Excerpted from Best African American Fiction by Gerald Early, series editor, and E. Lynn Harris, guest editor. Copyright © 2009 by E. Lynn Harris. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Contributors’ Bios: Best African American Fiction
ZZ Packer is the author of the forthcoming novel The Thousands and the national best-seller Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, a New York Times Notable Book, winner of a Commonwealth Club Fiction Award, an ALEX Award, and a PEN/Faulkner Award finalist. Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, Story, Ploughshares, Zoetrope and the Best American Short Stories 2000 and 2004. Her non-fiction has been featured in The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The American Prospect, Essence, O, The Believer, The Guardian, Salon and The Washington Post Magazine. She is the recipient of a Whiting Award, a Rona Jaffe Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
Chris Abani's prose includes Song For Night (Akashic, 2007), The Virgin of Flames (Penguin, 2007), Becoming Abigail (Akashic, 2006), Grace Land (FSG, 2004), and Masters of the Board (Delta, 1985). His poetry collections are Hands Washing Water (Copper Canyon, 2006), Dog Woman (Red Hen, 2004), Daphne's Lot (Red Hen, 2003), and Kalakuta Republic (Saqi, 2001). He is a Professor at the University of California, Riverside and the recipient of the PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, the Prince Claus Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a California Book Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a PEN Beyond the Margins Award & the PEN Hemingway Book Prize.
Emily Raboteau is the author of a novel, The Professor's Daughter. She is at work on a book of creative nonfiction entitled Searching for Zion, about Exodus movements of the African diaspora.
Tiphanie Yanique is review editor with New York University's Calabash. A former Fulbright Scholar, she has received the Mary Grant Charles Award for fiction, the Academy of American Poets Prize, the Tufts University Africana Prize for Creativity, and fellowship residencies with Bread Loaf, Callaloo, Squaw Valley, and the Cropper Foundation for Caribbean Writers. She is the recipient of a 2008 Pushcart Prize, the 2006 Boston Review Fiction Prize, and was the Parks Fellow/Writer-in-Residence at Rice University. Her short story "The Saving Work" was chosen by Margot Livesey for the 2007 Kore Press Short Fiction Award.
Amina Gautier is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Washington University in St. Louis and Assistant Professor of English at Saint Joseph’s University. More than forty-five of her stories have been published, appearing in Callaloo, Kenyon Review, North American Review, Shenandoah, Southwest Review, Storyquarterly, and Sycamore Review among other places in addition to being anthologized in The Sincerest Form of Flattery: Contemporary Women Writers on Forerunners in Fiction, The Best 20 Years of Notre Dame Review, and New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best, 2008. She has been awarded the William Richey Prize, the Jack Dyer Award, and a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts for her fiction.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in Enugu, Nigeria, the fifth of six children to Igbo parents. Chimamanda completed her secondary education at the University of Nigeria’s school, receiving several academic prizes. She went on to study medicine and pharmacy at the University of Nigeria for a year and a half. During this period, she edited The Compass, a magazine run by the University's Catholic medical students. She gained a scholarship to study communication at Drexel University in Philadelphia for two years, and she went on to pursue a degree in communication and political science at Eastern Connecticut State University. At the moment, Chimamanda divides her time between Nigeria and the United States. She was a Hodder fellow at Princeton University during the 2005-2006 academic year and is now pursuing graduate work in the African Studies program at Yale University.
Born in 1951 and raised in Washington, D.C., Edward P. Jones stands as one of the most consistently groundbreaking novelists of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. His richly textured and unflinchingly honest depiction of his character's struggles is as exacting as the early stories of James Joyce. A New York Times bestselling author, Mr. Jones was awarded the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his novel The Known World. The novel was also a finalist for the National Book Award.
