Book picks similar to
Lazaretto by Diane McKinney-Whetstone


historical-fiction
fiction
african-american
historical

The Travelers


Regina Porter - 2019
    James muddles through a topsy-turvy relationship with his son, Rufus, which is further complicated when Rufus marries Claudia Christie.Claudia’s mother—Agnes Miller Christie—is a beautiful African American woman who survives a chance encounter on a Georgia road that propels her into a new life in the Bronx. Soon after, her husband, Eddie Christie, is called to duty on an air craft carrier in Vietnam, where Tom Stoppard’s play “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” becomes Eddie’s life anchor, as he grapples with mounting racial tensions on the ship and counts the days until he will see Agnes again.These unforgettable characters’ lives intersect with a cast of lovers and friends—the unapologetic black lesbian who finds her groove in 1970s Berlin; a moving man stranded in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, during a Thanksgiving storm; two half-brothers who meet as adults in a crayon factory; and a Coney Island waitress whose Prince Charming is too good to be true.With piercing humor, exacting dialogue, and a beautiful sense of place, Regina Porter’s debut is both an intimate family portrait and a sweeping exploration of what it means to be American today.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven


Chris Cleave - 2016
    She is assigned as a teacher to children who were evacuated from London and have been rejected by the countryside because they are infirm, mentally disabled, or—like Mary’s favorite student, Zachary—have colored skin.Tom, an education administrator, is distraught when his best friend, Alastair, enlists. Alastair, an art restorer, has always seemed far removed from the violent life to which he has now condemned himself. But Tom finds distraction in Mary, first as her employer and then as their relationship quickly develops in the emotionally charged times. When Mary meets Alastair, the three are drawn into a tragic love triangle and—while war escalates and bombs begin falling around them—further into a new world unlike any they’ve ever known.A sweeping epic with the kind of unforgettable characters, cultural insights, and indelible scenes that made Little Bee so incredible, Chris Cleave’s latest novel explores the disenfranchised, the bereaved, the elite, the embattled. Everyone Brave Is Forgiven is a heartbreakingly beautiful story of love, loss, and incredible courage.

Freeman


Leonard Pitts Jr. - 2012
    Upon learning of Lee's surrender, Sam--a runaway slave who once worked for the Union Army--decides to leave his safe haven in Philadelphia and set out on foot to return to the war-torn South. What compels him on this almost-suicidal course is the desire to find his wife, the mother of his only child, whom he and their son left behind 15 years earlier on the Mississippi farm to which they all "belonged."At the same time, Sam's wife, Tilda, is being forced to walk at gunpoint with her owner and two of his other slaves from the charred remains of his Mississippi farm into Arkansas, in search of an undefined place that would still respect his entitlements as slaveowner and Confederate officer.The book's third main character, Prudence, is a fearless, headstrong white woman of means who leaves her Boston home for Buford, Mississippi, to start a school for the former bondsmen, and thus honor her father’s dying wish.At bottom, Freeman is a love story--sweeping, generous, brutal, compassionate, patient--about the feelings people were determined to honor, despite the enormous constraints of the times. It is this aspect of the book that should ensure it a strong, vocal, core audience of African-American women, who will help propel its likely critical acclaim to a wider audience. At the same time, this book addresses several themes that are still hotly debated today, some 145 years after the official end of the Civil War. Like Cold Mountain, Freeman illuminates the times and places it describes from a fresh perspective, with stunning results. It has the potential to become a classic addition to the literature dealing with this period. Few other novels so powerfully capture the pathos and possibility of the era particularly as it reflects the ordeal of the black slaves grappling with the promise--and the terror--of their new status as free men and women.

The Prophets


Robert Jones Jr. - 2021
    That was the way it was since the beginning, and the way it was to be until the end. In the barn they tended to the animals, but also to each other, transforming the hollowed-out shed into a place of human refuge, a source of intimacy and hope in a world ruled by vicious masters. But when an older man—a fellow slave—seeks to gain favor by preaching the master’s gospel on the plantation, the enslaved begin to turn on their own. Isaiah and Samuel’s love, which was once so simple, is seen as sinful and a clear danger to the plantation’s harmony.With a lyricism reminiscent of Toni Morrison, Robert Jones, Jr. fiercely summons the voices of slaver and the enslaved alike to tell the story of these two men; from Amos the preacher to the calculating slave-master himself to the long line of women that surround them, women who have carried the soul of the plantation on their shoulders. As tensions build and the weight of centuries—of ancestors and future generations to come—culminate in a climactic reckoning, The Prophets masterfully reveals the pain and suffering of inheritance, but is also shot through with hope, beauty, and truth, portraying the enormous, heroic power of love.

