Last week, as part of Black History Month, we asked the Red Room community to blog about works of African-American literature that have meant the most to them. From a classic that inspired a poet writing from within Folsom Prison to a funny anecdote from one author's friendship with Alex Haley, each post shows an emotional connection to a work of art.
Three posts particularly stood out:
- "All That," author Jessica Barksdale Inclán's progression from reacting to reading assignments ("I didn't really 'get' what I was reading as much as read what I was told to") to discovering her own ("How bold and strong and true. How fun, too. How freeing. How flat out amazing.") not only shares a great poem but shows a reader's maturation.
- Member Christine C. Coonen-Voillemin's traces a lifelong appreciation of a Red Room favorite, from reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings as a teenager to a long association with her1993 inaugural speech and audio books, in "Maya Angelou In My Mind's Eye."
- The transgressive themes in James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room so inspired author Jewelle Gomez that she wrote both a short-story collection and a new play (to be produced this autumn) that draw and build upon them. Share her journey in "Favourite African American Novel."
These bloggers will receive books by Red Room authors:
- Terry McMillan's Waiting to Exhale was more than just a bestselling novel-its publication was a watershed moment in literary history. McMillan's sassy and vibrant story about four African American women struggling to find love and their place in the world touched a cultural nerve, inspired a blockbuster film. Now Terry returns with Getting to Happy, revisiting Savannah, Gloria, Bernadine, and Robin fifteen years later. Each is at her own midlife crossroads, but they return to us full of spirit, sass, and faith in one another.
- "Smart, grounded, and lyrical, Evie Shockley's the new black integrates powerful ideas about "blackness," past and present, through the medium of beautifully crafted verse." Her poems "move through nostalgia, even as they insist on being alive to the present and point longingly towards possible futures.
- Dolen Perkins-Valdez's debut, Wench (just released in paperback) is about a beautiful, inviting house surrounded by a dozen private cottages—a resort is favored by wealthy Southern white men who vacation there, accompanied by their enslaved mistresses. The story explores the complexities of the sexual relationships that existed between slave women and white men.
All of the "favorite work of African-American literature" posts can be seen here. I hope you'll find a few favorites, leave a comment, or share them with your friends. If you blogged on the topic but don't see your post in the list, make sure you tagged your post correctly with the words favorite work of African-American literature. All of Red Room's past blog topics are listed here. Thanks as always for blogging!
–Huntington W. Sharp, Senior Editor, Red Room