For #BlackHistoryMonth, we highlight the work of African-American novelist -- Dolores Phillips

For Black History month, we wanted to shine our light on the tremendous work done by African-American and black women fiction authors.

Today, we take a look at American novelist  -- Dolores Phillips (Wikipedia, Amazon)

Delores-PhillipsUnfortunately, there is very little known about Ms. Phillips. She was born in Georgia. She graduated from Cleveland State University with a bachelor of arts in English. Like so many of women fiction authors, she spent her life working as a nurse in a the state psychiatric hospital in Cleveland rather than writing. Her work was published in  Jeans Journal, Black Times, and the Crisis.

And yet, debut her novel, The Darkest Skin, was published in 2005 to great critical and fan acclaim. Unfortunately, Ms. Phillips passed away before she could write and release any other work. She was 64.

The book was popular at the time and remains one of the most influential books written by an African-American woman. 

"The Darkest Child is an exceptional debut from a most talented writer. Epic in scope, intimate in tone, it is sure to find a special place in the deepest crevices of your heart."
—Edwidge Danticat

"A well-written story that underscores the power of education, The Darkest Child paints a stark picture about life and opportunity for a young black girl in 1950s Jim Crow Georgia. This book brings up timely conversations—the characters haunted me long after I finished reading.”
—Octavia Spencer, Academy Award–winning actress from The Help and Hidden Figures

“A grim tale, set in the dying days of segregation, about one young woman’s struggle to escape her past, her mother, and her duties . . . Phillips writes vividly.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Filled with grand plot events and clearly identifiable villains and victims . . . lush with detail and captivating with its story of racial tension and family violence.”
—The Washington Post Book World

Ms. Phillips talent is overwhelming and apparent. Sadly, our society doesn't have a way of financially supporting even the most talented people. Millions of breathtaking, amazing, bestselling books are never written in the grind of daily work life. 

There is no question that this is an extraordinary woman who worked hard at a difficult and important job. We can't help but grieve for the novels and stories that were lost inside this brilliant author.

Her life is a cautionary tale for all writers. Life is short. Don't wait. Write and write and write and write. Get your work out into the world.

Looking for a great book to read? We recommend the Darkest Child. You won't stop thinking about it.

DarkestChild

 


For #BlackHistoryMonth, we highlight the work of West African poet and American slave -- Phillis Wheatley

For Black History month, we wanted to shine our light on the tremendous work done by African-American women fiction authors.

Today our list turns to West African born, American slave and poet  -- Phillis Wheatley (Wikipedia, Amazon)

Phylliswheatley

Phillis Wheatley was taken from her family and sold into slavery when she was seven or eight years old. (Because there are a lot of Wheatley's in this biography, we will call her by her whole slave name.) She survived the journey to American and landed in Boston in July 1761. A physically small child, and possibly sick (she struggled with asthma), she was sold as property to Boston merchant and tailor John Wheatley. He is said to have purchased her as a house slave for his wife, Susannah. The Wheatleys named their slave "Phillis" and, as with most slaves, she was given their last name "Wheatley." Her birth name and place of birth are unknown.

As one might train a pet, Mary Wheatley, daughter of  John and Susannah, taught Phillis to read and write. Her brother, Nathaniel, is said to have participated in this training. Much to their surprise, Phillis Wheatley took to reading and writing. While still upholding her responsibilities as a house slave, Phillis Wheatley, was able to read in Greek, Latin, as well as difficult passages in the King James Bible by the times she was 12 years old. 

Phillis Wheatley wrote her first poem, "To the University of Cambridge, in New England," when she was 14 years old. Excited that their property had literary ability, the Wheatley family allowed Phillis Wheatley to continue her education by leaving the household labor to their other domestic slaves. In service of her owners, Phillis Wheatley turned her attention to writing poetry.

As you would a prized possession, the Wheatleys frequently showed off her writing capacity to their friends and family. Much of her poetry could be seen as a celebration of America. She corresponded with George Washington, with whom later met. Thomas Hutchinson, governor of Massachusetts; John Hancock; Andrew Oliver, lieutenant governor; James Bowdoin; and Reverend Mather Byles were some of the early colonial leaders who supported her work. Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, was also a supporter of her work.

In 1773, Phillis Wheatley accompanied Nathaniel Wheatley to London because her owners believed that Phillis Wheatley would have a better chance publishing her book of poems there. She had an audience significant members of British society including the Lord Mayor of London. Editorials in London chastised the Wheatleys for keeping Phillis Wheatley as their property. She was called back to America due to the illness of her master, Susanah Whealey. 

