In this post, I’ll review the top 10 famous books by Black authors that you must read not only during the Black History Month but throughout the year. However, before getting in to the meat and potatoes of this article, let me briefly share what is so special about this special month?
Every year we dedicate the whole month of February to honor and celebrate the Black History.
We celebrate Black History Month by showing our regard to the African- Americans’ struggle and sacrifices for freedom and equality in American society. It all started back in 1915 with a Harvard-trained historian named Dr. Carter G. Woodson. He got the idea to celebrate Black history and founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. It was, in fact, through this organization that Dr. Woodson announced to celebrate a Negro History Week in February 1925. The sole purpose behind this initiation was to raise awareness of African American’s contributions to civilization. The response was so overwhelming that this week-long celebration was extended to Black History Month in 1976.
Black History Month continues to be widely celebrated today. The people dedicate February to honor the accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor. African American literature and art, in particular, has been a medium for people to appreciate Black lives. The writings of Black Americans, including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, historical documents, and memoirs, explore the issues of freedom and equality that had been long denied to Blacks in the United States. The writers explore these issues by dealing with such themes as racism, alienation, sense of home, slavery, and segregation.
A Review on Top 10 Famous Books by Black Authors
Here is the list of Top 10 Most Famous Books by Black Authors that everyone must read to recognize and regard their efforts, history, and present living conditions.
1. Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley
Alex Haley’s Roots is a most influential American family saga about 18th century slavery.
Published in 1976, the novel is based on the stories covering the lives of six generations of Haley’s family. Though these stories were told to him by his grandmother during childhood, Haley still remembered them when grew up. After spending 12 years digging for documentation to authenticate the story, he took on the task of penning down his research.
A Pulitzer prize and a National book award winning novel, Roots tells the tale of an African, Kunte Kinte, who was enslaved and transported to America. The novel also brings to the forefront the stories of 25 million Americans of African descent and traces the origins of African American roots. From the character development and deep emotional impact to the powerful themes and language, this novel is rich in every aspect. It is, indeed, a worth reading book.
2. Cane by Jean Toomer
An experimental collection of short stories and poems, Jean Toomer’s Cane is considered to be a literary masterpiece that had a leading influence on the Harlem Renaissance.
Through its innovative form, the novel beautifully portrays Black culture and experience. Many critics consider Cane as an impressionist and surrealist piece, illustrating psychological realism and truths about human nature. Working with dualities, the world of Cane moves back and forth aesthetically from simple forms to complex ones while regionally from the South to the North.
Emphasizing the character sketches, stories, poems, and dramatic passages, Toomer’s Cane offers an innovative fictional and poetic work devoted to the description of Black experience in America. The rich imagery, subtle symbolism, and the shifting rhythm of syntax and diction have made Cane illusively beautiful and aesthetically appealing. Toomer has described the horror of African-American roots, slavery, lynching, oppression and exploitation against the setting of natural beauty.
3. Beloved by Toni Morrison
A sensational story of slavery and racism, Beloved is Toni Morrison’s masterful work.
With its compelling and dazzling story, the novel explores the devastating experience that continued to resonate the lives of former slaves. Set in post-Civil War Ohio, Beloved centers on a Black woman named Sethe. She is an escaped slave and constantly struggling with her haunting past. Astonishing and appalling in its turns of events, the novel combines the visionary power of legend with the invincible truth of history.
Morrison’s use of fantasy, her sinuous poetic style, her dense and at times colloquial language and her rich interweaving of the mythic have given Beloved the great strength and texture. Sometimes gruesome and difficult, the unforgettable novel is one of the great and enduring works of American literature.
4. Jazz by Toni Morrison
A landmark on American literary landscape, Jazz is a wonderful and thrillingly written novel.
It narrates the the story of love, violence, passion, and obsession by conjuring up the hand of slavery on Harlem’s jazz generation. Morrison’s Jazz is rich in themes, symbolism, poetic images. Moreover, the novel attempts to retrace the mechanism of cultural authority.
At the center of the novel is a couple who represents the difficulties of those millions of African Americans who, during the Great Migration, moved from the rural South to the North in search of a better life. Haunted by their memories of slavery, the characters in the novel face subjugation and alienation in the society dominated by white Americans. They also experience oppression within their own black community. Interestingly, throughout Jazz, people do not play music. In fact, they are played by it. The more they listen to Jazz, the more they crave to hear.
