Florida-born, Harlem Renaissance author, Zora Neale Hurston, was certainly a woman before her time. She conducted ethnographic research on Jamaica and Haiti and wrote a wonderful book called Their Eyes Were Watching God (made into a movie starring Halle Berry) which I first read in my postcolonial literature class. A woman before her time.
National Book Award-winning African-American poet and author, Jacqueline Woodson writes gorgeous picture books, middle grade, and young adult novels that embody true poetry. I have read and reviewed a number of her books-- Visiting Day; Show Way; Locomotion; If You Come Softly; After Tupac and D Foster; Hush, Peace, Locomotion; From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun; Brown Girl Dreaming; and I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This. Meeting Jacqueline Woodson was fun and everyone wanted to meet her as she had just won the National Book award in 2015.
I hadn't expected to meet British author of Jamaican descent, Zadie Smith which happened at the International Festival of Authors (IFOA). And even then, I didn't expect to get to the front of the line. Reading White Teeth years ago helped me to realize that you don't need to be middle aged to publish book. It also showed me how complex stories can intertwine in novel. I read White Teeth (made into a movie) and listened to On Beauty and NW on audiobook.
Award-winning Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat also proves that you can be very young and publish. She has written a number of award-winning novels but I am shy to say that I have only read her picture book, Eight Days: A Story of Haiti which is a child's view of Haiti during the Hurricane of 2010.
I have been reading the books of African-American Rita Williams-Garcia since I was in high school in the I requested a larger one. Rita has written many of my favourite novels for middle grade students-- the PS Be Eleven, One Crazy Summer, and Gone Crazy in Alabama. I love how Rita intertwines tough topics into novels for middle grade readers. I have meet Rita a few times and she is quirky. I have also read Jumped, Like Sister on the Home Front, No Laughter Here, Every Time A Rainbow Dies, and Blue Tights. The last one is from highschool days and I loved it. It was about a Black girl, the boy she had a crush on, and self-esteem.
African-American author Coe Booth wowed me with her Bronxwood trilogy for young adult readers. The books Kendra, Bronxwood, and Tyrell were harsh, rough, and real. I asked Coe a few times, how do you write like that? I felt like I was the main character in the stories and I felt so close to the characters. I even enjoyed reading the middle-grade novel Kinda of Like Brothers.
I first read Alice Walker when I was in Grade 5 or 6 or so. I was exposed to The Color Purple (and it's adult topics) way too early (because it was one of the few movies and books at the time that featured Black characters. Alice Walker is also gets cool points because she found and marked author Zora Neale Hurston's grave. I also read The Temple of My Familiar and The Third Life of Grange Copeland.
I love African-American author Toni Morrison's novels and writing. I even got to meet her. However, besides The Bluest Eye (the first novel I read by her), I will only "read" her books by audiobooks. I find them challenging and not easy to get into however, I do prefer listening to them. I have "listened" to Paradise, Beloved (made into a movie), A Mercy, and Love.
I loved the way Dr. Maya Angelou wrote about her life. This African-American poet's poetry was good but I really connected to her life story. These are the ones I read most-- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, And Still I Rise, Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water Before I Die, and Phenomenal Woman. It's been so long since I cracked open a Maya Angelou book.
The late Jamaican-Canadian poet, playwright, author, ethnographer, songwriter, Cultural ambassador, folklorist, children's show host, etc., Miss Lou has been a wonderful mentor to me from afar. Born in 1919, she popularized and honoured Jamaican patois as her main means cultural work. And this is what I love about her. Read more on my Groundwood Women's History Month guest blog post here.
Reading Nigerian-American author's young adult science fiction novel, Who Fears Death, opened my eyes to Afro-futuristic literature set on the continent. She mixed in tradition with science fiction and it is brilliant. She helped me to think of my writing in a whole new way.