Jesmyn Ward’s historic second National Book Award–winner is “perfectly poised for the moment” (The New York Times), an intimate portrait of three generations of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. “Ward’s writing throbs with life, grief, and love… this book is the kind that makes you ache to return to it” (Buzzfeed).
Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn’t lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent white father, Michael, who is being released from prison; his absent white grandfather, Big Joseph, who won’t acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given, who died as a teenager. When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another thirteen-year-old boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.
Rich with Ward’s distinctive, lyrical language, SING, UNBURIED, SING is a majestic and unforgettable family story and “an odyssey through rural Mississippi’s past and present” (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
62. WINTER'S LAMENT by Joyce A. Brown
Author Joyce A. Brown has surprised us all in this contemporary romance novel, WINTER'S LAMENT. When a storm destroys the broadcast tower of an influential megachurch, Pastor ReeseThompkins jumps into a huge fundraising effort which will free him from guilt and pave the way to the climax of his ministry. For years, he has been hiding his identity as transgender, and masking it even further with the companionship of his best friend and first lady, Kamilah. Denying herself a love life of her own, the outlook changes when the man she really loves returns to town. To make matters worse, Reese’s former lover and arch enemy, Dr. Annorah Sherman of the International Truth Institute, is determined to expose his secrets to the world and appease her judgmental parents. This battle of wills, religion and ethics keeps the reader engaged throughout this book.
After reading WINTER'S LAMENT, we are forced to confront our own understanding of gender identity and the transgender community. The voices are clearly present in the novel that represent traditional biblical interpretations as well as contemporary political and moral thought, pushing the reader to decide on her place in the spectrum. Miss Brown uses her expertise as a clinician to examine one of the most controversial issues of our time, and to do it with dignity and class. If you’d like to explore a new take on the Black Church and be thoroughly entertained, then WINTER'S LAMENT is the book for you.
"When I closed the pages of WINTER'S LAMENT, my first thought was, Well Done! The issue Joyce Brown tackles is contemporary and yet it is mired in secrecy, superstition, and bias. Some readers will seek to refute the work with scriptures of one faith or another, personally I gravitate to the phrase in 1 Corinthians 13:13, 'and the greatest of these is love.' The book while descriptive, is discretely written, Brown’s characters are vividly defined. WINTER'S LAMENT is a challenging read because it asks us to reasonably question our beliefs and prejudices. Joyce Brown has written a legitimate and important addition to the literature on gender equality. I gave this book a four and kudos for wading into uncharted waters. A crack in the door of gender identity has been opened and a glimmer of light is shining in. Brown’s future work is further excavation of this important topic in what I see as one or two subsequent books." Swimming in Unchartered Waters, verified Amazon customer
63. BEHOLD THE DREAMERSby Imbolo Mbue
A compulsively readable debut novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream—the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy. It reminded me of Chimamanga Adichie's AMERICANAH, focusing on the plight of Africans to gain citizenship in the US and being denied.
Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers.
When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice: to continue to struggle through the court system or abandon the dream.
Named one of the best books of the year by NPR • The New York Times Book Review • San Francisco Chronicle • The Guardian • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • Chicago Public Library • BookPage • Refinery29 • Kirkus Reviews
“BEHOLD THE DREAMERS challenges us all to consider what it takes to make us genuinely content, and how long is too long to live with our dreams deferred.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
64. CANE RIVERby Lalita Tademy
A New York Times bestseller and Oprah's Book Club Pick-the unique and deeply moving saga of four generations of African-American women whose journey from slavery to freedom begins on a Creole plantation in Louisiana.
Beginning with her great-great-great-great grandmother, a slave owned by a Creole family, Lalita Tademy chronicles four generations of strong, determined black women as they battle injustice to unite their family and forge success on their own terms. They are women whose lives begin in slavery, who weather the Civil War, and who grapple with contradictions of emancipation, Jim Crow, and the pre-Civil Rights South. As she peels back layers of racial and cultural attitudes, Tademy paints a remarkable picture of rural Louisiana and the resilient spirit of one unforgettable family.
There is Elisabeth, who bears both a proud legacy and the yoke of bondage... her youngest daughter, Suzette, who is the first to discover the promise-and heartbreak-of freedom... Suzette's strong-willed daughter Philomene, who uses a determination born of tragedy to reunite her family and gain unheard-of economic independence... and Emily, Philomene's spirited daughter, who fights to secure her children's just due and preserve their dignity and future.
