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Reading Guides: African-American Literature

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African American Literature

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Suggested Titles

Allen, Jeffrey Renard / Song of the Shank/ PS3551.L39385 S66 2014
In 1866…Tom and his guardian, Eliza Bethune, struggle to adjust to their fashionable apartment in the city in the aftermath of riots that had driven them away a few years before. But soon a stranger arrives from the mysterious island of Edgemere, inhabited solely by African settlers and black refugees from the war and riots, who intends to reunite Tom with his now-liberated mother.

Angelou, Maya / Mom & Me & Mom / PS3551.N464Z46 2013    When her marriage began to crumble, Vivian famously sent three-year-old Maya and her older brother away from their California home to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. Their reunion a decade later began a story that has never before been told.

Asim, Jabari / Only the Strong: An American Novel / PS3601.S59O55 2015   The lives of a reformed hit man, a crusading doctor, a genteel mobster, and a headstrong college student cross in a sweltering Midwestern city in 1970

Barnett, LaShonda Katrice / Jam on the Vine: A Novel / PS3602.A77585J36 2015b   Ivoe Williams, the precocious daughter of a Muslim cook and a metalsmith from central-east Texas, first ignites her lifelong obsession with journalism when she steals a newspaper from her mother’s white employer….She earns a scholarship to the prestigious Willetson College in Austin, only to return over-qualified to the menial labor offered by her hometown’s racially-biased employers.

Bazile, Natalie / Queen Sugar--- PS3602.A8523 Q44 2014   
Why exactly Charley Bordelon’s late father left her eight hundred sprawling acres of sugarcane land in rural Louisiana is as mysterious as it was generous. Recognizing this as a chance to start over, Charley and her eleven-year-old daughter, Micah, say good-bye to Los Angeles…. Charley must balance the overwhelming challenges of her farm with the demands of a homesick daughter, a bitter and troubled brother, and the startling desires of her own heart.

Beatty, Paul / The Sellout / PS3552.E19S45 2015    A biting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, Paul Beatty's The Sellout challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and the holy grail of racial equality--the black Chinese restaurant.

Benson, Angela / Delilah’s Daughters / PS3552.E5476585D45 2014    
Delilah Monroe and her husband Rocky always dreamed of their three daughters making it big in show business as a musical trio. After Rocky's death, Delilah's determination is even stronger. However, her daughters--Roxanne, Veronica, and Alisha--aren't so sure.

Dunbar, Paul Laurence / The Heart of Happy Hollow--- PS1556.A4 2005   
First published in 1904, The Heart of Happy Hollow features sixteen short stories that provide rare glimpses into the lives of African Americans after the Civil War…. In this collection, readers meet an influential entrepreneur who must navigate a treacherous political landscape; a Southern spiritual leader who must learn to accept the mores of his son, who was educated in the North; a reporter who restores hope in Santa Claus to a group of destitute siblings; and a host of other unique men and women giving voice to timeless themes.

Ford, Bette / Can’t Stop Loving You--- PS3556.O692 C37 2012    
Can’t Stop Loving You is the unforgettable story of a young, confident Detroit social worker who keeps her wary heart tightly closed, until she meets a remarkable man while vacationing in the Virgin Islands—a talented artist who tempts her to shed her armor and truly commit to love for the very first time.

Grant, Michele / Losing to Win/ PS3607.R3639 L67 2013   
The small town of Belle Haven, Louisiana, is still struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf oil spill, and its residents will do whatever it takes to get it back on its feet. So when local English teacher Carissa Melody Wayne is asked to appear on the weight-loss reality show Losing to Win, she agrees. She doesn't realize that others from her past will be joining her, including her high school nemesis, an acquaintance who's been nursing a long-time crush on her--and most shocking of all, Carissa's ex-fiancé, former NFL star Malachi Knight.

Haley, Alex / Roots: the Saga of an American Family / eBook (search the library catalog using the author’s name – Borrower ID = Santa Fe ID, Pin = Last 4 digits of Santa Fe ID)     When he was a boy in Henning, Tennessee, Alex Haley's grandmother used to tell him stories about their family—stories that went back to her grandparents, and their grandparents, down through the generations all the way to a man she called "the African." She said he had lived across the ocean near what he called the "Kamby Bolongo" and had been out in the forest one day chopping wood to make a drum when he was set upon by four men, beaten, chained and dragged aboard a slave ship bound for Colonial America. 

