In honor of February being Black History Month, we'd like to take today to honor several African American authors who have had an impact on American literature with their captivating works of fiction and poetry. These are the authors who had something to say about love and life, and they said it loud.
1. Colin Channer
Who he is: Often called "Bob Marley with a pen," this Jamaican author began his writing career in high school, when he would write love letters and poems for other students. Besides working as a novelist, Channer is also a musician, professor and co-founder of the Calabash International Literary Festival Trust. His work has been described as sensual, unapologetic and daring.
What to read: Try Channer's 1999 offering, Waiting in Vain, which tells the story of Fire, a passionate Jamaican poet and Sylvia, a magazine editor, as they try to navigate their way through the trials of love. This highly relatable woks has been praised for its sensuality and lyrical style, and is sure to entrance you from the start.
2. Marcus Major
Who he is: Major was raised as an army brat, moving with his father around the country. After college, he began a career as a New Jersey teacher and later as a writer. Major's specialty is in contemporary fiction, and in revealing truths about love.
What to read: If you're in the mood to read about familial love, go for Major's 2003 novel A Family Affair. Reuniting several characters from his previous works, A Family Affair circles around a clan struggling to remain strong in the face of a secret that could very well tear them apart.
3. Doris Jean Austin
Who she was: This late author and journalist left a big mark on American literature. Apart from her own work, she was the inspiration for the character Delilah in Terry McMillan's How Stella Got Her Groove Back (the two ladies were best friends). She also taught extensively and co-founded the Harlem Writer's Guild.
What to read: Austin's 1987 work After the Garden is a sure bet for anyone wanting to read about the struggles of a married couple across the 1940s, 50s and 60s. The delicate Elzina strives to find happiness with her husband, high school star athlete-turned convict, Jesse James in a harsh world.
4. Alice Childress
Who she was: This Pulitzer Prize-nominated author, playwright and actress had a long, full career. Her debut play, Florence, was first produced in 1950, and she went on to create a long string of novels and plays, winning countless awards for her work.
What to read: Without a doubt, everyone should read the play Wedding Band: A Love/Hate Story in Black and White. One of her most controversial works (in 1962, please note), this story of an interracial love affair in South Carolina during 1918 was so realistic and scandalous that she had difficulty staging it. Despite her long history in New York, the play was first produced at the University of Michigan. It wouldn't make it to New York until 1972.
5. Rita Dove
Who she is: A trailblazing author and poet, Dove served as the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, making her the first African American to hold the position since its creation. A ballroom dancer, professor and winner of the National Medal of Arts (2011), Dove has made a place for herself in American literature with her distinct voice and ambitious style.
What to read: The fascinatingly crafted Thomas and Beulah is an anthology of poems that has been likened to the narrative style of a novel. Split into two sections (the first from Thomas's point of view, and the second from Beulah's), these poems tell the story of a couple during the most turbulent period of the 20th century. Fun fact: this collection won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize!
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