American Book Award Winners
First presented in 1980, by the Before Columbus Foundation, “the American Book Awards Program respects and honors excellence in American literature without restriction or bias with regard to race, sex, creed, cultural origin, size of press or ad budget, or even genre. There would be no requirements, restrictions, limitations, or second places. There would be no categories. The winners would not selected by any set quota for diversity, because diversity happens naturally. Finally, there would be no losers, only winners. The only criteria would be outstanding contribution to American literature in the opinion of the judges.”
Here we present the American Book Award recipients of African descent.
3 Books Honored in 2017
“The Book of Harlan was inspired by the life of my paternal grandfather; Harold Isaac McFadden (pictured on the cover)
I never personally knew the man and neither did my father. All I had to recreate his life were a birth certificate, census schedules, a few newspaper articles and my imagination.
In many ways, this book is the culmination of twenty years of family history research. A few weeks after I sent the manuscript to my publisher, I went down to a little town in Burke County, Georgia to meet (for the first time) my third cousins - direct descendants of my GGGrandmother, Louisa White Robinson.”
During World War II, two African American musicians are captured by the Nazis in Paris and imprisoned at the Buchenwald concentration camp.
The Book of Harlan opens with the courtship of Harlan’s parents and his 1917 birth in Macon, Georgia. After his prominent minister grandfather dies, Harlan and his parents move to Harlem, where he becomes a musician. Soon, Harlan and his best friend, trumpeter Lizard Robbins, are lured across the Atlantic Ocean to perform at a popular cabaret in the Parisian enclave of Montmartre—affectionately referred to as “The Harlem of Paris” by black American musicians.
When the City of Light falls under Nazi occupation, Harlan and Lizard are thrown into Buchenwald, the notorious concentration camp in Weimar, Germany. The experience irreparably changes the course of Harlan”s life.
Based on exhaustive research and told in McFadden’s mesmeric prose, The Book of Harlan skillfully blends the stories of McFadden’s familial ancestors with those of real and imagined characters.
Homegoing: A Novel
by Yaa Gyasi
Publication Date: Jun 07, 2016
List Price: $26.95 (store prices may vary)
Page Count: 320
Imprint: Random House
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann and Pearson PLC
A riveting, kaleidoscopic debut novel and the beginning of a major career: a novel about race, history, ancestry, love, and time that traces the descendants of two sisters torn apart in eighteenth-century Africa across three hundred years in Ghana and America.
Two half sisters, Effia and Esi, unknown to each other, are born into different tribal villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and will live in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle, raising half-caste children who will be sent abroad to be educated before returning to the Gold Coast to serve as administrators of the empire. Esi, imprisoned beneath Effia in the Castle's women's dungeon and then shipped off on a boat bound for America, will be sold into slavery. Stretching from the tribal wars of Ghana to slavery and the Civil War in America, from the coal mines in the American South to the Great Migration to twentieth-century Harlem, Yaa Gyasi's novel moves through histories and geographies and captures&Mdash;with outstanding economy and force&Mdash;the troubled spirit of our own nation. She has written a modern masterpiece.
Invisible Men: A Contemporary Slave Narrative in the Era of Mass Incarceration
by Flores Forbes
Publication Date: Oct 11, 2016
List Price: $22.99 (store prices may vary)
Page Count: 208
Imprint: Skyhorse Publishing
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Parent Company: Skyhorse Publishing
Flores Forbes, a former leader in the Black Panther Party, has been free from prison for twenty-five years. Unfortunately that makes him part of a group of black men without constituency who are all but invisible in society. That is, the invisible” group of black men in America who have served their time and not gone back to prison.
Today the recidivism rate is around 65%. Almost never mentioned in the media or scholarly attention is the plight of the 35% who don’t go back, especially black men. A few of them are hiding in Ivy League schools’ prison education programs?they don’t want to be known?but most of them are recruited by the one billion dollar industry reentry employee programs that allow the US to profit from their life and labor. Whereas, African Americans consist of only 12% of the population in the US, black males are incarcerated at much higher rates. The chances of these formerly convicted men to succeed after prison?to matriculate as leading members of society?are increasingly slim. The doors are closed to them.
Invisible Men is a book that will crack the code on the stigma of incarceration. When Flores Forbes was released from prison, he made a plan to re-invent himself but found it impossible. His involvement in a plan to kill a witness who was testifying against Huey P. Newton, the founder of the Black Panther Party, had led to his incarceration. While in prison he earned a college degree using a Pell Grant, with hope this would get him on the right track and a chance at a normal life. He was released but that’s where his story and most invisible men’s stories begin.
This book will weave Flores’ knowledge, wisdom, and experience with incarceration, sentencing reform, judicial inequity, hiding and re-entry into society, and the issue of increasing struggles and inequality for formerly incarcerated men into a collection of poignant essays, finally, giving invisible men a voice and face in society.