Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 323
Maya Angelou's autobiographical I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, published in 1970, describes her childhood in segregated Arkansas. The book paints a vivid picture of life in the rural South during the 1930s. When Maya moves to St. Louis with her mother, she is raped and remains mute for a number of years. Like Celie in The Color Purple, she eventually develops self-esteem.
Jane Hamilton's 1988 novel The Book of Ruth is the story of a poor, white, small-town girl, who comes of age through great trauma. Like Celie, she too finds self-realization in spite of the despair of her life circumstances.
In 1959, playwright Lorraine Hansberry became the first black woman writer to have a play produced on Broadway. A Raisin in the Sun is about the aspirations of a black family to attain a better life in racist America. Hansberry won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for the play, and it was made into a film in 1961.
Jamaica Kincaid was born in St. John's, Antigua. Her 1983 book At the Bottom of the River explores the mother-daughter relationship in the setting of British colonial rule. In this novel, as well as her other works, Kincaid explores themes of racial domination, poverty, and coming of age.
Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize-winner Toni Morrison has produced a number of novels that deal with the complexities of black life in America. She depicts how African Americans are threatened from within by their own culture and history, and repressed from without by the white world. The Bluest Eye was published in 1969, Sula in 1973, Tar Baby in 1981, and Jazz in 1992.
The renowned southern author Eudora Welty is known mostly as a short story writer, but she has written a number of novels that deal with the complex relationships in families. In Delta Wedding, published in 1946, Welty explores the intricacies of the close ties within the family. She is noted for her portrayal of powerful and engaging women.