A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines: An unwitting witness to the murder of a white man in a liquor-store shooting, Jefferson is the only survivor and, in the Jim Crow South, convicted of the murder even though he is innocent. Grant Wiggins, whose mother is a friend of Jefferson’s mother, has returned to his hometown to teach. His mother asks him to visit Jefferson in his prison cell before he is executed, to teach him how to die as a man. The lesson, however, influences Grant as much as Jefferson, for as he teaches the mentally handicapped, condemned man how to stand bravely with death, he learns to live his own life with more courage.
Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns: Scandal breaks in the small town of Cold Sassy, Georgia, when the recently widowed proprietor of the general store, E. Rucker Blakeslee, elopes with the much younger Miss Love Simpson, inspiring a whirlwind of gossip. Amidst the gossip, Will Tweedy witnesses a family scandal that sends him on an unforgettable adventure.
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger: After years of work with Minnesota Public Radio, author Leif Enger penned this beautiful expression of love. The novel follows a young family in a heroic trek to find their fugitive brother. Although none of the family finds what they expected, Enger blends faith and hope in a story of family, sacrifice, and religion.
Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton: The story of South Africa in the 1940s, a land divided by racial injustice, and of Stephen Kumalo, a Zulu Christian pastor, and his son, Absalom, who has been accused of murdering a white man.
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson: When a local fisherman is found dead a Japanese American named Kabuo Miyamoto is charged with his murder. During the trial it becomes abundantly clear that more is at stake than a man’s guilt.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson: Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world.
The Land by Mildred Taylor: Paul-Edward, son of a white plantation owner and a slave mother, follows his dream of owning his own land through hard work and determination.
Small Island by Andrea Levy: In post World War II England, Gilbert Joseph returns home from the war expecting to be hailed a hero but quickly realizes that he is considered second class because he is a black man. Told in the voices of Gilbert Joseph, his wife, their landlord and the landlord’s husband, this story encapsulates the immigrant experience.
Crazy in Alabama by Mark Childress: The story of two journeys–Lucille’s from Industry, Alabama, to Los Angeles, to star on ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ and her 12-year-old nephew Peejoe’s, who is about to discover two kinds of Southern justice, and what that means about the stories he’s heard and the people he knows.
Cane River by Lalita Tademy: Cane River is an epic novel about the strength and determination of four generations of African-American women whose journey from slavery to freedom begins on a Creole plantation in Louisiana.