Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Salon - January 17

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


  1. Thanks for those reviews.
    I was listening to someone the other day. They said that what made King great was the positive spin he put on what he had to say.
    They argued that he wasn't complaining. The "I have a dream" message was much better at encouraging fairer world.

  2. Nice choice of books to commemorate MLK, Jr. Day!
    Book Dilettante

  3. I never did get to see the end of the movie Malcolm X. Your mention of the autobiography reminds me that I should try and do that.

    Thank you for the book recommendations in honor of MLK Day, Lisa. Mudbound is on my list to read.

  4. What a thoughtful post. Thanks for the reminder of what the holiday is about.

  5. Thanks for the great list of books!! I will be reading The Help this year and I totally loved Secret Life of Bees. I've never heard of Meridian!!

  6. This is going to sound awful, but I'm sooo skeptical of books written by white authors in which black characters play an important role. You know? I've read Mudbound and Secret Life of Bees...I really didn't like Mudbound, which makes me extra skeptical of The Help. :)

  7. Thanks so much for posting this! The help is already on my to-read list, but these books all look good and some of them will be making their way onto my TBR pile.

  8. Eva, I was nervous about the same thing when reading The Help...I would read the afterward by Kathryn Stockett at the end of the novel before reading the book. It helped put the novel perspective for me from where she was coming from. I had some problems with the book and then I read the afterward and I got a new light to the novel.

    Lisa, I'm doing my own little mini reading challenge to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Black History month in February. I'm not expecting anyone to join or's more a way to keep track for myself what I'm reading post should be up by the end of my day!

    I will have to check out some of these books!

  9. Even though MLK Jr. Day is here, I'm so glad that you mentioned Malcolm X. His autobiography is fantastic, and it's rare to hear someone give credit to him for being a role in the civil rights movement. I really wish more people would read that book!

  10. I've had "the secret life of bees" in my bookshelf for a long time but I haven't read it yet so far. Can't wait to read it though.

    Yeah, last week I got a lot of heavy books. I can use the historical books in my research for my history class and those books, especially the one about Romanovs, seemed to be really interesting. Can't wait to get my hands in to those books, too bad I right now have so many books I need to review.

  11. Thank you. Meridian looks like it would be terrific for the Women Unbound Challenge, too. I've just started reading Same Kind of Different as Me and am learning about how hard it was to be a sharecropper.

  12. I'm about to start The Help on Thursday. But I thought I'd mention An American Insurrection: James Meredith and the Battle of Oxford, Mississippi, 1962 by William Doyle. A friend from Jackson recommended it last year. It's nonfiction, though it's amazing how often fiction is more telling with this particular story, of civil rights.

  13. Thanks for the recommendation, Carin. I was going to add some other nonfiction besides the Malcolm X book but I didn't know how to narrow them down.

  14. Fantastic post! You have put up some excellent titles here!