Black and Biracial Characters in Books

Celie (Whoopi Goldberg) and Shug (Margaret Avery) in The Color Purple movie.

With tomorrow Martin Luther King Day and yesterday the actual birthday of the great civil-rights leader, it occurred to me to write a post about memorable Black or biracial characters in fiction. Adding to that inspiration were the recent deaths of magnificent actor Sidney Poitier and wonderful singer Ronnie Spector, and the announcement that renowned memoirist Maya Angelou is appearing on U.S. quarters — even as we wait for the promised picturing of courageous slave liberator Harriet Tubman on $20 bills.

I’ll focus on characters created by Black and biracial authors, while also mentioning — near the end of the post — several created by white authors. And I’ll mostly concentrate on three-dimensional characters, not the stereotyped ones we’ve too often seen — frequently in older fiction.

Where to begin? I guess I’ll go chronologically by the novel’s publication date.

Alexandre Dumas — whose father, an officer under Napoleon, was half-Black — was best known for novels with white protagonists. Most notably The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. But Dumas did write the compelling Georges (1843) featuring a biracial title character who leads a dramatic slave uprising.

Ninety-four years later, Zora Neale Hurston’s 1937-published Their Eyes Were Watching God starred Janie Crawford — who resiliently navigates racism, sexism, multiple marriages, and more.

Richard Wright’s Native Son (1940) protagonist is Bigger Thomas, an impoverished young man who makes very wrong choices due to inexperience and living in an ultra-bigoted society, yet is in some ways a sympathetic character.

James Baldwin’s Go Tell It On the Mountain (1953) stars John Grimes, a smart teen torn between a religious and secular future in a New York City as racist as Chicago was for Bigger Thomas.   

Wole Soyinka’s The Interpreters (1965) focuses on a group of five young Nigerian intellectuals — Bandele, a professor; Egbo, a foreign ministry clerk; Sagoe, a journalist; Kola, an artist; and Sekoni, an engineer-turned-sculptor.

Another Nigerian-born author, Buchi Emecheta, came out with Second Class Citizen in 1974. Its protagonist is the ambitious Adah Ofili — who deals with racism, sexism, a bad marriage, and time constraints (she’s a parent) while trying to get an education and do satisfying paid work.

Octavia E. Butler’s searing Kindred (1979) tells the story of a young woman — Dana Franklin — repeatedly yanked back in time from 1970s California to the brutal, pre-Civil War, slave-holding South.

The most memorable characters in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (1982) are Celie, whose life starts off quite miserably; and blues singer Shug, who helps her. 

There’s also the proud, independent, haunted Sethe in Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987); laborer-turned-detective Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins in Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress (1990) and subsequent books; friends Savannah Jackson, Bernadine Harris, Robin Stokes, and Gloria Matthews in Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale (1992); the two admirable women — Kiki Belsey and Carlene Kipps — married to less-than-admirable rival professors in Zadie Smith’s On Beauty (2005); Ifemelu, the young Nigerian woman who goes through major changes after moving to the U.S. in Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s Americanah (2013); and Starr Carter, the brave teen girl who witnesses a racist shooting by police in Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give (2017).

Among the compelling Black or biracial characters in novels written by white authors are harpooner Queequeq in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851); escaped slaves Eliza and George Harris in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852); the conflicted Ozias Midwinter in Wilkie Collins’ Armadale (1864); the troubled Joe Christmas in William Faulkner’s Light in August (1932); the kind, wrongly accused Tom Robinson in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (1960); scientist Ovid Byron in Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior (2012); and convicted-but-not-guilty attorney Malcolm Bannister in John Grisham’s The Racketeer (also 2012).

I’ve obviously just scratched the surface here. Anything you’d like to say about characters of color I mentioned or did not mention?

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com every Thursday. The latest piece — about the impact of COVID’s Omicron variant on my town — is here.

