Books Recommendations: African American Authors

 

February is Black History Month and to celebrate, I have compiled a list of great books by African American authors that you should definitely check out, no matter what time of the year.

 

1. Beloved - Toni Morrison

This story takes place in the period following the Civil War and is laced heavily with magic realism. Magic realism is a style of realistic fiction that employs surreal elements. The story focuses on a former slave, Sethe, her family, and the haunting she experiences from her dead daughter. The novel is often hard to follow because of its ever changing shift in perspectives and time settings; however, Toni Morrison crafts such a beautiful story exploring many themes using this method. This still remains my most favorite book that I have had to read for school.   

 

Review: “strong and intricate in craft; devastating in impact” - Kirkus Review

 

2. Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston

This psychological fiction novel follows the three marriages of Janie Crawford, which are used to illustrate her character’s development as a black woman in Florida during the early 1900s. It is an important novel because it discusses gender roles, feminism, and female sexuality. .

 

Review: “a forceful, erotic, well-wrought story about a black woman by a black woman” - New York Times

 

3. Sing, Unburied, Sing - Jesmyn Ward

This novel, a thriller and a piece of coming-of-age fiction, is about a mother who takes her two young children to visit their father at the Mississippi State Penitentiary. The story also showcases magic realism through multiple perspectives of the characters, showing the dynamic of the family. .

 

Review: “a majestic, stirring … timeless work of fiction that is destined to become a classic” - Simon and Schuster

 

4. If Beale Street Could Talk - James Baldwin

If Beale Street Could Talk is James Baldwin’s fifth novel and is set in Harlem in the 1970s. It follows a young African-American couple in love, Fonny and Tish. Things take a turn for the worst when Fonny is falsely accused of rape and Tish discovers she is pregnant. This romance novel focuses heavily on familial and interpersonal relationships and has recently been adapted into a movie directed by Barry Jenkins, the same director as Moonlight, winner of Best Picture at the Oscars in 2017.

 

Review: “This is a book about injustice, about family sticking together, about community, and it is about love, real love, soul trembling love.” - Goodreads

 

5. Between the World and Me - Ta-Nehisi Coates

 

In this autobiography, Coates explores what it is like to be black in America. Written as a letter to his young son, it details the constant struggle that African Americans face due to white supremacy and the deeply entrenched racial violence that in the United States.

Review: “An unrelentingly severe, taut and timely text that’s been nearly universally praised” - London Review of Books

 

This list doesn’t even begin to do justice to the plethora of amazing pieces of literature that written by African Americans, not mention others in the African diaspora. However, this is a good starting point and demonstrates a great variety of genres and writing styles. Happy reading.

 

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