Newsletter for February 20, 2014
There are many inspiring biographies and absorbing histories to checkout during Black History Month, but don’t rule out fiction for immersing yourself in Black American history. This month can serve to remind us to read or re-read some of the world’s greatest novels such as Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man or Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, for the first time, or for the pleasure of returning to a great read. All of these novels, the classics and the more contemporary titles, open windows into Black American history, culture and memory, through the eyes of the characters and the vivid re-creation of a place and time. The first recommended title below offers an introduction to some of America’s greatest Black writers.
|Children of the Night: The Best Short Stories by Black Writers, 1967 to Present
By Naylor, Gloria
Editor Naylor, Gloria
Check Our Catalog This landmark anthology–the companion volume to Langston Hughes’ 1967 classic, The Best Stories by Black Writers–features contributions by such outstanding African-American writers as Alice Walker, Rita Dove, Terry McMillan, Ralph Ellison, John Edgar Wideman, Edwidge Danticat, Maya Angelou, and James Baldwin. …More
|The Best of Simple
By Hughes, Langston
Check Our Catalog Langston Hughes’s stories about Jesse B. Semple–first composed for a weekly column in the Chicago “Defender” and then collected in “Simple Speaks His Mind,” “Simple Takes a Wife,” and “Simple Stakes a Claim”–have been read and loved by hundreds of thousands of readers. In “The Best of Simple,” the author picked his favorites from these earlier volumes, stories that not only have proved popular but are now part of a great and growing literary tradition.
Simple might be considered an Everyman for black Americans. Hughes himself wrote: .,.”these tales are about a great many people–although they are stories about no specific persons as such. But it is impossible to live in Harlem and not know at least a hundred Simples, fifty Joyces, twenty-five Zaritas, and several Cousin Minnies–or reasonable facsimiles thereof.”
As Arnold Rampersad has written, Simple is “one of the most memorable and winning characters in the annals of American literature, justly regarded as one of Hughes’s most inspired creations.”
Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, went to Cleveland, Ohio, lived for a number of years in Chicago, and long resided in New York City’s Harlem. He graduated form Lincoln University in 1929 and was awarded an honorary Litt. D. in 1943. He was perhaps best known as a poet and the creator of Simple, but he also wrote novels, biography, history, plays (several of them Broadway hits), and children’s books, and he edited several anthologies. Mr. Hughes died in 1967.
|Their Eyes Were Watching God
By Hurston, Zora Neale
Check Our Catalog First published in 1937, Their Eyes Were Watching God is Zora Neale Hurston’s most highly acclaimed novel. A classic of black literature, ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God belongs in the same category–with that of William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway–of enduring American literature’.–Saturday Review. …More
|Salvage the Bones
By Ward, Jesmyn
Check Our Catalog 2012 Alex Award Winner
2011 National Book Award Winner-Fiction A big-hearted novel about familial love and community against all odds and a wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty, “Salvage the Bones” is revelatory, real, and muscled with poetry. …More
By Ellison, Ralph Waldo
Preface by Johnson, Charles
Check Our Catalog Invisible Man is a milestone in American literature, a book that has continued to engage readers since its appearance in 1952. A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of “the Brotherhood,” and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be. The book is a passionate and witty tour de force of style, strongly influenced by T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, Joyce, and Dostoevsky. …More
|The Bluest Eye
By Morrison, Toni
Check Our Catalog The Bluest Eye, published in 1970, is the first novel written by Toni Morrison, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature. 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. …More
|The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman
By Gaines, Ernest J.
Check Our Catalog “This is a novel in the guise of the tape-recorded recollections of a black woman who has lived 110 years, who has been both a slave and a witness to the black militancy of the 1960’s. In this woman Ernest Gaines has created a legendary figure, a woman equipped to stand beside William Faulkner’s Dilsey in “The Sound And The Fury.” Miss Jane Pittman, like Dilsey, has ‘endured, ‘ has seen almost everything and foretold the rest. Gaines’ novel brings to mind other great works “The Odyssey for the way his heroine’s travels manage to summarize the American history of her race, and “Huckleberry Finn for the clarity of her voice, for her rare capacity to sort through the mess of years and things to find the one true story in it all.” — Geoffrey Wolff, “Newsweek.