Phillis Wheatley's first volume of poems was published in the summer of 1773. The financial proceeds went to the Whealeys. Shortly after publication of the volume of poems, the Whealeys manumitted Phillis Wheatley. Susannah Wheatley died in 1774. Mary and John Wheatley died in 1778.

Phillis Wheatley married free-black entrepreneur and grocer John Peters in 1778. She attempted to get a second novel of poems published but was unable to. She and Mr. Peters struggled financially during the revolutionary war. He as sent to debters prison in 1784. Forced to pay off their debts and care for her sickly infant son, Phillis Wheatley returned to housework. She worked as a scullery made at a boarding house. She died December 5, 1782 at the age of 31. Her infant son did not survive her death and is said to have been buried with her.

Modern scholarship believes that Phillis Wheatley published 145 poems in her life. Of the numerous letters she wrote to national and international political and religious leaders, two dozen notes and letters have survived. Most of her work has been lost. 

While often chastised for seemingly not speaking out about slavery, one cannot overlook the fact that Phillis Wheatley was the property of the Wheatleys. Speaking against slavery would have been taken by the Wheatleys as insubordination. This may have led to her severe punishment or the punishment of those she cared about. 

After freed, she wrote a letter that was repeatedly published in Boston newspapers in 1774. In the letter, Phillis Wheatley equates "American slaveholding to that of pagan Egypt in ancient times: 'Otherwise, perhaps, the Israelites had been less solicitous for their Freedom from Egyptian Slavery: I don’t say they would have been contented without it, by no Means, for in every human Breast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call Love of freedom; it is impatient of Oppression, and pants for Deliverance; and by the Leave of our modern Egyptians I will assert that the same Principle lives in us.'" (Excellent article about Phillis Wheatley in Poetry Foundation.)

Like to read something of Phillis Wheatley's? Project Gutenberg has a free copy of the eBook Poems on various subjects, religious and moral by Phillis Wheatley

Penguin Classics has collected Phillis Wheatley's poetry into a "complete works" volume

Completewritingphilliswheatley

 

 


For #BlackHistoryMonth, we highlight the work of African-American author -- Kaitylyn Greenidge

Since we are a little more than half-way through our list, it seemed like a good time to remind everyone why we're doing this. African-American and Black female authors get very little attention. For Black History month, we wanted to shine our light on the tremendous work done by African-American women fiction authors.

Today our list includes another new-to-novels American non-fiction author, short story author, and novelist  -- Kaitlyn Greenidge (Amazon)

 

KaitlynGreenidge

Ms. Greenidge's writing has appeared in the Vogue, Glamour, the Wall Street Journal, Elle.com, Buzzfeed, Transition Magazine, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Believer, American Short Fiction and other places. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Whiting Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She is a contributing writer for the New York Times (her page) as well as a contributing author and editor for the Lenny Letter (her page).

She received an MFA from Hunter College and is currently on faculty at Bennington College. She was the recipient of the Bernard Cohen Short Story Prize. She was a Bread Loaf scholar, a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace artist-in-residence, and a Johnson State College visiting emerging writer.

Ms. Greenidge generously shares many of her multi-genre short-stories on the Internet. Here are a select few: "Planets" (FeministWire), "Axe Wound" (Guernica), "Emperor of the Universe" (Kweli Journal), and "Four Tales for Dry Land" (the Offering). 

Her debut novel, We love you, Charlie Freeman, (Amazon, Goodreads) was called "terrifically auspicious" by the New York TimesIt was New York Times Critics' Top 10 Books of 2016, 2016 Forward Indies Book of the Year, a finalist for the 2016 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the 2017 Young Lions Award, and a semi-finalist for the 2016 Brooklyn Public Library Brooklyn Eagles Literary Prize. It is currently in pre-production for a movie, expected to be out by 2020.

Ms. Greenidge's wide-range of interests combined with her talent will mean that we can expect more novels, more stories, and more non-fiction in the coming years.

What do we recommend you read?  We encourage to read We love you, Charlie Freeman (Amazon)

WeloveyouCharlieFreeman

 


For #BlackHistoryMonth, we highlight the work of British-American author -- Taiye Selasi

For Black History month, we'd like to share some of our favorite African-American and other influential black women fiction authors. 

Our list continues with American novelist  -- Taiye Selasi (Wikipedia, Amazon)

Taiyeselasi

Born in England, Ms. Selasi was raised in Brookline, Massachusetts. Ms. Selasi graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a BA in American Studies from Yale, and earned her MPhil in International Relations from Nuffield College, Oxford.  

