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June 8, 2020

The indie book world has long provided a realm for authors of color to make their voices heard. There have been numerous reading lists compiled in response to the death of George Floyd and the nationwide demonstrations demanding racial justice—including PW's fiction and nonfiction anti-racist lists. Here at BookLife, we’ve compiled our own list of titles from self-published authors that address systemic racism and police brutality; explore African American history; or that otherwise reflect the diverse lived experiences of black individuals in America. Quotes from PW reviews, BookLife reviews, and BookLife Prize Critics' Reports are provided when available.

Biography 

Anointed to Sing the Gospel: The Levitical Legacy of Thomas A. Dorsey by Kathryn Kemp

"In this biography of Thomas A. Dorsey, Kemp (Make a Joyful Noise) provides a no-frills run-down of the legendary gospel singer’s career before turning outward in a rousing postscript." (BLR)

 

Thou Shalt Not Steal: The Baseball Life and Times of a Rifle-Armed Negro League Catcher by Bill "Ready" Cash and Al Hunter Jr. Love Eagle

 

Two Steps from Glory: A World War II Liaison Pilot Confronts Jim Crow and the Enemy in the South Pacific by Major Welton Taylor, edited by Karyn J. Taylor

 

Upright Bass: The Musical Life and Legacy of Jamil Nasser by Muneer Nasser

"This fascinating and worthy memoir of the late Jamil Nasser, an African American Muslim jazz bassist, provides both an intimate chronicle of his life and career, and a window into the lives of other luminary figures he played alongside." (BL Prize)

 

Fiction 

100 Years from Now Our Bones Will Be Different by Lawrence McWilliams and Anand Vedawala, illus. by McWilliams

"Inspired by Edgar Lee Master’s Spoon River Anthology, this illustrated collection of first-person epitaphs follows 40 members of a fictional African-American family from 1915 to 2015." (PW)

 

Child Bride by Jennifer Smith Turner

"This historical drama about surviving racism and abuse will move any reader interested in African-American lives in the early 20th century." (BLR)

 

Harlem Mosaics by Whit Frazier

"Frazier’s witty, fresh fictionalization of the Harlem Renaissance, told from the points of view of Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, is a delight." (BLR)

 

Independence Blues by W. B. Garvey

"Garvey (White Gold) explores in this vibrant tale a Jamaican family’s experiences in the U.S. during the final decades of the Jim Crow era." (PW)

 

Running from Color by  Moreniké Matory

"Moreniké paints a vivid portrait of a family living in the deep south during the 1920s." (BL Prize) 

 

The Twisted Crown by Anita Richmond Bunkley

 

Memoir 

7-10 Split: My Journey as America’s Whitest Blackest Kid by Michael Gordon Bennett

"Mastering self-doubt, cultural inertia, and parental miscues, Bennett asserts in his quiet, unforgettable way that persistence and courage will always triumph." (PW)

 

Pass the Torch: How a Young Black Father Challenges the Deadbeat Dad Stereotype by Jamiyl Samuels, with Tracy-Ann N. Samuels

"A bittersweet memoir of forgiveness and heartache." (PW)

 

Split at the Root: a Memoir of Love and Lost Identity by Catana Tully

 

The Vineyard We Knew: A Recollection of Summers on Martha's Vineyard by Kevin Parham

"Supported by 33 photographs, Parham, a professional musician, warmly describes the idyllic African-American childhood summers spent with six cousins on Martha’s Vineyard, before it became a vacation spot for the rich and powerful." (PW)

 

Nonfiction 

 

Chance or Circumstance?: A Journey Through the Struggle for Civil Rights by James R. Mapp

 

From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream by Janice S. Ellis

 

From Poverty to Prosperity: A Ghetto Exit Strategy as a Rite of Passage by Charles J. Jones

 

Long Road to Hard Truth: The 100-Year Mission to Create the National Museum of African American History and Culture by Robert L. Wilkins

 

World to Come: The Baltimore Uprising, Militant Racism, and History by Katherine Bankole-Medina

"Anyone curious about the longstanding social tensions that suffuse America’s cities and the particular responses of Baltimore’s residents, politicians, and law enforcement officials will find much here to think long, deep, and hard about." (PW)

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