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I love historical fiction. It has been my favorite genre since I began reading. Part of it is my desire to combine learning about experiences during different historical eras with my love of fiction. Reading a historical novel will inevitably lead me to Google the historical events and people featured in the book. When I was younger, that meant hiking over to the library or to my bookshelf of encyclopedias to find out more about what I just read. My current obsession is reading books set in the Jazz Age!
Below is a quick peak at books featuring Black female main characters in the 1920s time period that I have read, or plan to read. Shattered Midnight, Sula and Passing are also written by Black women from three different eras: present day 2020s, the 1970s and the Harlem Renaissance.
How it Started: Shattered Midnight
Here is some insight into how my current 1920s era TBR formed… It all started with Shattered Midnight by Dhonielle Clayton. I read this at the end of December 2021 and reviewed it, Review: Shattered Midnight by Dhonielle Clayton. It is part of a fantasy series and is set in 1920s New Orleans. It features a Black teenage girl with magical powers that are activated by anger and music. She falls in love with a white boy whose family is connected to hers through a broken promise. Even though it’s a fantasy, the historical setting of 1920s New Orleans is maintained. The romance between the two characters is forbidden by the law.
How it Continued: Sula
Toni Morrison’s Sula holds a space in my core memory from when I first read it in high school or college. There are moments in that book that are hard to forget. It begins in 1919 and ends in 1965. Part one of the book, when Sula and Nel are girls, is set in the 1920s. This was a re-read for me in preparation for a class I was teaching. I had a slightly different experience reading it than I did the first time. I’m hoping to write about that soon. After I finished Sula, I have my eyes set on another Morrison book set in the Jazz Age: Jazz.
Where it’s going next: Passing
Next up, is a classic Harlem Renaissance novel has been on my list for a while…I was actually supposed to read it in college for a course on Black women writers. But it is hard trying to read five books a week as an English major! The Netflix movie revived my interest as people began reading it and discussing it again. I was also thinking about it as I read The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray, since the main character passed as white. I’m most interested in deciding for myself what was really going on between Clare and Irene…
Here are some additional book titles to check out that feature Black women in books set in the Jazz Age. You can check out the links in my Bookshop gallery below.
- Classic: The Color Purple by Alice Walker
- Classic: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
- Harlem Renaissance Classic: The Blacker the Berry by Wallace Thurmond
- Classic: Jazz by Toni Morrison
- Young Adult: Angel of Greenwood by Randi Pink
- Adult Mystery: All That is Secret by Patricia Raybon
- Adult: Wild Women and the Blues by Denny S. Bryce
- Adult: In the Face of the Sun by Denny S. Bryce
- Adult Mystery: Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia
- Adult Mystery: Harlem Sunset by Nekesa Afia
Is there a book set in the 1920s that you want to read?