Pittsburgh is a city whose neighborhoods are rich in African-American culture and heritage. Take, for example, the Hill District, home of the legendary August Wilson, whose legacy resonates throughout the Carnegie Library’s brand-new Hill District Branch. There’s also Homewood, where John Edgar Wideman both spent his youth and set much of his writing. However, I could go on all day and not even begin to do justice to the proud history and hopeful future you can find within Pittsburgh’s borders.
It’s the same way with the African American fiction collection: because it spans multiple genres, and reflects various aspects of the African American experience, it’s almost impossible to sum it up with three or four titles. And yet, we soldier on! Here’s a very quick peek at some of the titles and authors you’ll find on our shelves.
The Book: 72 Hour Hold, Bebe Moore Campbell.
The Plot: A mother struggles to help her adult daughter cope with bipolar disorder, but is limited both by the law and by society’s discomfort with the mentally ill.
Pick this up if you like: mother-daughter relationships, novels that explore contemporary medical issues, style and tone similiar to thrillers, but with literary use of metaphor.
The Book: Talking God’s Radio Show, John High.
The Plot: This dream-like (or is it nightmarish?) novel revolves around Jesse Rivers, his surreal experiences in an orphanage called “Camp Jesus,” and his adventures after his subsequent escape.
Pick this up if you like: Psychological fiction, coming-of-age stories, poetic prose, stories told in flashback, Southern gothic.
The Book: Man Gone Down, Michael Thomas.
The Plot: The American dream takes a screeching turn for the worse for a young black man who, though successful up to now, finds himself estranged from his wife and children. Given only a short time to put his life back together, can he figure out a way to keep everything he holds dear?
Pick this up if you like: Narratives that rely heavily on flashback, portraits of contemporary manhood and fatherhood, stories set in Boston or New York, the challenges of earning a living and building a life.
The Book: Short Stories of the Civil Rights Movement, ed. Margaret Earley.
The Plot: A group of short stories and personal recollections loosely grouped around relevant historical themes, such as “Sit-ins” and “Desegregation.” Contributors include Z.Z. Packer and Alice Walker.
Pick this up if you like: Historical fiction, anthologies, short stories, literary fiction, multi-cultural collaborations.
When you’re done with these, you’ll be ready to explore the collection’s African authors, or perhaps some of its inspirational offerings. You can also try familiar picks from classic authors or dive into the controversial, yet compelling, world of street lit (also known as urban lit). As ever, if you want to learn more, or have questions about authors and titles, just ask a librarian.