Black Caucus American Library Association Literary Awards

Bocas Logo First presented at the Second National Conference of African American Librarians in 1994, the BCALA Literary Awards acknowledge outstanding works of fiction and nonfiction for adult audiences by African American authors.

Monetary awards are presented in the following categories, First Novelist, Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry. Honor Book citations are also awarded in fiction and nonfiction without any accompanying monetary remuneration.

The BCALA also host an annual conference, the National Conference of African American Librarians.


10 Books Honored in 2002


Winner Fiction

I Wish I Had a Red Dress
by Pearl Cleage



Publication Date:
List Price: $24.00 (store prices may vary)
Format: Hardcover
Classification: Fiction
Page Count: x336
ISBN13: 9780380977338
Imprint: William Morrow
Publisher: HarperCollins
Parent Company: News Corporation

Read Our Review of I Wish I Had a Red Dress

Book Description: 
Joyce Mitchell was widowed far too young when her beloved husband, Mitch, died in a tragic accident five years ago. Since then she’s kept her hands full and her mind and heart occupied by running The Sewing Circus, an all-girl group she founded to provide badly needed services like day care and job counseling to young women, many of whom are single mothers. More important, The Circus is a place for lively, wide-ranging, heart-to-heart discussions that will help members grow into what Joyce likes to call "twenty-first-century free women."All in all, Joyce has a full and rich life. She has her work, her family, her friends, and her town. But there are some nights when she crawls into bed alone and has to admit that something is missing. What she doesn’t have is that red dress she keeps dreaming about or a social life that would accommodate it even if she braved the mail and bought one. To further complicate matters, she may not have The Sewing Circus much longer, as the state legislature has decided not to fund the group’s vital but hard-todefine work with young women who are too often regarded as problems rather than possibilities.Feeling defeated and pessimistic, Joyce reluctantly agrees to keep a date for dinner at the home of her best friend, Sister — a reverend like no other-and finds not only a perfect meal but a tall, dark stranger named Nate Anderson. Nate has just joined the administration at the high school and his unexpected presence in Idlewild touches a chord in Joyce that she thought her heart had forgotten how to play. Nate feels the same immediate connection, but both have enough experience with broken hearts to take it real slow. Besides, they’ve got too much work to do to concentrate on falling in love….But life moves at its own pace, and as Sister says, "if you want to make God laugh, make plans." Particularly when it comes to matters of the heart. Joyce decides the trick is to stay focused and to remember that nothing is as sexy as the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, especially if you tell it while you’re wearing a perfect red dress….


Winner First Novelist

Gabriel’s Story
by David Anthony Durham



Publication Date:
List Price: $23.95 (store prices may vary)
Format: Hardcover
Classification: Fiction
Page Count: x304
ISBN13: 9780385498142
Imprint: Doubleday
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann and Pearson PLC

Read Our Review of Gabriel’s Story

Book Description: 
David Anthony Durham makes his literary debut with a haunting novel which, in the tradition of Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses, views the American West through a refreshingly original lens.

Set in the 1870s, the novel tells the tale of Gabriel Lynch, an African American youth who settles with his family in the plains of Kansas. Dissatisfied with the drudgery of homesteading and growing increasingly disconnected from his family, Gabriel forsakes the farm for a life of higher adventure. Thus begins a forbidding trek into a terrain of austere beauty, a journey begun in hope, but soon laced with danger and propelled by a cast of brutal characters.

Durham’s accomplishment is not solely in telling one man’s story. He also gives voice to a population seldom included in our Western lore and crafts a new poetry of the American landscape. Gabriel’s Story is an important addition to the mosaic of our nation’s mythology.


Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation

Prime Time Blues: African Americans on Network Television
by Donald Bogle



Publication Date:
List Price: $30.00 (store prices may vary)
Format: Hardcover
Classification: Nonfiction
Page Count: x512
ISBN13: 9780374237202
Imprint: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publisher: Macmillan
Parent Company: Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck

