Out of Africa: Prose from the African Diaspora

Petworth LibraryStaff Picks

Out of Africa: Prose from the African Diaspora

For Black History Month and beyond

The African diaspora is comprised of global communities whose ancestry descends from the abduction/exile/immigration/relocation of people from the African continent. Whether the stories take root in the Americas, the Caribbean or Europe, the characters in these books have African parental origins, yet their riveting, colorful life experiences run the gamut. In celebration of the African diaspora during Black History Month and beyond, check out this assortment of intriguing tales, some almost lyrically told, with characters you will cheer, chasten and/or comfort.

Children's Picture Books
I Saw Your Face by Kwame Dawes
This picture book is a poetic tribute to Tom Feelings’ portraits of African children living around the world to honor the beauty and heritage of the African diaspora.

My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald and Freya Blackwood
In this brief story, a refugee child's metaphoric use of blankets describes her comfortable native tongue as well as her tenuous adoption of a new language in a new country. A homesick little girl who has recently moved to an unfamiliar country comforts herself by clinging to an old blanket, but when she meets a new friend, the relationship helps her take her first steps into a new culture.

Under the Same Sun by Sharon Robinson
Auntie Sharon and Grandmother Bibi travel from America to Tanzania for her eighty-fifth birthday to visit her son and grandchildren who surprise her with a birthday safari! Sharon Robinson's (Baseball legend Jackie Robinson's daughter) text coupled with AG Ford's beautiful oil paintings, depicts the emotions and historical perspective of a modern family living on two continents. 

Children's Fiction
Behind the Mountains by Edwidge Danticat
Thirteen-year-old Celiane journals about her life experiences, turbulent and exuberant, with her mother and brother in their hometown of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti and in Brooklyn, New York after the family is able to immigrate there to be reunited with her father.

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
An almost poetic tale of Kek, an East African child refugee who attempts to acclimate to the unfamiliar at the Minneapolis home of his relatives and in his new his fifth grade classroom. Kek longs for his missing mother, and is drawn to the comforting company of a cow and her owner.

Young Adult Fiction
Abe in Arms by Pegi Deitz Shea
In this action-filled thriller, Abe is a senior in high school living with his wealthy adoptive parents. Abe is on track for a big scholarship and an open future when he begins experiencing flashbacks of war-torn Africa where he lost his family and friends to the violence. In therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder, Abe questions why he's still alive.

Belle by Beverly Jenkins
Sixteen-year-old escaped slave Belle Palmer arrives in the free North lost and alone. Finding shelter with the Bests, the first free family she's ever known, she is drawn to the Best's educated and handsome eighteen-year-old son. Though he is betrothed to another, he and Belle forge an undeniable bond and attraction. Do the two stand a chance at love despite the trappings of their different lives, dreams and responsibilities?

This Strange New Feeling: Three Love Stories from Black History by Julius Lester
In two short stories and one novella, Julius Lester has created historical fiction that delves into the American slave experience. This Strange New Feeling honors the indomitable courage it took to pursue love and freedom as exemplified by Ellen and William Craft, escaped slaves turned famous abolitionists. 

Adult Fiction
Americanah by Chimamanda Adichi 
Award-winning author Adichi pens a tale of two young Nigerian lovers’ decisions to leave their home to begin new lives in America and England. The story explores how the passage of time, along with their dreams, hardships and accomplishments, affect their passion for each other and their homeland when they reunite years later. 

Habibi by Craig Thompson
This graphic novel possesses disturbing, yet visually arresting Arabic-inspired text and illustrations. Habibi tells the epic, tortured love story of two impoverished young refugees, an Arabic woman and an African man who struggle to survive together amid brutality, corruption, greed and lust in a fictionalized Middle Eastern landscape.

I Am Not Sydney Poitier by Percival Everett
Following the death of his mother, unfortunately-named Not Sydney Poitier attempts to distinguish and establish himself within an illogical society that struggles to reconcile his skin color, his uncanny resemblance to the actor, and his astounding wealth. A timeless and clever modern satire of race, class, identity and education in America wrapped within a tongue-in-cheek parody of Sidney Poitier films. Percival Everett's comic novel is a combination of Ralph Ellison mixed with David Sedaris. The more familiar the reader is with both Poitier's & Everett's bodies of work, the more one will appreciate the book's absurdism and sardonic wit.