Libertie


Kaitlyn Greenidge - 2021
      Coming of age as a free-born Black girl in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie Sampson was all too aware that her purposeful mother, a practicing physician, had a vision for their future together: Libertie would go to medical school and practice alongside her. But Libertie, drawn more to music than science, feels stifled by her mother’s choices and is hungry for something else—is there really only one way to have an autonomous life? And she is constantly reminded that, unlike her mother, who can pass, Libertie has skin that is too dark.When a young man from Haiti proposes to Libertie and promises she will be his equal on the island, she accepts, only to discover that she is still subordinate to him and all men. As she tries to parse what freedom actually means for a Black woman, Libertie struggles with where she might find it—for herself and for generations to come.   Inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors in the United States and rich with historical detail, Kaitlyn Greenidge’s new novel resonates in our times and is perfect for readers of Brit Bennett, Min Jin Lee, and Yaa Gyasi.

Tipperary


Frank Delaney - 2007
    As a healer, he travels the countryside dispensing traditional cures while soaking up stories and legends of bygone times–and witnessing the painful, often violent birth of land-reform measures destined to lead to Irish independence.At the age of forty, summoned to Paris to treat his dying countryman–the infamous Oscar Wilde–Charles experiences the fateful moment of his life. In a chance encounter with a beautiful and determined young Englishwoman, eighteen-year-old April Burke, he is instantly and passionately smitten–but callously rejected. Vowing to improve himself, Charles returns to Ireland, where he undertakes the preservation of the great and abandoned estate of Tipperary, in whose shadow he has lived his whole life–and which, he discovers, may belong to April and her father. As Charles pursues his obsession, he writes the “History” of his own life and country. While doing so, he meets the great figures of the day, including Charles Parnell, William Butler Yeats, and George Bernard Shaw. And he also falls victim to less well-known characters–who prove far more dangerous. Tipperary also features a second “historian:” a present-day commentator, a retired and obscure history teacher who suddenly discovers that he has much at stake in the telling of Charles’s story.In this gloriously absorbing and utterly satisfying novel, a man’s passion for the woman he loves is twinned with his country’s emergence as a nation. With storytelling as sweeping and dramatic as the land itself, myth, fact, and fiction are all woven together with the power of the great nineteenth-century novelists. Tipperary once again proves Frank Delaney’s unrivaled mastery at bringing Irish history to life. Praise for Frank Delaney’s TIPPERARY: “[T]he narrative moves swiftly and surely…A sort of Irish Gone With the Wind, marked by sly humor, historical awareness and plenty of staying power.” — Kirkus Reviews“[A]nother meticulously researched journey…Delaney’s careful scholarship and compelling storytelling bring it uniquely alive. Highly recommended.” — Library Journal (starred)“Sophisticated and creative.” — Booklist “Delaney’s confident storytelling and quirky characterizations enrich a fascinating and complex period of Irish history.” — Publishers Weekly“Read just a few sentences of Frank Delaney’s writing and you’ll see why National Public Radio called him ‘the world’s most eloquent man.’” — Kirkus Reviews, “Big Book Guide 2007”From the Hardcover edition.

Four Spirits


Sena Jeter Naslund - 2003
    Naslund brings to life this tumultuous time, weaving together the lives of blacks and whites, civil rights advocates and racists, and the events of peaceful protest and violent repression, to create a tapestry of American social transformation.Stella Silver is an idealistic, young white college student brought up by her genteel, mannered aunts. She first witnesses the events of the freedom movement from a safe distance but, along with her friend Cat Cartwright, is soon drawn into the mounting conflagration. Stella's and Cat's lives are forever altered by their new friendships with other committed freedom fighters.A student at a black college, Christine Taylor is inspired to action by the examples of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth. She courageously struggles to balance her family responsibilities, education, and work with the passions and dangers of the demonstrations. Her friend Gloria Callahan, a gifted young cellist and descendant of a runaway slave, tries to move beyond her personal shyness and family coziness to enter a wider circle, including blacks and whites, men and women, all involved with the protests. Lionel Parrish, teacher, preacher, and peddler of funeral insurance, battles his own demons of lust and self-preservation, while New York activist Jonathan Green gives up a promising career as a pianist to work for racial justice in the South.These characters all add their voices to the chorus that makes up this symphony of innocent children and the mythic elderly, the devoutly religious and the skeptical humanist, the wealthy and the poor, the city and the country. Poignant and evocative, rich in historical detail, and filled with the humanity that is the hallmark of Naslund's fiction, Four Spirits is a compelling tale that transcends tragedy and evokes redemptive triumph.

