The Secret Life of Bees The Secret Life of Bees question

Where are all the modern novels about black people that are WRITTEN BY BLACK AUTHORS??
Laura Laura (last edited Apr 04, 2013 10:38PM ) Jun 15, 2012 01:18AM
I have seen so many novels dealing with topics of slavery in America, the aftermath of slavery, and the experiences of black people in the South, but they are written by WHITE people! (Usually white women.) I would not have a huge problem with that but in recent years that is pretty much all i see, especially when it comes to bestsellers and books on the market. Shouldn't fiction about the experience of black people in the US be written mostly *by* black people?

One of my own favorite books, The Secret Life of Bees, falls into the category of black experience as written by a white person; and of course To Kill A Mockingbird, shoot - even The Heart is A Lonely Hunter, another of my all-time favorites, written by a white woman.

So to balance this out I've been looking at recent fiction in the "Southern" category which i tend to like and have yet to come across a black author. ALL white. This disturbs me. Black writers of recent fiction are clearly not heavily marketed, nonetheless I'm sure they are out there and I would love to be pointed in the right direction for where to look.

In the recent past we've had of course the great writing of Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, & Toni Morrison. Who else is out there that I'm missing?


Oh I just remembered reading Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat. She is a good writer but I didn't like the book overall. Perhaps it was purposeful on her part to make the only really compelling and alive part of the story the section where Sophie (main character) returns to Haiti? Perhaps Danticat's other novels are more lively with less slogging?

P.S. It seems Goodreads has some relevant categories - here is one of many:

Sarah (last edited Jun 22, 2012 02:13AM ) Jun 22, 2012 02:09AM   2 votes
Andrea Levy and Zadie Smith are both British but with Jamaican heritage (Levy through both parents, Smith through her mother) if that's what you're looking for... I loved 'Small Island' (partly set in Jamaica, partly in London) and 'White Teeth' if you haven't read those already!

I would second the notion of Walter Mosley. I have read almost all of his novels and he portrays the black experience in a variety of way. He has done crime noir, science fiction and whatever Killing Johnny Frye was (I didn't finish that one) While his lead characters are mostly male, I feel he does justice to his African American female characters. I'm also a fan of Pearl Cleage and Jill Nelson.

Elaine Flory I would recommend Paule Marshall's PRAISESONG FOR THE WIDOW. ...more
Sep 18, 2013 03:51PM

Tananarive Due "Joplin's Ghost" "Black Rose"

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward.

One suggestion that I have for a fiction novel is Orange Mint and Honey by Carleen Brice. I found out recently that the book was made into a made for TV movie on Lifetime and Jill Scott played the lead!

It was an excellent book, imo...well written, emotional-can I go on?? LOL

This one dates to the 1930s, Zora Neal Hurston's Their Eyes were Watching God was good.

GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN, Baldwin`s other novels and Ellison`s INVISIBLE MAN. And before you criticize these as has beens, so what. We still read Grapes of Wrath, Moby Dick and the Scarlet Letter don`t we? Or is that too passe?

Deborah (last edited Jun 26, 2012 05:11PM ) Jun 21, 2012 05:23PM   1 vote
John Henry Days John Henry Days by Colson Whitehead

Also, if you will read SciFi Nalo Hopkinson Nalo Hopkinson is winning awards.

If you will read historical fiction David Anthony Durham David Anthony DurhamGabriel's Story: A Novel

A couple of good modern African-American authors that I enjoyed are Ernest J. Gaines (A Lesson Before Dying) and Diane McKinney Whetstone (Tumbling; Tempest Rising), although she writes about the African-American experience post-WWII in the north.

Read Jewell Parker Rhodes, J. California Cooper, Pearl Cleage, Toni Morrison, Lalita Tademy, and Walter Mosley. These authors are a few in my collection. Many black authors do not get the space as other authors. In many bookstores, there is a small section dedicated to black authors. You may have to actually search, but there are plenty of black authors writing on a plethora of subjects.

