Fiction books by black authors make up a large subset of Pulitzer Prize-winning novels, short stories, and famous collections. Whether they detail the struggles of African Americans in the nation’s past or present, many represent inside views of a culture’s history, reflected by their authors’ experiences.
Some fiction, however, is not charged with culture and politics and simply remains a testament to the creator’s imagination. These 3 books represent a wide range of fiction books by black authors, both political and non-political. All of them deserve a place on your reading list.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Color Purple won the Pulitzer Price in 1983 before becoming a famous film. It details life in rural Georgia in the 1930s for a family that lives out the horrors of their ancestors’ past in their everyday lives. Mister, a widower who needs a housewife, accepts an offer to marry a young girl named Celie from her controlling father. Her life with Mister involves great pain, but also triumph.
The story is really about Celie finding a voice in a situation that doesn’t think she deserves one. Walker’s epistolary style (the novel is a series of letters) leads to great empathy, as we see not only the abuses suffered by Celie but also the reinforced heartlessness that taught the men in her life to act the way they do.
With a cutting eye for cultural critique and deep empathy for the human condition, Walker wrote a must-read with The Color Purple.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
Not all fiction books by black authors concern the history of oppression in America. Some, such as The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, explore the imaginative possibilities of sci-fi from its author’s unique perspective. In this book, species and ethnicities are divided into social roles based on their physical attributes. They live on one giant continent in the planet’s sea and await inevitable climate change as they battle their society’s rules.
This novel, which became the first in a series, engages as only science fiction can. Written in 2015, it therefore provides a stunning, complex view into the modern black writer’s imagination.
Miss Muriel and Other Stories by Ann Petry
If you want to read something as thematically timely now as when it came out, add Miss Muriel and Other Stories to your list. It details a young girl’s fears for her father’s life, her social dilemmas, and black male helplessness.
Petry centers the story on childhood but attacks adult themes, such as the black community’s relationship with the police. For a short story collection that has held social importance for almost 40 years, check out Miss Muriel.
Fiction books by black authors encompass literature from the 1800s through the struggles of the Civil Rights movement and today. Many of these books detail the struggles of their authors and their families. Others, like The Fifth Season, simply exist as testaments to imagination.
Whichever you decide to read, consider this list of three essentials as a cross-section of the great black literature that has come out in the last 50 years.