Literary Awards 46th NAACP Image Awards Nominees - Outstanding Literary Work The announcement of the nominees for the NAACP Image Awards for literat

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Literary Awards


46th NAACP Image Awards Nominees - Outstanding Literary Work

The announcement of the nominees for the NAACP Image Awards for literature is always an exciting time as, this award is perhaps the most prominent honor given to Black writers by a Black institution. So many supporters and friends of have garnered nominations this year; there is simply not enough space to recognize them all here. I encourage you to visit our website to learn more about the authors who have been honored. More ▶


Mitchell S. Jackson Wins 8th Annual Gaines Award for Literary Excellence

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation has named Mitchell S. Jackson winner of the 2014 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, for his novel The Residue Years.

Now in its eighth year, the Gaines Award is a nationally acclaimed, $10,000 annual prize created by foundation donors to honor outstanding work from rising African-American fiction writers while honoring Louisiana native Ernest Gaines’ extraordinary contribution to the literary world.
The Residue Years, published in 2013 by Bloomsbury Books, is a semi-autobiographical novel based on Jackson’s experience growing up in Portland, Ore., in a neighborhood ravaged by violence and drug use. More ▶

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Sharon M. Draper

Draper is the author of more than thirty awarding books, including two Coretta Scott King Awards for Copper Sun and Forged by Fire. She's also the recipient of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Author Award for New Talent for Tears of a Tiger and the Coretta Scott King Author Honor for The Battle of Jericho and November Blues. Her other books include Romiette and Julio, Darkness Before Dawn, and Double Dutch. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she taught high school English for twenty-five years. She’s a popular conference speaker, addressing educational and literary groups both nationally and internationally. More ▶


Robert Fleming

“In my darkest hour, I felt as if prayer wasn’t working for me. I think most folks can identify with that. I thought God wasn’t picking up the phone to answer me. The Gift series came to me when I was very sick. At the hospital, I remember a man telling me that he’d lost everything, his wife and his children, and his cushy job, due to bad choices. But he said he still believed in God and His mercy. From his experiences, I discovered the story of Reverend Clint Winwood, a holy man marked by unspeakable tragedy, in the novel, Gift of Faith.” More ▶


Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay’s writing has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, West Branch, Virginia Quarterly Review, NOON, The New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, Time, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Rumpus, Salon, The Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy culture blog, and many others. She is the co-editor of PANK and essays editor for The Rumpus. She teaches writing at Eastern Illinois University.

Gay's collection of essays spanning politics, criticism, and feminism, Bad Feminist, was nominated for a 2014 NAACP Image Award More ▶


Claudia Rankine

The Jamaican-born, Bronx-bred Claudia Rankine is the author of five books of poetry. Her most recent, Citizen: An American Lyric, was a finalist for the 2014 National Book Award in poetry. She currently is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and teaches at Pomona College. More ▶


Justice While Black: Helping African-American Families Navigate and Survive the Criminal Justice System’s been said that if a cop sees a black man sitting, he’s shiftless; if he’s standing, he’s loitering; if he’s walking, he’s prowling; and if he’s running, he’s escaping.

I’m not sure whether there’s been a more timely tome than Justice While Black, a how-to book written by a concerned sister who is both a lawyer and a mother. With 20+ years experience as a criminal defense attorney under her belt, Robbin Shipp (with the help of Pulitzer Prize-winner Nick Chiles) shares a wealth of advice for young brothers about not only dealing with police on the street, but with navigating one’s way through the court and correctional systems, should you unfortunately be arrested and/or convicted (Agate Bolden, October 1, 2014). More ▶


True Love by Jennifer Lopez

It might be hard to believe that Jennifer Lopez hasn’t published a book before now. After all, the 45 year-old pop icon has been in the limelight for a couple decades, and her life has at times been splashed across the tabloids to the tune of some rather lurid headlines.

True Love focuses on the two years since she and Marc went their separate ways, a period of great spiritual rebirth for J-Lo. It is the author’s stated hope that the opus might serve as a source of inspiration for “anyone who has found themselves looking for a way to reconnect with their true selves… If I can help one woman really take a look in the mirror and accept her weaknesses and acknowledge her strengths with love and kindness, then I will consider this a success” (Celebra, November 4, 2014). More ▶


The Light of Truth: Writings of an Anti-Lynching Crusader by Ida B. Wells

Over 70 years before Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, Ida Wells was similarly arrested for refusing to surrender her seat on a train to a white person. Wells survived the ordeal and was eventually inspired to embark on an impressive career as an eloquent advocate on behalf of African-American civil rights.

