20th Century Classics of African American Literature and Popular Fiction That I've Read and Loved
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Maya Angelou's classic memoir, the first in a multi-volume autobiography, is a heart wrenching read, dealing as it does with sexual abuse of a child. We read it in freshman English in high school, which kind of surprises me in retrospect.
The Color Purple Alice Walker's masterpiece is one of the few books I think should be required reading for all. Oprah's movie was surprisingly good, but you need to read the book to really appreciate it.
Song of Solomon I need to read this book again. I read a bunch of Toni Morrison in late high school/college, and I know this was my favorite, but I don't remember a lot of detail about it. If you haven't read any Morrison (or have only read The Bluest Eye, which is horrifically upsetting), fix that now.
Waiting to Exhale Terry McMillan was THE crossover black author of the 1990s. This story of four middle class black women in Atlanta dealing with life and love is probably a time capsule at this point, but it was eye opening for me as a young white woman in the northwest.
Devil in a Blue Dress This is the first of Walter Mosley's excellent detective series set in LA in the 1950s and 60s. Hero Easy Rawlins hops into bed with every single woman he meets, but otherwise his life and troubles are a beautiful, heartbreaking look at the diaspora of non-Southern Jim Crow America.
Next, here are a few
Urban and/or Sports Focused Black Teen Novels My Students Swear By But I've Never Read
They are all a bit dated, so your mileage may vary.
Brothers in Arms
The Moves Make the Man
Books I Was Forced To Read in Elementary School and Did Not Enjoy, But They Are Classics, So Maybe Give Them a Try?
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Phillip Hall Likes Me I Reckon Maybe