Books on Tap - African American Literature

Our February Book on Tap B.Y.O.B (Bring Your Own Book) discussion will cover fictional novels written by African American authors. This suggested list covers a wide selection of new and classic literature, as well as wide selection of genres.


Compiled by:
Erica B.
All American Boys

Jason Reynolds
Young Adult - Y Reynold

When sixteen-year-old Rashad is mistakenly accused of stealing, classmate Quinn witnesses his brutal beating at the hands of a police officer who happens to be the older brother of his best friend. Told through Rashad and Quinn's alternating viewpoints.


A Brief History of Seven Killings

Marlon James
Adult Fiction - James

On December 3, 1976, just before the Jamaican general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica Concert to ease political tensions in Kingston, seven unnamed gunmen stormed the singer’s house, machine guns blazing. The attack wounded Marley, his wife, and his manager, and injured several others. Little was officially released about the gunmen, but rumors abounded regarding the assassins’ fates. A Brief History of Seven Killings is James’s fictional exploration of that dangerous and unstable time in Jamaica’s history and beyond.


Concrete Park

Erika Alexander
Graphic Novels - Puryear

Earth's outcasts, exiled to a distant desert planet and forgotten, will either destroy each other with gang violence or find a path to redemption that will create something entirely new. 


Destroyer

Victor LaValle
Graphic Novels - GN Lavalle Destroyer

On a dreary November night in 1792, Victor Frankenstein used natural-- and unnatural-- science to reanimate the dead. Victor eventually died, but the monster never did. It hid away in Antarctica and thought itself free of humanity. But the world isn't done with the monster and one descendant of the Frankenstein bloodline yet lives...


Devil in a Blue Dress

Walter Mosley
Mystery and Detective - MYS Mosley
Series: Easy Rawlins Mysteries

Set in the late 1940s, in the African-American community of Watts, Los Angeles, Devil in a Blue Dress follows Easy Rawlins, a black war veteran just fired from his job at a defense plant. Easy is drinking in a friend's bar, wondering how he'll meet his mortgage, when a white man in a linen suit walks in, offering good money if Easy will simply locate Miss Daphne Monet, a blonde beauty known to frequent black jazz clubs.


The Fifth Season

N. K. Jemisin
Science Fiction & Fantasy - SF Jemisin

This is the way the world ends...for the last time. A season of endings has begun. 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 death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. 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.


Freshwater

Akwaeke Emezi
Adult Fiction - Emezi

An extraordinary debut novel, Freshwater explores the surreal experience of having a fractured self. It centers around a young Nigerian woman, Ada, who develops separate selves within her as a result of being born "with one foot on the other side." Unsettling, heartwrenching, dark, and powerful, Freshwater is a sharp evocation of a rare way of experiencing the world, one that illuminates how we all construct our identities.


The Hate U Give

Angie Thomas
Young Adult Fiction - Y Thomas

After witnessing her friend's death at the hands of a police officer, Starr Carter's life is complicated when the police and a local drug lord try to intimidate her in an effort to learn what happened the night Kahlil died.


Homegoing

Yaa Gyasi
Adult Fiction - Gyasi

Two 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 colonial, and will live in comfort in the sprawling, palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle, and Esi, will be imprisoned beneath Effia in the Castle's women's dungeon, and then shipped off on a boat bound for America, where she will be sold into slavery.


Invisible Man

Ralph Ellison
Adult Fiction - Ellison

The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of "the Brotherhood", and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be.


Jazz Moon

Joe Okonkwo
Adult Fiction - Okonkwo

Ben Charles and his wife Angeline take part of the Harlem Renaissance scene in the 1920s. Ben finds himself drawn to Paris due to the influence of trumpeter Baby Back Johnston.


Kindred

Octavia Butler
Science Fiction & Fantasy - SF Butler

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana's life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.


Land of Shadows

Rachel Howzell Hall
MYS Hall
Series: Detective Elouise Norton

A skeptical Lou Norton of the Los Angeles police department investigates increasingly compelling parallels between the suspicious suicide of a teenage girl and the unsolved murder of Lou's sister.


