Monday, January 14, 2013

From Slavery to Fiction: Intriguing Looks at The Peculiar Institution

It's time to start picking books for our summer and fall discussions! I am always happy to get suggestions from readers, so please, if you have an idea, post it here, on our Facebook or GoodReads page, or simply email me! The only criteria is that it be related to the African American experience, either fiction or nonfiction; and that it be widely available in standard bookstores and public libraries.

 Our February book, The Known World, deals with slavery from an unusual angle, looking at free blacks who themselves became slave owners. There are of course, hundreds of novels about the African American slave experience, but here are a few that take it in a radically different direction than the norm...

Wench, by Dolen Perkins-Valdez [AAL selection May 2011] - The uneasy friendship between four slave women who meet every year when their owner/lovers take them to a summer resort.

Lion's Blood: A Novel of Slavery and Freedom in an Alternate America, by Steven Barnes - What if the racial dynamics of slavery were reversed; if Blacks were the masters and Whites the slaves? Barnes imagines a world where European Americans are enslaved by African landowners.

Someone Knows My Name, by Lawrence Hill - The saga of Aminata, who comes to South Carolina as a slave during the American Revolution and eventually assists in the founding of the slave colony Sierra Leone.

Soulcatcher, and Other Stories by Charles Johnson - Although Middle Passage is his most famous work related to slavery, this story collection examines the many different ways slavery has corroded American humanity through the centuries.

Kindred, by Octavia Butler - The most terrifying science fiction story I've ever read: what if you were a confident, independent black woman of the 20th century who is abruptly catapulted back to the slave-owning 19th century South?

Aannnddd...this Saturday January 19th, stop by EPL to watch a remarkable film telling a unique tale aout slavery, Prince Among Slaves

African Heritage Film: Prince Among Slaves

Saturday, January 19, 2 pm, Community Meeting Room, Main Library
In 1788, a slave ship sailed from the Gambia River with hundreds of men, women and children bound in chains. Eight months later, a handful of survivors were sold in Natchez, Mississippi. One of them made an astonishing claim: he was a prince of an African kingdom larger and more developed than the newly formed United States. The true story of an African prince who endured the humiliation of slavery without losing his dignity or hope of freedom.  Narrated by Mos Def. Prince Among Slaves won the Best Documentary prize at the 2007 American Black Film Festival.


  1. Someone just recommended "The Known World" to me about a week ago. I didn't know this is what it was about. I will have to bump it up on the priority list now.

    I read "Wench". Tough content, easy read.

    I have "Kindred" and was planning to read it last year. I'll try to get to it this year for sure. I also have "Someone Knows my Name" but I have the version entitled "The Book of Negroes" because I liked the cover better.

    I'll look into "Soulcatcher".

    This post makes me want to run and pick up my current read so I can finish it and get started on the next one!

    1. Dear Shannon,
      Thank you for writing! Please let us know what you think of _The Known World_ and _Kindred_, and if you have any recommendations!