Her specific focus was lynching. After all, the practice went unpunished for over a century during which not one white person was ever tried, convicted and executed for employing that brand of vigilante justice against any of the thousands and thousands of black men, women and children victims. Edited by Mia Bay and Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., The Light of Truth is a collection of Ida’s fiery essays, culled from her early writings (Penguin Classics, November 25, 2014). More ▶


White Gold: A Novel by W.B. Garvey

This sweeping historical novel follows aspiring railroad engineer, William Roberson, from his Jamaican homeland in 1897 at 16, to Panama, to help build the Panama Canal, the biggest, most perilous, and most renowned ship canal in history. With White Gold, Garvey continues the story he started in his first novel Panama Fever: Digging Down Gold Mountain.

A riff on the interplay of capitalism, colonialism, racism, and classism; White Gold is an entertaining and educational sojourn to a time and place that changed history and the people who helped to do it (Jonkro Books, September 22, 2014). More ▶


God Help the Child by Toni Morrison

Spare and unsparing, God Help the Child is a searing tale about the way childhood trauma shapes and misshapes the life of the adult. At the center: a woman who calls herself Bride, whose stunning blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and confidence, her success in life; but which caused her light-skinned mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love until she told a lie that ruined the life of an innocent woman, a lie whose reverberations refuse to diminish … Booker, the man Bride loves and loses, whose core of anger was born in the wake of the childhood murder of his beloved brother … Rain, the mysterious white child, who finds in Bride the only person she can talk to about the abuse she's suffered at the hands of her prostitute mother … and Sweetness, Bride’s mother, who takes a lifetime to understand that "what you do to children matters. And they might never forget (Knopf, April 21, 2015). More ▶


Unstoppable Octobia May by Sharon G. Flake

Bestselling and award-winning author, Sharon G. Flake, delivers a mystery set in the 1950s that eerily blends history, race, culture, and family.

Buy this book for only $12.75, from our partner Mahoganybooks, until December 22nd only—a lower price than Amazon or Barnes&noble!

Octobia May’s heart condition makes her special—and, some folks would argue, gives this ten-year-old powers that make her a "wise soul." That's when trouble, and excitement, and wonder begin. Auntie is non-traditional. She's unmarried and has plans to purchase other boarding homes and hotels. At a time when children, and especially girls, are "seen, not heard," Auntie allows Octobia May the freedom and expression of an adult. When Octobia starts to question the folks in her world, an adventure and a mystery unfold that beg some troubling questions: Who is black and who is "passing" for white? What happens when a vibrant African American community must face its own racism? (Scholastic Press, September 30, 2014) More ▶

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2013 Global Ebook Awards Winner - Lemonade by Bernard L. Dillard

Winner of the 2013 Global eBook Award in the Autobiography/Memoir category, Lemonade chronicles the gripping story of Bernard Dillard’s tenuous journey to adulthood.

Through vulnerability and candor, Dillard exposes wounds that he has held close to the vest over the years. Using pop-culture references and side-splitting humor, he confronts serious issues that find themselves at the forefront of national discussion, especially absentee fatherhood, drug addiction, and sexual abuse. Lemonade also gives women a behind-the-scenes peek at the making of men like Dillard and sheds light on why some men struggle often when it comes to investing in relationships and making them work. More ▶


The All-White World of Children’s Books

From the September 11, 1965 issue of The Saturday Review we learn; “Of the 5,206 children's trade books launched by the sixty-three publishers in the three-year period [1962,1963,1964], only 349 include one or more Negroes— an average of 6.7 percent.”

Almost 50 years later, in 2013, a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin which looked Of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, just 93 were about black people (that is less than 3%). Of that total only 68 were written by African-Americans writers a whopping 2%! More ▶


The Story of Britain’s First Black Bookstore

This film delves into the radical history of Britain's first black bookshop which was founded by John La Rose and Sarah White in 1966. As well as creating a much needed space for black communities to access and publish their own literature, it helped support important campaigns such as the Caribbean Artists Movement, the Black Parents Movement as well as playing a pivotal role in the historic Black Peoples Day of Action.

Decades later, New Beacon Books is still a functioning bookshop but in a world of Amazon and Kindles can it really survive forever? More ▶


Coverage of the 65th National Book Awards

The National Book Awards is often likened to the “Academy Awards” of the Book industry. I think the comparison does a disservice to this event which recognizes the best of American literature. What we see on the movie screen starts with writers. There could be no Academy Awards without writers to craft the stories, write the screenplays, or even write the words spoken during the awards ceremony. The National Book Awards is perhaps the most important event in the American book world. The photo shows poet Fred Moten (l), who was a finalist in the poetry category, and’s, founder Troy Johnson. Check out our complete coverage ▶


Tavis Smiley on Repositioning Dr. King as a Revolutionary

Question: An historical biography of the last year of Dr. King’s life, no matter how beautiful a tribute, is it really what we need to read now to get it right?

