Top 5 Must Read Novels By Twentieth Century African-American Writers | Culture

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Top 5 Must Read Novels By Twentieth Century African-American Writers | Culture


As we continue to reflect on the legacies of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, it is necessary to also pay homage to other African American contemporaries, who authentically captured the black experience in America within their literary works. This list aims to introduce you to a breadth of books by African American authors that you should add to your reading list.


1. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison


Written in 1970, Toni Morison’s The Bluest Eye, ridicules the perpetuation of white standards of beauty through the tragic life of Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl, who is desperate to change her physical appearance after being mocked for her black features.


2. The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man by James Weldon Johnson


Written in 1912, James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man, a fictional sociological study on race, explores existentialism through the plight of the main character, a young biracial man, who passes as White but longs to identify with and embody his African American heritage but is subdued by the horrific realities of the American caste and class system.


3. Not Without Laughter by Langston Hughes


Written in 1930, Langston Hughes’ Not Without Laughter, examines the interplay of class and religion within the life of Sandy Rodger, an African American living in a racially segregated Kansas during the 1930s.


4. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston


Written in 1937, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, investigates race, gender and sexual politics within the hedonism of Janie Crawford, a young fair-skinned girl, who seeks to transgress the life-denying orthodoxy of Southern Florida in the early twentieth century.


5. The Colour Purple by Alice Walker


Written in 1982, Alice Walker’s The Colour Purple, surveys patriarch, abuse, and the will to overcome one’s tribulations in the mosaic women who encounter each other throughout the novel.



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