Midnight

Sister Souljah
Adult Fiction - Souljah

Sent to America with his mother when his father's powerful empire is attacked, underworld lieutenant Midnight draws on his African intelligence and Muslim mindset to protect those he loves and reclaim his wealth and way of life.


No Loyalty

De'Nesha Diamond
Adult Fiction - No

She's watching. She's planning. She's past done waiting. Klaudya Ramsey is out for revenge on her own mother. Nichelle seduced Klaudya's wealthy, disloyal husband, had her innocent daughter jailed—and stole her life. Now Klaudya plays on her mom's insatiable greed and her husband's gullibility to take them down hard. But a secret Klaudya never saw coming could turn her vengeful dream into an inescapable nightmare . . .


The Parking Lot Attendant

Nafkote Tamirat
Adult Fiction - Tamirat

A mesmerizing, indelible coming-of-age story about a girl in Boston's tightly-knit Ethiopian community who falls under the spell of a charismatic hustler out to change the world A haunting story of fatherhood, national identity, and what it means to be an immigrant in America today, Nafkote Tamirat's The Parking Lot Attendant explores how who we love, the choices we make, and the places we're from combine to make us who we are.


Poet X

Elizabeth Acevedo
Young Adult - Y Acevedo

Ever since her body grew into curves, Xiomara Batista has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking. She pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers-- especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. Mami is determined to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, and Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. When she is invited to join her school's slam poetry club, she can't stop thinking about performing her poems.


Sula

Toni Morrison
Adult Fiction -Morriso

Two girls who grow up to become women. Their devotion is fierce enough to withstand bullies and the burden of a dreadful secret. It endures even after Nel has grown up to be a pillar of the black community and Sula has become a pariah. But their friendship ends in an unforgivable betrayal—or does it end?


And Then There Was Me

Sadeqa Johnson
Adult Fiction - Johnson

Bea and Awilda have been best friends from the moment Awilda threw her fourteen year-old self across Bea's twin-sized bed as if they had known each other forever. Bubbly, adventurous Awilda taught sheltered, shy Bea how to dress, wear her hair and what to do with boys. She even introduced Bea to her husband, Lonnie, in college, who pledged to take good care of her for the rest of their lives. Recently Lonnie has plopped the family in a New Jersey upper class suburb, which lacks the diversity that Bea craves but has the school district and zip code envy that Lonnie wants. And just when she thinks things can't get any worst, the ultimate deception snaps the little thread that was holding her life together and all comes tumbling down.


The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

Ayana Mathis
Adult Fiction - Mathis

In 1923, fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd, swept up by the tides of the Great Migration, flees Georgia and heads north. Full of hope, she settles in Philadelphia to build a better life. Instead she marries a man who will bring her nothing but disappointment, and watches helplessly as her firstborn twins are lost to an illness that a few pennies could have prevented. Their lives, captured here in twelve luminous threads, tell the story of a mother’s monumental courage—and a nation's tumultuous journey.


The Underground Railroad

Colson Whitehead
Adult Fiction - Whitehe

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. When Caesar, 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. Their first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city's placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels.


An Unkindness of Ghosts

Rivers Solomon
Science Fiction & Fantasy - SF Solomon

Aster lives in the lowdeck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship's leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer, Aster learns there may be a way to improve her lot--if she's willing to sow the seeds of civil war.


The Wedding Date

Jasmine Guillory
Adult Fiction - Guillor

Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn't normally do. But there's something about Drew Nichols that's too hard to resist. From the best man's toast to the bouquet toss, Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible. But before they know it, Drew has to fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she's the mayor's chief of staff. Too bad they can't stop thinking about the other. 


Who Fears Death

Nnedi Okorafor
Science Fiction & Fantasy - SF Okorafo

Born into post-apocalyptic Africa to a mother who was raped after the slaughter of her entire tribe, Onyesonwu is tutored by a shaman and discovers that her magical destiny is to end the genocide of her people.