Saturdays here at Writing It Wells are dedicated to raising awareness. Today the literary and publishing industry are still widely white-washed. Black and minority voices still aren't being accurately represented in the number of books published and people hired. With this discrepancy in the industry comes a wide gap in experiences shared. We're only getting part of the bigger story, and as writers, we all know that you can't tell a story without sharing every perspective that matters.
Our Acknowledgement Series is devoted to highlighting Black writers and poets who have influenced our words and reshaped our world. Today we're honoring Jamaica Kincaid, Jessie Redmon Fauset, Angie Thomas, and Gloria Naylor.
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Jamaica Kincaid wrote stories pertaining to her Antigua heritage, her relationship with her mother, and her experience as a Black woman.
Here are some of her works:
Published in 1985, a novel.
Annie John is a haunting and provocative story of a young girl growing up on the island of Antigua. A classic coming-of-age story in the tradition of The Catcher in the Rye and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Kincaid's novel focuses on a universal, tragic, and often comic theme: the loss of childhood.
Published in 1990, a novel.
Lucy, a teenage girl from the West Indies, comes to North America to work as an au pair for Lewis and Mariah and their four children. Lewis and Mariah are a thrice-blessed couple: handsome, rich, and seemingly happy. Yet, almost at once, Lucy begins to notice cracks in their beautiful facade. With mingled anger and compassion, Lucy scrutinizes the assumptions and verities of her employers' world and compares them with the vivid realities of her native place. Lucy has no illusions about her own past, but neither is she prepared to be deceived presently.
Find it here.
The Autobiography of My Mother
Published in 1996, a novel.
A seventy-year-old West Indian woman looks back over the course of her life and examines the relationships that have given meaning to her existence.
See Now Then
Published in 2013, a novel.
Her first in ten years: a marriage is revealed in all its joys and agonies. This piercing examination of the manifold ways in which the passing of time operates on the human consciousness unfolds gracefully, and Kincaid inhabits each of her characters, a mother and father and their two children living in a small village in New England, as they mentally move between the present, the past, and the future.
Jessie Redmon Faucet raised awareness for Black culture and encouraged racial pride through her writings.
Here are some of her works:
There Is Confusion
Published in 1924, a novel.
Set in Philadelphia 60 years ago, There Is Confusion traces the lives of Joanna Mitchell and Peter Bye, whose families must come to terms with an inheritance of prejudice and discrimination as they struggle for legitimacy and respect.
Plum Bun: A Novel Without a Moral
Published in 1928, a novel.
Plum Bun is the story of Angela Murray, a young black girl who discovers she can pass for white. After the death of her parents, Angela moves to New York to escape the racism she believes is her only obstacle to opportunity. What she soon discovers is that being a woman has its own burdens that don't fade with the color of one's skin, and that love and marriage might not offer her salvation.
The Chinaberry Tree: A Novel of American Life
Within the tranquil setting of a small New Jersey town in the early 1900s, this novel explores tempestuous issues that range from racial identity to adultery, incest, and deception. Noted Harlem Renaissance author Fauset recounts a young woman's obsession with her "bad blood," inherited from a common-law interracial union.
Angie Thomas delivers a powerful message in her young adult and middle grade writings.
Here are her works:
The Hate U Give
Published in 2017, inspired by the BLM movement.
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night?
On the Come Up
Published in 2019, a novel.
Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.
Published in 2021, sequel to The Hate U Give.
International phenomenon Angie Thomas revisits Garden Heights seventeen years before the events of The Hate U Give in this searing and poignant exploration of Black boyhood and manhood.
Gloria Naylor was heavily influenced by female African American writers. It's no wonder that her own narratives features strong Black women as well.
Here are some of her works:
The Women of Brewster Place
Published in 1982, her first novel.
The stories of seven women living in Brewster Place, a bleak inner-city sanctuary, creating a powerful, moving portrait of the strengths, struggles, and hopes of black women in America. Vulnerable and resilient, openhanded and open-hearted, these women forge their lives in a place that in turn threatens and protects—a common prison and a shared home. Naylor renders both loving and painful human experiences with simple eloquence and uncommon intuition.
Published in 1985, a novel.
A world away from Brewster Place, yet intimately connected to it, lies Linden Hills. With its showcase homes, elegant lawns, and other trappings of wealth, Linden Hills is not unlike other affluent black communities. But residence in this community is indisputable evidence of "making it." Although no one knows what the precise qualifications are, everyone knows that only certain people get to live there—and that they want to be among them. In a resonant novel that takes as its model Dante's Inferno, Naylor reveals the truth about the American dream—that the price of success may very well be a journey down to the lowest circle of hell.
Published in 1988, a novel.
A fascinating novel that reworks elements of Shakespeare's The Tempest. On the island of Willow Springs, off the Georgia coast, the powers of healer Mama Day are tested by her great niece, Cocoa, a stubbornly emancipated woman endangered by the island's darker forces.
Published in 1992, a novel.
Set in a diner where the food isn't very good and the ambience veers between heaven and hell, this bestselling novel from the author of Mama Day and The Women of Brewster Place is a feast for the senses and the spirit.
Children of the Night: The Best Short Stories by Black Writers, 1967 to the Present
Published in 1995, short stories.
In 1969, Little, Brown and Company published The Best Short Stories by Black Writers, edited by Langston Hughes - the classic compendium of African-American short fiction from 1897 to 1967. Now, a quarter of a century later, Naylor has compiled an encore volume, Children of the Night, bringing this extraordinary series up to date. Gathering together the most gifted black writers of our time, from 1967 to the present, she has assembled a rich and varied collection of stories.
The Men of Brewster Place
Published in 1999, a sequel.
Naylor returns to the fictional neighborhood, this time focusing on the men behind the women who inhabited that desolate block of row houses, telling their tragic, sad, funny, and heroic stories.
These writers have all earned their place amongst the most influential writers in the literary world. With these short bios and lists of their works, I hope to inspire you to read and learn more about them. Happy reading!
I do not own any of the book cover images, nor the pictures of the writers. They are only used for creative purposes, not for profit. Below are my sources.
https://www.goodreads.com/ (for book cover images). All images of the writers themselves came from https://www.wikipedia.org/ except for the image of Angie Thomas which came from her author site https://angiethomas.com/. Dates accessed 8/20/20 and 8/21/20.
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