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 2005

Winner Fiction

Leaving Cecil Street: A Novel
by Diane McKinney-Whetstone

Publication Date:
List Price: $12.95
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9780060722890
Imprint: Harper Perennial
Publisher: HarperCollins
Parent Company: News Corporation
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Read a Description of Leaving Cecil Street: A Novel


Book Description: 
In one West Philadelphia neighborhood, families come together in celebration of unity and togetherness. Their block parties provide a union that serves as a backdrop for discovering the truth about themselves and the people they think they know.Best friends Neet and Shay have depended on each other for most of their lives. However, their friendship will be tested when Neet becomes pregnant by one of the corner boys and Shay arranges an abortion that goes terribly wrong.To Shay’s horror, Neet is left unable to bear children and embraces her mother’s esoteric yet sometimes impractical religious beliefs as punishment for her sins.Meanwhile, Shay is left to struggle with her own growing maturity, the grief of losing a cherished friendship, and the disintegration of her parents’ marriage. The two girls eventually choose their own separate paths.Leaving Cecil Street invokes those things that are most important — family, friendship, and love.

Winner First Novelist

The Darkest Child: A Novel
by Delores Phillips

Publication Date:
List Price: $15.95
Format: Paperback, 400 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9781569473788
Imprint: Soho Press
Publisher: Soho Press
Parent Company: Soho Press
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Read a Description of The Darkest Child: A Novel


Book Description: 
Rozelle Quinn is so fair-skinned that she can pass for white. Her ten children are mostly light, too. They constitute the only world she rules and controls. Her power over them is all she has in an otherwise cruel and uncaring universe.

Rozelle favors her light-skinned kids, but Tangy Mae, 13, her darkest-complected child, is the brightest. She desperately wants to continue with her education. Her mother, however, has other plans. Rozelle wants her daughter to work cleaning houses for whites, like she does, and accompany her to the “Farmhouse,” where Rozelle earns extra money bedding men. Tangy Mae, she’s decided, is of age.

This is the story from an era when life’s possibilities for an African-American were unimaginably different.


From the Hardcover edition.

Honor Book Fiction

Robbing Peter
by Kia DuPree

Publication Date:
List Price: $13.99
Format: Paperback, 265 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9780975867501
Imprint: Prism Pages
Publisher: Prism Pages
Parent Company: Prism Pages
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Read a Description of Robbing Peter


Book Description: 
Single mother of five, Vivica Jeffries, struggles daily to maintain her household, her sanity and control of her rebellious teen-aged twins, Elijah and Elgin. The two are quickly following in their father’s negligent lawless footsteps, and soon come face to face with a felony charge for gang rape. Vivica is at her wit’s end with her ex-husband who still manages to wreak havoc on her family. Will her faith see her through? Two other women, sex siren Iralaun Fugere and snooty Belinda Maxwell, are also struggling with problems with their fathers. Though scars heal thick, they soon learn life is a carnival ride.

Honor Book Fiction

Some People, Some Other Place
by J. California Cooper

Publication Date:
List Price: $16.00
Format: Paperback, 384 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9780385496834
Imprint: Anchor
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann
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Read a Description of Some People, Some Other Place


Book Description: 
For generations Eula Too’s family has been making a journey North, year after year, step by painful step; and she’s determined to be the one to make it all the way to Chicago. In and out of school, taking care of her fourteen brothers and sisters, she can see no way out. But when a new family burden threatens to overwhelm her, she at last leaves for the city, only to find that her life gets even tougher.

Ranging from the Deep South at the turn of the century, to a diverse contemporary town filled with people striving for a better life, Some People, Some Other Place is J. California Cooper at her irresistible, surprising best.



Honor Book Fiction

The Blackbird Papers: A Novel
by Ian Smith

Publication Date:
List Price: $24.95
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9780385511360
Imprint: Doubleday
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann
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Read Our Review of The Blackbird Papers: A Novel


Read a Description of The Blackbird Papers: A Novel


Book Description: 
A rainy night . . . A stranded motorist . . . A Good Samaritan passerby a Nobel Prizewinning professor . . . The setup for a shocking murder designed to cover up an even more sinister crime . . .

