BostonPublic Library
Black Is ... 2011:
Books about the African-American Experience
Booklists for Adults
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The Black Is Booklist is a list of recent books concerning the African-American experience. It is published as part of the Boston Public Library's observance of Black History Month each year.

The Black Is 2011 List in available directly through our catalog. Click on a section header below to see just titles in that genre.

Nonfiction:   Biography | Expressions | History
Fiction:   Christian | Historical | International | Mystery | Urban

Archive of Past Lists



The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama
by David Remnick
This comprehensive biography describes what drove an ordinary man to become the most powerful person in the world.
E908.R46 2010

Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone, the First Woman to Play Professional Baseball in the Negro League
by Martha Ackmann
A baseball-loving girl from Minnesota grew up to play in the Negro League.
YA GV865.S86A35 2010

Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir
by Ngu~gı~wa Thiong'o
Born in Kenya in 1938, the Man Booker-nominated author describes growing up under political strife, with what was considered a bizarre thirst for knowledge.
PR9381.9.N45Z469 2010

Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family
by Condoleezza Rice
This autobiography by the former Secretary of State tells of her parents, John and Angelena Rice, who developed her talents while living in the segregated South.
E840.8.R48A3 2010

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
by Rebecca Skloot
Henrietta Lacks was a poor, young, Southern mother who died in 1951. Long after her death, her family discovered her cells were still being used in medical experimentation.
RC265.6.L24S55 2010

Jenniemae & James: A Memoir in Black and White
by Brooke Newman
Two people with a gift for numbers became friends in the 1940s in Washington, D.C. One was a brilliant, white mathematician, and the other, his lucky, black, gambling maid.
F205.A1N49 2010

The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron
by Howard Bryant
This is a comprehensive look at the baseball great who retired as the all-time leader in rbis and total bases, shattering Babe Ruth's homerun record along the way.
GV865.A25B79 2010

The Price of Stones: Building a School in Africa
by Twesigye Jackson Kaguri and Susan Urbanek Linville
An American-educated Ugandan built the Nyaka aids Orphans School.
LG422.N93.K34 2010

Princess Noire: The Tumultuous Reign of Nina Simone
by Nadine Cohodas
The life and career of the gifted, but troubled, singer are detailed, including her provocative relationship with her audiences and her contributions to the Civil Rights movement.
ML420.S5635C65 2010

Signed, Sealed, and Delivered: The Soulful Journey of Stevie Wonder
by Mark Ribowsky
Wonder's 50-year career as a music icon is chronicled, from his childhood in Saginaw, MI to his years at Motown and beyond.
ML410.W836R53 2010


Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment
Edited by Richard Carlin and Kinshasha Holman Conwill
This history of Harlem's world-famous entertainment spot is a companion to an exhibit at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
ML3479.A36 2010

Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work
by Edwidge Danticat
Twelve essays by the Haitian-American author explore the perils of bearing witness to tragedy, as many of her fellow countrymen have done.
PS3554.A5815Z463 2010

by Jay-Z
This is a compilation of the lyrics of rapper/entrepreneur Jay-Z with stories of how they relate to his life.
ML420.J29A3 2010

Hard Times Require Furious Dancing
by Alice Walker
These are new poems by the author of The Color Purple.
PS3573.A425 H37 2010

A Home Elsewhere: Reading African-American Classics in the Age of Obama
by Robert B. Stepto
Essays link Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father to other classic African-American works.
PS153.N5S75 2010

The Masque of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief
by V.S. Naipaul
The author travels through Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Gabon, and South Africa, and examines each country's religious and spiritual practices.
BL2400.N34 2010

The One Hundred Best African American Poems (but I cheated)
Edited by Nikki Giovanni
The noted American poet selected one hundred classic and modern poems.
PS591.N4A15 2010x

Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through
by Iyanla Vanzant
Vanzant shares personal stories with her readers to help them develop peace.
BF634.C5V364 2010

Preaching with Sacred Fire: An Anthology of African American Sermons, 1750 to the Present
Edited by Martha Simmons and Frank A. Thomas
Sojourner Truth, James Weldon Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and Peter Gomes are just a few of the over 90 orators represented.
BV4241.5.P75 2010

History and Contemporary Issues

Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama
by Peniel E. Joseph
Tufts University History Professor Joseph wrote a comprehensive study of the Black Power Movement from the '60s to the inauguration of Barack Obama.
E185.615.J677 2010

Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America
by Eugene Robinson
The author, a Washington Post editor and columnist, argues that the once monolithic "Black America" is now four distinct groups based on income, mixed-race heritage, and immigration.
E185.86.R618 2010

Faces of America: How 12 Extraordinary People Discovered Their Pasts
by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Harvard University Professor Gates tests the DNA of twelve celebrities from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Based on the PBS series.
CS49.G38 2010

Freedom Flyers: The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II
by J. Todd Moye
The author interviewed many of the surviving pilots who fought the Axis powers and domestic segregation during World War II.
D790.252 332nd.M69 2010

Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin
by Hampton Sides
This is the account of the largest manhunt in American history, the search for racist ex-con Eric Galt a/k/a James Earl Ray.
E185.97.K5S534 2010

