• The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman
    by Ernest J. Gaines
    Miss Jane Pittman is 110 when she recalls her childhood and the arrival of both Union and Confederate troops on the plantation where she lived, and her own personal journey toward freedom.

  • The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears
    by Dinaw Mengestu
    Seventeen years after fleeing the Ethiopian revolution, Sepha Stephanos runs a grocery store in a poor African-American neighborhood in Washington, D.C., where he reflects on his past and the differences between his prospects and the life he imagined.

  • Black Girl, White Girl
    by Joyce Carol Oates
    Genna, investigating the mysterious death of her former roommate Minette Swift, a 19-year-old African-American girl, at their mostly white liberal arts college, reconstructs their tumultuous freshman year in race-torn 1960s Philadelphia, and her life as the daughter of a famous “radical-hippie-lawyer” of the 1960s.

  • Four Spirits
    by Sena Jeter Naslund
    In the wake of racial tensions in 1960s Alabama, sheltered white college student Stella participates in her first freedom movement and finds her life changed in several ways when she develops friendships with local African Americans.

  • The Samurai’s Garden
    by Gail Tsukiyama
    Stephen, 20, leaves Hong Kong for Japan to recuperate from tuberculosis just as the Chinese prepare to invade, and in a small town, he develops strong relationships.

  • The Secret Life of Bees
    by Sue Monk Kidd
    After her “stand-in mother,” a bold black woman named Rosaleen, insults the three biggest racists in town, Lily Owens joins Rosaleen on a journey to Tiburon, South Carolina, where they are taken in by three black, bee-keeping sisters.

  • Small Island
    by Andrea Levy
    At the end of World War II the Joseph family arrives in London from Jamaica and Queenie, their white landlady, befriends them, until her racist husband, Bernard, arrives home from the front.

  • South of Broad
    by Pat Conroy
    After his brother’s suicide, Leopold Bloom King struggles along with the rest of his family in Charleston, South Carolina, until he begins to gather an intimate circle of friends, whose ties endure for two decades until a final, unexpected test of friendship.

  • The Space Between Us
    by Thrity Umrigar
    Captures the delicate balance of class and gender in contemporary India as witnessed through the lives of two women–Sera Dubash, an upper middle-class housewife, and Bhima, an illiterate domestic hardened by a life of loss and despair.

  • We Are All Welcome Here
    by Elizabeth Berg
    In Tupelo, Mississippi, in the summer of 1964, tensions are mounting over civil-rights demonstrations across the state. But Paige Dunn, challenged by the effects of the polio she contracted during her last month of pregnancy, is determined to live as normal a life as possible and to raise her daughter, Diana, with the support of her tough-talking black caregiver, Peacie.

Compiled by Ruth Spurlock | Summaries from NoveList | October 2010