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Reading List: 5 African American Books for the Winter Holidays

[By Goyland Williams]

With the holiday season fast approaching, I have begun to
compile my reading list for the Christmas and New Years break. Ranging from Jesmyn
Ward to Percival Everett, my reading list is comprised of black writers whose
work seeks to expand our conception of how black identity is constructed and
how we conceive of those persons living on the margins of society.
In some ways, Morrison’s Home
provides a revisionist history of the 1950s America to disrupt the “Leave it to
Beaver” image that many have about the period and show the struggles that
existed under the surface of black American culture.  Tananarive Due, on the other hand, offers
Afro-futuristic visions about the healing power of music in her speculative
story set in the not too distant future.  
My holiday reading list consists of five works of fiction
written by black writers published within the last two years.

My Soul to Take by
Tananarive Due
Fana, an immortal with tremendous telepathic abilities, is
locked in a battle of wills. Her fiancÉ is Michel. But Johnny Wright, a mortal
who is in love with her, believes that if she doesn’t stay away from Michel,
they will become the Witnesses to the Apocalypse described in the Book of
Revelation. Fana and the Life Brothers are rushing to distribute their healing
“Living Blood” throughout the world, hoping to eliminate most diseases before
Fana is bound to marry Michel. Still, they cannot heal people faster than
Michel can kill them.


Assumption by Percival Everett
Ogden Walker, deputy sheriff of a small New Mexico town, is
on the trail of an old woman’s murderer. But at the crime scene, his are the
only footprints leading up to and away from her door. Something is amiss, and
even his mother knows it. As other cases pile up, Ogden gives chase, pursuing
flimsy leads for even flimsier reasons. His hunt leads him from the seamier
side of Denver to a hippie commune as he seeks the puzzling solution.



Home by Toni Morrison
Frank Money is an angry, self-loathing veteran of the Korean
War who, after traumatic experiences on the front lines, finds himself back in
racist America with more than just physical scars. His home may seem alien to
him, but he is shocked out of his crippling apathy by the need to rescue his
medically abused younger sister and take her back to the small Georgia town
they come from and that he’s hated all his life. As Frank revisits his memories
from childhood and the war that have left him questioning his sense of self, he
discovers a profound courage he had thought he could never possess again.
  
Freeman by Leonard Pitts, Jr.
The novel takes place in the first few months following the
Confederate surrender and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Upon learning
of Lee’s surrender, Sam—a runaway slave who once worked for the Union Army—decides
to leave his safe haven in Philadelphia and set out on foot to return to the
war-torn South. What compels him on this almost-suicidal course is the desire
to find his wife, the mother of his only child, whom he and their son left
behind 15 years earlier on the Mississippi farm to which they all “belonged.” At
the same time, Sam’s wife, Tilda, is being forced to walk at gunpoint with her
owner and two of his other slaves from the charred remains of his Mississippi
farm into Arkansas, in search of an undefined place that would still respect
his entitlements as slaveowner and Confederate officer.
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
A hurricane is building over the Gulf of Mexico, threatening
the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, and Esch’s father is growing
concerned. A hard drinker, largely absent, he doesn’t show concern for much
else. Esch and her three brothers are stocking food, but there isn’t much to
save. Lately, Esch can’t keep down what food she gets; she’s fourteen and
pregnant. Her brother Skeetah is sneaking scraps for his prized pitbull’s new
litter, dying one by one in the dirt. Meanwhile, brothers Randall and Junior
try to stake their claim in a family long on child’s play and short on
parenting.