Bibliophile: Diverse Spines by Jane Mount and Jamise Harper is a richly illustrated and vastly inclusive collection that uplifts the works of authors who are often underrepresented in the literary world. Published by Chronicle Books and coming November 2nd, this essential volume is filled with treasures for every reader looking to diversify their reading list, expand their world, and shift their perspective.
Below, find classics written by BIPOC authors, all available in audiobook format excerpted from Bibliophile: Diverse Spines. But first, we had to ask the authors themselves which classics are their personal favorites!
Jamise Harper particularly loves The Street by Ann Petry: “It is a classic American fiction novel that should be required reading. Published in 1946, The Street became the first novel by an African-American woman to sell more than a million copies. It is a timeless story and haunting exploration into the world of Lutie Johnson as she struggles to survive in the midst of poverty, racism, violence, and sexism while raising her son in 1940’s Harlem.”
Jane Mount finds solace in The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros: “It was published in 1984 (not that long ago!), and tells the story of 12-year-old Esperanza Cordero, growing up in Chicago. Cisneros perfectly captures adolescence, reminding you what it felt like to be almost an adult, and almost a woman, yearning to grow up but also dreading it. Esperanza’s struggles are very real (poverty, the patriarchy, other people’s presumptions and prejudices), but she navigates through them, learning as she goes, and forging her true self.”
Now, onto the classics.
Rich in history and timeless storytelling, classics speak to interconnected human experiences that have stood the test of time and are still meaningful today.
Ann Petry’s 1946 debut novel, The Street, was the first novel by an African American woman to sell more than a million copies. The story follows the daily struggles of Lucite Johnson, a Black single mother of an eight-year-old son, striving for the “American Dream” amid racism, poverty, and the violent streets of Harlem. Petry was a registered pharmacist prior to becoming a journalist, novelist, and short story and children’s book writer.
Claude McKay was ahead of his time when he wrote Romance in Marseille in 1930. It is one of the earliest African-American queer fiction stories covering radical politics, racial identity, and sexual preference. Ninety years after he wrote this bold novel, it was published for the first time in 2020. McKay was a pioneering figure in the Harlem Renaissance, and his poetry book Harlem Shadows was a strong influence on the movement.
Published over 35 years ago, The House on Mango Street has sold over 6 million copies and has been translated into over 20 languages. This coming-of-age classic about Esperanza Cordero, a young Chicana girl growing up in Chicago, is required reading for many educational institutions. Asked if it’s autobiographical, Sandra Cisneros states, “I’m not Esperanza but I’m the sum of all stories that have passed through me, that I’ve heard, that I’ve witnessed and Esperanza becomes a composite of all of the above.”
Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John [is a] coming-of-age story of a girl growing apart from her mother in Antigua.
This was James Welch’s first novel, published in 1974, and it takes place on the Fort Belknap reservation in Montana.