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.


9 Books Honored in 2003

Winner Fiction

Douglass’ Women: A Novel
by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Publication Date:
List Price: $24.95
Format: Paperback, 358 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9780743410106
Imprint: Washington Square Press
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Parent Company: CBS Corporation
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Read a Description of Douglass’ Women: A Novel


Book Description: 
WINNER OF THE 2003 PEN OAKLAND JOSEPHINE MILES AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING WRITING AND THE BLACK CAUCUS OF THE ALA LITERARY AWARD
Frederick Douglass, the great African-American abolitionist, was a man who cherished freedom in life and in love. In this ambitious work of historical fiction, Douglass’ passions come vividly to life in the form of two women: Anna Murray Douglass and Ottilie Assing.
Douglass’ Women is an imaginative rendering of these two women — one black, the other white — in Douglass’ life. Anna, his wife, was a free woman of color who helped Douglass escape as a slave. She bore Douglass five children and provided him with a secure, loving home while he traveled the world with his message. Along the way, Douglass satisfied his intellectual needs in the company of Ottilie Assing, a white woman of German-Jewish descent, who would become his mistress for decades to come. How these two women find solidarity in their shared love for Douglass — and his vision for a free America — is at the heart of Jewell Parker Rhodes’ extraordinary, epic novel.

Winner First Novelist

The Emperor of Ocean Park
by Stephen L. Carter

Publication Date:
List Price: $14.95
Format: Paperback, 672 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9780375712920
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann and Pearson PLC
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Read a Description of The Emperor of Ocean Park


Book Description: 
In his triumphant fictional debut, Stephen Carter combines a large-scale, riveting novel of suspense with the saga of a unique family. The Emperor of Ocean Park is set in two privileged worlds: the upper crust African American society of the Eastern seabord—families who summer at Martha’s Vineyard—and the inner circle of an Ivy League law school.

Talcott Garland is a successful law professor, devoted father, and husband of a beautiful and ambitious woman, whose future desires may threaten the family he holds so dear. When Talcott’s father, Judge Oliver Garland, a disgraced former Supreme Court nominee, is found dead under suspicioius circumstances, Talcott wonders if he may have been murdered. Guided by the elements of a mysterious puzzle that his father left, Talcott must risk his marriage, his career and even his life in his quest for justice. Superbly written and filled with memorable characters, The Emperor of Ocean Park is both a stunning literary achievement and a grand literary entertainment.

Honor Book Fiction

Wisdom
by Heather Neff

Publication Date:
List Price: $13.95
Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9780345447449
Imprint: One World/Ballantine
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann and Pearson PLC
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Read a Description of Wisdom


Book Description: 
“You must promise me to go back to Wisdom one day. You see, little girl, Wisdom is your Source. It’s where your blood was born. . . .”

The words of her grandfather echo in her ears as Maia Ransom, a nurse from Michigan, arrives on the island of St. Croix for the first time. She has always been curious about the great estate her grandfather lovingly described, but the importance of this place has suddenly become vital. A private woman with no lover and no children, Maia is slowly succumbing to the same disease that killed her mother. She has three weeks to find Wisdom. Once there, Maia hopes to uncover the rich history of her people—and the will to fight for her own life.

But once on the intoxicating Caribbean island, Maia finds that the inhabitants resent her presence and are determined to lead her astray. Maia finally locates the estate, but the once-grand manor now sits crumbling in disrepair, home to the dissolute, alcoholic, and severely ill Severin Johanssen, the only living son of its former owner. After an initial frosty dismissal, Maia finds herself living at Wisdom as Severin’s temporary nurse.

Seeking refuge, Maia befriends Noah Langston, a striking Crucian lawyer who is doing all he can to help his people rise up to self-sufficiency. Noah soon opens up in Maia tender emotions she never imagined were hers to feel. But what he discovers about her family will shock Maia to the core. For Wisdom is not just her legacy, it might be her future. And there are people who will do everything in their power to keep Maia from fulfilling her destiny.