153 thoughts on “Black and Biracial Characters in Books

  1. Pingback: Black and Biracial Characters in Books – Current Happenings

  2. Dave , today on TV there was the movie with Denzel Washington, He was acting as laborer-turned-detective Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins in Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress (1990)
    The book was my introduction of Walter Mosley’s books,

    Speaking of Mr. Denzel Washington, some years ( decades) ago either in Times or Newsweek the cover was of Him to have the most symetrical face.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I truly truly love the characters you chose. They very much represent the living conditions and racial/political climate of their time. I wonder if you could write about the similarities and differences between black characters created by black/biracial authors and those created by white authors. Also I would be interested in having you be a guest feature in one of my blog posts. I discuss lifestyle topics but would love to have a blog dedicated to books and their importance in todays world. Thank you for this wonderful post

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you very much for the kind words, emmanuellatellsitblunt!

      You’re so right that many novels featuring Black or biracial characters reflect “the living conditions and racial/political climate of their time.” It’s fascinating to see the approach of, say, current author Zadie Smith compared to the approach of, say, past author Zora Neale Hurston.

      And, yes, it would be interesting to write about the way Black and biracial characters are depicted by authors of color vs. white authors. Pretty safe to say that the authors of color usually do better, with some exceptions of white authors who really “get it.”

      I appreciate the offer to do a guest post for your blog, but unfortunately I’m already totally swamped with my writing and parenting. So I have to politely decline. But I’ll take a look at your blog. 🙂

      Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, BrixHouseWife!

      I agree about “Native Son.” Very depressing, some inspiring moments in the latter pages, and riveting. In a different time and place, Bigger Thomas would probably have had a very different, more successful life.

      Like

  4. Hi Dave,

    What a shame that so many of your examples are full of racism and bigotry. I hope I live to see a world where a person of colour can be interesting because of who they are rather than having to be resilient because of the colour of their skin.

    A recent obsession of mine is Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses where the ‘noughts’, the ‘blankers’, the ‘nothings’ are white people, while the Crosses are the Black ruling class. Essentially, it’s a teen romance about two people of very different backgrounds falling in love and trying to fit into each other’s worlds. A bit confronting at times, it made me question my attitude about racism, not from an outside place of safety, but if I had to be the victim of it. A wonderfully unforgettable story.

    Liked by 3 people

    • To be black or biracial in many countries is to have to deal with racial prejudice everyday- those stories are as much of life experience and need to be told as the stories of joy, tradition, culture and just living life! I am a huge fan of Malorie Blackman and have met her several times – Her catalogue of children’s literature is ground breaking and she has enabled so many children and young people to see themselves in stories -a well deserved children’s Laurette! The Noughts and Crosses trilogy was inspired by her own inter-racial relationship – and if you have access to BBC iplayer where you are, it was recently made into a television series xx

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you, BrixHouseWife!

        Your opening line (“To be black or biracial in many countries is to have to deal with racial prejudice everyday — those stories are as much of life experience and need to be told as the stories of joy, tradition, culture and just living life!”) says it all. 🙂 😦 Really well stated.

        I definitely want to try “Noughts and Crosses” after seeing your comment and Susan’s comment. Wonderful that you’ve met the author several times! And that a TV series resulted.

        Like

      • So glad for you to have met Malorie Blackman. I’d like to reach out to her online to tell her what an impact her books had on me (though I’ve only read the first one at this point). The older I get the more I realise how privileged I’ve been. Books like this emphasise how racism is an every day thing for so many people. I have watched the first few episodes of the series but don’t care for the changes they made.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Susan!

      Yes, it IS depressing how much racism permeates everyday life as well as fiction (sometimes via racist authors and sometimes via non-racist authors depicting racism). I share your hope of seeing a better world, but am kind of pessimistic. 😦

      Malorie Blackman’s “Noughts and Crosses” sounds fascinating; I put it on my to-read list. You described it — and your reaction to it — really well. I’m intrigued!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. How about Zadie Smith Dave, was born in Willesden in the north-west London borough of Brent to a Jamaican mother, Yvonne Bailey, and an English father.
    The author of White teeth, her first Novel .
    She write about Realism and postmodernism ..
    Interestion enough Smith describes herself as “unreligious ( rings a bell, Dave ? )

    Just read
    ” Few contemporary authors have made such an impression on the literary landscape as acclaimed novelist Zadie Smith. Now, however, it’s her mother’s turn to step into the limelight, with Yvonne Bailey-Smith’s debut book, The Day I Fell Off My Island, hitting shelves on 10 June.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dave, Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987); what an excellent book.
    I haven’t read Color Purple but my first book of Walter Mosley`s was laborer-turned-detective Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins in Walter Mosley`s “Devil in a Blue dress”. saw the movie as well.
    The book I enjoyed so much that I started reading more of Walter Mosley`s Easy Rawlin series.

