Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February Reading Theme: African-American Fiction

In honor of Black History Month, February’s Reading Room display features fiction about African-American experiences throughout the history of our nation. You’ll find both the classics and the controversial in this month’s collection.

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Kindred by Octavia E. Butler: “Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. With more than 100,000 copies in print, Kindred is a classic time travel novel by an acclaimed African-American science fiction writer.” (Publisher’s summary)

Sally Hemings by Barbara Chase-Riboud: “In this brilliant novel, spanning two continents, sixty years, and seven presidencies, Barbara Chase-Riboud re-creates a love story based on the documents and the evidence of the day, but gives free rein to the novelist's imagination. Incredibly written and beautifully evoked, Barbara Chase-Riboud explores the complex blend of love and hate, tenderness and cruelty, freedom and bondage, that made the lifelong liaison between Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson one of the most poignant, tragic, and unforgettable chapters in the history of the races, and of the sexes, in America.” (Publisher’s summary)

The Marrow of Tradition by Charles W. Chesnutt: “The story of the white Carterets and the mixed-race Millers, whose lives are intertwined because the wives are half sisters, delves into a wide range of social and race issues. The novel's depiction of lynchings that occurred during the Wilmington Race Riot proved to be too controversial for readers of the time; however, Chesnutt considered it his best, and modern critics have recognized the novel as a milestone in the Civil Rights movement.” (Publisher’s summary)

The Sport of the Gods by Paul Laurence Dunbar: “This classic story about a displaced Southern family's struggle to survive and prosper in early Harlem was one of the first novels to depict the harsh realities of ghetto life.” (Publisher’s summary)

The Liberation of Lord Byron Jones by Jesse Hill Ford: “In a Tennessee town, the effort of a Negro to procure a divorce excites the forces of bigotry and hatred because his wife's adulteries have been with a white man.” (Publisher’s summary)

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines: “Story of a black woman born into slavery on a Louisiana plantation, freed at the end of the Civil War, who lives for one-hundred more years.” (Publisher’s summary)

Sweat by Zora Neale Hurston: “Now frequently anthologized, Zora Neale Hurston's short story ‘Sweat’ was first published in Firell, a legendary literary magazine of the Harlem Renaissance, whose sole issue appeared in November 1926. Among contributions by Gwendolyn Bennett, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, and Wallace Thurman, ‘Sweat’ stood out both for its artistic accomplishment and its exploration of rural Southern black life.” (Publisher’s summary)

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Charles Johnson: “These eight stories, previously published in journals, range widely in form. Throughout, the theme of black consciousness is subtly present, and often Johnson plays with the tension of different worlds in uncomfortable juxtaposition.” (Library Journal review)

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd: “This sweeping debut novel… tells the tale of a 14-year-old white girl named Lily Owen who is raised by the elderly African American Rosaleen after the accidental death of Lily's mother. Following a racial brawl in 1960s Tiburon, SC, Lily and Rosaleen find shelter in a distant town with three black bee-keeping sisters.” (Library Journal review)

Beloved by Toni Morrison: “The story of Sethe, an escaped slave in post-Civil War Ohio, Paul D. who shares the stories of captivity and freedom, and the apparition of Beloved who "has come from the 'place over there' to claim retribution for what she lost and for what was taken from her.” (Publisher’s summary)

No Crystal Stair by Eva Rutland: “Ann Elizabeth Carter leaves her sheltered life as the daughter of an African American doctor in Atlanta to marry a member of the Tuskegee Airmen.” (Publisher’s summary)

Cane River by Lalita Tademy: “Follows four generations of African American women, from slavery to the early twentieth century, as they struggle for economic security and the future of their families along the Cane River in rural Louisiana.” (Publisher’s summary)

Meridian by Alice Walker: “Meridian Hill is a deserted teenage mother who volunteers to help in the local civil rights movement.” (Publisher’s summary)

The Color Purple by Alice Walker: “The lives of two sisters--Nettie, a missionary in Africa, and Celie, a southern woman married to a man she hates--are revealed in a series of letters exchanged over thirty years.” (Publisher’s summary)

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