In her controversial 2005 essay "Bye-Bye Babar," Ms. Selasi introduces a new vision of African identity for the transnational generation she calls "Afropolitans" --  "We are Afropolitans: not citizens, but Africans of the world." Challenged by Ms. Toni Morrison, Ms. Selasi wrote the short story "The Sex Lives of African Girls" which was published in Granta magazine in 2011. The story was included in "Best stories of 2012."

Her essay, "I am not my hair" for Dove "Love your curls" campaign gives voice to complicated experiences black women have with their hair. This project became a free eBook, Love Your Curls: A poetic tribute to curly hair inspired by real women, which you can download here.

Ms. Selasi's debut novel, Ghana Must Go (Wikipedia), was published in 2013. The novel shares multiple points of view as a family must face confront issues that divided them to mourn the death of their patriarch. The novel was  selected as one of the 10 Best Books of 2013 by the Wall Street Journal and The Economist. It has been translated into many languages and sold in 22 countries. 

In Ms. Selasi's TedGlobal talk, she furthers explains her thinking about "multi-local" people. Her Ted talk has more than 2 million views. You can watch it here.

 

What would we recommend you read? We encourage you to watch Ms. Selasi's TedGlobal talk and read her essays (linked above) before diving into Ghana Must Go.

GhanaMustGo

 

 

 

 


For #BlackHistoryMonth, we highlight the work of Los Angeles native thriller and mystery author -- Rachel Howzell Hall

For Black History month, we'd like to share some of our favorite African-American and other influential black women fiction authors. 

Our list continues with American novelist  -- Rachel Howzell Hall (Amazon)

RachelHowzellHall
Ms. Howzell Hall writes critically acclaimed thrillers, mysteries, and crime fiction, as well as literary fiction.  Her Detective Elouise Norton mystery series has received the coveted Kirkus Review Star and Kirkus 'Books That Kept Us Up All Night.' Her books have been included in thee list of the Los Angeles Times’ top books to read in the summer. The New York Times described Detective Elousie Norton as a "formidable fighter and a person that everyone would want to have by their side."

Her debut novel, A Quiet Storm (2002), was reviewed by O Magazine and Publishers Weekly, with a starred review from Library Journal and also chosen as a “Rory’s Book Club” selection, the must-read book list for fictional television character Rory Gilmore of The Gilmore Girls.

In addition to writing this popular book series,  Ms. Howzell Hall has collaborated with James Patterson for writing the novel, The Family Lawyer (2017).

She's written four books in the Detective Elouise Nortan series as well as eight standalone books. Her latest contemporary thriller, They All Fall Down, is due out in April 2019.

Ms. Howzell Hall has been writing since she was a young child. She has a BA in English and American Literature from University of California at Santa Cruz. UC Santa Cruz. She helped to charter the Pi Upsilon Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Incorporated.

Rachel was also a featured writer on NPR Crime in the City. Currently, she serves on the Board of Directors for the Mystery Writers of America, and has participated as a mentor in the Association of Writers & Writing Programs’ Writer-to-Writer program.

Looking to read Ms. Howzell Hall? We recommend the starting her mystery series with Land of Shadows or  pre-order her upcoming contemporary thriller, They All Fall Down.

Land of Shadows by Rachel Howzell Hall    TheyAllFallDown

 

 


For #BlackHistoryMonth, we highlight the work of South African-American fiction author -- Zinzi Clemmons

For Black History month, we'd like to share some of our favorite African-American and other influential black women fiction authors.

Our list continues with American novelist  -- Zinzi Clemmons (Wikipedia, Amazon)

ZinziClemmons

Compared to many of our authors, Ms. Clemmons is at the beginning of her writing career. It's our opinion at Women and Fiction that writing is hard -- especially for female authors. We hope to celebrate accomplished authors as well as cheer for those who are at or near the beginning of their writing journey. 

Before we get into her biography, let's talk about Ms. Clemmons's accomplishments. While still a student at Columbia University's Graduate School, she co-founded the literary journal Apogee. She currently serves as Associate Editor at the five-time winner of the National Magazine Award finalist The Believer. She is a Contributing Editor to Literary Hub. She has been in residence at the MacDowell Colony, Bread Loaf, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and Dar al-Ma'mûn in Marrakech, Morocco.

