In light of tomorrow being Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and with the recent success of Kathryn Stockett's "The Help," a celebration of books focusing on the Civil Rights Movement seems to be in order.
Although not a novel, The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley tells the story of another advocate of rights for black Americans who was often at odds with King and whom some called a racist. He was born in Omaha, Nebraska and by the time he was 13 his father had died and his mother had been institutionalized. In 1946, he was sentenced to prison where he became a Muslim. When he was released, he became one of the leaders of the Nation of Islam until conflicts with Elijah Muhammed, the head of the Nation, caused him to leave the nation. Less than a year later, after denouncing racism, Malcolm X was assassinated.
Most of you are familiar with Sue Monk Kidd's "The Secret Life of Bees" and may have seen the movie as well. Lesser known to many of us are:
"Civil Wars," by Rosellen Brown tells the story of a white couple who supported the Civil Rights movement but must face bigotry in their own home when the husbands bigoted sister dies and leaves her children to them.
"Bombingham" by Anthony Grooms is Grooms debut novel and uses extensive flashbacks to chronicle a young man's journey through the fight for civil rights in Birmingham, Alabama as he is composing a letter to a dead comrades parents during the Vietnam War.
"Meridian" by Alice Walker is the story of a young woman attending college in Atlanta trying to find her place in the battle for racial and social equality. Along the way she learns that there are boundaries she will not cross but no limit on her commitment to finding nonviolent methods to affect change.
"Mudbound" by Hillary Jordan, winner of the Bellwether Prize, tells the story of life in the Mississippi Delta in 1946 through the eyes of several people including a family of white landowners and some of their sharecroppers.
In memory of Dr. King and the efforts of so many people, I encourage you to check out one of these novels or one of the many excellent non-fiction choices which focus on the battle for civil rights.
**Additional recommendations from the comments:
Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore
An American Insurrection: James Meredith and the Battle of Oxford, Mississippi, 1962 by William Doyle