Book Description: 
Primetime Blues is the first comprehensive history of African Americans on the network series. Donald Bogle traces the changing roles of African Americans on primetime — from the blatant stereotypes of television’s early years to the more subtle stereotypes of recent eras. Bogle also reveals another equally important aspect of TV history: namely, that television has been invigorated by extraordinary Black performers — from Ethel Waters and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson to Cicely Tyson, Flip Wilson, Redd Foxx, and those mighty power brokers Cosby and Oprah — who frequently use the medium to make personal and cultural statements, and whose presence on the tube has been of enormous significance to the African American community. Bogle’s exhaustive study moves from the postwar era of Beulah and Amos ’n’ Andy to the politically restless sixties reflected in I Spy and the edgy, ultra-hip characters of The Mod Squad. Bogle comments on the short-lived East Side, West Side, the controversial Julia, and the television of the seventies, when a nation still caught up in Vietnam and Watergate retreated to the ethnic humor of Sanford and Son and Good Times; and on the politically conservative eighties, marked by the unexpected success of The Cosby Show. He explores die-hard Bonded Buddies on such series as Spenser: For Hire, and those Teen Dream heroes of Miami Vice. Finally, Bogle turns a critical eye to the television landscape of the nineties — when Black and white viewers often watched entirely different programs — with shows such as The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, ER, and The Steve Harvey Show. He also examines TV movies and miniseries such as The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and Roots. Ultimately, this important book gives us a history rich in personalities and tensions as well as paradoxes and achievements.


Winner Nonfiction

Vernon Can Read! A Memoir
by Vernon E. Jordan



Publication Date:
List Price: $29.45 (store prices may vary)
Format: Hardcover
Classification: Nonfiction
Page Count: x600
ISBN13: 9780786241002
Imprint: Thorndike Press
Publisher: Thorndike Press
Parent Company: Thorndike Press

Book Description: 
The civil rights leader, attorney, and former head of the National Urban League recounts his boyhood in segregated Atlanta, his career, and the social changes he helped to bring about.


Honor Book Fiction

West of Rehoboth: A Novel
by Alexs D. Pate



Publication Date:
List Price: $14.99 (store prices may vary)
Format: Paperback
Classification: Fiction
Page Count: x256
ISBN13: 9780380800421
Imprint: Harper Perennial
Publisher: HarperCollins
Parent Company: News Corporation

Book Description: 
Set in the early 1960s, West of Rehoboth is the moving story of twelve-year-old Edward Massey. Each summer, to escape the heat of Philadelphia, Edward’s family moves to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. The "coloreds only" side of a pristine resort on Rehoboth Beach offers work for his mother and a sandy playground for his sister. But for Edward — an imaginative, inquisitive boy — it offers the chance to understand his reclusive, curmudgeonly Uncle Rufus, a man caught in a swirl of hard luck and bad choices. Forging a tenuous bond, their relationship will take Edward on a harrowing journey through Rufus’s past, facing the violence, disappointment, and frustration that shaped his destiny. Award-winning author Alexs Pate tells a mesmerizing story — of family, of coming of age, of reconciliation — revealing the extraordinary compassion and healing power of one unforgettable boy.


Honor Book Fiction

Plain Brown Wrapper: An Alex Powell Novel
by Karen Grigsby Bates



Publication Date:
List Price: $6.99 (store prices may vary)
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Classification: Fiction
Page Count: x368
ISBN13: 9780380808915
Imprint: HarperTorch
Publisher: HarperCollins
Parent Company: News Corporation

Book Description: 
African-American reporter Alex Powell has the kind of curiosity that tends to get a nosy girl in big trouble. Luckily, she also has the wit and wiles to get out of it. But when Alex finds her boss, Everett Carson, dead at a black journalists’ conference, she finds herself caught in a situation far nastier than normal … and in grave danger.At least she’s not alone. Fellow journalist and old friend Paul Butler is determined to accompany Alex on her investigation into who killed Ev and why. The trail is leading Alex and Paul from California to D.C., New York, and the competitive social whirl of Martha’s Vineyard … and into a relationship well beyond "friend." But when the truth about the murder of a man as hated as he was revered comes to light, all that — and everything else — could end for Alex Powell in a devastating instant.




Honor Book Nonfiction

Hoop Roots
by John Edgar Wideman



Publication Date:
List Price: $15.95 (store prices may vary)
Format: Paperback
Classification: Fiction
Page Count: x242
ISBN13: 9780618257751
Imprint: Mariner Books
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Parent Company: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Book Description: 
A multilayered memoir of basketball, family, home, love, and race, John Edgar Wideman"s Hoop Roots brings "a touch of Proust to the blacktop" (Time) as it tells of the author’s love for a game he can no longer play. Beginning with the scruffy backlot playground he discovered in Pittsburgh some fifty years ago, Wideman works magical riffs that connect black music, language, culture, and sport. His voice modulates from nostalgic to outraged, from scholarly to streetwise, in describing the game that has sustained his passion throughout his life.


