All Time Faves: Classic African American Fiction

PDFPrinter friendly version

If Beale Street Could Talk If Beale Street Could Talk
By Baldwin, James A.
2006-10 - Vintage Books USA
9780307275936 Check our catalog

In this honest and stunning novel, Baldwin has given America a moving story of love in the face of injustice. In a love story that evokes the blues, where passion and sadness are inevitably intertwined, Baldwin creates two characters so alive and profoundly realized that they are unforgettably ingrained in the American psyche. …More

Kindred Kindred
By Butler, Octavia E.
2004-02 - Beacon Press (MA)
9780807083697 Check our catalog

This 25th anniversary edition, about a modern black woman who is snatched away to the antebellum South, celebrates a classic work with "much to say about love, hate, slavery, and racial dilemmas, then and now" ("Los Angeles Herald Examiner"). …More

Invisible Man Invisible Man
By Ellison, Ralph Waldo
1995-03 - Vintage Books USA
9780679732761 Check our catalog

Invisible Man is a milestone in American literature, a book that has continued to engage readers since its appearance in 1952. A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. …More

A Lesson Before Dying A Lesson Before Dying
By Gaines, Ernest J.
1997-09 - Vintage Books USA
9780375702709 Check our catalog

Winner - 1994 ALA Black Caucus Award
Set in a small Cajun community in the late 1940s, "A Lesson Before Dying" is an "enormously moving" ("Los Angeles Times") novel of one man condemned to die for a crime he did not commit and a young man who visits him in his cell. In the end, the two men forge a bond as they both come to understand the simple heroism of resisting--and defying--the expected. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. …More

Cotton Comes to Harlem Cotton Comes to Harlem
By Himes, Chester B.
1988-11 - Vintage Books
9780394759999 Check our catalog

Black flim-flam man Deke O'Hara is no sooner out of Atlanta's state penitentiary than he's back on the streets working the scam of a lifetime. As sponsor of the Back-to-Africa movement he's counting on the big Harlem rally to produce a big collection--for his own private charity. But the take ($87,000) is hijacked by white gunmen and hidden in a bale of cotton that suddenly everyone wants to get his hands on. With Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones on everyone's trail and piecing together the complexity of the scheme, Cotton Comes to Harlem is one of Himes's hardest-hitting and most entertaining thrillers. …More

Not Without Laughter Not Without Laughter
By Hughes, Langston
2008-04 - Dover Publications
9780486454481 Check our catalog

Langston Hughes, long recognized as a major American poet and an influential force in African-American literature, brought to this, his first novel, the lyricism, humor, and sureness of touch that characterizes his award-winning poetry. This story reflects the joys and hardships of an African-American boy growing to manhood. …More

Their Eyes Were Watching God Their Eyes Were Watching God
By Hurston, Zora Neale
2006-01 - HarperCollins Publishers
9780060838676 Check our catalog

Hurston's beloved classic--one of the most important American novels of the 20th century--follows the fortunes of Janie Crawford, a woman who was married three times and had been tried for the murder of one of her husbands in the black town of Eaton, Florida. …More

Dreamer Dreamer
By Johnson, Charles
1999-02 - Scribner Book Company
9780684854434 Check our catalog

Set against the tensions of Civil Rights era America, Dreamer is a remarkable fictional excursion into the last two years of Martin Luther King Jr.'s life, when the political and personal pressures on this country's most preeminent moral leader were the greatest. While in Chicago for his first northern campaign against poverty and inequality, King encounters Chaym Smith, whose startling physical resemblance to King wins him the job of official stand-in. Matthew Bishop, a civil rights worker and loyal follower of King, is given the task of training the smart and deeply cynical Smith for the job. …More

The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
By Johnson, James Weldon
1990-02 - Penguin Books
9780140184020 Check our catalog

A Great Books Discussion Selection

This book is an emotionally gripping novel of a landmark in black literary history and, more than eighty years after its original anonymous publication, a classic of American fiction. It's influenced a generation of writers during the Harlem Renaissance and served as eloquent inspiration for Zora Neale. In the 1920s and since, it has also given white readers a startling new perspective on their own culture, revealing to many the double standard of racial identity imposed on black Americans.…More


Brown Girl, Brownstones Brown Girl, Brownstones
By Marshall, Paule
2009-01 - Dover Publications
9780486468327 Check our catalog

This beloved coming-of-age story set in Brooklyn during the Depression and World War II follows the life of Selina Boyce, the daughter of Caribbean immigrants. Author Danticat explores the novel's themes of identity, sexuality, and values as well as Selina's struggle against the racism and poverty surrounding her. …More

Song of Solomon Song of Solomon
By Morrison, Toni
2004-06 - Vintage Books
9781400033423 Check our catalog

Milkman Dead was born shortly after a neighborhood eccentric hurled himself off a rooftop in a vain attempt at flight. For the rest of his life he, too, will be trying to fly. With this brilliantly imagined novel, Toni Morrison transfigures the coming-of-age story as audaciously as Saul Bellow or Gabriel Garcia Marquez. As she follows Milkman from his rustbelt city to the place of his family's origins, Morrison introduces an entire cast of strivers and seeresses, liars and assassins, the inhabitants of a fully realized black world. …More

The Women of Brewster Place The Women of Brewster Place
By Naylor, Gloria
1983-06 - Penguin Books
9780140066906 Check our catalog

The women of Brewster Place are "hard-edged, soft-centered, brutally demanding, and easily pleased". In their stories, Gloria Naylor has created a community of women that has touched thousands of readers across the country. Now the basis for a November 1988, ABC-TV, three-hour movie, starring Oprah Winfrey. …More

The Color Purple The Color Purple
By Walker, Alice
2006-11 - Harvest Books
9780156031820 Check our catalog

Banner] Now a Tony Award-Winning Broadway Musical
"The Color Purple "is the story of two sisters--one a missionary to Africa and the other a child wife living in the South--who remain loyal to one another across time, distance, and silence. Beautifully imagined and deeply compassionate, this classic of American literature is rich with passion, pain, inspiration, and an indomitable love of life.

"Intense emotional impact . . . Indelibly affecting . . . Alice Walker is a lavishly gifted writer."--"The New York Times Book Review …More


Jubilee Jubilee
By Walker, Margaret
1999-01 - Mariner Books
9780395924952 Check our catalog

A spirited novel, based on the true story of Vyry--a Southern Civil War heroine to rival Scarlett O'Hara--the child of a white plantation owner and his black mistress. "A revelation".--"Milwaukee Journal". …More

The Wedding The Wedding
By West, Dorothy
1996-01 - Anchor Books
9780385471442 Check our catalog

The publication of "The Wedding by Dorothy West, the last surviving member of the Harlem Renaissance, was not only a landmark literary event, but a commercial success as well. Readers across America responded to West's delicat weaving of North and South, black and white, past and present in this "fascinating and engrossing tale" ("People) of race and class set in Martha's Vineyard.In her first novel in forty-seven years, West offers a window into the rise of the black middle class as she lived it. …More

Native Son Native Son
By Wright, Richard
2005-08 - Harper Perennial
9780060837563 Check our catalog

Native Son tells the story of A young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Wright's powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America. …More