Books to Read

One Book One Bronx‘s list of recommended reading is developed to connect readers to literature and strengthen cultural, historical, and ethnic identities in the Bronx and the world. OBOB selects titles based on their accessibility to multi-generational readers —teens, adults, and seniors— and reflect cultural identities and sensitivities of many communities. One Book One Bronx offers opportunities to engage fiction, nonfiction, and poetry; while reflecting such urban sensibilities as race, gender, and class.

beautiful-struggle_lThe Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood by Ta-Nehisi Coates
2008, 227 pgs.
“With humor, grace, and an impressive reserve of compassion, Ta-Nehisi Coates has crafted a great gift of a book.  The Beautiful Struggle should be required reading for black boys — and those who are raising one.” —William Jelani Cobb, author of The Devil and Dave Chappelle

Billy by Albert French
1995, 224 pgs
Albert French lights up the monstrous face of American racism in this harrowing tale of ten-year-old Billy Lee Turner, who is convicted of and executed for murdering a white girl in Banes County, Mississippi in 1937. Billy is about the deaths of two children, one girl, one boy, the girl’s death an accident, the boy’s a murder perpetrated by the state. Though the events Billy records occur during the 1930s in a small Mississippi town, the range of characters, emotions, and social forces, and the inexorable march to doom of a ten-year-old boy and the society that dooms him, catapult the story far beyond a specific time and location.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
1993, 224 pgs
Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl, prays every day for beauty. Mocked by other children for the dark skin, curly hair, and brown eyes that set her apart, she yearns for normalcy, for the blond hair and blue eyes that she believes will allow her to finally fit in. Yet as her dream grows more fervent, her life slowly starts to disintegrate in the face of adversity and strife.

Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat
2007, 288 pgs.
Edwidge Danticat’s father and uncle chose very different paths: the former struggled to make a new life for himself in America, while the latter remained in the homeland he paradoxically loved. In following their lives and their impact on future generations, Danticat’s powerful family memoir explores how the private and the political, the past and the present, intersect.

The Brother/Sister Plays by Tarell Alvin McCraney
2010, 180 pgs.
“McCraney’s richly drawn characters and colloquial poetry . . . manages to sound both epic and rooted in a specific place. Listen closely, and you might hear that thrilling sound that is one of the main reasons we go to the theater, that beautiful music of a new voice.”—The New York Times

Brown Girl, Brownstone by Paule Marshall
1959, 255 pgs.
Set in Brooklyn during the Depression and World War II, this prize-winning 1959 novel chronicles the efforts of Barbadian immigrants to surmount poverty and racism, and to make their home in a new country.

0299219003.01._SS500_SCLZZZZZZZ_V51980392_Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa by Rigoberto Gonzalez
2006, 224 pgs.
This moving memoir of a young Chicano boy’s maturing into a self-accepting gay adult is a beautifully executed portrait of the experience of being gay, Chicano and poor in the United States.

Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas
1967, 352 pgs.
Here was an unsparing document of Thomas’s plunge into the deadly consolations of drugs, street fighting, and armed robbery—a descent that ended when the twenty-two-year-old Piri was sent to prison for shooting a cop.

Drown by Junot Diaz
1996, 224 pgs
“This stunning collection of stories offers an unsentimental glimpse of life among the immigrants from the Dominican Republic—and other front-line reports on the ambivalent promise of the American dream–by an eloquent and original writer who describes more than physical dislocation in conveying the price that is paid for leaving culture and homeland behind.” —San Francisco Chronicle.

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf by Ntozake Shange
1975, 64 pgs
From its inception in California in 1974 to its highly acclaimed critical success at Joseph Papp’s Public Theater and on Broadway, the Obie Award-winning for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf has excited, inspired, and transformed audiences all over the country. Passionate and fearless, Shange’s words reveal what it is to be of color and female in the twentieth century.

Fresh Girl by Jaire Placide
2002, 224 pgs.
This ambitious first novel traces the coming of age of a 14-year-old Haitian-American girl, forced to grow up too fast. To some kids at school, Mardi seems quite naeve. She wears outdated clothes, spends more time studying than socializing, and is not allowed to stray very far from her Brooklyn apartment.

418aQDOWcpLGirl in the Mirror: Three Generations of Black Women in Motion by Natasha Tarpley
1998, 196 pgs.
“The author uses poetry, prose, letters, and even a funeral notice to unfold the lives of these women as they make geographical as well as psychological moves. In doing so, she brings freshness to the memoir structure, making Girl in the Mirror read like a novel.” —The Boston Globe, Sandy Coleman

Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
2016, 352 pgs
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. From a much-heralded new writer, Here Comes the Sun offers a dramatic glimpse into a vibrant, passionate world most outsiders see simply as paradise.

Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat
1996, 224 pgs.
When Haitians tell a story, they say “Krik?” and the eager listeners answer “Krak!” In Krik? Krak! In her second novel, Edwidge Danticat establishes herself as the latest heir to that narrative tradition with nine stories that encompass both the cruelties and the high ideals of Haitian life.

