting interesting.

message 13: by Qiana (new)

Qiana | 189 comments Thanks for the link, Rashida!

message 14: by jo (new)

jo | 1031 comments happy new year to all my GR friends!!!

message 15: by Wilhelmina (new)

Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments Happy New Year, Everyone!

message 16: by jo (last edited Jan 28, 2009 04:59PM) (new)

jo | 1031 comments this thread is a such a treasure trove. gerald early, editor of best african american fiction: 2009 was today on news and notes. you guys are sooo cutting edge!

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