The Blackbird Papers marks the debut of Ian Smith, a major new talent in crime fiction, and of Sterling Bledsoe, his smart and occasionally combative sleuth.

World-renowned Dartmouth professor Wilson Bledsoe is returning from a party celebrating his latest honor when he encounters a broken-down pickup on the secluded country road to his home. The next day, the discovery of his body with a vicious racist epithet carved into his chest leads to the quick arrest of two loathsome white supremacists. The local authorities seem ready to accept the case at face value as a racial hate crime. But the murdered professor’s brother, FBI agent Sterling Bledsoe, has inserted himself into the investigation and isn’t ready to buy into this pat solution. A look around his brother’s lab and brief interviews with his students and colleagues pique Sterling’s curiosity about Wilson’s pet project: a nearly completed paper on the mysterious deaths of hundreds of local blackbirds.

Fast-paced and cleverly constructed, The Blackbird Papers introduces a major new talent in mystery and crime fiction.

Winner Nonfiction

A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa
by Howard W. French

Publication Date:
List Price: $25.00
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9780375414619
Imprint: Knopf
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann
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Book Description: 
Africa first captivated New York Times journalist Howard W. French more than twenty-five years ago, but his knowledge of and passion for the continent has the depth of a lifetime association. His experiences there awakened him as nothing before to the selfishness and shortsightedness of the rich, the suffering and dignity of the poor and the uses and abuses of power. And in this powerfully written, profoundly felt book, he gives us an unstinting account of the disastrous consequences of the fateful, centuries-old encounter between Africa and the West.

French delineates the betrayal and greed of the Westoften aided and abetted by Africa’s own leadersthat have given rise to the increasing exploitation of Africa’s natural resources and its human beings. Coarse self-interest and outright greed once generated a need for the continent’s rubber, cotton, gold and diamonds, not to mention slaves; now the attractions include offshore oil reserves and minerals like coltan, which powers cellular phones.

He takes us inside Nigeria, Liberia, Mali and the Congo, examining with unusual insight the legacy of colonization in the lives of contemporary Africans. He looks at the tragedies of the AIDS epidemic, the Ebola outbreak and the genocide that resulted in millions of deaths in Rwanda and the Congo. He makes clear the systematic failure of Western political leadersthe nurturers of tyrants such as Mobuto Sese Seko and Laurent Kabila, whose stories are told here in full detailand the brutal excesses of the CIA.

In helping us to better understand the continent, and indeed Africans themselves, French helps us see as well the hope and possibility that lie in the myriad cultural strengths of Africa.

Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation

Speak, So You Can Speak Again: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston
by Lucy Hurston

Publication Date:
List Price: $29.95
Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
Classification: Nonfiction
ISBN13: 9780385493758
Imprint: Doubleday
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann
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Read a Description of Speak, So You Can Speak Again: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston


Book Description: 
One of the most beguiling and captivating figures of the twentieth century, Zora Neale Hurston gained fame as a bestselling author, anthropologist, journalist, and playwright. Her remarkable life is presented as never before in SPEAK, SO YOU CAN SPEAK AGAIN. An interactive package tracing Hurston’s journey from Eatonville, Florida, to her student days at Barnard College, to her emergence as a literary star and bestselling author and cultural icon during the Harlem Renaissance and her subsequent decline into obscurity, it contains beautifully crafted facsimiles of historic papers, handwritten notes, photographs, and much more.

Readers will be able to hold in their hands the charred draft notes for the novel, Seraph on the Suwannee; open a Christmas card Hurston created for her friends; and read letters illuminating her relationships with intimate friends and fellow writers like Langston Hughes and Dorothy West. SPEAK, SO YOU CAN SPEAK AGAIN also provides the extraordinary opportunity to hear Hurston’s own voice talking about her life as a writer on several radio interviews, and, in a powerful interlude, singing a passionate rendition of a railroad worker’s chant she learned while collecting folklore in the Deep South.