    His writing skills are different and I loved them. Last I read was “Charcoal Joe”. Some of his books were based on America in the 50`s, housing was different and people`s mind set was different. ( way before DT came into the picture, sarcasm).

    Since COVID-19 hhaves not gone to the Library for months.
    Time to look for Mosley’s books again

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, bebe!

      You were the one who recommended I read Walter Mosley, and I’m glad you did. 🙂 “Devil in a Blue Dress” is quite compelling, as is the second book in the series “A Red Death.” I stopped reading the Easy Rawlins novels after that only because I wanted to move on to other authors. 🙂 Yes, a lot of history in the Mosley books in addition to the crime/detective intrigue.

      Liked by 1 person

      • WOW, , another awesome book, John Grisham’s The Racketeer ( 2012).. I liked the book so much I purchased the book. That time there was a talk about a movie, then as I understand Grisham was hung up on Denzel. I think Idris Elba would have been much suited for that role.

        Learned a lot about the lives of Black Americans in those early days, Mosley`s writing style is so different from other authors of today. But that is unique among all well known authors.

        Liked by 1 person

        • “The Racketeer,” which you also recommended to me, is terrific! Such an interesting, complex plot — complex but very readable. Yes, several other actors in addition to Denzel Washington would be great in the Malcolm Bannister role. If anything, Denzel would be a bit old for the part.

          I agree that Mosley’s books are very educational when it comes to African-American life post-World War II. In California, specifically, at least in the two Easy Rawlins novels I read.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Also reading Mary Trump’s book. very impressive so I decided to buy it from Amazon, at a reduced price now. Thought the book is worth keeping and not from the moment.
            We are yet to find out what damage this liar has been doing to this Country.
            Have not read much but was impressed that she started writing from her Grandfather, his wife way back when and was not critical.
            Mary also worked hard on the book with her extensive research.
            Will eventually tell us how Donald became what he is today .

            Liked by 1 person

  7. “Queequeg is… the son of a South Sea chieftain who left home to explore the world.”

    Melville drew inspiration for Queequeg from a description in George Lillie Craik’s book, The New Zealanders (1830), of Te Pēhi Kupe, a Māori chief of the Ngāti Toa iwi famous for his travels in England.”

    Queequeg is not a biracial or Black character.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Unless I missed it, skimming/reading down the comment threads, no one has mentioned Mark Twain’s “Pudd’nhead Wilson”(1894), not necessarily one of the author’s best, but an engaging story of ironies, in which children are switched at birth by a mixed-race nursemaid, one raised up in white society, the other in Black society, so light-skinned (1/32 Black) was the Black baby. (The old race laws made a determination of race designation based on proportion of Black ancestry.)

    The character Wilson is thought to be a simple fellow around town, though a lawyer; his hobby of collecting fingerprints considered a harmless folly. But of course, that collection, and his study of fingerprints figures in mightily as the plot reaches its climax. (I think this novel may be among the first, if not the first, to a contain a murder mystery solved by comparison of fingerprints.)

    Though the boy raised Black is restored to his racial rights (and his property), he is uncomfortable among whites and his former Black neighbors. The boy raised white, though a wastrel and a murderer, is eventually restored to freedom by his creditors. Now legally Black, “he is classified as a slave and is legally included among the property assets of the estate. He is sold “down the river”, helping the creditors recoup their losses.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pudd%27nhead_Wilson

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, jhNY!

      I’ve read “Pudd’nhead Wilson” — and I agree that it’s an uneven novel (I’ve heard that Mark Twain wrote it fairly fast). But, as you note, it does have a LOT to say about race, racism, and nature vs. nurture. Definitely worth reading.

      Like

  9. The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates is a good book, but I found it difficult to get through because of the depictions of slavery and injustice. It has one major concept in it that I did not like, but I am not going to be a plot spoiler. It is not a flaw in the story or the writing – just a point of view that I found disappointing.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you, vanaltman!

