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Chapter 8 - The Vanishing Half

I can't let February, Black History Month, go by without acknowledging wonderful books written by black authors. At Bookends we don't segregate books, literature is literature, so you will find black authors interspersed within our stacks. As I reviewed the books I've read in the last year or so, I realized quite a few of them were written by black authors. This in not intentional by any means. It has happened because the story has appealed to me. While the author has shared experiences that are not my life experiences, there are universal truths as well as different points of view which I understand while reading.

As a white woman, it is hard to speak about black literature without sounding condescending. To be honest, I am not well versed on the subject or even familiar with any but a handful of black authors I've read and enjoyed. That being said, here are some I've come to know through their works.

Toni Morrison - Morrison grew up in the Midwest in a family who stressed black culture. After teaching for a few years, Morrison became a fiction editor at Random House and started writing. Morrison's books are hard to read as they evoke intense emotions. Beloved, for which she won a Pulitzer prize, The Bluest Eye, and Song of Solomon are some of my favorites.

Zadie Smith - The daughter of a Jamaican mother and English father, Smith grew up in a small town in England. Writing since she was about 14, her book White Teeth was written while she was still in university. If you haven't read her I'd recommend that one and Swing Time.

Jesmyn Ward - Jesmyn Ward was born in California and moved with her family to Mississippi at the age of 3. She is the only black author to have won The National Book Award twice. Ward's books capture the lives of black Americans and the struggle to exist. I'd recommend Sing, Unburied, Sing and Salvage the Bones.

Tayari Jones - I first became aware of Jones at the Savannah Book Festival with her book American Marriage. Since then I have reread that and have read her book Silver Sparrow. Her books offer a clear eyed view of family relationships which just happen to be those of black families.

Yaa Gyasi - Yaa Gyasi is an Ghanian-American writer and her first book, Homegoing, received a large advance from its publisher, Knopf. It was inspired by a trip she took to Ghana in 2009 where she had not been since she was a baby. Her latest book, Transcendence, is on my list to read this year.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Adichie is an Nigerian author who writes novels, short stories and non-fiction. My favorite book of hers is Americanah but Half of a Yellow Sun is good too. When she left Nigeria as a university student to come to America, she wasn't used to being defined by the color of her skin. Her books reflect this as well as her fervent feminism.

I also identify as I am writing this list, that I have excluded black males from my selections. While I have read a few - Ralph Ellison, James McBride, Walter Mosely, Colson Whitehead and Ta-Cohesi Coates, for example - I am definitely more familiar with the women.

Please share some black authors you recommend!


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