Meticulously researched and beautifully written, CANE RIVER presents a slice of American history never before seen in such piercing and personal detail.
65. THE RED TENTby Anita Diamont
When we think of historical fiction, we usually don't consider the Bible as a backdrop. In the Bible, Dinah's life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that tell of her father, Jacob, and his twelve sons. Deeply affecting, THE RED TENT, published in 1997, combines rich storytelling and the valuable achievement of presenting a new view of biblical women's lives.
This historical fiction novel begins with the story of the mothers--Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah--the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through childhood, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. We see the sisterhood growing among the women as they meet in their sacred space, the Red Tent, for times that are special to womanhood: their cycles, births, illness and mourning. Dinah's story reaches out from a remarkable period of early history and creates an intimate connection with the past, offering incite into the trials and tribulations of women during Biblical times . . . . Amazon.com
Diamant uses her vast knowledge of the history of her faith and that time to flesh this story out in very real ways never perverting the original text. And in doing so she weaves a story of women and their bond with each other in a time and a place that is difficult to understand in our modern world but at the same time is fascinating. These characters linger with you long after the book is finished. Goodreads
66. SAVING RUBY KINGby Catherine Adel West
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2020 by Ms. Magazine, USA Today Book Riot, The Rumpus, Library Journal, Pure Wow, The Every Girl, Parade and more.
When Ruby King’s mother is found murdered in their home in Chicago’s South Side, the police dismiss it as another act of violence in a black neighborhood. But for Ruby, it’s a devastating loss that leaves her on her own with her violent father. While she receives many condolences, her best friend, Layla, is the only one who understands how this puts Ruby in jeopardy.Their closeness is tested when Layla’s father, the pastor of their church, demands that Layla stay away. But what is the price for turning a blind eye? In a relentless quest to save Ruby, Layla uncovers the murky loyalties and dangerous secrets that have bound their families together for generations. Only by facing this legacy of trauma head-on will Ruby be able to break free.
“Forever and to the end. That’s what they say instead of I love you.”
An unforgettable debut novel, SAVING RUBY KING is a powerful testament that history doesn’t determine the present and the bonds of friendship can forever shape the future.
67. MRS. WIGGINSby Mary Monroe
Following the popular reads on Facebook, I kept seeing this intriguing cover of a woman who looked something like a younger me. But the comments were mostly negative. Despite that, I thought I'd give it a try. While the first few pages were a little improbable, I found the story engaging and hilarious. The characters and down-home language & setting reminded me of California Cooper, and I just had to keep reading. If you want to be entertained, this is the book for you! Reminiscent of her captivating, scandalous Mama Ruby series, New York Timesbestselling author Mary Monroe crafts a story set in the Deep South during the Depression, in this tale of a woman determined to have a respectable life—no matter what it costs to keep it . . .
Maggie Franklin knew her only way out was to marry someone upstanding and church-going. Someone like Hubert Wiggins, the most eligible man in Lexington, Alabama—and the son of its most revered preacher. Proper and prosperous, Hubert is glad to finally have a wife, even one with Maggie’s background. For Hubert has a secret he desperately needs to stay hidden. And Maggie’s unexpected charm, elegance, and religious devotion makes her the perfect partner in lies . . .
Their surprising union makes the Wiggins’ the town’s most envied couple—complete with a son, Claude, whom Maggie idolizes. Until he falls in love with the worst possible fiancée. Terrified, Maggie won’t let Daisy destroy her son. And when her employer’s brother sexually harasses her, Maggie knows something needs to be done about him as well. In fact, she realizes there are an awful lot of sinning “disruptive” people who should be eliminated from her perfect world . . . And when it seems like the one person she always expected to be there is starting to drift away, Maggie will play one final, merciless game to secure what she’s fought so hard to earn ...
"WOW......what an epic read. The whole time while reading Mrs Wiggins had my eyebrows arched. Kudos to Ms Monroe. Definitely a page turner! Tonia Smith rated it 5 stars! Amazing ---Goodreads
68. THE SECRET WOMENby Sheila Williams The author of DANCING ON THE EDGE OF THE ROOF, now a Netflix film starring AlfreWoodard, returns with a riveting, emotionally rich, novel that explores the complex relationship between mothers and daughters in a fresh, vibrant way—a stunning page-turner for fans of Terry McMillan, Tayari Jones, and Kimberla Lawson Roby.