      I have yet to read a Ta-Nehisi Coates book; I should. Sorry you had mixed feelings about “The Water Dancer.” Seeing slavery and injustice depicted by any author — even when depicted masterfully — can be ultra-painful for readers.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Phil, I think I responded to some of your points, even while not addressing all of them. And Kyle Onstott’s name didn’t ring a bell when I read your previous comment, so I didn’t react to that mention. Just looked him up, and see that he wrote “Mandingo,” which I HAVE heard of though never read.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Kindred has been on my list for so long and I really, really need to get around to it. As for black/bi-racial, I’ve been spending a lot of time with contemporary black literature and I must say, I have learned an awful lot from it. Some favorite titles lately are “Transcendent Kingdom” by Yaa Gyasi, “Yellow Wife” by Sadeqa Johnson, and “Harlem Shuffle” by Colson Whitehead (or anything by Colson Whitehead, which I’m sure you know!). I also very much enjoyed “the Prophets” by Robert Jones Jr. As for bi-racial, I think I’ve mentioned “Fifty Words for Rain” here before, which features a black/Japanese biracial character. I highly recommend it. 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you, M.B.!

      You won’t be disappointed with “Kindred,” if you get to it. Compelling novel that not only tells a great story but has a LOT to say about racism and more.

      Your current reading focus (or part of your current reading focus 🙂 ) is very impressive! I appreciate you sharing the details of that.

      Liked by 3 people

  11. This – “especially for the novel’s time” – is the kind of apologetic **** that needs to be left off. Art is the product of the culture in which it was created. Jim was mentor, sometimes muse, sounding board and surrogate father to Huck. Between them is an artfully drawn picture of the thoughtless cruelty of society as it existed. And still exists. And needs no apology for its historical frame. I was going to leave off any pandering rant, but there it was. Here’s the deal. Every day is a good day to celebrate Alice Walker. The internet is full of fawning over poorly constructed mediocrity when Walker’s work is a national treasure that has nothing to do with color. Celebrate her on a Tuesday in March, or a hot summer day. Literature and art, like photographs, are colorless, particularly once downstream. I did artist relations for a living for years. Most of my artists might have been a color other than my own. Never once did I hear “He plays pretty good for a black guy.” And while we’re at it, nothing about Kyle Onstott, the man who blew the door open for Haley twenty years earlier?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for the comment, Phil. I do thematic posts, and this theme happened to be about Black and biracial characters in literature. Many of my other themed posts that are not “demographically” oriented often have a mix of novels by Black authors, white authors, female authors, male authors, modern authors, long-ago authors etc., etc., without me drawing attention to that. They are just good books, and I think it’s important to include diverse writers. I do that almost subconsciously at this point.

      I am also a fan of Alice Walker’s work. She, like many other authors, is indeed a great author rather than a great Black author, a great white author, etc.

      Liked by 3 people

  12. Great selections and readers’ recommendations once again, Dave. I would only add Toni Morrison’s “Paradise” and “Song of Solomon.” I remember you featured her in the past. Both these novels have fascinating elements resembling magical realism, but what I recall mostly is the two powerful sub-themes. With “Song” there was a slow reveal about how generations ago, it was desirable to “pass” as white. With “Paradise” the opposite theme of not being dark enough resulted examined serious bigotry and exile among the black population of Tulsa, OK. The time frames escape me.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you, Mary Jo! Terrific Toni Morrison additions, and terrific descriptions of them by you!

      I was trying to limit the post to one title per author, but of course some authors have written multiple memorable novels with great Black or biracial characters. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  13. Thank you very much, Dave, for having brought up the very important subject “racism”, which seems to me another pandemic that continues to be around the world! Me, too, I have read some of your mentioned books, such as, one of the last ones about this topic, “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie.
    In this connection I could maybe also add “A passage to India” by E.M. Forster, in which an English lady, who was on an excursion, accused a young Indian doctor of having harressed her. He is arrested on a charge of attempted assault, but later when the case comes to trial the lady withdraws her accusation and the doctor is set free.