Howard, Ravi / Driving the King: A Novel / PS3608.O93D75 2015   The war is over, the soldiers are returning, and Nat King Cole is back in his hometown of Montgomery, Alabama, for a rare performance. His childhood friend, Nat Weary, plans to propose to his sweetheart, and the singer will honor their moment with a special song. When a white man attacks Cole with a pipe, Weary leaps from the audience to defend him-- an act that will lead to a ten-year prison sentence. Six months before Weary is released, he receives a remarkable offer: will he be Nat King Cole's driver and bodyguard in L.A.?

Hughes, Langston / Not Without Laughter / PS3515.U274N6 1995     This is a moving portrait of African-American family life in 1930s Kansas, following young Sandy Rogers as he comes of age. Sandy’s mother, Annjee, works as a housekeeper for a rich white family, while his father, traverses the country in search of work.

K. Kim / The Rise of an American Gangstress, part 2/ PS3611.A214 R57 20913    After being stripped from her privileged princess lifestyle, Fancy Lane has taken to the underworld of drug dealing with vengeance. She sets her sights on ruling over a crew of hustlers to build the illicit empire she feels is her birthright. With her man by her side and her mother serving as her advisor, she's undeterred by the violence and opposition.   Check out Rise of an American Gangstress, part 1 PS3611.A214R57 2012

Locke, Attica /Pleasantville (Jay Porter #2) / PS3612.O247P57 2015
Locke reintroduces us to environmental lawyer Jay Porter (her Black Water Rising protagonist), who takes one last case on the behalf of the community of Pleasantville in this new thriller--only to become embroiled in its shadowy politics, a disturbing education in how far those in power are willing to go to win.

May, Eric Charles / Bedrock Faith--- PS3613.A947 B43 2014    Gerald "Stew Pot" Reeves returns to his mother's home in Chicago's Parkland neighborhood after fourteen years in prison. His return provokes fear and suspicion among the residents especially when he claims he has had a religious awakening. With his pit bull, John the Baptist, his mentor, Brother Crown, and a few others who believe in him, he sets off to change his neighborhood for the better

McBride, James / The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother / F130.N4M38 1996     Who is Ruth McBride Jordan? A self-declared "light-skinned" woman evasive about her ethnicity, yet steadfast in her love for her twelve children. James McBride, journalist, musician and son, explores his mother's past, as well as his own upbringing and heritage, in a poignant and powerful memoir.

McMillan, Terry / Who Asked You? / PS3563.C3868W46 2013
Kaleidoscopic, fast-paced, and filled with McMillan’s inimitable humor, Who Asked You? opens as Trinetta leaves her two young sons with her mother, Betty Jean, and promptly disappears.

Minot, Susan / Thirty girls--- PS3563.I4755 T45 2014
Esther Akello is one of thirty Ugandan teenage girls abducted from a Catholic boarding school by rebel bandits. Held captive by the Lord’s Resistance Army, Esther is forced to witness and commit unspeakable atrocities. She struggles to survive, to escape, and to find a way to live with what she has seen and done.

Monroe, Mary / Lost Daughters--- PS3563.O528 L67 2013   
When her new husband Mel and her daughter Lorretta, an aspiring model, run off together, claiming they are in love, Maureen Montgomery must confront her tragic past to find the strength to overcome this devastating betrayal and make a new life for herself that is all her own.

Morrison, Toni / God Help the Child/ PS3563.O8749G63 2015
A tale about the way the sufferings of childhood can shape, and misshape, the life of the adult. At the center: a young woman who calls herself Bride, whose stunning blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and confidence, her success in life, but which caused her light-skinned mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love. There is Booker, the man Bride loves, and loses to anger. Rain, the mysterious white child with whom she crosses paths. And finally, Bride's mother herself, Sweetness, who takes a lifetime to come to understand that "what you do to children matters. And they might never forget."

