Wednesday, May 13, 2009

African American novels--I need suggestions!

You know, I pride myself on being fairly well-read. I try to pick up a wide scope of stories dealing with a variety of cultures, attitudes, people, values, etc. But one area I'm sorely lacking in is African American literature.

Why is that? I mean, it's not that I don't want to read AA novels--I've read some fantastic stories in the past (Kindred by Octavia Butler is one of my all-time fav novels, actually). And it's not that I think the experience is just too far removed from my own as a white woman--I read Asian literature all the time, as well as historicals and futuristics, and those are quite decidedly different than my life.

To be honest, I think part of it is I'm not exposed to a lot of AA novels. And the other part is, I don't think to look specifically for it when I'm in a bookstore. It makes me sad to admit that, because I know I'm missing out on some stellar reads.

A few African American novels I've read in the past are:

Beloved by Toni Morrison
Native Son by Richard Wright
Kindred by Octavia Butler (this novel is AMAZING)
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (this is set in Africa, actually)
The Chaneysville Incident by David Bradley
The Conjure Man Dies by Rudolph Fisher

There are some others I can't remember off the top of my head (and actually, most of these I read in undergrad).

A couple of days ago, it hit me--it's been years since I've read an AA novel. That's far too long. And while the novels above are stellar examples of classic reads, I'm sure AA literature has evolved over time, and I'd love to read a few contemporary AA novels.

So, I've decided I'm going to take a trip to my local bookstore today and pick a few up.

Can anyone give me recommendations on AA novels you've read and loved? I'd especially love to get some recommendations for African American YA (Paula Chase Hyman is already on my to-buy list--I'm going to snag her novel So Not the Drama).

Thank you for your help!!


  1. my favorite novel in school was "the color purple" it's a classic and if you haven't read it you should!

  2. As far as popular YA goes in my high school library, my kids love the Drama High series by Divine and the Bluford High series by Paul Langan and Anne Scraff. Seriously, I can't keep them on the shelves. Also popular are the Kimani Tru books by various authors.

    Sharon Draper and Walter Dean Myers are my go-to authors for great award-winning AA fiction. I can name a few others, but I've discovered that they simply don't publish enough AA novels, period. Authors: write more--I'll buy them!

  3. I'll recommend one I read a few years back: WEST OF REHOBOTH by Alexs D. Pate. I confess, this is not something I would have picked up on my own. Pate was the keynote speaker at a local writers' conference and, as were most attendees, I was quite impressed with the talks he gave--literally blown away by the inspirational keynote (and wouldn't you know, they do not record sessions). I devoured this book in two days.

  4. You have GOT to read "The Color of Water" by James McBride. It's nonfiction and fantastic!

  5. The Bluest Eye may be the most powerful experience as a WRITER READING I have ever had.

    How??? How on EARTH did Morrison make me sympathize with a CHILD MOLESTER?????

    She is in a category of her own.

  6. Wow, thank you for these FANTASTIC recommendations!!

  7. Kindred is one of my all time faves too. I get chills whenever I see the title.

  8. Anonymous9:55 AM

    I enjoyed IN THE TEMPLE OF MY FAMILIAR by Alice Walker.

  9. One of my fave books of all time is THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD by Nora Neale Hurston. It's gorgeous and sad and wonderful and real. Read it!

  10. Amanda Brice12:27 PM

    I adore pretty much anything by Kayla Perrin. One of the best thrillers I've read in a long time was WE'LL NEVER TELL, which is set in an African-American sorority.