Answer: Absolutely! The answer is “Yes,” because we come to know who we really are in life during the dark and difficult and desolate days of our journey. If you think you respect and revere Dr. King, wait ‘til you read this book. You’re going to feel that way even more so afterwards, because you’ll get to see how he navigated the most difficult period of his life, the last year of his life when everybody turned against him. That’s what fascinates me about him. After reading this book, you’ll have a different appreciation of Dr. King. It’s important to see him in his full complexity, and be honest about the fact that we help to kill King because we abandoned him. And once we abandoned him, we isolated him, which made it easy for someone to assassinate him. It was a three-step process. More ▶


Blacked Out by Connie Divers Bradley

From where I sit, observing the world the way I’ve been doing for the last 50+ years, I see one change in particular that is gradually taking place in America. “Political correctness” is receding, and black people are losing their relevancy. Because white Americans no longer fear the stigma of being called racist, having neutralized this term by referring to it as a despicable practice known as “playing the playing the race card”, they no longer care if their true feelings about Blacks are exposed. Just check out Twitter and Facebook. They’ve repressed their disdain long enough and if this offends Blacks, well they've only themselves to blame. "You people" had your chance to earn white favor and you blew it.

Bradley is the author of the new novella, The Only One. More ▶


Memories of Old School Black Book Stores by Karen E. Quinones Miller

Dawud Hakim, would sit and talk to teens about respect, and self-awareness, and made sure that they all knew who Carter G. Woodson (“He’s the man who lobbied for the schools to teach you all Black History”), W.E.B. DuBois was (“He was a great man who went to Harvard, and helped start the NAACP.”), and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were (“I don’t even want to hear you not knowing about him.”)

Hakim also made sure that the parents of those children, knew about the Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys series written by Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu when they came to his store. He’d talk to them for a few minutes – or a few hours, if they had the time – and then he’d go into the back of the store and do their taxes if was needed. More ▶


Acrostic Poetry “Young Love” by Adam Manning

A couple of months ago I began working with a group of young adult students in the Queensbridge Housing Project. It can be difficult to develop interesting and sufficiently challenging lessons, but occasionally I'll hit upon something that really resonates with a student and gets them excited about literacy. For Adam, it is poetry.

Please take a moment, to watch a video of Adam reading his poem, then leave him a few kind words of encouragement. It would mean a lot to him, thanks. Watch the Video ▶

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Harlem Renaissance Holiday Fete Hosted by Tayari Jones & Kiese Laymon

Wednesday, December 17th 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Harlem On Fifth (2150 5th Ave., at 132nd St, in New York City) Free and open to the public
RSVP by Email

Learn about more book fairs, festivals and events coming up in 2015

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On December 20, 1997, I sold my first book on the web. This was a full two months after I decided to create a website to showcase Black books. I could never have imaged, back then, that this website would one day be my livelihood, and that I would become so passionate about helping to ensure the stories of Black people, across the Diaspora, are read.

I also believed as software and hardware became less expensive and more powerful, Black people would increasingly have the ability to develop platforms to share information, news, and entertainment in a way that would educate, inform, and entertain us in an uplifting way. I also believed more of us would profit from that activity.

Astonishingly, the opposite has happened. Technology has enabled corporations to more efficiently erect barriers to entry. For example, it is easier and cheaper than ever to create a website today, but far fewer of us do it. Even less can earn significant revenue, because it is so much harder to attract visitors. Desperate, some of us cripple our websites with obtrusive ads, or broker in celebrity driven and scandalous content to attract people. Many of us have simply given up, or worse, made some social media platform our main presence on the web. All of this has lead to a less rich and more superficial world wide web, particularly when it pertains to content of interest to Black people.

Fortunately, there are folks in the virtual trenches, fighting to ensure Black writers and books are not completely marginalized and are able to reach readers in such a way that all involved benefit from their effort.

This will be’s final eNewsletter for 2014. I'm going to take a much needed break to prepare for the winter months (the busiest time of the year). You’ll hear from me again in late January, or mid-January if we send a sponsored eNewsletter.

Support the mission with a paid subscription to this eNewsletter.

I wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2015!

Troy Johnson,
Founder and Webmaster