Moseley, Walter / All I Did Was Shoot My Man/ PS3563.O88456 A77 2012    When Zella Grisham is accused of both shooting her boyfriend and stealing more than six million dollars from the Rutgers Assurance Corp., Leonid McGill investigates, while his own family life begins to unravel around him.

Murray, Victoria Christopher / Stand Your Ground: A Novel / PS3563.U795S73 2015    
After a seventeen-year-old African American boy is shot dead by a white man, the boy's mother and the shooter's wife face difficulties.

Myers, Walter Dean / Monster: A Graphic Novel / PZ7.M992Mon 2015     While on trial as an accomplice to a murder, sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon records his experiences in prison and in the courtroom in the form of a film script as he tries to come to terms with the course his life has taken.
*A stunning black-and-white graphic novel adaptation of Walter Dean Myers's Michael L. Printz Award winner and New York Times bestseller Monster, adapted by Guy Sims and illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile.

Flournoy, Angela / The Turner House / PS3606.L6813T87 2015
The Turners have lived on Yarrow Street for over fifty years. Their house has seen thirteen children grown and gone--and some returned; it has seen the arrival of grandchildren, the fall of Detroit's East Side, and the loss of a father. The house still stands despite abandoned lots, an embattled city, and the inevitable shift outward to the suburbs. But now, as ailing matriarch Viola finds herself forced to leave her home and move in with her eldest son, the family discovers that the house is worth just a tenth of its mortgage.

Neely, Tucker / Ways of the Dead--- PS3620.U318 W39 2014
Sarah Reese, the teenage daughter of a powerful Washington, D.C. judge, is dead, her body discovered in a slum in the shadow of the Capitol. Though the police promptly arrest three local black kids, newspaper reporter Sully Carter suspects there’s more to the case. Reese’s slaying might be related to a string of cold cases the police barely investigated, among them the recent disappearance of a gorgeous university student…The Ways of the Dead is a wickedly entertaining story of race, crime, the law, and the power of the media.

Reynolds, Jason / All American Boys / PZ7.R33593Al 2015    When sixteen-year-old Rashad is mistakenly accused of stealing, classmate Quinn witnesses his brutal beating at the hands of a police officer who happens to be the older brother of his best friend. Told through Rashad and Quinn's alternating viewpoints.  A 2016 Coretta Scott King Author Honor book

Roby, Kimberla Lawson / The Prodigal Son/ PS3568.O3189 P76 2014
The Reverend Curtis Black hasn't spoken to his son, Matthew, in over a year-not since Matthew dropped out of Harvard to marry his girlfriend, Racquel, and be a full-time father to their infant son. Curtis knows that it was he and his wife, Charlotte, who drove Matthew away, but he prays that one day his son will forgive them and come home.

Souljah, Sister / A Moment of Silence (Midnight III) / PS3569.O7374M66 2015     Handsome, young, Muslim, and married to two women living in one house along with his mother, Umma, and sister, Naja: can Midnight manage? He is surrounded by Americans who don't share or understand his faith or culture, and adults who are offended by his maturity, intelligence, or his natural ability to make his hard work turn into real money. He is calm, confident, and cool, Ninja-trained and powerful, but one moment of rage throws this Brooklyn youth into a dark world of dirty police, gangs, guns, drugs, prisons, and prisoners.

Tweedy, Damon / Black Man in a White Coat: a Doctor's Reflections on Race and Medicine/ R154.T84A3 2015
When Damon Tweedy begins medical school, he envisions a bright future where his segregated, working-class background will become largely irrelevant. Instead, he finds that he has joined a new world where race is front and center.

Walker, Alice / The Color Purple/ PS3573.A425C6 1992 
As a young, black woman living in 1930s Georgia, Celie faces constant violence and oppression. She survives the brutality of incest before being married off to "Mr.," who routinely abuses her both physically and emotionally. Eventually, Celie develops a deep bond with her husband's mistress Shug, and it is through this relationship that she understands she is a woman capable of being loved and respected.

Weber, Carl / The Man in 3B--- PS3573.E2164 M36 2013
Daryl Graham has just moved into a Jamaica, Queens, apartment building and his neighbors, both male and female alike, can't stop talking about him. From his extreme attractiveness to his undeniable swag, Daryl is the man every woman wants and every man wants to be.

 

Last Updated: April 2016

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