Elise Armstrong, Carmen Bradshaw, and DeeDee Davis meet in a yoga class. Though vastly different, these women discover they all have one thing in common: their mothers have recently passed away. Becoming fast friends, the trio make a pact to help each other sort through the belongings their mothers left behind. But when they find old letters and diaries, Elise, Carmen, and DeeDee are astonished to learn that each of their mothers hid secrets—secrets that will transform their own lives. They not only gain a better understanding of the women their mothers were, but of themselves. They also come to realize they have what their mothers needed most but did not have during difficult times—other women they could trust.
Filled with poignant life lessons, THE SECRET WOMEN pays tribute to the power of friendship and family and the bonds that tie us together. Beautiful, full of spirit and heart, it is a thoughtful and ultimately uplifting story of unconditional love. I enjoyed this book. It reminded me how motherhood means so many different things to different people. The memories are not always warm and fuzzy, and the dreaded task of going through a mother's belongings and facing our own demons, often requires some emotional support, best received from sister friends who have experienced the same loss. If you've lost your mother, and don't feel that you've had closure, this novel can help you move forward as well.
69. HOMEby Toni Morrison
I am recommending my 69th book today, and when I looked at my latest list for my next Rose's Bookshelf, I realized who was missing... my favorite author, Toni Morrison. Each of my lists of 10 holds a Toni Morrison novel, so why stop now? This week's pick is HOME.There are topics you may think you've had enough of — racism, slavery, anti-Semitism, the Holocaust — but then you read a book like Toni Morrison's new novel and realize, as Samuel Beckett put it, "All has not been said and never will be."
This New York Times Notable Book is an emotional powerhouse of a novel about a modern Odysseus returning to a 1950s America mined with lethal pitfalls for an unwary Black man. When Frank Money joined the army to escape his too-small world, he left behind his cherished and fragile little sister, Cee. After the war, he journeys to his native Georgia with a renewed sense of purpose in search of his sister, but it becomes clear that their troubles began well before their wartime separation. Together, they return to their rural hometown of Lotus, where buried secrets are unearthed and where Frank learns at last what it means to be a man, what it takes to heal, and—above all—what it means to come home.
"Morrison raises our gall repeatedly at sickening abominations routinely inflicted on African-Americans: unsafe medical experiments, exclusion from public restrooms, forced gladiatorlike knife fights for the amusement of betting spectators. In contrast, she presents an idealized picture of the hard-working, salt-of-the-earth, illiterate yet wise women with "seen-it-all eyes" who tend to Cee. Morrison writes, "they practiced what they had been taught by their mothers during the period that rich people called the Depression and they called life."" NPR.org book reviews
70. RAISING THE ROSES, Ernestine Rose
After I finished my first book, 7 TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE, I quickly realized that this was not the kind of book I wanted to write. I love a good story, and while I had added some personal illustrations, this book was mainly an explanation of what I thought worked in a marriage. What I really wanted to do was to tell a good story. And I had shared many in my classroom about my own children, from things they said to how we handled parenting. My funny stories about my sons engaged my students and allowed them to see the mom side of me, not just the English teacher. I loved being both a mother and a teacher, and I juggled the mixed roles by bringing my four sons to many of my extra-curricular activities, from play practices after school to football games on the weekends. They knew my students and my students knew them. Sharing some of these stories was closer to what I wanted to write, so my second book became RAISING THE ROSES. While 7 TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGEwas more expository with a few personal anecdotes, RAISING THE ROSES was a memoir of motherhood, with lessons learned at the end of each chapter. They make a great pair for people who are just starting their families.
RAISING THE ROSES begins with “Soulmates,” and covers my choosing a college and later the husband I found there. I move on to “The Wedding,” “The Newlywed Game,” and “Having Babies 101”. They all share the idea that finding your partner and starting a family are usually not like you expected them to be. You have to learn to compromise and be flexible as you quibble over everything from choosing baby names to defining husband/wife roles. I learned to juggle time and money as the boys grew older, to debunk the “Superwoman myth” that society tells us we have to take on, and I share some of my tips in the middle chapters. We laughed as our teenaged sons explained their reluctance to choose and settle in “The Shelf Life of Girlfriends,” and I end the book when my oldest gets married and I start the cycle all over again as a grandmother. If you're a parent looking for solutions, or you just want to learn about my family and "get the tea." this is the book for you. It's guaranteed to make you laugh! I even made a video! Check it out!