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Wellbeing

Want a good 'read' for the fall/winter? Try a classic African-American novel.

Read Classic African-American Fiction
Posted by Tara White on Thursday, October 13, 2011

From the Harlem Renaissance to contemporary literature, some of the best novels were written by African-American writers. Growing up, I would see my mother buried in a novel from sun down to sun up. I could not wait until she read a few chapters and would then tell me about the story. At that time, I was not into reading, but I enjoyed her telling me the story.

It wasn't until I went to college and enrolled in an African-American literature course, that I fell in love with reading. I learned about the lives of some of the greatest writers and poets. The hurt, pain and struggle of the characters could be felt while reading the words on the pages. I'd get mad, sad and depending on the ending, happy. The new urban fiction that's out now is pretty good, but there's nothing like the classic and contemporary fiction novels written by the likes of Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Earnest J. Gaines and J. California Cooper, to name a few.

Now that it is fall and the winter is soon approaching, why not curl up with an old classic novel. Here are 5 classic African-American novels that are good reads:

There Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watchign GodMesmerizing in its immediacy and haunting in its subtlety, Their Eyes Were Watching God tells the story of Janie Crawford—fair-skinned, long-haired, dreamy woman—who comes of age expecting better treatment than what she gets from her three husbands and community. Then she meets Tea Cake, a younger man who captivates Janie's heart and spirit, and offers her the chance to relish life without being one man's mule or another man's adornment.

Native Son by Richard Wright

Native Son Right from the start, Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail. It could have been for assault or petty larceny; by chance, it was for murder and rape. Native Son tells the story of this 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.

Of Love and Dust by Ernest J. Gaines

Of Love and Dust by Ernest J. Gaines Ernest J. Gaines is best known for his prize-winning THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MISS JANE PITTMAN, but OF LOVE AND DUST has equal power and fascination. It zeros in on an explosion in the making between two men, one black and one white, trapped in the vise of Southern back country prejudice. When young Marcus is bonded out of jail, he is sent to the Hebert Plantation to work in the fields. He treats Sidney Bonbon, the Cajun overseer, with contempt and Bonbon retaliates by working him nearly to death. Marcus decides to take his revenge.

In Search of Satisfaction by J. California Cooper

In Search of Satisfaction In Search Of Satisfaction, Cooper gracefully portrays men and women, some good and others wickedly twisted, caught in their individual thickets of want and need. On a once-grand plantation in Yoville, "a legal town-ship founded by the very rich for their own personal use," a freed slave named Josephus fathers two daughters, Ruth and Yinyang, by two different women. His desire, to give Yinyang and himself money and opportunities, oozes through the family like an elixir, melding with the equally strong yearnings of Yoville's other residents, whose tastes don't complement their neighbors'. What Josephus buries in his life affects generations to come. J. California Cooper's unfettered view of sin, forgiveness, and redemption gives In Search Of Satisfaction a singular richness that belies its universal themes.

Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned by Walter Mosley

Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned New York Times bestselling author Walter Mosley introduces an "astonishing character" (Los Angeles Times Book Review) in this acclaimed collection of entwined tales. Meet Socrates Fortlow, a tough ex-con seeking truth and redemption in South Central Los Angeles — and finding the miracle of survival. Socrates Fortlow has done his time: twenty-seven years for murder and rape, acts forged by his huge, rock-breaking hands. Now, he has come home to a new kind of prison: two battered rooms in an abandoned building in Watts. Working for the Bounty supermarket, and moving perilously close to invisibility, it is Socrates who throws a lifeline to a drowning man: young Darryl, whose shaky path is already bloodstained and fearsome. In a place of violence and hopelessness, Socrates offers up his own battle-scarred wisdom that can turn the world around.

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