Charleston, Ferguson, Dolezal: 25 Novels to Read


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If my Facebook feed is any indication, many people are frustrated with much of the reporting about Charleston, Ferguson, and Rachel Dolezal, and are actively seeking insightful commentary. Academics have responded by curating extensive resources for teaching and talking about both events: there is Marcia Chatelain’s Ferguson Syllabus, which also includes materials suitable for children, and Chad William’s Charleston Syllabus, with a strong emphasis upon historical materials. But what about fiction? And what does one do with Dolezal, a distraction from other matters, but perhaps a gateway to discussions about constructions of race more broadly? I’ve gone through the suggested fiction readings from both resources, editing and adding (notably including works by white authors, such as Madison Jones). The result is an incomplete but interesting list of novels by both black and white U.S. authors which speak either directly or indirectly to recent events.

  • James Baldwin, Go Tell it on the Mountain (1953)
  • Wesley Brown, Darktown Strutters (1994)
  • Octavia E. Butler, Kindred (1979)
  • George Washington Cable, The Grandissimes: A Story of Creole Life (1880)
  • Bebe Moore Campbell, Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine (1992)
  • Lorene Cary, If Sons, Then Heirs (2011)
  • Charles W. Chestnutt, The House Behind the Cedars (1900)
  • Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)
  • Ralph Ellison, Juneteenth (1999)
  • Percival Everett, Erasure (2001)
  • Ernest J. Gaines, A Lesson Before Dying (1993)
  • Ernest J. Gaines, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971)
  • James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912)
  • Gayle Jones, Corregidora (1975)
  • Edward P. Jones, The Known World (2003)
  • Madison Jones, A Cry of Absence (1971)
  • Nella Larson, Passing (1929)
  • Kekla Magoon, How It Went Down (2014)
  • Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)
  • Toni Morrison, Paradise (1997)
  • Valerie Martin, Property (2003)
  • Danzy Senna, Caucasia (1998)
  • John Edgar Wideman, Philadelphia Fire (1990)
  • Shirley Anne Williams, Dessa Rose (1986)
  • Richard Wright, Native Son (1940)
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One response to “Charleston, Ferguson, Dolezal: 25 Novels to Read

  1. Thank you for the list! The books (and authors) look intriguing…

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