Epic sagas, magical tales, historical novels, and multi-generational stories of love, loss, and family abound in this spring’s crop of prose and poetry by Black women writers. Usher in the season of rebirth, renewal, and reawakening with these great reads!
Solemn Redvine dreams of stardom as her real life comes undone: a baby is dropped down a well in her trailer park community, a mother disappears, and her father’s mistakes land Solemn in a group home for troubled girls. In Solemn, American Library Association Award-winning author Kalisha Buckhanon crafts a story of a wise-beyond-her-years Mississippi girl’s search for self and truth.
Desiree Cooper’s Know the Mother is a stark meditation on the many roles of a mother–creator, nurturer, protector–alongside the often unspoken fears and desires that mothers have. This deeply emotional debut collection of flash fiction explores the roles that gender and race play in the experience of motherhood. Cooper’s collage of stories reflect the complex lives of women as grandmothers, daughters, sisters, and wives.
In Yvvette Edwards’ hardcover debut, The Mother, Marcia Williams must face the fallout of an unspeakable tragedy: the brutal murder of her sixteen-year-old son. In addition to grief, rage, and the testing of her marriage, Marcia must also face her son’s teenaged killer in court. As she learns more about her son’s life and the person responsible for his death, she uncovers hard truths about her own life.
Kaitlyn Greenidge’s compelling debut, We Love You, Charlie Freeman, tells the story of an African American family, The Freemans, hired by a New England research institute to teach sign language to a young chimp abandoned by his mother and to welcome him as part of their family. Greenidge’s rich narrative about family and history is ultimately a commentary on America’s continual grappling with race.
The experiences of Eritrean refugees–exiled, stateless, invisible–are at the center of The Black Maria, the latest collection from Whiting Award-winning poet Aracelis Girmay. Girmay’s poems explore Diasporic histories, American racism, immigration crisis, and identity. The Black Maria is at once a requiem and a celebration of life.
NEA Creative Writing Fellow francine j. harris conjures a dangerous, fractured, and chaotic world in her second book, play dead. Provocative and harrowing, harris’ poems cover much ground: her mother, Detroit, sex, addiction, rape, suicide, religion, and adolescence. As a whole, the collection deals with the perils and challenges women often face.
Still fragile after a stay at a mental health center, Viola Moon escapes to a small southern black college where she begins a relationship with Perry, the only son of elite black family. But Viola’s hope for stability and a fresh start begin to unravel beneath the weight of a family mystery that leads to a search for her father. Summer of the Cicadas, Cole Lavalais’ debut novel, is an evocative story about the pursuit of home and healing.
Before Columbus American Book Award winner Colleen J. McElroy’s collection of narrative poetry, Blood Memory, is a sweeping epic of history, family, and culture. In it, McElroy writes, “I am the last female of a family/of women who wove the fabric/or stories into doilies and slip covers. And indeed, McElroy’s poems weave a tapestry of emotion and memory. Poet Nikky Finney calls McElroy “a master storyteller to the 60 million of the [Middle] Passage.”
From Macon, Georgia, to Harlem, and from the City of Lights to Weimar, Germany, Bernice L. McFadden’s latest novel follows Harlan and his friend Lizard, two black musicians who are captured by the Nazis during WWII and sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp. The Book of Harlan blends family history and world history, fact and fiction, to revisit a haunting chapter from the past.
Three generations of women are connected by a secret shame in Maria NDiaye’s latest, Ladivine. For more than twenty-five years, Clarisse has protected her middle-class life from vestiges of her past. But this protection has come at a deep personal cost to her husband and daughter. After Clarisse is brutally murdered, her daughter, Ladivine, must unravel many layers of deception to uncover the truth about herself and her mother.
In her latest novel, Even in Paradise, acclaimed author Elizabeth Nunez reimagines Shakespeare’s King Lear set in the Caribbean. She transforms the classic tragic tale of betrayal and manipulation within a family into a more political meditation on race, class, and privilege featuring a multiracial cast of characters.
Named one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists, Helen Oyeyemi is back with a smart, imaginative collection of intertwined stories that center on the literal and metaphorical idea of keys. The keys in Oyeyemi’s various tales lock and unlock realities across a spectrum of times and spaces, raising provocative questions along way.
In Jamie Reed’s YA novel, Keep Me in Mind, Ellia Dawson suffers a terrible accident. In the aftermath, she remembers her parents and her best friend, but she doesn’t recognize the boy who keeps vigil by her hospital bedside and claims he’s her boyfriend, Liam. As Ellia begins to recover, she resists Liam’s efforts to help her remember. With the past fractured, the couple’s future is uncertain.
Sofia Samatar follows up her World Fantasy Award-winning debut, A Stranger in Olondria, with a companion novel, The Winged Histories. This saga of love, family, friendships and dangerous secrets features four women–a poet, a scholar, a soldier, and a socialite–who find themselves on opposing sides during a time of war. An imaginative, poetic, and dark meditation on how history gets made.
Winner of the 2015 Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize, Nicole Sealey’s The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Named draws on individual and collective memory to explore the meaning of life and death. This funny, poignant collection of free and formal verse illuminates personal and political truths.
National bestselling novelist Diane McKinney-Whetstone’s returns to Philadelphia as the nineteenth-century setting for her latest novel, Lazaretto. The titular location is America’s first quarantine hospital, a place that doubles as an entry point for immigrants arriving in the city. The hospital’s black live-in staff and two orphaned brothers are at the center of this historical drama about love and friendship in the aftermath of the Civil War.
In the rural southern black town of Opulence, several generations of women struggle with mental illness, motherhood, love, sexuality, and their relationships to the land. The specter of madness hangs over the youngest generation, as their mothers and grandmothers pass away. The Birds of Opulence is a magical, lyrical novel by award-winning author Crystal Wilkinson.
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