Interest in Hurston continues to soar. Her most famous book, Their Eyes Are Watching God, is now in development at Oprah Winfrey’s production company, Harpo, and is also being adapted for Broadway. The sales of her books attest to an ever-growing audience. Whether they are discovering Hurston for the first time or are devoted fans, readers will find hours of entertainment in SPEAK, SO YOU CAN SPEAK AGAIN.

Honor Book Nonfiction

Wrestling with the Muse: Dudley Randall and the Broadside Press
by Melba Joyce Boyd

Publication Date:
List Price: $60.00
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Classification: Nonfiction
ISBN13: 9780231130264
Imprint: Columbia University Press
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Parent Company: Columbia University
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Read a Description of Wrestling with the Muse: Dudley Randall and the Broadside Press


Book Description: 
And as I groped in darkness

and felt the pain of millions,

gradually, like day driving night across the continent,

I saw dawn upon them like the sun a vision.

?Dudley Randall, from "Roses and Revolutions"

In 1963, the African American poet Dudley Randall (19142000) wrote "The Ballad of Birmingham" in response to the bombing of a church in Alabama that killed four young black girls, and "Dressed All in Pink," about the assassination of President Kennedy. When both were set to music by folk singer Jerry Moore in 1965, Randall published them as broadsides. Thus was born the Broadside Press, whose popular chapbooks opened the canon of American literature to the works of African American writers.

Dudley Randall, one of the great success stories of American small-press history, was also poet laureate of Detroit, a civil-rights activist, and a force in the Black Arts Movement. Melba Joyce Boyd was an editor at Broadside, was Randall’s friend and colleague for twenty-eight years, and became his authorized biographer. Her book is an account of the interconnections between urban and labor politics in Detroit and the broader struggles of black America before and during the Civil Rights era. But also, through Randall’s poetry and sixteen years of interviews, the narrative is a multipart dialogue between poets, Randall, the author, and the history of American letters itself, and it affords unique insights into the life and work of this crucial figure.

Honor Book Nonfiction

Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire
by Carol Jenkins and Elizabeth Gardner Hines

Publication Date:
List Price: $17.00
Format: Paperback, 344 pages
Classification: Nonfiction
ISBN13: 9780345453488
Imprint: One World
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann
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Read a Description of Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire


Book Description: 
The grandson of slaves, born into poverty in 1892 in the Deep South, A. G. Gaston died more than a century later with a fortune worth well over $130 million and a business empire spanning communications, real estate, and insurance. Gaston was, by any measure, a heroic figure whose wealth and influence bore comparison to J. P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie. Here, for the first time, is the story of the life of this extraordinary pioneer, told by his niece and grandniece, the award-winning television journalist Carol Jenkins and her daughter Elizabeth Gardner Hines.

Born at a time when the bitter legacy of slavery and Reconstruction still poisoned the lives of black Americans, Gaston was determined to make a difference for himself and his people. His first job, after serving in the celebrated all-black regiment during World War I, bound him to the near-slavery of an Alabama coal mine—but even here Gaston saw not only hope but opportunity. He launched a business selling lunches to fellow miners, soon established a rudimentary bank—and from then on there was no stopping him. A kind of black Horatio Alger, Gaston let a single, powerful question be his guide: What do our people need now? His success flowed from an uncanny genius for knowing the answer.

Combining rich family lore with a deep knowledge of American social and economic history, Carol Jenkins and Elizabeth Hines unfold Gaston’s success story against the backdrop of a century of crushing racial hatred and bigotry. Gaston not only survived the hardships of being black during the Depression, he flourished, and by the 1950s he was ruling a Birmingham-based business empire. When the movement for civil rights swept through the South in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Gaston provided critical financial support to many activists.

At the time of his death in 1996, A. G. Gaston was one of the wealthiest black men in America, if not the wealthiest. But his legacy extended far beyond the monetary. He was a man who had proved it was possible to overcome staggering odds and make a place for himself as a leader, a captain of industry, and a far-sighted philanthropist. Writing with grace and power, Jenkins and Hines bring their distinguished ancestor fully to life in the pages of this book. Black Titan is the story of a man who created his own future—and in the process, blazed a future for all black businesspeople in America.


From the Hardcover edition.