    Liked by 5 people

  14. HI Dave, I have read some of the books you have mentioned, with the most memorable being Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Count of Monte Christo. Michael has The Color Purple for a school set work this year, so we will both be reading it together. From a South African point of view, books with memorable black and biracial characters are, in no particular order, Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, Fiela se Kind (Fiela’s Child) by DAlene Matthee (the story of Fiela Komoetie and her son, Benjamin, nearly broke my heart when I read this in high school. I read it in Afrikaans but it is also available in English), the works of Herman Charles Bosman (who died of appendicitis in 1951). He wrote about the post Second Boer War period with authenticity, but there are some heartbreaking stories about relationships between Boers and native Africans. I also had a strong native African secondary character in my book, A Ghost and His Gold. I didn’t make Masiko a primary character because there is so little information about the role of native Africans in the war and I didn’t want to make any factual errors.

    Liked by 5 people

    • PS, although Rider Haggard was a colonialist and wrote in the style of the day which requires acceptance of certain language that is no longer in use today, his depiction of Ignosi in King Solomon’s Mines was of a strong and wise leader. I always thought he based the evil character of Twala on the real Zulu King Dingaan who was so important in South African history.

      Liked by 3 people

        • Thank you, Robbie, for the many authors/works you named who/that feature lead or secondary black African characters — including your own “A Ghost and His Gold”! Many great mentions in your three comments.

          One day I hope to read more novels by South African writers. So far I’ve only gotten to Alan Paton and Nadine Gordimer, unless I’m forgetting someone.

          I haven’t read “King Solomon’s Mines,” but have read “She” — which I found riveting even amid some of the colonialist language and attitudes. One definitely understands that authors are often “of their time” and place.

          Wonderful that you and your son will both be reading “The Color Purple” this year!

          Liked by 3 people

          • Hi Dave, I always read Mike’s readers with him so that I can ensure he understands [and actually reads it – haha!] I am happy it will be The Color Purple which I had planned to read anyway. I am currently plowing through War and Peace [I am a little ahead as I am on Part 2 now], it is very good to date. I am glad you enjoyed She, I had nightmares about the scene when She gets old again for years and years. I still makes me shudder if I read it.

            Liked by 3 people

  15. The Confessions of Nat Turner and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman have memorable title characters. Three of the most memorable black characters for me are the first person narrators of the following short stories: Alice Walker’s “1955,” James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues,” and Ralph Ellison’s “The Battle Royal.”

    The character of Minny in The Help is memorable for me–but not in a good way. I think the final act of defiance ascribed to her (aside from straining credulity and grossing me out) demeans her character; she doesn’t serve it. The fact that this act is ascribed to a black character by a white writer makes it even more cringe-worthy.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Thank you, Liz!

      “The Confessions of Nat Turner” and “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” are great mentions, and one can almost never go wrong reading Alice Walker, James Baldwin, or Ralph Ellison.

      Speaking of Ellison, there’s of course the unnamed protagonist in his powerful novel “Invisible Man,” which I read many years ago.

      Something about the idea of “The Help” always rubbed me the wrong way, and I never ended up reading it.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Liz, your last comment is note-worthy. One of the reasons I didn’t include a native African main character in my book about the Second Anglo Boer War is because of the dangers of cultural appropriation. It’s even worse if such representations present people in a negative light.

      Liked by 6 people

      • The dangers of cultural appropriation are that not appropriating other cultures is fence building. What’s worse – a black person with white syntax written by a white author, or a black character written with appropriate syntax by a white author, or no diversity at all from a white author? Are we not to embrace diversity by avoiding it? If you listen to any pop music from the last 120 years, by anyone, it’s cultural appropriation.

        Liked by 5 people

        • Hi Phil, it is a very complex issue and your commentary is also valid. For my book, I tried to present a holistic and well-rounded picture of the war, including both the Boer and the British perspective as well as including the relationships between both parties and the native Africans. I think to try and write a whole book for a different cultural perspective is very difficult and I would not attempt it. Locally, it would not be well received.

          Liked by 4 people

          • True. I would never write an entire book from a different cultural perspective. In this instance, about characters, I think it’s important to populate our work with legitimate characters. There is a movement to not show ANY person in a demeaning or two dimensional way, but that’s not the way of the world. The unfortunate truth is the world is full of racists, sexists and (x)-phobes as well as wonderful colorful, unusual characters. I also have a unique perspective going way back to being underaged and the only white” member of 9 piece “black” show band in 1973 Oklahoma (Indian Territory). I have a short story collection in the works that is full of conversations between two musicians, one of them old and black and have no qualms about putting it out there as the man is true to character.

