If students have trouble coming up with book titles, you can suggest the books listed below. They may help students think of similar books they have read. A brief description of each book is included.
Native Son,by Richard Wright. Written in 1940, Wright’s first novel is the story of Bigger Thomas, a young African American man living in Chicago who commits a murder. The police pursue him ruthlessly, and he is ultimately sentenced to death. The book reveals the atmosphere of racial prejudice in the United States in the 1930s.
The Color Purple,by Alice Walker. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1983, the author tells how black women struggled with racism and sexism in the early 1900s.
To Kill a Mockingbird,by Harper Lee. Set in Alabama in the 1950s, the book tells the story from a young girl’s perspective of a black man wrongfully accused of raping a white woman. The incident and the trial that ensued had long-lasting ramifications for everyone in the town.
Fear of Flying,by Erica Jong. This book presents one woman’s idea of what it means to be a liberated woman in the early 1970s.
The Handmaiden’s Tale,by Margaret Atwood. An allegorical science fiction novel that shows how women were treated before feminism took hold.
Sister Carrie,by Theodore Dreiser. Set in Chicago in the early 1900s, the book portrays life for a young woman living alone and working in a factory. Through his narrative, Dreiser conveys her vulnerability and powerlessness.
Children’s RightsOliver Twist,by Charles Dickens. This early 19th century book was written to expose the harshness of life in orphanages and on the streets for homeless young boys.
Homecoming,by Cynthia Voigt. Written in the early 1980s, the book depicts the emotional scars children feel when a parent leaves for no apparent reason.
Cry, the Beloved Country,by Alan Paton. This book, written in 1948, was one of the first to speak out against apartheid in South Africa.
Things Fall Apart,by Chinua Achebe. In a portrait of a his own traditional village culture in Africa, the author tries to inform the world about Ibo cultural traditions and remind his own people of their past.
The Immigrant Experience
The Joy Luck Club,by Amy Tan. Told through the eyes of a Chinese American daughter of an immigrant, the book conveys the difficulties a group of women faced in China and the obstacles they experienced when they came to America.
Grapes of Wrath,by John Steinbeck. A dramatization of the harsh realities migrant farmers experienced in California during the early 1930s.
Native Speaker,by Chang-Rae Lee. A contemporary look at the alienation that many young Korean Americans face.