Plot: During the Depression, an American missions society sends a godly, young black preacher to South Africa to revitalize a church on a campus for African students. He finds himself in the crosshairs of conflict.
Gist: How does Joshua Clay remain faithful to God's word and uphold justice when he's been commissioned by an agency that doesn't want to offend an unjust South African government? Shelly Leanne's knowledge of South African history and her familiarity with Xosa culture make this Christian novel compelling.
Plot: When ex-slaves cast their first votes after the Civil War, white Republicans gain office in Colfax, La. Other angry whites attack the courthouse and massacre black farmers trying to defend the new order and their newfound liberties.
Gist: Tademy draws much of her novel from handed-down family stories and documents. Readers will appreciate Tademy's research and her desire to show how her proud, hardworking, self-sacrificing, and pious family survived and prospered despite racism and poverty-but the book works better as a family history than a novel.
Plot: A 12-year-old boy witnesses a lynching in 1948. He grows up to become a reporter determined to write about hard truths-and discovers a mystery behind an abandoned town in Arkansas.
Gist: Prewitt tries in his first novel to explore themes of racial violence, family loyalty, black pride, and the place of education and training in changing culture. The book suffers from poor plotting and the "Quincy" syndrome, named for an old TV show in which the screenwriter regularly had his lead character engage in overdone oratory instead of normal conversation.
Plot: A collection of realistic short stories rooted in African-American life.
Gist: The past is never far off in Lewis' present-day stories. Each is rooted in the particular; together they portray a depressing world where race still matters and older relatives are still warning their kin about white people and the dangers of potentially fatal missteps. Lewis has an ear for dialogue (warning: bad language) and a perspective that will surprise readers who thought we were further along the path to color-blindness than these stories suggest.
Readers have been asking how they can garner useful book recommendations from the internet. Here are eight good sources of information:
- Nancy Pearl's Book Lust Wiki (booklust.wetpaint.com) is an interactive site with recommendations from librarian Nancy Pearl as well as from her readers; it includes a section devoted to book groups.
- Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind (sarahweinman.com) features book reviewer and writer Sarah Weinman's links to essays, articles, reviews, and literary awards, with an emphasis on crime fiction.
- The Master's Artist (tpr.typepad.com/themastersartist) is a blog by a group of Christian writers, one of whom, J. Mark Bertrand, has a great blog about the craft of writing (jmarkbertrand.com/ default.asp).
- Charis Connection (charisconnection.blogspot.com) is a blog written by other Christian fiction writers, and Book Spot (bookspot.com) links to bestseller lists, awards winners, and many other book sites.
- Hubs for children's book links include Index to Children's Book Authors and Illustrators (falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/biochildhome.htm) and Children's Lit.com (childrenslit.com), which has both free and subscription content.