Honor Book Nonfiction

American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm (Young Readers Adaptation)
by Gail Lumet Buckley



Publication Date:
List Price: $15.95 (store prices may vary)
Format: Hardcover
Classification: Nonfiction
Page Count: x240
ISBN13: 9780375822438
Imprint: Crown Books for Young Readers
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann and Pearson PLC

Book Description: 
They fought on Lexington Green the first morning of the Revolution and survived the bitter cold winter at Valley Forge. They stormed San Juan Hill with Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and manned an anti-aircraft gun at Pearl Harbor. They are the black Americans who fought, often in foreign lands, for freedoms that they did not enjoy at home.
Adapted for young readers, this dramatic story brings to life the heroism of people such as Crispus Attucks, Benjamin O. Davis, Charity Adams, and Colin Powell, and captures the spirit that drove these Americans to better their lives and demand of themselves the highest form of sacrifice.


Honor Book Fiction

John Henry Days
by Colson Whitehead



Publication Date:
List Price: $15.95 (store prices may vary)
Format: Paperback
Classification: Fiction
Page Count: x385
ISBN13: 9780385498203
Imprint: Anchor
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann and Pearson PLC

Book Description:  Colson Whitehead’s eagerly awaited and triumphantly acclaimed new novel is on one level a multifaceted retelling of the story of John Henry, the black steel-driver who died outracing a machine designed to replace him. On another level it’s the story of a disaffected, middle-aged black journalist on a mission to set a record for junketeering who attends the annual John Henry Days festival. It is also a high-velocity thrill ride through the tunnel where American legend gives way to American pop culture, replete with p. r. flacks, stamp collectors, blues men , and turn-of-the-century song pluggers. John Henry Days is an acrobatic, intellectually dazzling, and laugh-out-loud funny book that will be read and talked about for years to come.


Honor Book Nonfiction

On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker
by A’Lelia Bundles



Publication Date:
List Price: $30.00 (store prices may vary)
Format: Hardcover
Classification: Nonfiction
Page Count: x416
ISBN13: 9780684825823
Imprint: Scribner
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Parent Company: CBS Corporation

Book Description: 

On Her Own Ground is the first full-scale, definitive biography of Madam C. J. Walker, the legendary African American entrepreneur and philanthropist, by her great-great-granddaughter, A'Lelia Bundles.

The daughter of slaves, Madam C. J. Walker was orphaned at seven, married at fourteen and widowed at twenty. She spent the better part of the next two decades laboring as a washerwoman for $1.50 a week. Then, with the discovery of a revolutionary hair care formula for black women, everything changed. By her death in 1919, Walker managed to overcome astonishing odds: building a storied beauty empire from the ground up, amassing wealth unprecedented among black women and devoting her life to philanthropy and social activism. Along the way, she formed friendships with great early-twentieth-century politi-cal figures such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington.

On Her Own Ground is not only the first comprehensive biography of one of recent history's most amazing entrepreneurs and philanthropists, it is about a woman who is truly an African American icon. Drawn from more than two decades of exhaustive research, the book is enriched by the author's exclusive access to personal letters, records and never-before-seen photographs from the family collection. Bundles also showcases Walker's complex relationship with her daughter, A'Lelia Walker, a celebrated hostess of the Harlem Renaissance and renowned friend to both Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. In chapters such as "Freedom Baby," "Motherless Child," "Bold Moves" and "Black Metropolis," Bundles traces her ancestor's improbable rise to the top of an international hair care empire that would be run by four generations of Walker women until its sale in 1985. Along the way, On Her Own Ground reveals surprising insights, tells fascinating stories and dispels many misconceptions.

On Her Own Ground was named a 2002 BCALA Honor Book, a 2001 New York Times Notable Book and the 2001 Letitia Woods Brown Book Prize winner for the Best Book on Black Women's History by the Association of Black Women Historians. It has become a favorite of women's book clubs and was one of the Go On Girl! Book Club selections for 2001. It is being taught in high schools, colleges and even in the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility's college course for women prisoners.