“Stunning. I know of no black novel about the South that excludes quite the same refreshing mix of wit and wrath, imagination and indignation, misery and poetry. And I can recall no more memorable female character in Southern fiction since Lena of Faulkner’s “Light In August than Miss Jane Pittman.” — Josh Greenfeld, “Life …More
By Wright, Richard
Check Our Catalog Native Son tells the story of A young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Wright’s powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America. …More
|Go Tell It on the Mountain
By Baldwin, James A.
Check Our Catalog “Mountain,” Baldwin said, “is the book I had to write if I was ever going to write anything else.” Go Tell It On The Mountain, first published in 1953, is Baldwin’s first major work, a novel that has established itself as an American classic. With lyrical precision, psychological directness, resonating symbolic power, and a rage that is at once unrelenting and compassionate, Baldwin chronicles a fourteen-year-old boy’s discovery of the terms of his identity as the stepson of the minister of a storefront Pentecostal church in Harlem one Saturday in March of 1935. Baldwin’s rendering of his protagonist’s spiritual, sexual, and moral struggle of self-invention opened new possibilities in the American language and in the way Americans understand themselves. …More
|The Known World
By Jones, Edward P.
Check Our Catalog 2005 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Winner
Winner – 2004 ALA Notable Fiction Selection
Winner-2004 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
A BookPage Notable Title
Henry Townsend, a black bootmaker and former slave in antebellum Virginia, becomes a proprietor of his own plantation–as well as his own slaves. This modern masterpiece explores what happens when he dies and “the known world” unravels. …More
|The Good Lord Bird
By McBride, James
Check Our Catalog 2013 National Book Award Winner- Fiction From the bestselling author of The Color of Water and Song Yet Sung comes the story of a young boy born a slave who joins John Brown’s antislavery crusade—and who must pass as a girl to survive.…More
|The Invention of Wings
By Kidd, Sue Monk
Check Our Catalog The story follows Hetty ‘Handful’ Grimke, a Charleston slave, and Sarah, the daughter of the wealthy Grimke family. The novel begins on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership over Handful, who is to be her handmaid. “The Invention of Wings” follows the next thirty-five years of their lives. Inspired in part by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke (a feminist, suffragist and, importantly, an abolitionist), Kidd allows herself to go beyond the record to flesh out the inner lives of all the characters, both real and imagined. …More
By Evaristo, Bernardine
Check Our Catalog BookPage Notable Title
A provocative novel that upends the history of the transatlantic slave trade, “Blond Roots” reverses and reexamines notions of savagery and civilization as it follows a young woman’s journey to freedom. …More
By Butler, Octavia E.
Check Our Catalog This 25th anniversary edition, about a modern black woman who is snatched away to the antebellum South, celebrates a classic work with “much to say about love, hate, slavery, and racial dilemmas, then and now” (“Los Angeles Herald Examiner”). …More
By Martin, Valerie
Check Our Catalog Orange Prize for Fiction 2003 Winner
From the acclaimed author of “Mary Reilly” comes a groundbreaking novel set in the antebellum South during a slave rebellion, told by Manon Gaudet, a female slave owner who speaks about her past, her present, and her longings in an uncensored, pitch-perfect voice from the heart of moral darkness. …More
|Song of Solomon
By Morrison, Toni
Check Our Catalog Milkman Dead was born shortly after a neighborhood eccentric hurled himself off a rooftop in a vain attempt at flight. For the rest of his life he, too, will be trying to fly. With this brilliantly imagined novel, Toni Morrison transfigures the coming-of-age story as audaciously as Saul Bellow or Gabriel Garcia Marquez. As she follows Milkman from his rustbelt city to the place of his family’s origins, Morrison introduces an entire cast of strivers and seeresses, liars and assassins, the inhabitants of a fully realized black world. …More