If she has been mentioned, I missed it in scanning these posts, but Bebe Moore Campbell was a female black writer we all lost too soon. Check out her Wiki article for ideas of what to read of hers:

Your Blues Ain't Like Mine (~1992) is one I particularly remember.

I will second (or third or even fourth) Walter Mosley. I find his depictions of life in African-American communities in post WWII Los Angeles to be highly disturbing, mainly for the institutionalized racism that pervades every aspect of life; however, the writing itself is lively and of extremely high quality.

To me, great art takes me somewhere else, even if it's a place where I might not feel comfortable.

Mosley is the real deal. One of America's greatest living writers.

A few for your consideration:

Afeni Shakur by Jasmine Guy

The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography by Sidney Poitier

The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life's Journey by Muhammad Ali

Several Titles from Mark Mathabane including Kaffir Boy: Growing Out Of Apartheid. An African author of major note and power in his life story.

There are a series of discussions/interviews with African-American writers at this link in Goodreads:

and of course the President, Barack Obama has written a 'thing or two' including

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.

The books listed other than the interviews are memoirs, biographic, and autobiographic.

Need more?

So, does that answer your question?

I loved all of Bernice McFadden's books!

The Color Purple and Ain't No Mountain are books I've read that are by black authors. Hope I helped some. :)

Alisa (last edited Jun 16, 2012 12:00PM ) Jun 16, 2012 11:58AM   0 votes
I liked Terry McMillian [book :A Day Late and a Dollar Short|122209], How Stella Got Her Groove Back, and I also liked Mary Monroe's God Don't Like Ugly , God Still Don't Like Ugly
I also like Zora Neale Thurston Their Eyes Were Watching God

Oprah promotes black authors so maybe look at her book club and most bookstores have an African American section. You could easily do a search on Amazon for A.A lit. There is a lot out there you just have to look a bit:) Here are a few: Lalita Tademy, Edward P. Jones, Alex Haley. Happy Reading:)

This is becoming a great list! I'd add Paule Marshall's Daughters. Much of what has been mentioned by others above is Literary Fiction by black authors. Great stuff.

There is a lot of what is being called "contemporary urban fiction" out there now, most of which won't go down in the history books as classic pieces of literature, but they are interesting beach reads. They seem to be divided between books that are pretty graphic sexually on one hand-"street"-and on the other hand books that are inspirational/Christian in nature. I don't understand why there is the dichotomy, and agree that on the airport and supermarket shelves there seems to be a dearth of black authors. But look for books by these publishers: Dafina Books (an imprint of Kennsington), Kimani Press (an imprint of Harlequin), Strebor Books (Simon & Schuster imprint) and Akashic Press (imprint of Hachette).

Gathering of Waters by Bernice McFadden
~Gathering of Waters mines the truth about Money, Mississippi, as well as the town's families, and threads their history over decades. The bare-bones realism--both disturbing and riveting--combined with a magical realm in which ghosts have the final say, is reminiscent of Toni Morrison's Beloved.

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
~An ambitious and startling debut novel that follows the lives of four women at a resort popular among slaveholders who bring their enslaved mistresses

Has anyone mentioned Octavia Butler, Stephen Barnes, LA Banks, Nalo Hopkinson (I am currently reading The New Moon's Arms) or Brandon Massey. I saw Tananarive Due (one of my major fav along with Walter Mosley) was listed, but what about her mother, Patrica Stephens Due? Granted these are all AA Sci-Fi/horror writers, with the exception of Mrs. Patricia Due. Still all great AA writers.

I'd like to recommend Blackberry Days of Summer, by Ruth P. Watson released on June 19, 2012

Lalita Tademy's Cane River is another.

I recommend you read Bring on the Blessings by Beverly Jenkins. Great story.

Jane wrote: "I have seen so many novels dealing with topics of slavery in America, the aftermath of slavery, and the experiences of black people in the South, but they are written by WHITE people! (Usually whit..."

The Taste of Salt

Yes ANY book by Richard Wright is phenomenal - especially Black Boy which is basically an autobiography.

