Whether you’re looking for a powerful read set during the Civil Rights Movement or want to better understand how the events of the 1960s impact America today, here are three novels from our Bolden imprint with settings and content that span the time period from the Civil Rights Movement to the ongoing struggle for racial justice.
When University of Michigan sophomore Celeste Tyree travels to Mississippi to volunteer her efforts in Freedom Summer, she’s assigned to help register voters in the small town of Pineyville, a place best known for a notorious lynching that occurred only a few years earlier. As the long, hot summer unfolds, Celeste befriends several members of the community, but there are also those who are threatened by her and the change that her presence in the South represents. Finding inner strength as she helps lift the veil of oppression and learns valuable lessons about race, social change, and violence, Celeste prepares her adult students for their showdown with the county registrar. All the while, she struggles with loneliness, a worried father in Detroit, and her burgeoning feelings for Ed Jolivette, a young man also in Mississippi for the summer.
By summer’s end, Celeste learns there are no easy answers to the questions that preoccupy her—about violence and nonviolence, about race, identity, and color, and about the strength of love and family bonds. Freshwater Road has been called one of the best novels written about the Civil Rights Movement. Nicholas herself has been praised repeatedly over the years for her beautiful prose and is continually mentioned along with Alice Walker and Ernest J. Gaines as the most important novelists documenting this era.
Against a 1970s backdrop of rapid social and political change, Only the Strong portrays the challenges and rewards of love in a quintessential American community where heartbreak and violence are seldom far away.
Moved by the death of Martin Luther King Jr., Lorenzo “Guts” Tolliver decides to abandon his career as a professional leg-breaker and pursue a life of quiet moments and generous helpings of banana pudding in the company of his new, sensuous lover. His erstwhile boss, local kingpin Ananias Goode, is also thinking about slowing down—but his tempestuous affair with Dr. Artinces Noel, a prominent pediatrician, complicates his retirement plans. Meanwhile, Charlotte Divine, the doctor’s headstrong protégée, struggles with trials of her own.
With prose that’s sharp, humorous, and poetic, Asim skillfully renders a compelling portrait of urban life in the wake of the last major civil-rights bill. Massive change is afoot in America, and these characters have front-row seats.
Leonard Pitts, Jr.
Grant Park begins in 1968, with Martin Luther King’s final days in Memphis. The story then moves to the eve of the 2008 election, and cuts between the two eras. Disillusioned columnist Malcolm Toussaint, fueled by yet another report of unarmed black men killed by police, hacks into his newspaper’s server to post an incendiary column that had been rejected by his editors. Toussaint then disappears, and his longtime editor, Bob Carson, is summarily fired within hours of the column’s publication.
While a furious Carson tries to find Toussaint—while simultaneously dealing with the reappearance of a lost love from his days as a 60s activist—Toussaint is abducted by two white supremacists plotting to explode a bomb at Barack Obama’s planned rally in Chicago’s Grant Park. Toussaint and Carson are forced to remember the choices they made as young men, when both their lives were changed profoundly by their work in the Civil Rights Movement.