February is a great month! Not only is it a sign that winter is–slowly–coming to an end as the days lengthen again, it’s also the month of Valentine’s Day (half-priced candy, anyone?), I Love to Read Month, and Black History Month.
To help you combine the last two, here’s a short sampling of excellent contemporary fiction in all genres by black authors from all over the world. (Authors with a Canadian connection are distinguished with a *.) To see much more of what’s available, come check out the themed display at Millennium Library; or, if you prefer ebooks/audiobooks, take a look at our complementary OverDrive collection.
Before he can retire, Las Vegas detective Salazar is determined to solve a recent spate of murders. When he encounters a pair of conjoined twins with a container of blood near their car, he’s sure he has apprehended the killers, and enlists the help of Dr. Sunil Singh, a South African transplant who specializes in the study of psychopaths. Suspenseful through the last page, The Secret History of Las Vegas is Abani’s most accomplished work to date, with his trademark visionary prose and a striking compassion for the inner lives of outsiders.
These three internationally acclaimed classic novels comprise what has come to be known as Achebe’s “African Trilogy.” Beginning with the best-selling Things Fall Apart, the African Trilogy captures a society caught between its traditional roots and the demands of a rapidly changing world. In these masterful novels, Achebe brilliantly sets universal tales of personal and moral struggle in the context of the tragic drama of colonization.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart Nigeria. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.
* André Alexis
A thief with elegant tastes is recruited by an aging heroin addict whose wealthy father has recently passed away, leaving each of his five children a mysterious object that provides one clue to the whereabouts of a large inheritance. She enlists the thief to steal the objects from her siblings and help her solve the puzzle. Inspired by a reading of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, The Hidden Keys questions what it means to be honourable, what it means to be faithful and what it means to sin.
Octavia E. Butler
The complete Patternist series—the acclaimed science fiction epic of a world transformed by a secret race of telepaths and their devastating rise to power. In these four novels, award-winning author Octavia E. Butler tells the classic story that began her legendary career: a mythic tale of the transformation of civilization.
Stephen L. Carter
Back Channel is a brilliant amalgam of fact and fiction–a suspenseful retelling of the Cuban Missile Crisis, in which the fate of the world rests unexpectedly on the shoulders of a young college student: Margo Jensen, one of the few black women at Cornell. As the clock ticks toward World War III, Margo undertakes her harrowing journey. Pursued by the hawks on both sides, protected by nothing but her own ingenuity and courage, Margo is drawn ever more deeply into the crossfire–and into her own family’s hidden past.
* Austin Clarke
In this collection, award-winning author Austin Clarke has caught, in his characters, a sweet longing for youth and an anxiety-stricken rage at old age; an immigrant’s longing for a placid, lost home and his lust for a new high-speed motorcar life; and an intellectual’s sense of empowerment by black history even as he watches what little he knows about such history engulf him. These are intense and private lives made public by the force of their individual voices.
* George Elliott Clarke
Carl Black is an intellectual and artist, a traveller, a reader and an unapologetic womanizer. He burns for the bohemian life, but is trapped in a railway porter’s prosaic—at times humiliating—existence. Taking place over one dramatic year in Halifax, The Motorcyclist vividly recounts Carl’s travels and romantic exploits as he tours the backroads of the east coast and the bedrooms of a series of beautiful women.
* Esi Edugyan
A brilliant jazz musician, Hiero, is arrested by the Nazis and never heard from again. He is twenty years old. He is a German citizen. And he is black. Fifty years later, his friend and fellow musician, Sid, must relive that unforgettable time, revealing the friendships, love affairs and treacheries that sealed Hiero’s fate. An entrancing, electric story about jazz, race, love and loyalty, and the sacrifices we ask of ourselves, and demand of others, in the name of art.
A riveting debut novel, Homegoing is a novel about race, history, ancestry, love and time, stretching from the tribal wars of Ghana to slavery and Civil War in America, from the coal mines in the north to the Great Migration to the streets of 20th century Harlem. Half sisters Effia and Esi, unknown to each other, are born into two different tribal villages in 18th century Ghana. Effia will be married off to an English colonist and raise”half-caste” children; Esi will be shipped off on a boat bound for America, where she will be sold into slavery.
N. K. Jemisin
This is the way the world ends…for the last time. It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester. This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.
* Lawrence Hill
Like every boy on the mountainous island of Zantoroland, running is all Keita’s ever wanted to do. In one of the poorest nations in the world, running means respect. Running means riches—until Keita is targeted for his father’s outspoken political views and discovers he must run for his family’s survival.
* Nalo Hopkinson
Nalo Hopkinson is an internationally-beloved storyteller. Her Afro-Caribbean, Canadian, and American influences shine in truly unique stories that are filled with striking imagery, unlikely beauty, and delightful strangeness. In this long-awaited collection, Hopkinson continues to expand the boundaries of culture and imagination, creating bold fiction that transcends boundaries and borders.
Karen Lord’s science fiction combines star-spanning plots, deeply felt characters, and incisive social commentary. In The Galaxy Game, Lord presents a gripping adventure that showcases her dazzling imagination as never before. On the verge of adulthood, Rafi attends the Lyceum, a school for the psionically gifted. Rafi’s mental abilities might benefit people . . . or control them. Some wish to help Rafi wield his powers responsibly; others see him as a threat to be contained. Now he and his friends are about to experience a moment of violent change as seething tensions between rival star-faring civilizations come to a head.
Walter Mosley’s indelible detective Easy Rawlins is back, with his life in transition. He’s ready–finally–to propose to his girlfriend and start a life together. And he’s started a new detective agency. But, inevitably, a case gets in the way. Between his new company, a whole raft of new bad guys on his tail, and a bad odor that surrounds Charcoal Joe, Easy has his hands full, his horizons askew, and his life in shambles around his feet.
An enchanting and thought-provoking collection of intertwined stories. Playful, ambitious, and exquisitely imagined, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours is cleverly built around the idea of keys, literal and metaphorical. The key to a house, the key to a heart, the key to a secret–Oyeyemi’s keys not only unlock elements of her characters’ lives, they promise further labyrinths on the other side.
Cow Tom, born into slavery in Alabama and sold to a Creek Indian chief before his tenth birthday, possessed an extraordinary gift: the ability to master languages. As the new country developed westward, Cow Tom became a key translator for his Creek master and was hired out to US military generals. His talent earned him money–but would it also grant him freedom? And what would become of him and his family in the aftermath of the Civil War and the Indian Removal westward? Cow Tom’s legacy lives on in the courageous spirit of his granddaughter Rose, who rises to leadership of the family. Through it all, her grandfather’s indelible mark of courage inspires her–in mind, in spirit, and in a family legacy that never dies.
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood–where even greater pain awaits. When a recent arrival from Virginia tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we share.