Her debut novel, What We Lose (2017) was a finalist for the Carnegie Medal, the Aspen Words Literary Prize, California Book Award First Fiction, and the National Book Critics Circle Leonard Prize. The book was named a Best Book of the Year 2017 by VogueNPRElleEsquireBuzzfeedSan Francisco ChronicleCosmopolitanThe Huffington PostThe A.V. ClubThe RootHarper’s BazaarPaste, Bustle, Kirkus Reviews, Electric Literature, LitHub, New York Post, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Bust

Ms. Clemmons is a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Honoree. 

The daughter of a South African mother and an American father, Ms. Clemmons grew up in Swathmore, Pennsylvania and spent the summers in South Africa. She studied critical theory at Brown University where she received her B.A. She worked with Paul Beatty while getting her M.F.A. in fiction from Columbia University. She currently teaches at Occidental College. 

It's clear that we can expect great things from Ms. Clemmons! 

Looking to read her debut novel, What We Lose? (Wikipedia, Amazon)

Whatwelose


For #BlackHistoryMonth, we highlight the work of Nigerian-American fiction author -- Nnedi Okorafor

For Black History month, we'd like to share some of our favorite African-American and other influential black women fiction authors.

Our list continues with American novelist  -- Nnedi Okorafor (Wikipedia, Amazon)

Nnediokorafor

Ms. Okorafor's story begins with her parents. They met when they went to school in the United States. They were unable to return to Nigeria because of the Nigerian Civil War. Ms. Okorafor is a first generation American with strong ties to African and her parents homeland, Nigeria. 

Ms. Okorafor has won awards across the globe for her writing, including The Strange Horizons Reader's Choice Award (2005), Macmillan Writers' Prize for Africa (2007-2008), 
Carl Brandon Parallax Award (2008),  The Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature (2008),   The World Fantasy Award (Best Novel) (2012), The Black Excellence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Literature (Fiction) (2012),  Kindred Award for Who Fears Death (2012), The Nebula Award (Best Novella) (2016),  Children's Africana Book Award for Best Book for Young Readers (2016) and The Hugo Award for Best Novella (2016). 

Ms. Okorafor received a Bachelor's Degree from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She has a Master's degree in Journalism from Michigan State University, as well as a master's degree and PhD in English from the University of Illinois, Chicago. 

You can read Ms. Okorafor's short stories online here.

She has written books for children, young adults, as well as adults. She is currently take a break from writing her fictional books to focus on writing. She's written non-fiction books, novels, and plays. 

She writes primarily Science Fiction and fantasy fiction. In her Ted talk, she discusses the ancestral "blood line" of most fiction stating that her fiction is rooted in white, male, colonialism. She defines her work as asking the question "What if?"

Ms. Okorafor is currently taking a break from writing her series fiction to write Black Panther graphic novels. It is hinted that she will be working on the next Black Panther movie as well as further comic books. 

Her fiction has been optioned for television and movies. She spoke at TedX in Tanzania in 2017. Take a look:

 

Want to read something of Ms. Okorafor's? She is known for her Binti trilogy and Akata Witch.

Binti Akata-witch-nnedi-okorafor-201x300


For #BlackHistoryMonth, we highlight the work of American fiction author -- Jesmyn Ward

For Black History month, we'd like to share some of our favorite African-American and other influential black women fiction authors.

Our list continues with American novelist  -- Jesmyn War(Wikipedia, Amazon)

JesmynWard

Ms. Ward is the first woman to ever received two National Book Awards for Fiction (2011, 2017). She has also won a Anisfield-Wolf Book Award as well as the MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship (2017). In 2012, she received an Alex Award. In 2018, she was one of Time Magazine's 100 people where her writing is described as "brutal and moving, tragic and beautiful." 

"Jesmyn captures the African-American experience with authenticity and nuance. She is a modern-day William Faulkner, painting tapestries of an America that has not been heard." (Time Magazine, 2018)

While born in California, Ms. Ward grew up in Mississippi where she was frequently bullied at public schools by her African-American classmates and by white students at the private-school her mother's work paid for. She went on to attend scholarship to Stanford where she received a BA in English and an MA in media and communications. 

It's is said that every great writer must experience tragedy and struggle to have something to write about. Although much younger many of the authors we've celebrated so far, Ms. Ward has had her share of struggle and tragedy.

To give you a sense of her life -- Shortly after receiving her MA, her brother was killed by a drunk driver. She had just received her MFA from University of Michigan when Hurricane Katrina hit. Her family took to the road as their home filled with water. They were turned away at their nearest safe haven, a white family's property nearby, only to have to head out to find another place to go. In order to get to her new teaching job at the University of New Orleans, she had to commute through some of the most stricken neighborhood.