"I feel like I am trying to get through a college text book."

Well said. I also struggle with Toni Morrison. Glad to hear it's not just me.

Elizabeth (last edited Apr 04, 2013 11:00AM ) Apr 04, 2013 11:00AM   0 votes
Some African American authors to consider: Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Richard Wright, Harriet Ann Jacobs, Frederick Douglass, Phillis Wheatley, W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison. These are not all modern authors, but worthy reads.

One that I read this year in school was Beloved by Toni Morrison.

Lily (last edited Aug 16, 2012 08:46PM ) Aug 16, 2012 08:42PM   0 votes
Lorene Cary's Black Ice, 1992, is a memoir of her experiences in attending an exclusive academy as it went through the throes of affirmative action. She has since written a number of other books, including novels.

Has anyone mentioned Frederick Douglass or Booker Washington or more recent prominent black men like Colin Powell or Thurgood Marshall or Clarence Thomas, although most of their works are not fiction. Also, Condoleezza Rice has a recent memoir.

Here is a list of African-American authors:

This addresses African-American literature:

Then there is literature from throughout the world, even including, if you like, Alexander Pushkin, Chinua Achebe, Nuruddin Farah, ....

I was wondering the same thing! I just read The Secret Life of Bees and wrote about that in my review. It had a great perspective of how white people viewed black people, but when talking about the black experience, this author was almost painfully white (still a good book, though).
There are books like How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Beloved, but they are just not quite the same. To me, they are almost too Tyler Perry.
I am currently reading Native Son. Awesome. It's the epitome of the black experience--written by a black man. It's compelling and honest. So far so good. Not set really in the deep south like what you're asking for, but still a very good book. Excellent.

"Someone Knows My Name" by canadian author Lawrence Hill

Thats partially true. But there are many written by black authors. I can recommend Sugar by Bernice L. Mcfadden, I just read a good book by a new author called Blackberry Days of Summer by Ruth P. Watson, Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody (wasnt my favorite by its in the category), And Im getting ready to read The Fifth Child by Zelda Lockhart, and The Darkest Child by Deloris Phillips. I can go on and on because its my favorite genre. There out there its just not always bestsellers or very well promoted.

These are some great suggestions. Don't forget Roots by Alex Haley. One of the truly great American novels!

Their Eyes Were Watching God is one of my all-time favorite books.

I forgot to add Glorious by Bernice McFadden.
Glorious is set against the backdrops of the Jim Crow South, the Harlem Renaissance, and the civil rights era. Blending the truth of American history with the fruits of Bernice L. McFadden’s rich imagination, this is the story of Easter Venetta Bartlett, a fictional Harlem Renaissance writer whose tumultuous path to success, ruin, and revival offers a candid portrait of the American experience in all its beauty and cruelty.

I love Tananarive Due as well. I have read almost all of her books . . . still have one left in my toberead stash - but she has a really great story line going about a generation of characters who have a rare blood type that allows them to live forever . . . not vampires!! And I loved her non-fiction writings as well

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, Freeman by Leonard Pitts, Kindred by Octavia Butler. All black, all excellent.

I'm an erotica writer. If you're interested in a list of black erotica, read my Black Erotica article over at Yahoo Voices.

Xenia (last edited Jun 15, 2012 04:49PM ) Jun 15, 2012 09:11AM   -1 votes
I love everything by Beverly Jenkins. I have been reading her books for years. Alice Walker's books put me to sleep. The Color Purple is the only one of her books that I was able to get through without yawning. I read a few of Toni Morrison's books. I find them difficult to get through. I am not saying that these two women are bad writers. It is just that their writing styles do not click for me. I feel like I am trying to get through a college text book.

Maya Angelou's books I have enjoyed.

J. California Cooper is another great author. The Wake of The Wind is my favorite of Ms. Cooper's

Laura That is interesting, i love Alice Walker and Toni Morrison. Regardless they are very literary novels and there needs to be many other types of fiction ...more
Apr 04, 2013 10:26PM · flag

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