With a clear eye and a poet’s heart, Heather Neff has written an absorbing, redemptive novel of struggle, family secrets, and making the profound choice between hiding safely from the truth or leaping through uncertainty towards true love. Wisdom is ultimately about finding one’s true soul.


From the Hardcover edition.

Honor Book Fiction

P.G. County
by Connie Briscoe

Publication Date:
List Price: $13.95
Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9780345444134
Imprint: One World
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann and Pearson PLC
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Read a Description of P.G. County


Book Description: 
In the sprawling homes and upscale townhouses of the exclusive, largely African American Prince George’s County, the lives of five women intersectand the secrets, scandals, loves, and losses that ensue are par for the course where power, beauty, and wealth reside.

Barbara is the most influential woman in this swanky neighborhood, but she’s got her hands fullone hand is busy dealing with her husband’s wandering eye, while the other always needs a cocktail glass. Jolene is half of P.G. County’s number-two coupleand she desperately wants what she doesn’t have: namely Barbara’s husband. Pearl owns a hair salon and lives on the outskirts of the posh community with her son, Kenyatta. She’s not only juggling a growing business and a bad divorce, but now she’s has to cope with Kenyatta’s less-than-ideal girlfriend. Candice is white and liberal, but her daughter’s new beau tests her beliefsand opens a can of worms she never knew existed. Lee is a runaway teen, a girl whose only connection to her father is an old photo and the belief that he’s well-off and waiting for her in . . .

P.G. COUNTY

Honor Book Fiction

You Know Better: A Novel
by Tina McElroy Ansa

Publication Date:
List Price: $24.95
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9780060197797
Imprint: William Morrow
Publisher: HarperCollins
Parent Company: News Corporation
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Read a Description of You Know Better: A Novel


Book Description: 
It is the spring weekend of the Peach Blossom Festival in the tiny middle Georgia town of Mulberry, but things are far from sweet for the Pines women. LaShawndra, an eighteen-year-old hoochie-mama who wants nothing more out of life than to dance in a music video, has messed up…again. But this time she isn’t sticking around to hear about it.Not that her mother seems to care; after all, Sandra is busy working on her real estate career and on the local minister. It’s LaShawndra’s grandmother, Lily, a former schoolteacher, principal, school board administrator, and highly respected cornerstone of the Mulberry community, who is scouring the streets at midnight looking for her granddaughter.Over the course of one weekend these three disparate women, guided by a trio of unexpected spirits, will learn to face the pain in their lives and discover that with reconciliation comes the healing they all desperately seek. In this magical, deeply resonant novel, Tina McElroy Ansa goes straight to the heart of women’s relationships to reveal the soul that bonds us all.

Winner Nonfiction

Forgotten Readers: Recovering the Lost History of African American Literary Societies (New Americanists)
by Elizabeth McHenry

Publication Date:
List Price: $104.95
Format: Hardcover, 440 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9780822329800
Imprint: Duke University Press Books
Publisher: Duke University Press Books
Parent Company: Duke University
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Read a Description of Forgotten Readers: Recovering the Lost History of African American Literary Societies (New Americanists)


Book Description: 
Over the past decade the popularity of black writers including E. Lynn Harris and Terry McMillan has been hailed as an indication that an active African American reading public has come into being. Yet this is not a new trend; there is a vibrant history of African American literacy, literary associations, and book clubs. Forgotten Readers reveals that neglected past, looking at the reading practices of free blacks in the antebellum north and among African Americans following the Civil War. It places the black upper and middle classes within American literary history, illustrating how they used reading and literary conversation as a means to assert their civic identities and intervene in the political and literary cultures of the United States from which they were otherwise excluded.Forgotten Readers expands our definition of literacy and urges us to think of literature as broadly as it was conceived of in the nineteenth century. Elizabeth McHenry delves into archival sources, including the records of past literary societies and the unpublished writings of their members. She examines particular literary associations, including the Saturday Nighters of Washington, D.C., whose members included Jean Toomer and Georgia Douglas Johnson. She shows how black literary societies developed, their relationship to the black press, and the ways that African American women’s clubs—which flourished during the 1890s—encouraged literary activity. In an epilogue, McHenry connects this rich tradition of African American interest in books, reading, and literary conversation to contemporary literary phenomena such as Oprah Winfrey’s book club.

