Posts Tagged ‘inspiring characters’

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

September 26, 2012

Author: Ernest J. Gaines

Title: The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

Genre: Historical Fiction; African American Fiction

Publication Date: 1971

Number of Pages: 259

Geographical Setting: Various rural towns throughout the south, particularly Louisiana

Time Period: 1860s-1960s

Plot Summary: Miss Jane Pittman, originally named Ticey, was not even 13 when she was declared free by the emancipation proclamation and set out to Ohio towards the freedom of the north. While she never makes it to the north, she journeys throughout the south living on various plantations and farms as the wife of two different men and also as a single woman. This story spans nearly a century, as Miss Jane tells the story of her life from emancipation until the civil rights movement and her death in the 1960s. Written in 4 books in Miss Jane’s strong southern dialect, this compelling tale of a courageous woman’s survival through racial injustice is an important tale of American history that often makes it difficult to remember that this is in fact a work of fiction.

Subject Headings: African American Women, Race Relations, Leadership in Women, Slavery, Louisiana, Southern America, Civil Rights, Reconstruction, Nineteenth Century, Twentieth Century, Segregation, Plantation Life, Historical fiction, Centenarians

Appeal: Compelling, emotionally charged, character driven, complex language usage, flawed characters, inspiring characters, engaging prose, gritty, autobiographical, lyrical, nostalgic, realistic, insightful, candid, historical

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: character driven, gritty, lyrical

Similar fiction authors and works:

Cooper, J. California. Some People, Other Places This novel follows a family through their struggles during the late 19th century through multiple generations. It has a similar bittersweet tone, is character driven, and follows a family through multiple generations.

Haley, Alex. Roots This story, like The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, spans generations of African American history. It has a similar tone and is family saga based, following one family through generations to reveal insights on the nature of humanity and the history of the family.

Morrison, Toni. Beloved This novel takes place post-civil war in Ohio, and chronicles the story of an escaped slave and her family. It is similarly lyrical and complex, and deals with family dramas and race relations, particularly regarding the African American community.

Similar nonfiction authors and works:

Delaney, Sarah Louise. Having Our Say A memoir comprised of interviews with Sadie and Bessie Delaney span nearly a century of African American history. The two women’s tales tell of the hardships and challenges faced by these two prominent African American women as they overcame racism and sexism to become successful strong women.

Lewis, David L. W.E.B. DuBois This definitive biography accounts W.E.B. DuBois’ early life and the defining moments that made him a pillar in the civil rights community, especially during the 1920s and 1930s.

Murray, Pauli. Song in a Weary Throat In this autobiographical account, Murray recounts her life as a child, her struggles in education to eventually become a lawyer, and her intense involvement in the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements of the 1960s.

Let the Church Say Amen

August 13, 2012

Author: ReShonda Tate Billingsley

Title: Let the Church Say Amen

Genre: African American Fiction, Christian Fiction

Publication Date: July, 2004

Number of Pages: 289

Geographical Setting: Houston, Texas

Time Period: Modern Day

Series: Book 1 of the Amen series

Plot Summary: In book 1 of Billingsley’s Amen series, we are introduced to Reverend Simon Jackson, dedicated pastor who puts his church first  and in working hard to build it up from nothing, ends up neglecting his wife and three children.  Although he runs a tight, successful ship in his congregation, his children are another story. One son is having problems with drugs, one son is confused about his identity and his daughter has her own problems regarding the fathers of her two children.  Jackson’s wife Loretta is the heart of the family and after realizing that she has allowed her husband to focus more on his pastoral duties than their family, works to reunite them despite the shadow of secrets which are revealed. A more urban take on Christian Fiction in that there is some sex  and mild profanity, this is a story of how one African American family turns to God, eachother and their community to figure out what really matters in life.

Subject Headings: African American families; Christian life; Family problems; African American clergy; Children of clergy; Spouses of clergy; Church membership; Christian fiction; Domestic fiction

Appeal: Character-driven, Compelling, Candid, Flawed characters, Inspiring characters, Family centered, Details of Christian Church, Thought-provoking, Urban, Conversational, Melodramatic, Poignant

3 Terms that best describe this book: Character-driven, Family-centered, Compelling

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1) The Black Church in America: African American Christian Spirituality (Religious Life in America)by Michael Battle

This book provides a historical perspective about how the Black Church in America came to be including its African roots, the doctrine and practices of the churches and how denominations were formed. Battle also discusses current beliefs, practices and modern day dilemmas facing the church today. This book might appeal to those interested in learning more about the background of the African American Christian Church which is one of the main “characters” in Let the Church Say Amen.