She has dedicated her life to writing and teaching. Ward has been an assistant professor of Creative Writing at the University of South Alabama, a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University, and the John and Renée Grisham Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi. She is currently on the faculty of Tulane.

What do we recommend you read? We suggest three books -- her latest book (2017), Sing, Unburied, Sing which received was the won a National Book Award and was a New York Times Top 20 Best Books of the Year, her memoir, Men We Reap, as a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize and the Media for a Just Society Award, and the collection of essays and poems that Ms. Ward edited: The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward Men We Reaped, by Jesmyn Ward The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race by Jesmyn Ward


 


For #BlackHistoryMonth, we highlight the work of historical fiction author -- Maryse Conde

For Black History month, we'd like to share some of our favorite African-American and other influential black women fiction authors.

Our list continues with historical fiction French (Guadeloupean) author  -- Maryse Conde (Wikipedia)

MaryseConde

Ms. Condé's historical fiction brings to life issues of race as they impact gender and cultural issues. She has the tremendous ability to bring life to overlooked characters in history. Rather than hitting us over the head with these important issues, she delicately unfurls the lives of those who live in these times. In that way, we feel the constrains of race, gender, and social roles as if we were living through them.

Moreover, Ms. Condé uses vivid characterizations to lay bare the often overlooked experiences --  a slave in Puritan New England,  African people brought to the Carribean to work as slaves in plantations, the side effects of large infrastructure projects on poor people of the world, and even the death of the weird little guy in a small town.

Here is a highlight of three of her novels to give you a sense of the breadth and depth of her work:

  1. I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem (1986): (Wikipedia) Ms. Condé uses the scant historical record to create an entire world around this forgotten part of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Her adept fiction fills in the gaps to bring Tituba alive.

  2. The Tree of Life (1992): (Wikipedia) Ms. Condé uncovered the unintentional personal side-effect for the international creation of the Panama Canal. Using her lyrical fiction, she follows a family who leaves abject poverty in Guadeloupe to work on the Panama Canal. He amasses a fortune as an undertaker. The story is about how this money translates through the generations.

  3. Segu (1980): The book begins in 1797 in the thriving kingdom of Segu in West Africa. The sovereign nation is hit at the same time by the new religion of Islam from the east and the slave trade from the west. Told from the persepective of a single family, the story follows the individual journeys of the five sons including on who is taken into slavery and one who turns his back on tradition to embrace Islam.

Ms. Condé brings to life the important issues that are currently at play in many of our current political and social issues. 

She is a scholar of Francophone literature and Professor Emerita of French at Columbia University.

She is the recipient of the Grand prix littéraire de la Femme (1986), Prix de L’Académie francaise (1988), and the New Academy Prize in Literature (2018) for her novels.


For #BlackHistoryMonth, we're taking a look at our favorite African-American female fiction authors -- Tananrieve Due

For Black History month, we'd like to share some of our favorite African-American women fiction authors.

Our list continues with American novelist and non-fiction essayist, Tananrieve Due(Wikipedia, Amazon)

TananrieveDue

Have you ever met someone that you liked instantly? Just liked them, for no reason at all? I met Ms. Due and her mother, Patricia Stevens Due, when they were on book tour for the civil rights memoir, Freedom in the Family: a Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights (2003) I found myself in awe of both of them. 

At the time that I (Claudia) met Ms. Due, she had already traditionally published in the horror and speculative fiction genre. She was working as a journalist at the Miami Herald when she wrote her first book, The Between (1995)

She is the author of twelve novels including: African Immortals (science fiction/horror), Devil's Wake (post-apocolyptic) with her husband, Steven Barnes,  and Tennyson Hardwick series with Blair Underwood and her husband, Steven Barnes.

She is the recipient of the American Book Award winner and NAACP Image Award. Her website says that she is currently teaching at Antioch College, Los Angeles. 

She is smart, articulate, and shockingly honest about interesting, intellectual topics. She has the capacity to speak clearly about issues of race and how they specifically and very really affect people today. 

If you get a chance to read Ms. Due, you will not be disappointed by this brilliant and bright star. 

Want to read something written by Ms. Due? We'd encourage you to read The Black Rose, a novel about the fascinating Madam C.J. Walker. The Black Rose is regularly on the top lists for most empowering books. Or start in on the African Immortals series with My Soul to Keep about a woman who marries into a clan of Ethiopian Immortals. 

                                                                                                               The Black Rose by Tananarive Due    My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due

 

 

If you'd like to read a riveting book about the civil rights movement and it's effects on the individuals and families who were involved, you will love, Freedom in the Family: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights. 

FreedomintheFamily