The story of an African American woman who travels back in time to the antebellum South and finds herself charged with task of saving the life of her white ancestor so that she can be born. A startling book about race, identity, and history that is premised on the author fearlessly claiming that history as her own.
A classic American novel about African American male consciousness and identity. I still think the first chapter, with its battle royale scene, is one of best first chapters of a novel I’ve ever read.
Song of Solomon
There are many books by Morrison that I could have listed, but this book is the one that made me want to write novels. Discovering her work was a revelation. I was immediately struck by her capacity to reveal the extraordinary depth of the black experience, always uninhibited by the parochial notion of realism.
The Women of Brewster Place
I have always loved the structure of the book, and was inspired by its depiction of a community and the complicated ways female identity is shaped by it.
A classic, expressionistic exploration of the beauty and trauma of black southern culture in the early 20th century.
The Talented Ribkins
Above is a list of ten black fiction writers whose work influenced my writing by expanding my sense of what was possible to do with language. For the purposes of this list, I’ve confined myself to writers of fiction whose books I read when I was still trying to figure out what kind of writer I wanted to be. They are all “classics.” There are many other books I’ve read since that I wish I had read when I was younger; I’m also indebted to the books listed here for encouraging me to seek out those other authors.
Author Photo: Vilma Samulionyte