The African American Experience: BCALA Award Winners

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Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) Literary Award These awards recognize excellence in adult fiction and nonfiction by African American authors published in 2019, including an award for Best Poetry and a citation for Outstanding Contribution to Publishing. The following list includes all winning and honor titles in JMRL’s collection.



The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates (1st Novelist Award)

A Virginia slave narrowly escapes a drowning death through the intervention of a mysterious force that compels his escape and personal underground war against slavery. By the National Book Award-winning author of Between the World and Me.


The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (Winner Fiction)

When Elwood Curtis, a black boy growing up in 1960s Tallahassee, is unfairly sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, he finds himself trapped in a grotesque chamber of horrors. Elwood’s only salvation is his friendship with fellow delinquent; Turner, which deepens despite Turner’s conviction that Elwood is hopelessly naive, that the world is crooked, and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble. As life at the Academy becomes ever more perilous, the tension between Elwood’s ideals and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision whose repercussions will echo down the decades.


Africaville: A Novel by Jeffrey Colvin (Honor Fiction)

Three generations of a family of former slaves, the founders of a small Nova Scotia community, navigate prejudice, harsh weather and estrangements against a backdrop of the historical events of the 20th century.

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The African American Experience: A Reading List for Antiracism

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What is antiracism? What does it mean to be antiracist in America? The following list contains works focused on recognizing, acknowledging, and addressing racism and white supremacy. 


How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

Kendi takes readers through a widening circle of antiracist ideas—from the most basic concepts to visionary possibilities—that will help readers see all forms of racism clearly, understand their poisonous consequences, and work to oppose them in our systems and in ourselves. This is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond the awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a just and equitable society.


So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

How do you tell your roommate her jokes are racist? Why did your sister-in-law take umbrage when you asked to touch her hair–and how do you make it right? How do you explain white privilege to your white, privileged friend? Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to “model minorities” in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they impact almost every aspect of American life.


Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad

When Layla Saad began an Instagram challenge called #meandwhitesupremacy, she never predicted it would become a cultural movement. She encouraged people to own up and share their racist behaviors, big and small. She was looking for truth, and she got it… Thousands of people participated in the challenge, and over 80,000 people downloaded the supporting work Me and White Supremacy. Updated and expanded from the original edition, Me and White Supremacy teaches readers how to dismantle the privilege within themselves so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on people of color, and in turn, help other white people do better, too


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The African American Experience: Science Fiction and Fantasy for Adults

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“If you don’t write science fiction that includes black people in America and elsewhere, then we don’t have a future. The future that gets created is one we don’t live in and we don’t imagine and don’t create.”  – Walter Mosley in conversation with Mia Birdsong 


Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

The time is 2025. The place is California, where small walled communities must protect themselves from hordes of desperate scavengers. Lauren Olamina, an 18 year old black woman, sets off on foot along the dangerous coastal highways, moving north into the unknown. As she travels, she begins to gather a band of followers, devoted to her belief in a new religion of her own design.


Binti series by Nnedi Okorafor

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach. (Binti: Home and Binti: The Night Masquerade)


How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?: Stories by N.K. Jemisin     

In the first collection of her evocative short fiction, Jemisin equally challenges and delights readers with thought-provoking narratives of destruction, rebirth, and redemption. In these stories, Jemisin sharply examines modern society, infusing magic into the mundane, and drawing deft parallels in the fantasy realms of her imagination.   

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