2) I Told the Mountain to Move by Patricia Raybon

Raybon’s frank book is part memoir and part tutorial about how she’s struggled with prayer among life’s many challenges and what readers might learn from what she’s discovered. This book might appeal to those who enjoyed the messages of faith and forgiveness through prayer prevalent in Let the Church Say Amen.

3) How We Got Over: Testimonies of Faith, Hope and Courage by Trevy A. McDonald and Bettye J. Allen (editors)

This collection of stories about real people who overcame a variety of obstacles from life-threatening situations to broken family relationships might appeal to those readers who were inspired by the Jackson family’s courage and ability to keep the faith regardless of life’s problems in Let the Church Say Amen.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1)  The Reverend’s Wife by Kimberla Lawson Roby

This book centers on the story of Reverend Curtis Black as he struggles to decide whether to forgive his unfaithful wife who is working hard to reconcile or consider a proposition by another woman who loves and wants to marry him. Those who enjoyed Let the Church Say Amen because it’s a character-driven story about African American clergy might enjoy this book.

2)  Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

This book is about John Grimes who experiences a religious conversion while his family struggles with guilt, bitterness, and spiritual issues. Like Let the Church Say Amen, this book is centered on an African American family who turns to faith and the church to solve life’s problems.

3) Have a Little Faith by Jacquelin Thomas, ReShonda Tate Billingsley, J.D. Mason and Sandra Kitt

This collection of stories from four bestselling African-American authors introduces a group of women who discover how life can open up if one has faith. A book for those who enjoyed the themes of faith, family and forgiveness in Let the Church Say Amen.

Name: Bridget Optholt

The Help

July 16, 2012

Author: Kathryn Stockett

Title: The Help

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 522

Geographical Setting: Jackson, MS

Time Period: 1962-1964

Plot Summary: In 1962 Skeeter Phelan has graduated from college and is back in Jackson, Mississippi in the house where she grew up.  Desperate to leave town and become a writer she becomes inspired to write a book from the point of view of the African-American maids who live and work in her hometown.  Not without resistance, she enlists the help of Aibileen and Minny – two friends who have worked for multiple families in town over the years.  Stockett’s novel is told from these three voices as they embark on their secret project,  each aware of the risks and high costs that presenting this story to the world may have.

Subject Headings: African-American women, Civil Rights movement, college graduates, determination in women, domestic workers, housekeepers, interracial friendship, life change events, race relations, the sixties (20th century), and unemployed workers


compelling pacing, hopeful, emotionally-charged, thoughtful tone, character driven, multiple points of view, well-developed and vivid characters, flawed characters, sympathetic characters, inspiring characters, thought-provoking, historical setting, and engaging prose

3 terms that best describe this book:

Character driven, flawed characters, compelling

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Elizabeth and Hazel: two women of Little Rock by David Margolick – Taking place in a similar historical period to The Help, this novel tells the story of two women who were captured in an infamous picture during school integration in Little Rock.  Margolick recounts how this event shaped their lives.  This work has two points of view and focuses on individual people impacted by the civil rights movement.

Freedom Summer: the Savage Summer that Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy by Bruce Watson – Telling the story of seven hundred volunteers who went to Mississippi in the summer of 1964 to help register African-American voters and the violence that followed.  These events took place just after the fictional events of The Help.  The author also focuses on the participants and residents, capturing everyday people.

This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer by Kay Mills – Covering the civil rights movement through one activist, making it a personal character driven narrative.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Freshwater Road by Denise Nicholas – Celeste is a college student and volunteer in the Freedom Summer in 1965. She is sent to a small Mississippi town to register voters, where she makes friends and finds unexpected challenges.  This novel has a similar historical setting, a character driven narrative, with young women questioning society around her.

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld – The wife of the American President considers the path she took and the things about herself she had to give up on her journey.  It is a character driven novel with flawed and complex characters.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows – Post World War II Juliet, an English writer, is working to move beyond.  After exchanging letters with members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie society, she decides to visit them on an extended holiday.  A character driven story that involves creating unlikely friendships in trying circumstances

Name: Lisa Anne Fisherkeller Barefield