Honor Book Nonfiction

Gumbo: A Celebration of African American Writing
by E. Lynn Harris and Marita Golden

Publication Date:
List Price: $32.00
Format: Paperback, 828 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9780767910415
Imprint: Broadway Books
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann and Pearson PLC
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Read a Description of Gumbo: A Celebration of African American Writing


Book Description: A literary rent party to benefit the Hurston/Wright Foundation of African-American fiction, with selections to savor from bestselling authors as well as talented rising stars.

Not since Terry McMillan’s Breaking Ice have so many African-American writers been brought together in one volume. A stellar collection of works from more than fifty hot names in fiction, Gumbo represents remarkable synergy. Edited by bestselling luminaries Marita Golden and E. Lynn Harris, this collection spans new and previously published tales of love and luck, inspiration and violation, hip new worlds and hallowed heritage from voices such as:

Also featuring original stories by Golden and Harris themselves, Gumbo heralds the debut of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards for Published Black Writers (scheduled for October 2002), and all advances and royalties from the book will support the Hurston/Wright Foundation. Combining authors with a variety of flavorful writing, Gumbo will have readers clamoring for second helpings.



Honor Book Nonfiction

The Herndons: An Atlanta Family
by Carole Merritt

Publication Date:
List Price: $41.95
Format: Hardcover, 272 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9780820323091
Imprint: University of Georgia Press
Publisher: University of Georgia Press
Parent Company: University of Georgia
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Read a Description of The Herndons: An Atlanta Family


Book Description: 
Born a slave and reared a sharecropper, Alonzo Herndon (1858-1927) was destined to drudgery in the red clay fields of Georgia. Within forty years of Emancipation, however, he had amassed a fortune that far surpassed that of his White slave-master father.Through his barbering, real estate, and life insurance ventures, Herndon would become one of the wealthiest and most respected African American business figures of his era. This richly illustrated book chronicles Alonzo Herndon’s ascent and his remarkable family’s achievements in Jim Crow Atlanta.In this first biography of the Herndons, Carole Merritt narrates how Herndon nurtured the Atlanta Life Insurance Company from a faltering enterprise he bought for $140 into one of the largest Black financial institutions in America; how he acquired the most substantial Black property holdings in Atlanta; and how he developed his barbering business from a one-chair shop into the nation’s largest and most elegant parlor, the resplendent, twenty-three chair "Crystal Palace" in the heart of White Atlanta.The Herndons’ world was the educational and business elite of Atlanta. But as Blacks, they were intimately bound to the course of Black life. The Atlanta Race Riot of 1906 and its impact on the Herndons demonstrated that all Blacks, regardless of class, were the victims of racial terrorism.Through the Herndons, issues of race, class, and color in turn-of-the-century Atlanta come into sharp focus. Their story is one of by-the-bootstraps resolve, tough compromises in the face of racism, and lasting contributions to their city and nation.

Honor Book Nonfiction

Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea: Poems and Not Quite Poems
by Nikki Giovanni

Publication Date:
List Price: $16.99
Format: Hardcover, 110 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9780060099527
Imprint: William Morrow
Publisher: HarperCollins
Parent Company: News Corporation
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Read a Description of Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea: Poems and Not Quite Poems


Book Description: 
“One of her best collections to date.” —Essence

Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea is a tour de force from Nikki Giovanni, one of the most powerful voices in American poetry and African American literature today. From Black Feeling, Black Talk and Black Judgment in the 1960s to Bicycles in 2010, Giovanni’s poetry has influenced literary figures from James Baldwin to Blackalicious, and touched millions of readers worldwide. In Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea, Giovanni turns her gaze toward the state of the world around her, and offers a daring, resonant look inside her own self as well.



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