Last month Island Audio celebrated Black History Month by sharing several clips of African American authors reading their own works. At the blog, we first covered a bit of history about the African American oral tradition. After that we shared readings of some world-changing literature by black writers from the 18th century to current times. It is now the first week of Women’s History Month and we’ll be focusing on women’s literature, to kick it off though here is a selection of contemporary black women writers reading and talking about their work.

Terry McMillan

Terry McMillan studied journalism at University of California – Berkeley and later received her MFA from Columbia University. In 1987 she published her first novel Mama. Her third novel Waiting To Exhale received national acclaim and became a household name after it was adapted to film. Her novel How Stella Got Her Groove Back also became a huge hit both in print and on film. Her latest work, It’s Not All Downhill From Here: A Novel is set to be released March 31.

Lynn Nottage

Lynn Nottage is a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and professor of playwrighting at Columbia University. She is also the first woman to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice. Winning first in 2009 for Ruined and the second in 2017 for Sweat. She has also received the Francesca Primus Prize and American Theatre Critics/Steinberg New Play Award in 2004 for her play Intimate Apparel.

Harryette Mullen

Harryette Mullen is a poet, short story writer, literary critic, and professor at UCLA and author. Her book Sleeping With the Dictionary was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the LA Times Book Prize. Her poetry is marked by clever wordplay that is soundly informed by the African American literary tradition.

Nafissa Thompson-Spires

Nafissa Thompson-Spires earned a doctorate in English from Vanderbilt University and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Illinois. She is currently a Professor in the English department at University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign. Her work has appeared in Story Quarterly, Lunch Ticket, and The Feminist Wire, and several other publications. She was also a 2016 fellow of the Callaloo Writer’s Workshop and recipient of the PEN Open Book Award, the LA Times Art Sidenbaum Award for First Fiction, Hurston/Wright Award for Fiction, Audie Award winner as well as being longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award.

Her debut book is the short story collection Heads of the Colored People: Stories which was also Finalist for the Kirkus Prize and Whiting Award winner among other honors.

Bridgett M. Davis

Bridgett (pronounced Bridge-JET) M. Davis is a novelist, essayist, teacher, screenwriter, director, memoirist and curator. Her most recent book was a memoir, The World According To Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers. It was a story of growing up in Detroit with her mother who worked “in the numbers” an underground lottery racket. Eventually managing to escape poverty and move her family to the suburbs. The memoir was honored with a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and named a Best Book of 2019 by Kirkus Reviews and Real Simple magazine. Her second novel, Into The Go-Slow, was named best book of 2014 by Salon, The San Francisco Chronicle, BookRiot, Bustle and The Root, and others. Time Out New York pointed to her as one of “10 New York Authors to Read Right Now”. Nigerian writer Chris Abani called Into The Go-Slow “a beautiful allegory of love, family, expansion, hope and transformation”.

Davis’ debut novel was Shifting Through Neutral. It was a finalist for the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award, a Quarterly Black Review bestseller and an “Original Voices” selection by Border’s Books. Davis was also selected as 2005 New Author of the Year by Go on Girl! Book Club.

Glory Edim

Glory Edim is a first-generation Nigerian Americann and the curator and founder of the Well-Read Black Girl: Finding our stories, discovering ourselves and the book club of the same name. The book is a collection of essays by black women writers that deals with issues surrounding literature and representation among other topics.

Edim began immersing herself in the world of black literature while at Howard University. Her mother was in the depths of a deep depression and she had lost her job and home. Amidst this she found solace in literature and became convinced of the importance and life-changing potential of writing and reading. The book and book club expanded and is now a literary festival in Brooklyn as well.

Kiley Reid

Kiley Reid was born in Los Angeles, California in 1987 but raised in Tucson, Arizona. She was a student of acting at Marymount Manhattan College and went on to take creative writing courses at the University of Arkansas and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Her debut novel, Such a Fun Age, was published at the end of December, 2019 in the US and early January in the UK. The novel deals with a young black babysitter’s relationship with a well-meaning white employer. It ranked #3 on the New York Times hardcover fiction list just two week safter it was released. Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, NPR and the Atlantic have all lauded the author and her work. Such a Fun Age was also the first 2020 selection of the Reese Witherspoon book club.

Jesmyn Ward

Jesmyn Ward is a novelist and English professor at Tulane University. A recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant, Stegner Fellowship, John and Renee Grisham Writers Residency, Strauss living prize, Stegner Fellowship, she also won two National Book Awards. Her memoir Men We Reaped was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize award winner.

Angie Thomas

Angie Thomas is a former teen rapper and YA author who holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University. She was the first to be honored by the group We Need Diverse Books with the Dean Myers Grant in 2015. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, hit the #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list and inspired a film adaptation from Fox. Her second novel On the Come Up was published in February of 2019. It also hit the #1 spot on the NYT bestseller list and received the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award.

ZZ Packer

“ZZ” was a childhood nickname for Zuwena (a Swahili word meaning beautiful) Packer. She launched her career at 19 writing for Seventeen magazine and later in the New Yorker. She has also had her fiction appear in Harper’s and Story as well as in The Best American Short Stories anthology and read on NPR’s Selected Shorts. She was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford, Guggenheim Fellowship recipient and winner of a Whiting Writer’s Award and Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award among other authors.

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African American Literature Aloud

Evolution Of The African American Oral Tradition

From Edison to Audible: A Brief History of the “Talking Book”

Ed Kemper: Serial Narrator For the Blind

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