The Pen is Mightier than the Sword

Reading is fundamental.Whether your interests are scientific or artistic, words are always lurking around the corner. A love for reading can inspire a child to achieve greatness in any field. Many of the children and young adult novels that sucked me into the world of reading were not given to me by my teachers, but my parents. While my teachers assigned books like Pippi Longstocking and The Great Gatsby, my parents found books with faces like mine on the cover to remind me that I could be in the pages as well. When I met my favorite author, she told me that the publishing company refused to put a dark girl on the cover--they said the book wouldn't sell. I didn't understand why it should matter. When my classmates declared they couldn't understand Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin and my teacher chalked it up to cultural differences, I realized that while I went home and read "black literature" they continued to read the same stuff we read in class. While I didn't always like the books we read in class, I think its important that children are able to read books from every culture, not just for the students in the class that may relate more to that particular story, but to introduce students who are not of that culture to something they otherwise wouldn't experience.

There is a rich history of literature written by black authors that is often overlooked. Like Black Cities & Towns, Black Literature in America also predates the United States. Although it was not published until 1855, the first known poem written by a black American was written in 1746 by Lucy Terry. In 1773, Phillis Wheatley became the first published black author by publishing her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.

If you've never read a book with characters outside of your culture (or from your culture), I challenge you to do so. It's impossible to list them all, but below is a list of some of my favorite black authors as well as some of my favorite books by them. Some are written specifically for pre-teens and teens, while others are meant for a more mature audience. Some are rooted in racial themes while others center on everyday themes that anyone could relate to. Each title is a link to the summary of the book.

As I've often said, I'm not an expert scholar in every culture (probably not even my own) and there was no way I could list every book I've read and liked, so feel free to add book suggestions (particularly for other cultures) in the comment section or contact me to be a guest blogger and share your perspective.

Some of My Favorite Books

My Favorite Authors

  • James Baldwin
  • Octavia E. Butler
  • Countee Cullen
  • Ralph Ellison
  • Nikki Giovanni
  • Nikki Grimes
  • Virginia Hamilton
  • Zora Neale Hurston
  • Kimani Tru Series for teens (multiple authors)
  • Toni Morrison
  • Walter Dean Myers
  • Gary Paulsen
  • Eleanora E. Tate
  • Mildred D. Taylor

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