Adult Fiction by Black Authors

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If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin (1974)

Tish and Fonny have pledged to get married, but Fonny is falsely accused of a terrible crime and imprisoned. Their families set out to clear his name, and as they face an uncertain future, the young lovers experience a kaleidoscope of emotions — affection, despair, and hope.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (2017)

Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm in Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937)

Originally published in 1937 and set in Southern Florida, this story follows main character Janie Crawford on her quest to find independence throughout three different marriages.

The Love Songs of W. E. B. DuBois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers (2021)

The great scholar, W.E.B. Du Bois, once wrote about what he called “Double Consciousness,” a sensitivity that every African American possesses in order to survive. From an early age, Ailey fights a battle for belonging that’s made all the more difficult by a hovering trauma. To come to terms with her own identity, Ailey embarks on a journey through her family’s past. In doing so Ailey must learn to embrace her full heritage, a legacy of oppression and resistance, bondage and independence, cruelty and resilience that is the story–and the song–of America itself.

Kindred by Octavia Butler (1979)

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

The Talented Ribkins by Ladee Hubbard (2017)

Johnny Ribkins has one week to come up with the money he stole from his mobster boss or it’s curtains for Johnny. His family has super powers that are sad, but are super powers nonetheless. A few years back, the family stashed stolen money all over Florida and now with his niece in tow, the duo tries to find the loot.

The Turner House  by Angela Flournoy (2015)

The Turners have lived on Yarrow Street for over fifty years. Their house has seen thirteen children grown and gone–and some returned; it has seen the arrival of grandchildren, the fall of Detroit’s East Side, and the loss of a father. But now, as ailing matriarch Viola finds herself forced to leave her home and move in with her eldest son, the family discovers that the house is worth just a tenth of its mortgage.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (1970)

Eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove, an African-American girl in an America whose love for blonde, blue-eyed children can devastate all others, prays for her eyes to turn blue, so that she will be beautiful, people will notice her, and her world will be different.

Red River by Lalita Tademy (2007)

The intertwining stories of two Louisiana families–three generations of African-American men–and their struggles to make a place for themselves in a country deeply divided in the aftermath of the Civil War and beyond.

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines (1993)

A young man who returns to 1940s Cajun country to teach visits a black youth on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. Together they come to understand the heroism of resisting.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1982)

Depicts the lives of African American women in early twentieth-century rural Georgia. Separated as girls, sisters Celie and Nettie sustain their loyalty to and hope in each other across time, distance, and silence. Through a series of letters spanning twenty years, first from Celie to God, then from the sisters to each other, the novel draws readers into the experiences of Celie, Nettie, Shug Avery, and Sofia.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (2018)

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy, the living embodiment of the New South, are settling into the routine of their life together when Roy is sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. An insightful look into the lives of people who are bound and separated by forces beyond their control.

The Awkward Black Man: Stories by Walter Moseley (2020)

Mosley presents distinct characters as they struggle to move through the world in each of these stories-heroes who are awkward, nerdy, self-defeating, self-involved, and, on the whole, odd. He overturns the stereotypes that corral black male characters and paints a subtle, powerful portrait of each of these unique individual.

How Are You Going to Save Yourself by J. M. Holmes (2018)

A collection of stories follows four young men as they come of age in a Rhode Island postindustrial enclave and struggle to liberate themselves from the limitations imposed on African Americans while navigating the dynamics of sex, drugs, class, and family.