Native people and their stories are rarely (if ever) given the attention they deserve in American literature. In Orange's first novel, he manages not only to give Native peoples lives and stories their due attention but he also manages to create a narrative that rocks readers to their cores. If I were to compare this to anything I'd say it reminds me of HBO's hit The Wire. There There is made up of vignettes that give texture to each character while also driving its larger plot. At the end of it all there's really only one thing left to do - put on the blues.
Imagine a detective novel written with all the modern criticisms of policing while also casting its protagonist, Darren Matthews, as a unapologetically black, Texas Ranger determined to use his badge to counteract racism in America. In Attica Locke's Bluebird Bluebird, she not only manages to create unique characters, but she also crafts a beautifully written mystery that is attentive to social issues and extremely exciting down to the very last page. Ranger Matthews is a combination of Longmire's true grit plus Luther's uncanny ability to suss out the puzzle that makes a murder so intriguing. Are you a part-time gumshoe? Well then, this book is for you!
Cormac Mccarthy is best known for his gritty westerns that somehow manage to be both poetic and brutal. Mccarthy's dive into post-apocalyptic writing maintains this style but with characters and settings of The Road are vastly different than the Marlboro Men and Arroyo stories featured in his other books. This is not a story about heroes -- this is a story about a father ("Papa") and son ("boy") simply trying to survive a world bent on destroying them and itself.
Don't let Baldwin's disheveled and confused look on the cover of this book fool you - he remains, to this day, to be one of the few authors able to address America's original sin (racism) in such a succinct and challenging way. Although written in 1963, these short essays are applicable to our current situation. Whether you've thought about issues of racial justice for a long time or a short time, (or "a minute" as the kids say) this book is a must have.
In Taylor's first book, she traces the movement for black liberation from the Civil Rights Era up to the current #BlackLivesMatter movement. Through historical and politically analysis, Taylor demonstrates that not only is #BLM a movement (versus a moment) but it is also the harbinger for the liberation of all people from the death grip of racialized capitalism.
Tracy K. Smith's work has garnered her numerous awards. She is poet Laureate and the winner of a Pulitzer prize for her poetry. But Smith and her writing are more than her awards. Specifically in Life on Mars, Smith writes in a way that is at once down to earth and extremely profound. Touching on topics from race, to religion, ecology and astronomy (I mean, consider the title), Smith's prose will move the reader in every way.