Black Literature – Past, Present and Future: A Reading List

From PEN America:

This week’s reading list is curated by PEN America’s World Voices Festival team and features a mix of classic and contemporary novels, essay collections, and poetry collections. It includes the searing prose of James Baldwin’s 1963 bestseller The Fire Next Time, in which he tells his nephew how to navigate the injustices he will face as Black man in America. We also highlight Nic Stone’s Dear Martin, published more than 50 years later but which exposes the same threats of racial violence that still plague our country and threaten young Black men.

We chose the works on this list because, like Baldwin’s essay and Stone’s YA novel, they are in conversation with one another. They inform one another, build off of one another, and celebrate one another. They do not just detail the plight of Black people. Rather, these works of art, like any example of great literature, are nuanced, challenging, and boundless. History has proven that interest in Black literature surges during periods of social unrest. But the canon of Black literature did not suddenly appear in these moments. Black literature is American literature.

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (1963)

Baldwin’s powerful essays evoke his upbringing while calling into attention the racial violence that plagued the United States at the start of the Civil Rights Movement. The text, which contains two “letters,” written on the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, quickly became a bestseller and galvanized the nation.

More here. (Note: At least one post throughout the month of February will be devoted to Black History Month. The theme for 2022 is Black Health and Wellness)