Posted by WCPLtn
By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department
The modern United States of America has the great honor of being home to myriad cultural groups. The inventions, discoveries, perspectives, and creativity of minority groups impact our nation the whole year through, and it’s personally edifying to reflect on the abundance of important ideas that come to us from so many different cultures. That’s why, during Black History Month each February, we take the time to officially celebrate, enjoy, and learn about the innumerable contributions that black men and women have made to American culture.
Naturally, Black authors write in every genre: from science-fiction to romance, from graphic novels to poetry. Although readers see the value in reading works from all facets of culture, they may not have come across some of these writers before. Today, we’ll take a winding journey through various genres, highlighting Black authors along the way.
Let’s start in the world of comic books and graphic novels. The timeless duo of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson has been reimagined in a comic book series written by Karl Bollers. Set in Harlem, New York, with African-American leads, Watson and Holmes treats the traditional sidekick as the leading man. While keeping elements of the classic story intact – Watson is a war veteran; Holmes specializes in usual cases – Bollers comes up with new dangers and adventures for the pair in a modern, urban setting.
Other writers to check out in this medium include Aaron McGruder (The Boondocks), Brandon Thomas (The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury), Brian Parker (You Can Rely on Platypi), David Gorden (Quincredible), Kyle Baker (Nat Turner), Patricia C. McKissack and Fredrick L. McKissack, Jr (Best Shot in the West), and Ta-Nehisi Coates (Marvel’s Black Panther).
Speaking of Coates, who first made his name in journalism, his 2015 non-fiction book, Between the World and Me, is considered a must-read. It takes the form of “a letter to the author’s teenaged son about the feelings, symbolism, and realities associated with being black in the United States” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Between_the_World_and_Me).
Such a personal publication leads us to the genre of autobiography and memoir, which is a great way to get inside the heads of people with different experiences and perspectives. Much-loved television writer and producer Shonda Rhimes shares her journey from fear and detachment to self-acceptance and empowerment in Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person. Another television personality with an entertaining memoir is Issa Rae, with The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl. In Black Man in a White Coat, Damon Tweedy, MD, explores the relationship between race and the medical world. Elizabeth Alexander writes about family, creativity, and loss in The Light of the World. Other well-known authors in this genre include Frederick Douglass (Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass), Solomon Northup (Twelve Years a Slave), Barack Obama (Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance), and Maya Angelou (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings).
Angelou is also beloved for her poetry, one example being “Still I Rise.” Merely scratching the surface of her fellow renowned Black poets, we find Rita Dove (“Exit”), Gwendolyn Brooks (“We Real Cool”), Langston Hughes (“Harlem”), Nikki Giovanni (“Walking down Park”), Jean Toomer (“Blue Meridian”), Lucille Clifton (“won’t you celebrate with me”), Tyehimba Jess (“Hagar in the Wilderness”), Melvin Dixon (“Heartbeats”), and Robert Hayden (“Middle Passage”).
Switching gears, let’s talk cookbooks: another great way to appreciate culture. No matter your tastes or skill level, you’re sure to find new recipes to add to your rotation with these selections. Edna Lewis’ classic The Taste of Country Cooking weaves stories with delicious recipes to create seasonal menus. Formerly an integral part of Paula Deen’s staff at Lady & Sons, Dora Charles has published her own cookbook, full of unexpected tips for maximum flavor, called A Real Southern Cook: In Her Savannah Kitchen. The Church Ladies’ Divine Desserts, by Brenda Rhodes Miller, gives you all the recipes you need for crowd-pleasing desserts, as well as wisdom and laughter from “the Church Ladies.” And celebrity chef Marvin Woods brings you “125 recipes for coastal Southern cooking with innovative style” in The New Low-Country Cooking.
Finally, I’ll leave you with a list some modern writers of fiction, along with a title selected from their work.
- LaShonda Katrice Barnett, Jam on the Vine
- Paul Beatty, The Sellout (satire)
- Chesya Burke, Let’s Play White (short stories)
- Octavia E. Butler, the Xenogenesis trilogy (sci-fi)
- Ernessa T. Carter, 32 Candles (humorous)
- Tananarive Due, Ghost Summer (short stories)
- Piper Huguley, the Home to Milford College series (inspirational romance)
- N. K. Jemisin, the Inheritance trilogy (fantasy)
- Beverly Jenkins, prolific author of historical and contemporary romance
- Sadeqa Johnson, Second House from the Corner
- Victor LaValle, The Ballad of Black Tom (horror)
- Terry McMillan, Waiting to Exhale
- Rebel Miller, the Kira’s Story series (futuristic romance)
- Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye
- Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress (mystery)
- Z. Z. Packer, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere (short stories)
- Dolen Perkins-Valdez, Balm
- Delores Phillips, The Darkest Child
- Darryl Pinckney, High Cotton
- John Ridley, Everybody Smokes in Hell (noir)
- Alice Walker, The Color Purple
- Colson Whitehead, Zone One (zombie thriller)
- Jacqueline Woodson, Miracle’s Boys (young adult)
Of course, these authors are relevant all year long, not just during Black History Month. So, if many of these names are new to you, why not choose a few and add their works your reading list this year? And don’t forget, if we don’t have one of these titles in our catalogue, we can always submit an Interlibrary Loan (ILL) request to other libraries throughout the country.
Here are links to lists and reviews I found helpful (and interesting) in creating this blog post, where you can discover even more great writers. Happy Black History Month! Read the rest of this entry →