Library: Classic Books by African-American Authors | Review by Chanhassen

Summer is the perfect time not only to read bestsellers, but also to get acquainted with the classics, like these books by African-American authors. Many of these titles are also available digitally through the cloudLibrary or RB Digital.

“Beloved” by Toni Morrison. Beloved is Morrison’s masterpiece about Sethe, its protagonist. Sethe was born a slave and fled to Ohio, but 18 years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farmhouse where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died without a name and whose tombstone is engraved with one word: Beloved.

“The Violet Color” by Alice Walker. The story of two sisters – one a missionary in Africa and the other a child bride living in the South – who maintain loyalty and trust in each other through time, distance and silence. Beautifully imagined and deeply compassionate, this classic novel of American literature is filled with passion, pain, inspiration, and an indomitable love of life.

“I know why the caged bird sings” by Maya Angelou. Superbly told, with the poet’s gift for language and observation, Angelou’s autobiographical account describes his childhood growing up black in Arkansas – a world most Americans are unaware of. Angelou tells the story of her difficult childhood and her years of young adulthood. Raised by her extended African-American family, she endured racism, rape, and teenage pregnancy, rising above adversity to become a respected educator and author.

“If Beale Street Could Talk” by James Baldwin. Baldwin’s novel depicts the troubled romance between young lovers Tish and Fonny, who become engaged and plan to marry. When Fonny is arrested and imprisoned, their families work to clear his name and secure his release. In a love story reminiscent of the blues, where passion and sadness inevitably intertwine, Baldwin has created two characters so alive and deeply realized that they are indelibly embedded in the American psyche.

“Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison. A milestone in American literature and a book that has kept readers interested since its release in 1952. The novel’s anonymous narrator describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a black college from which he was expelled, settling in New York and becoming the chief spokesman for the Harlem branch of “the Brotherhood”, and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man that he imagines himself to be. The book is a tour de force of passionate and witty style.

“Kinship” by Octavia Butler. The visionary author’s masterpiece takes us – with its black heroine – through time to confront the horrors of slavery and explore the impacts of racism, sexism and white supremacy past and present. ‘today. Dana, a modern black woman, celebrates her 26th birthday with her new husband when she is abruptly snatched from her home in California and transported to the pre-war South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, drowns and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is repeatedly taken back in time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay becomes longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether Dana’s life will end, long before she has a chance to start.

“Son of the country” by Richard Wright. From the start, Bigger Thomas had headed for jail. It could have been assault or petty theft; by chance, it was for murder and rape. “Native Son” tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after killing a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Richard Wright’s powerful novel is an unforgiving reflection on the poverty and feelings of despair experienced by inner city dwellers across the country and what it means to be black in America.

“Their eyes looked at God” by Zora Neale Hurston. Describing one of the first strong black women in 20th century literature, Hurston’s story of Janie Crawford draws the reader into a timeless world of love, struggle and self-exploration. Janie’s quest for love and fulfillment may be more powerful for modern audiences than her original readership. Out of print for nearly 30 years – largely due to audiences’ initial rejection of its strong black lead – Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.


Although all library events are canceled, the library is hosting virtual storytimes on Mondays at 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., and then again on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. The library also offers other excellent online programs for children and adults such as:

Program “Take and Make” Fancy Dragon Eggs: Until Friday July 10. Explore dragons from around the world while reading at home and creating dragon crafts. The kit will include book recommendations, dragon myths, and a project to make your own dragon egg. 5 years and over. Kits including everything you need to make this “Take and Make” craft will be available while supplies last.

Schiffelly puppets: Until Sunday July 12. Comedic situations, quirky puppet characters and life lessons are added to classic fairy tales, creating an action-packed entertainment extravaganza. Check the Facebook event at for more information.

Rad Zoo: From Monday July 13 to Sunday July 19. Reptile & Amphibian Discovery Zoo (RAD) will have a fun presentation with all kinds of creatures and facts. Who knows what you’ll see? There could be turtles, lizards, snakes and maybe a tiny alligator! Check the Facebook event at for more information.

Carver County Live! Awesome Story Time, Stone Soup Craft, “Take and Do”: From Monday July 13 to Friday July 17. In honor of Super Storytime: Gobble Up a Good Story, we’re offering special crafts, including making your own puppet, kettle, and vegetables (to help you tell the ‘Stone Soup’ story). Kits including everything you need to craft this Take and Make craft will be available for curbside pickup at all library locations while supplies last

Wacky and Wonderful Scavenger Hunt: From Tuesday July 14 to Monday July 20. For 6-12 year olds. Discover and share the weird, wonderful, everyday things in your life. Check the Facebook event at for more information.

StoryWalk: From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday, July 15 at the Victoria Library. Enjoy a self-guided StoryWalk with your family this summer and take a walk to read a story. The pages of a picture book are displayed along a walking path! StoryWalk events will be canceled in the event of inclement weather. For more information on the location of the Storywalk, please call 952-442-3050.

Virtual Escape Room, Dr. Jones and the Digital Escape from the Lost Grail: From Thursday July 16 to Wednesday July 22. This is a story of our own creation with the greatest respect for the inspiration provided by the film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. We hope you have fun! This escape room is intended for teens and adults, but all are welcome to play the game. Children may need help with the puzzles. The escape room can be completed in a group or by yourself. Check out the Facebook event at for more information.

Capture the moment with collage: 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Thursday, July 16. Collage is the wonderful, tactile and expressive art of using scraps of paper, fabric and other materials to create a mosaic-like scene. In these interesting times that we live in, please join us in working with an artist instructor as we pick up the odds and ends we find around us (take-out receipts, junk mail, magazines, mask sewing scraps, wandering puzzle pieces, dandelion leaves) and capture a snapshot of the world. You will receive an email with instructions on how and where to log into this online course before it begins.

About Marcia G. Hussain

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