5.Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
A powerful feministic novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God tells the story of Janie Crawford’s quest for identity. Packed with surprises and a combination of sentiments, the book has made Alice Walker remark, “There is no book more important to me than this one.” The narrative moves swiftly, compelling the reader to ponder on a new kind of love based upon partnership instead of ownership.
The structure of the story revolves around the three men in Janie’s life. Her three marriages bring for Janie a great learning experience. Hurston has used rich, powerful and poetic southern dialect in the novel. Additionally, its unique structure, story and the figurative expressions compelled it to occupy an iconic position in 20th century literature. The novel takes us to such unexpected turns that no one would have ever imagined.
6. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Ralph Ellison’s National Book Award-winning novel Invisible Man represents a classic case of the mis-educated Negro, who is taught to despise his own people.
The novel records his experiences from high school days through three years of college to his terrible life in Harlem. Ellison describes his narrator’s journey from blind ignorance to enlightened awareness through the nuances of the English language.
Ellison’s Invisible Man is a combination of existential, realistic, surrealistic and allegorical analysis. It ranges in tone from tragedy to socio-political satire as well as near-slapstick comedy. The novel is rich in symbolism, irony, wordplay. It also uses multiple themes and motifs to steep in the Black experience of oppression and prejudice in America. The narrator introduces himself as an invisible man. He is obsessed with a need for light to validate his existence. His quest for identity finally made him realize the difference between seeing through ‘physical eyes’ and ‘inner eyes’.
7. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
A classic, deep and moving novel, The Color Purple is a critically acclaimed epistolary novel by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker.
The novel tells a beautiful story of pain and hope. It centers on a young Black woman, Celie. Her life in the American South is that of utmost grimness until she finds her own voice. She is molested by her stepfather and forced to marry an older man. Also, things get even more worse when she is separated from her sister, the only person from whom she receives kindness and love. Eventually Celie finds love with Shug Avery, her husband’s mistress. Shug, a jazz and blues singer, strongly grabs her imagination as well as her heart.
Capturing the voice of a poor, uneducated Black woman with a vibrant authenticity, The Color Purple helps us to see the gray areas of Black women’s lives and experiences. Celie’s relationship with God and her missionary sister, Nettie, is the heart and soul of the novel. Besides all this, there is much more worth reading in the novel.
8. Kindred by Octavia Butler
A striking combination of fantasy and science fiction, Kindred by Octavia Butler reveals the horrors of slavery and impact of racism, sexism, and white supremacy on African-Americans.
This graphic novel centers on a modern Black woman, Dana, and her time-travels to the antebellum South. With its mysterious and moving story, it highlights various truths and misconceptions about the antebellum South.
Beginning with Dana and her white husband, Kindred presents the notion that marriage between the two races would be tumultuous due to the mixed feelings of pride, strength and weaknesses in one’s race. The novel also attempts to uncover the unseen and encourage the audience to look at the past from a humanistic point of view. This human aspect of the past, according to Butler, will bring people into a new understanding of history.
9. Go Tell it On The Mountain by James Baldwin
Go Tell it on the Mountain is James Baldwin’s masterful semi-autobiographical novel. Baldwin wrote this book when he gave up being a youth preacher and left the church to become a writer.
It is a haunting coming-of-age story of a young Black boy’s relationship with his dysfunctional family and the church. Set in 1930s Harlem, the novel spans a single day in John Grime’s life and his struggle with self-identity. The novel questions the terms of John’s identity through the powerful combination of lyrical compassion, rage, nostalgia and wonder.
The novel captures an essential aspect of American life coupled with its contradictions and seductions. It also invites the reader into an underexplored inner sanctum of the human experience. The steamy mix of sex and spirit, body and soul, lust and faith sometimes makes the book strikingly dangerous.
10. Black Boy by Richard Wright
A memoir of racism and racial identity, Black Boy is an autobiographical novel vividly describing the emotional and physical assaults that Wright suffered during his childhood and youth.
Recording grimly his journey from innocence to experience, Wright’s novel portrays an African American’s search for self-authorization in a segregated American South. Wright’s compelling book does an outstanding job of educating the people on the dark times he lived through. One of the most influential works of American literature, Black Boy is a highly recommended book with its enriching, intriguing, and intense plot containing both positive and negative aspects of Black life.
Though there are numerous famous books by Black authors, I’ve just reviewed 10 of them. If you enjoyed reading about these famous books by some of the well-known Black authors, also check out Amazing Books To Advance Your Career As A writer.
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