In honor of Black History Month, we want to highlight ten of our favorite books you can check out from our Novel Conversations lending library to read with your book club. These inspirational books by black authors honor the African-American experience in America and are worth adding to your reading list.
Ordinary Light by Tracy K. Smith
Written by the current US poet laureate, this memoir was a National Book Award finalist in 2015. In the book, Smith explores her middle-class childhood, her relationship with her mother, her experience as a black woman in America and her own writing.To learn more about Smith, check out our blog post from her recent visit to Indiana.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
This 2016 Pulitzer-Prize-winning book tells the alternate history of two nineteenth century slaves, who escape using the Underground Railroad, which in the case of the novel includes an actual railway system. Offering commentary on both past and present America, Whitehead’s novel is poignant and memorable.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement, Thomas’s young adult novel depicts the life of 16-year-old Starr Carter, who witnesses police brutality resulting in the death of her childhood friend. The event inspires her to become an activist for racial equality.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nahesi Coates
Winner of the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction, Coates’s book is a letter to his teenage son, which explores American history, racial violence, the author’s experience growing up in Baltimore and what it means to be a black man in America.
On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker by A’Lelia Bundles
Written by the subject’s great-great-granddaughter, this books details the life of Madam C.J. Walker, an entrepreneur, innovator and philanthropist, who founded a cosmetics line for black women in the early twentieth century. Her factory was headquartered in Indianapolis.
The Return of Simple by Langston Hughes
A central figure of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes worked to portray accurate and realistic depictions of the black working class experience in his writing. This 1994 collection of previously unpublished vignettes features Hughes’ famous character Jesse B. Semple.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
In this 2017 National Book Award winner for fiction, Ward tells the story and struggles of a family from rural Mississippi. Using different voices and weaving in elements of the supernatural, the book is difficult, challenging and hopeful, as it considers what it means to be family.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Morrison’s modern-day classic, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988, is set shortly after the American Civil War and tells the story of a woman and her daughter after their escape from slavery. Haunting, suspenseful and poetic, the book explores the devastating impact of slavery even after it has ended.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Written in 1937, Hurston’s book tells the coming-of-age story of a young black woman in southern Florida in the early twentieth century. Exploring themes of gender, race, language and identity, this vibrant novel has rightfully joined the canon of classic contemporary literature.
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
Shetterly’s 2016 bestseller tells the true story of three female African American mathematicians who worked for NASA during the Cold War, Civil Rights Movement and Space Race of the mid-twentieth century. Along with its historical focus, the book prompts discussion about racial discrimination, gender and scientific ambition.
The post was written by Bronwen Carlisle, who manages Novel Conversations, our free statewide lending library, which loans more than 700 titles, primarily fiction and biography, to reading and discussion groups all over Indiana. For more information about the program, email Bronwen at email@example.com.