About a week ago we asked the founder and creative genius behind The Storyscape YouTube channel for her list of Top Ten Books Read in 2016. What Dominique developed was an original list of fiction and non-fiction books written for, by, or about people of the African Diaspora. The most impressive aspect of the list is the variety of authors represented, including African, African American, award-winning, bestselling, and debut authors.
We hope you find this specially curated list of Top Ten Books of 2016 helpful in your pursuit to find your next all-time favorite read. Also, please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts in the comments section below if you agree, disagree, or think we missed a notable read.
|Number One: Homegoing|
|A novel of breathtaking sweep and emotional power that traces three hundred years in Ghana and along the way also becomes a truly great American novel. Extraordinary for its exquisite language, its implacable sorrow, its soaring beauty, and for its monumental portrait of the forces that shape families and nations, “Homegoing” heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.|
|Number Two: The Mothers|
|A dazzling debut novel from an exciting new voice, The Mothers is a surprising story about young love, a big secret in a small community and the things that ultimately haunt us most. Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett’s mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret. “All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we’d taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.”|
|Number Three: Kill’em and Leave|
|National Book Award winner James McBride goes in search of the real James Brown after receiving a tip that promises to uncover the man behind the myth. His surprising journey illuminates not only our understanding of this immensely troubled, misunderstood, and complicated soul genius but the ways in which our cultural heritage has been shaped by Brown’s legacy.”Kill ‘Em and Leave” is more than a book about James Brown. Brown’s rough-and-tumble life, through McBride’s lens, is an unsettling metaphor for American life: the tension between North and South, black and white, rich and poor.|
|Number Four: The Book of Harlan|
|The Book of Harlan opens with the courtship of Harlan’s parents and his 1917 birth in Macon, Georgia. After his prominent minister grandfather dies, Harlan and his parents move to Harlem, where he eventually becomes a professional musician. When Harlan and his best friend, trumpeter Lizard Robbins, are invited to perform at a popular cabaret in the Parisian enclave of Montmartre—affectionately referred to as “The Harlem of Paris” by black American musicians—Harlan jumps at the opportunity, convincing Lizard to join him.|
|Number Five: Here Comes the Sun|
|Capturing the distinct rhythms of Jamaican life and dialect, Nicole Dennis- Benn pens a tender hymn to a world hidden among pristine beaches and the wide expanse of turquoise seas. At an opulent resort in Montego Bay, Margot hustles to send her younger sister, Thandi, to school. Taught as a girl to trade her sexuality for survival, Margot is ruthlessly determined to shield Thandi from the same fate. When plans for a new hotel threaten their village, Margot sees not only an opportunity for her own financial independence but also perhaps a chance to admit a shocking secret: her forbidden love for another woman.|
|Number Six: How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America|
|Author and essayist Kiese Laymon is one of the most unique, stirring, and powerful new voices in American writing. “How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America” is a collection of his essays, touching on subjects ranging from family, race, violence, and celebrity to music, writing, and coming of age in Mississippi. In this collection, Laymon deals in depth with his own personal story, which is filled with trials and reflections that illuminate under-appreciated aspects of contemporary American life. New and unexpected in contemporary American writing, Laymon’s voice mixes the colloquial with the acerbic, while sharp insights and blast-furnace heat calls to mind a black 21st-century Mark Twain.|
|Number Seven: The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race|
|National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward takes James Baldwin’s 1963 examination of race in America,” The Fire Next Time,” as a jumping off point for this groundbreaking collection of essays and poems about race from the most important voices of her generation and our time.
In light of recent tragedies and widespread protests across the nation, “The Progressive” magazine republished one of its most famous pieces: James Baldwin’s 1962 Letter to My Nephew, which was later published in his landmark book, “The Fire Next Time.” Addressing his fifteen-year-old namesake on the one-hundredth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Baldwin wrote: You know and I know, that the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too soon.
|Number Eight: Gathering of Waters|
|“Gathering of Waters” is a deeply engrossing tale narrated by the town of Money, Mississippi–a site both significant and infamous in our collective story as a nation. Money is personified in this haunting story, which chronicles its troubled history following the arrival of the Hilson and Bryant families.
McFaddens’ book mines the truth about Money, Mississippi, as well as the town’s families, and threads their history over decades. The bare-bones realism–both disturbing and riveting–combined with a magical realm in which ghosts have the final say, is reminiscent of Toni Morrison’s “Beloved.”
|Number Nine: Behold the Dreamers|
|A compulsively readable debut novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trap doors in the American Dream the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy.
Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwards’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.
|Number Ten: Multiply/Divide|
|In the manner of Calvino’s “Invisible Cities,” Wendy S. Walters’s essays deftly explore the psyches of cities such as Chicago, Detroit, New York, Portsmouth, and Washington, D.C. In “Cleveland,” she interviews an African-American playwright who draws great reviews, but can’t muster an audience. An on-air telephone chat between a DJ and his listeners drives a discussion of race and nutrition in “Chicago Radio.” In “Manhattanville” the author, out for a walk with her biracial son, is mistaken for his nanny. Each essay explores societal questions how eras of immense growth can leave us unable to prosper from that growth, how places intended for safety become fraught with danger, and how race and gender bias threaten our communities. Walters’s haunting utterances are beautifully precise estimations of a place and its people.”|