Helen Elaine Lee was educated at Harvard College and Harvard Law School, from which she graduated in 1985. Her short stories have appeared in Callaloo, SAGE and several anthologies, including Children of the Night: The Best Short Stories by Black Writers, 1967 to the Present, edited by Gloria Naylor, and Ancestral House: The Black Story in the Americas and Europe, edited by Charles Rowell. Her first novel, The Serpent's Gift, was published in 1994 and her second novel, Water Marked, was published in 1999. She has recently completed the manuscript of her third novel, Life Without about the lives of a group of people who are incarcerated in two neighboring American prisons. Life Without, of which "This Kind of Red" is a part, has been excerpted in Prairie Schooner, Hanging Loose, and Callaloo. Lee is Associate Professor of Fiction Writing in MIT's Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies.
Samuel R. Delany is the winner of multiple Hugo and Nebula awards and one of science fiction's most celebrated authors. Delany began writing in the early 1960s. His 1966 novel Babel-17 established his reputation, and over the next decade he became famous for his provocative futuristic explorations of race and sexual identity in the novels Nova, Dhalgren, and Triton. He has also written frankly about his life as an African-American homosexual, and his non-fiction books include The Motion of Light and Water: Sex and Science Fiction Writing in the East Village, 1957-65 (1988) and Times Square Red, Times Square Blue (Sexual Culture) (1999).
Born and raised in Philly, Mat Johnson grew up in the Germantown and Mount Airy sections of the city. As an adult, he has lived elsewhere. His first novel, Drop, was a B&N Discover Great New Writers selection. His second novel, Hunting in Harlem, won the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Johnson was awarded the 2008 James Baldwin USA Fellowship. He has written for a variety of publications, including a stint as a columnist for Time Out-NY. Mat Johnson currently teaches at the University of Houston, Creative Writing Program.
Junot Díaz’s fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The Best American Short Stories. His highly-anticipated first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, was greeted with rapturous reviews, including Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times calling it “a book that decisively establishes him as one of contemporary fiction's most distinctive and irresistible new voices.” Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey, Díaz lives in New York City and is a professor of creative writing at MIT.
Michael Thomas was born and raised in Boston. He received his B.A. from Hunter College and his M.F.A. from Warren Wilson College. He teaches at Hunter College and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Man Gone Down, published in January 2007 by Grove Atlantic, is his first novel.
Young Adult Fiction
Jacqueline Woodson is an award-winning author of children's and young adult books. She received a Newbery Honor in 2006 for Show Way and again in 2008 for Feathers. Her novels Locomotion and Hush were both National Book Award finalists and she is the recipient of three Coretta Scott King Honors as well as the Coretta Scott King Award for her novel Miracle’s Boys. In 2006, she won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults from the Young Adult Library Services Association and in 2008 she received the Virginia Hamilton Award. Woodson lives with her partner and two young children in Brooklyn, New York.
After serving four years in the army, Walter Dean Myers worked at various jobs and earned a BA from Empire State College. He has been writing full time since 1977. Walter has been writing since childhood and publishing since 1969 when he won the Council on Interracial Books for Children contest which resulted in the publication of his first book for children, Where Does the Day Go?. In addition to the publication of his books, Walter has contributed to educational and literary publications. He has visited schools to speak to children, teachers, librarians, and parents. For three years he led a writing workshop for children in a school in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Christopher Paul Curtis’s writing–and his dedication to it–has been greatly influenced by his family members, particularly his wife, Kaysandra. With grandfathers like Earl “Lefty” Lewis, a Negro Baseball League pitcher, and 1930s bandleader Herman E. Curtis, Sr., of Herman Curtis and the Dusky Devastators of the Depression, it is easy to see why Christopher Paul Curtis was destined to become an entertainer. Christopher Paul Curtis made an outstanding debut in children’s literature with The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963. His second novel, Bud, Not Buddy, is the first book ever to receive both the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Author Award.
L.F. Haines is an amateur musician, writer, and editor of the jazzine, Igotrhythmchordchanges. Once a resident of the Midwest, she now lives in Philadelphia.
From the Hardcover edition.