Black History Month Authors: Part 4
Or maybe this is part 3. I’m getting lost. Whatever, here’s the latest (and penultimate) installment during Black History Month with recommendations on Black authors whose work I love. You can read earlier recs here.
I came to Octavia Butler so late in life it’s embarrassing. My only excuse is that I haven’t been much of a sci-fi reader as an adult. But several years ago I read Kindred and learned what I’ve been missing. Butler’s style is sparse. The focus is on the plot as told through identification with the characters (trust me: that isn’t always the case). At least that’s how this novel was—I’m loathe to generalize. But this one novel is enough to put her on my list of great Black History Month authors.
David Dennis Jr’s The Movement Made Us is the latest in a genre I have really fallen in love with: children of Civil Rights Movement activists combining the story of their parent’s activism with the story of their relationship with the parent. This book is told by both the son (the Jr) and the dad (the Sr.) The dad had a New Orleans connection, which made it even more appealing to me.
How can there be so many wonderful writers of which I am unaware? Suzan-Lori Parks won the Pulitzer for a play, and her love of voices is evident in her novel Getting Mother’s Body. It is endearing and deft in its use of many POV characters who are expertly drawn with a minimum of words. Plus, it’s hilarious, which always wins me over.
I wasn’t a Black Panther fan, but I couldn’t resist an anthology with Memphis writers in it, like Troy Wiggins and Sherree Renee Thomas. Tales of Wakanda features stories of imagination and plot, others with beautiful words. Some were set in Wakanda, others traveled to London, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Delta (yep.) And I learned so much Wakanda lore! Read a full review here.
I’ve read so much about America’s racist history, but I learned anew from She Took Justice by Gloria Marshall-Browne. The history of how Black women have shaped the legal course of this country is astounding and mainly untold. They say the winners write history, and I’m hoping that the publication of this book indicates we are in the process of redefining who the winners are.
You think lynching was an aberration? The Commercial Appeal in Memphis paid to send a Black “leader” to England to counter Ida B. Wells’ tour denouncing lynching. The paper spent money for a representative to go overseas and defend the right of white Americans to lynch their Black neighbors. This is only one fact you’ll learn in Wells’ extensive, enlightening, essential, and horrifying collection of writings, which I’m happy to have on my list of Black History Month authors.
(I know, you’re thinking, what happened to February 21? Mardi Gras, y’all!)
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