Losing My Cool: How a Father's Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-Hop Culture
by Thomas Chatterton Williams
The author describes his transition from suburban gang-banger to a sophisticated young man of the world.
E185.615.W497 2010

Obama's Wars
by Bob Woodward
Once again the noted journalist gained access to deep inside as President Obama and his military and civilian advisors deal with Afghanistan and Pakistan and the "War on Terror."
E908.3.W66 2010x

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates
by Wes Moore
Two African-Americans named Wes Moore grew up in Baltimore during the 1980s and '90s. One became a Rhodes Scholar and an Afghanistan combat veteran, and the other is serving a life sentence for murder.
YA F189.B153M66 2010

Ten Hills Farm: The Forgotten History of Slavery in the North
by C.S. Manegold
This book describes the previously unknown history of slavery in colonial Massachusetts at Ten Hills Farm in Medford.
E445.M4M36 2010

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration
by Isabel Wilkerson
Pulitzer prize-winning Boston University Professor Wilkerson presents the comprehensive story of the "Great Migration" of African-Americans from the rural South to the northern and western American cities and suburbs, and its impact on American culture.
E185.6.W685 2010





Heaven Forbid
by Lutishia Lovely
Members of the Gospel Truth Church must deal with the fallout of a fallen pastor.

A Million Blessings
by Angela Benson, Marilynn Griffith and Tia McCollors
An unexpected windfall changes a pastor, a football player, and a motorcycle-riding woman in these inspirational stories.

More Church Folk
by Michele Andrea Bowen
An election of church bishops brings politicking, corruption, and an aphrodisiacal concoction.


Glorious: A Novel
by Bernice McFadden
African-American author Easter Bartlett journeys from the violent Jim Crow South to the promise of the Harlem Renaissance.

Wench: A Novel
by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Four slave women, in slave-free Ohio with their white owners, begin to think about running away.


Beneath the Lion's Gaze: A Novel
by Maaza Mengiste
A father must guide his extended family through the violence of Ethiopia's revolution.

Black Mamba Boy
by Nadifa Mohamed
In 1936, an 11-year-old boy travels across Africa in search of his long-lost father.

How to Escape from a Leper Colony: A Novella and Stories
by Tiphanie Yanique
Stories from a leper colony, a prison cell, and a coffee shop are set on a small Caribbean island in the 1930s.

How to Read the Air
by Dinaw Mengestu
Jonas, the son of immigrants, retraces his parents' journey from Ethiopia to the United States.

The Long Song
by Andrea Levy
A slave relates the events of the 1832 rebellion in Jamaica.

Powder Necklace: A Novel *
by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond
English teenager Lila's world turns over when her mother sends her to live in Ghana, then back to London, and then to America. * Appropriate for teen readers.

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives
by Lola Shoneyin
Baba Segi's beautiful and educated fourth wife is plotted against by the other three.

Victoire: My Mother's Mother
by Maryse Conde
The author's research into her white mestiza grandmother's life takes her to nineteenth-century Belize.


Known to Evil
by Walter Mosley
New York City private investigator Leonid McGill, under heavy pressure from a city official, tracks down a woman, who is dead when he finds her.

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey
by Walter Mosley
A 91-year-old man gets rid of his dementia, but at the cost of a shortened life.


by Kia DuPree
A young woman lives on the streets of Washington, D.C.

Darius Jones
by Mary B. Morrison
NBA star Darius Jones must deal with his comatose wife, a murderous groupie, and the mother of his child.

Dirtier Than Ever: A Novel
by Vickie Stringer
Q is left for dead, Bacon tortures Red, and Red plots revenge in the third episode of this sizzling series.

The Ex Chronicles: A Novel
by Carol Taylor
Four thirty-ish New York City friends bond to navigate the perils of single life.

Getting to Happy
by Terry McMillan
The four friends from Waiting to Exhale continue their lives 15 years later.

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky: A Novel
by Heidi W. Durrow
After a family tragedy, a biracial girl begins a new life.

God Ain't Through Yet
by Mary Monroe
Annette hopes that everything is fine after Peewee takes her back.

Heaven Forbid
by Lutishia Lovely
Members of the Gospel Truth Church must deal with the fallout of a fallen pastor.

If You Were My Man
by Francis Ray
A young widow and a hostage negotiator fall in love, but is their romance doomed?

In My Father's House
by E. Lynn Harris
After being disowned by his homophobic father, Bentley L. Dean iii sets up a very successful modeling agency.

Relapse: A Novel
by Nikki Turner
Protecting superstars from the paparazzi, getting vips out of legal problems, and procuring drugs are some of a concierge's duties.

A Taste of Honey: Stories
by Jabari Asim
A Midwestern family's stories of the time of the Civil Rights movement are woven together.

Tempted by Trouble
by Eric Jerome Dickey
Dmytrk and Cora played by the rules until the recession came along, and bank robbery became an option.

by Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant
The saga of the Dixon family continues. Will Dwight succeed in expanding the real estate business?

Wifey 4 Life: Part 5
by Kiki Swinson
Kira arrives home to find a bounty on her head, and several people waiting to cash in.

2011 Black Is… Committee Members

  • Marylou Coveney
  • Amy Manson, Connolly Branch
  • Margaret Phillibert, Lower Mills Branch
  • Anne Smart, South End Branch