            Liked by 3 people

  16. Sidney Poitier left an indelible mark on the world. He opened up doors for Whoopi Goldberg as did Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee to name just two powerful contemporaries who, like Poitier were highly principled and stood on a high pedestal with their convictions, not being afraid to speak their minds on the rights that are deserved to all of us.

    Raisin In the Sun was an earlier play that showed us the talent of a man who came to the United States initially in Florida as I remember, then to New York. To New York he was alone, no money, knew no one. He could not read. He did not learn to read growing up in the Bahamas. When he worked in a restaurant in NY, he spoke in an interview, perhaps 60 Minutes, that an older Jewish man who also worked in the restaurant would stay with him after the restaurant closed and read the newspaper to him. This went on for months. This is howSidney Poitier learned to how to read.

    When he told this story, he was emotional, he began to cry. The memory was so visceral to him, it effected his life till the very end the kindness of others, regardless of their race or religion. As I continued to read other pieces about his life in The NYT, the kindness that he gave to others was mentioned, he would take time to talk to people, wanting to learn about them as one example. He carried himself with grace and dignity. I will watch some of his films again, “To Sir With Love” being a favorite. May he rest in peace.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you, Michele! That’s a beautiful tribute to Sidney Poitier you wrote. He did seem like a very admirable person, and it’s wonderful that he “paid it forward” by being so kind to others after he was helped a lot by some people as he overcame poverty, culture shock, racism, and more.

      And, yes, like Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, he was a very principled person not afraid to be an activist and speak his mind.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Just my opinion, but Poitier also helped open the road to the presidency for Barack Obama, habituating white Americans (as did Belafonte) to the quiet intelligence and obvious competence resident in his on-screen personae, which decades after we recognized and respected in Obama.

      Notably, both men were understood to be exceptional; exemplary but not typical of Black Americans, each having a connection outside the States which made them so– to white America’s way of seeing things at least.

      Liked by 3 people

  17. Such an important post, Dave, thank you. Despite your comprehensive list it is of course the case that there are not as many well-formed black and bi-racial characters in classic literature as there should be. It’s so vital, isn’t it, that the work of black and bi-racial authors is properly highlighted, and that we as readers actively seek out a diverse range of writing to enjoy, so that we can spend time with well-written characters from non-white backgrounds. Reading projects such as the annual #Caribathon are brilliant ways for us to discover new-to-us authors (in my case fabulous books by Jamaica Kincaid and Nicole Dennis-Benn for example). I am currently reading and enjoying Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson which was highlighted through the Costa book prize, which has much more diverse long- and shortlists these days (past winner Love after Love by Ingrid Persaud is highly recommended). Assembly by Natasha Brown is next on the pile, and has been shortlisted for various prizes. Books such as 12 Years a Slave and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks read like novels and give us access to authentically written lives. Other authors which spring to mind: Bernadine Evaristo, Colson Whitehead, Andrea Levy, Brian Washington, Marlon James, I could and, I am sure should, go on. But what a great time it is to be able to read high quality writing about lives different from our own, and for black and bi-racial readers to feel represented on the page. Long may it be so.

    Liked by 5 people

  18. Another great post that has me thinking, Dave!! The first thought that came to mind was Alexander Pushkin, arguably the most celebrated poet in Russian, who was the great-grandson of Abram Hannibal, Black African general and friend of Peter the Great. The poem that came to my inbox today was by W.E.B. Du Bois: The Song of Smoke. It is a long poem but I thought that you would appreciated the first stanza in light of MLK Jr. Day 2022.

    I am the smoke king,
    I am black.
    I am swinging in the sky,
    I am ringing worlds on high;
    I am the thought of the throbbing mills,
    I am the soul of the Soul toil kills,
    I am the ripple of trading rills.
    Up I’m curling from the sod,
    I am whirling home to God.
    I am the smoke king,
    I am black.

    https://poets.org/poem/song-smoke?mc_cid=6d3a0be503&mc_eid=69ccec6f64

    Liked by 6 people

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