NOTABLE AFRICAN-AMERICAN-INTEREST TITLES, FALL 2014–SPRING 2015
Arrows of Rain by Okey Ndibe (Soho,
Jan. 2015). Finally available in the U. S.,
Ndibe’s debut novel investigates the
colonial legacy of corruption and misuse
of power in an African country based on
his native Nigeria.
A Brief History of Seven Killings by
Marlon James (Riverhead). James’s
magisterial novel is a sweeping history of
the insidious entanglement of Jamaican politics
with violent criminal gangs, as told by a dazzling array of characters.
A Christmas Prayer by Kimberla Lawson Roby
(Grand Central). Since the death of her mother,
Christmas has come to mean heartache to Alexis
Fletcher; and even as she prepares to marry, outside forces threaten to destroy her happiness at
Driving The King by Ravi Howard (HarperCollins,
Jan. 2015). In a novel that opens in the Jim Crow
South of 1945, a childhood friend of the great jazz
singer/pianist Nat King Cole is asked to become
his driver and bodyguard after spending years in
God Help the Child by Toni Morrison (Knopf, April
2015). The Nobel Prize–winning novelist writes
about the aftermath of an allegation made by a
student about a teacher.
Inside a Silver Box by Walter Mosley (Tor, Jan.
2015). In a new work of SF by the acclaimed novelist, two people brought together by a terrible act
unite to save humanity from an alien race.
Only the Strong by Jabari Asim (Agate, May 2015).
Set in St. Louis in 1970, this debut novel uses three
interwoven stories to survey urban life in the first
years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.
Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson
(William Morrow, Feb. 2015). Provocative and funny, this multicultural satirical novel is a coming-of-age story about four classmates at UC. Berkeley
that skewers issues of race, class, and intellectual
chauvinism for the social media generation.
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
(Graywolf). In poetry and poetic essays, Rankine recounts the mounting racial aggressions of everyday
life in a collection that was a finalist for this year’s
National Book Award for Poetry.
How to Be Drawn by Terrance Hayes
(Penguin, Mar. 2015). A new collection
of poetry exploring how we see and are
seen, by Hayes, a MacArthur Fellow and
winner of the 2010 National Book Award
The Little Edges by Fred Moten
(Wesleyan Univ., Dec.). A collection of
“shaped prose” poems by Moten, whose
The Feel Trio was a finalist for this year’s
National Book Award for Poetry.
Blackjack: Second Bite of the Cobra by
Alex Simmons and Joe Bennett (Dover, July
2015). A graphic novel chronicling the exploits of Aaron Day, a fictional 1930s
African-American soldier of fortune, this
time traveling to Egypt to battle a bedouin
March, Book 2 by John Le wis, Andre w
Aydin, and Nate Powell. (Top Shelf, Jan.
2015). In the second volume of this acclaimed
graphic memoir by Lewis, a U.S. representative from
Georgia, he and his fellow Freedom Riders face
brutal beatings and vicious white cops as
they put their lives on the line to challenge
segregation and racism in the heart of the
Jim Crow South.
Strange Fruit, Vol. 1: Uncelebrated
Narratives from Black History by Joel
Christian Gill (Fulcrum). An illuminating and
eccentric collection of nonfiction comics
stories about lesser known black historical
figures, written and drawn by Gill with a
foreword by prof. Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr.
Becoming Richard Pryor by Scott Saul
(HarperCollins). A decade’s worth of research went
into this new biography of the brilliant African-American comedian.
Black Broadway: African-Americans on
the Great White Way by Stewart F. Lane
(Square One, Feb. 2015). This illustrated
history of African-Americans in the New
York theater features b&w and color photographs from both New York Public Library
and Harlem’s Schomberg Center for
Research in Black Culture.
Common Wealth: Art by African-Americans in the Museum of Fine Arts,
Boston by Lowery Stokes Sims (MFA
Publications, Jan. 2015). A generously illustrated
collection documenting the work of African-American artists from the 19th century until now, including Lois Mailou Jones, Jacob Lawrence, Kerry
James Marshall, and many others.
Cosby: His Life and Times by Mark Whitaker (S&S).
This biography, which chronicles how Bill Cosby
changed American comedy and American culture,
has become controversial for failing to provide a
substantial account of the mounting rape allegations against Cosby.
Eye on the Struggle by James McGrath
Morris (Amistad, Feb. 2015). McGrath
documents the life of the unheralded, pioneering black journalist Ethel Lois Payne,
who was the Chicago Defender’s White
House correspondent in the 1950s.
Fire Shut Up in My Bones: A Memoir by
Charles M. Blow (HMH). In this acclaimed
memoir, the New York Times columnist re-
counts growing up poor, his sexual abuse
at an early age, and the trauma of coming to grips
with his sexuality and a culture of hazing and
abuse he enters while in college.
A Light Shines in Harlem: New York’s First Charter
School and the Movement It Led by Mary C.
Bounds (Chicago Review). A look at the Sisulu-Walker Charter School, founded in Harlem in
1999, which marks the beginning of the controversial charter school movement in New York City and
a new stage in public school reform.
The Night Malcolm X Spoke at the Oxford Union:
A Transatlantic Story of Antiracist Protest by
Stephen Tuck (Univ. of California). In
1964, Malcolm X accepted an invitation
from the Oxford Union, a prestigious
U.K. debating organization. Tuck recre-
ates the dramatic events of that night.
Published to coincide with a 50th anni-
versary restaging of the event.
Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have
Polarized Our Country by Shelby Steele
(Basic Books, Mar. 2015). Black con-
servative and NBCC award winner
Steele blames liberalism’s focus on America’s rac-
ist past for perpetuating contemporary racial an-
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace:
A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the
Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs (Scribner). The tragic
account of the life of an impoverished
young black man who graduated from
Yale with a degree in molecular biochemistry and biophysics before
being murdered in a basement marijuana lab.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline
Woodson (Penguin). This acclaimed
memoir in verse—winner of the 2014
National Book Award for Young
People’s Literature—is the story of Woodson’s
childhood growing up in Brooklyn and South
Carolina in the 1960s and 1970s.
Jalani and the Lock by Lorenzo Pace (Windmill,
Jan. 2015) This illustrated work—the latest in a
quartet of picture books by Pace—tells the story
of an iconic lock, once used in slavery, that has
been passed down through generations of a
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Algonquin, Apr.
2015). Twelve-year-old Corrinne La Mer accidently
brings a jumbie—a wicked spirit from Caribbean
folklore—out of the woods and must risk her life to
stop the magical creatures from taking over her island home.
X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz, with Nekla Magoon
(Candlewick, Jan. 2015). This YA novel is based on
Malcolm X’s childhood through his teen years, and
his social and moral transformation after ending
up in jail (cowritten by Shabazz, Malcolm X’s
For more adult titles, go to www.publishersweekly.com/afam14; for additional kids’ listings, go to www.publishersweekly.com/afam14kids.