Long Division by Kiese Laymon
2013, 276 pgs.
“Don’t miss Kiese Laymon’s Long Division. One Mississippi town with two engaging stories in two very different decades. The sharp humor and deep humanity make this debut novel unforgettable.” —Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC

Macnolia: Poems by Van Jordan
2005, 144 pgs.
In 1936, teenager MacNolia Cox became the first African American finalist in the National Spelling Bee Competition. Supposedly prevented from winning, the precocious child who dreamed of becoming a doctor was changed irrevocably. Her story, told in a poignant nonlinear narrative, illustrates the power of a pivotal moment in a life.

Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown
1965, 416 pgs.
Manchild in the Promised Land is Claude Brown’s unforgettable epic of growing up as a boy on the streets of Harlem. His Zola-esque gift for slices of life is made all the more striking by his brilliant insights into character and social pressures.” —Tom Wolfe, author

9781603093002_p0_v3_s600March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
2013, 128 pgs
March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
2013, 432 pgs.
“This is a page-turner, beautifully written and novelistic in its tale of family, love and triumph. It hums with hope and exhilaration. This is a story of human triumph.” —Nina Totenberg, NPR

Of Mice & Men by John Steinbeck
1937, 112 pgs
Laborers in California’s dusty vegetable fields, they hustle work when they can, living a hand-to-mouth existence. For George and Lennie have a plan: to own an acre of land and a shack they can call their own. When they land jobs on a ranch in the Salinas Valley, the fulfillment of their dream seems to be within their grasp. But even George cannot guard Lennie from the provocations of a flirtatious woman, nor predict the consequences of Lennie’s unswerving obedience to the things George taught him.

Powder Necklace by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond
2010, 280 pgs.
Far from the classic finding-your-roots story, this contemporary debut novel about a British teen’s return to her parents’ Ghana homeland is unsettling drama, with no clear coming home, and that is what makes the wry, honest first-person narrative so memorable and so surprising. Hazel Rochman, Booklist

9781620400296_p0_v4_s600The Residue Years by Mitchell S. Jackson
2013, 352 pgs.
In the ’90s, [Portland] streets and beyond had fallen under the shadow of crack cocaine and its familiar mayhem. In his commanding autobiographical novel, Mitchell writes what it was to come of age in that time and place, with a break-out voice that’s nothing less than extraordinary.

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano
2012, 224 pgs.
“An important story about activism, acceptance, and love. Sonia Manzano vividly portrays a neighborhood in turmoil, with embraceable characters who change history.” —Pam Muñoz Ryan, Pura Belpre Award-winning author of The Dreamer and Esperanza Rising

Rice by Nikky Finney
1985, 216 pgs.
The poems in Rice compose a profound and unflinching journey connecting family and the paradoxes of American history, from the tragic times when African slaves disembarked on the South Carolina coast to the triumphant day when Judge Ernest A. Finney Jr., Nikky’s father, was sworn in as South Carolina’s first African American chief justice. Images from the Finney family archive illustrate and punctuate this collection.

61B8sdiVcyL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Searching for Zion: The Quest for Home in the African Diaspora by Emily Raboteau
2013, 320 pgs.
“In this profound and accessible meditation on race, novelist (The Professor’s Daughter) and scholar Raboteau depicts her travels from Israel and Jamaica to Africa and the Deep South in search of the elusive African-American notion of “home.”” —Publishers Weekly

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
2011, 368 pgs.
With the opening line of Silver Sparrow, “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist,” author Tayari Jones unveils a breathtaking story about a man’s deception, a family’s complicity, and the two teenage girls caught in the middle.

Up Jump the Boogie by John Murillo
2010, 112 pgs.
“Up jumps the boogie. That’s almost all one needs to say. Murillo is headbreakingly brilliant. I didn’t have a favorite poet for this year: Now I do. But with this kind of verve and intelligence and ferocity Murillo just might be a favorite for many years to come.”—Junot Díaz

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
2013, 320 pgs.
“An exquisite and powerful first novel, filled with an equal measure of beauty and horror and laughter and pain. The lives (and names) of these characters will linger in your mind, and heart, long after you’re done reading the book. NoViolet Bulawayo is definitely a writer to watch.” —Edwidge Danticat, Brother, I’m Dying and Breath, Eyes, Memory

we-the-animals-by-justin-torresWe the Animals by Justin Torres
2011, 144 pgs.
Three brothers tear their way through childhood— smashing tomatoes all over each other, building kites from trash, hiding out when their parents do battle, tiptoeing around the house as their mother sleeps off her graveyard shift. Paps and Ma are from Brooklyn—he’s Puerto Rican, she’s white—and their love is a serious, dangerous thing that makes and unmakes a family many times.

Where A Nickel Costs A Dime: Poems by Willie Perdomo
1996, 80 pgs.
Where a Nickel Costs a Dime
captures the hip-hop rhythms and in-your-face intensity of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, a downtown Manhattan club where the hottest young poets are finding their fame.

The Young Lords: A Reader by Darrel Enck-Wanzer (Editor), Iris Morales (Foreword), Denise Oliver-Velez (Foreword)
2010, 269 pgs.
The Young Lords offers readers the opportunity to learn about this vibrant organization through their own words and images, collecting an array of their essays, journalism, photographs, speeches, and pamphlets. Organized topically and thematically, this volume highlights the Young Lords’ diverse and inventive activism around issues such as education, health care, gentrification, police injustice and gender equality, as well as self-determination for Puerto Rico.

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