Hotel Sacher


Rodica Doehnert - 2016
    Against all odds, at the height of Belle Époque splendor, Anna Sacher has taken possession of her late husband’s hotel, across the street from the famous opera house. At a time when controlling such a business was an opportunity afforded only to men, Anna is as vigilant as she is relentless. Now, under her ownership, the Hotel Sacher thrives amid the tumult of a changing continent, even as intrigue follows in the shadows. Through its opulent halls stride visitors from all walks of life, including some of the most glamorous figures of Viennese society—opera singers, princes, princesses—and the maids and manservants who wait on them. Some guests will find romance. Some will unearth secrets. And some will discover much more than they expected…

Property


Valerie Martin - 2003
    The year is 1828, the setting a Louisiana sugar plantation where Manon Gaudet, pretty, bitterly intelligent, and monstrously self-absorbed, seethes under the dominion of her boorish husband. In particular his relationship with her slave Sarah, who is both his victim and his mistress.Exploring the permutations of Manon’s own obsession with Sarah against the backdrop of an impending slave rebellion, Property unfolds with the speed and menace of heat lightning, casting a startling light from the past upon the assumptions we still make about the powerful and powerful.From the Trade Paperback edition.

The Taste of Sorrow


Jude Morgan - 2009
    The Brontë sisters created a world in which we still live - the intense, passionate world of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights; and the phenomenon of this strange explosion of genius remains as baffling now as it was to their Victorian contemporaries. In this panoramic novel we see with new insight the members of a uniquely close-knit family whose tight bonds are the instruments of both triumph and tragedy. Emily, the solitary who turns from the world to the greater temptations of the imagination: Anne, gentle and loyal, under whose quietude lies the harshest perception of the stifling life forced upon her: Branwell, the mercurial and self-destructive brother, meant to be king, unable to be a prince: and the brilliant, uncompromising, tormented Charlotte, longing for both love and independence, who establishes the family's name and learns its price.

The Known World


Edward P. Jones - 2003
    Jones.The Known World tells the story of Henry Townsend, a black farmer and former slave who falls under the tutelage of William Robbins, the most powerful man in Manchester County, Virginia. Making certain he never circumvents the law, Townsend runs his affairs with unusual discipline. But when death takes him unexpectedly, his widow, Caldonia, can't uphold the estate's order, and chaos ensues. Jones has woven a footnote of history into an epic that takes an unflinching look at slavery in all its moral complexities.

The Gods of Newport


John Jakes - 2006
     In the late nineteenth century, Newport, Rhode Island, was a cauldron of undeclared class warfare where reputations were made and lost in a whirlwind of parties and fancied slights. Where giant marble mansions called “cottages” arose and where—amid the glamour of yacht races, tennis matches, and costume balls—depression, even madness, sometimes followed social failure. In 1893, Sam Driver, railroad mogul and one of the few surviving robber barons of the lawless years after the Civil War, knocks on the door of fabled Newport together with his daughter, Jenny, determined not to be turned away a second time. The first time, his new money was tainted by his rapacious reputation and his dealings with some of the most dishonest businessmen of the era. The Drivers find that some who know Sam’s past won’t let it rest. One enemy with a pedigree of wealth and position vows to slam every door in Sam’s face. But Sam plunges in, determined to win a place in the strange, rarefied world of Newport’s brief summer season, presided over by social gadflies Ward McAllister and the androgynous Harry Lehr, both of whom will assist the Drivers . . . for a price. Sam’s daughter wants the best that Newport offers but finds herself drawn into a dangerous romance with an impoverished young Irishman. The Gods of Newport brings this gilded age of excess to thrilling life. It was a time and place whose extremes of greed, conspicuous consumption, and social striving have an astonishing resonance and relevance for the America we see around us today.

The Water Dancer


Ta-Nehisi Coates - 2019
    When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her — but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known.So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the deep South to dangerously utopic movements in the North. Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram’s resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures.

A Year of Marvellous Ways


Sarah Winman - 2015
    Marvellous Ways is a ninety-year-old woman who's lived alone in a remote creek for nearly all her life. Recently she's taken to spending her days sitting on the steps of her caravan with a pair of binoculars. She's waiting for something - she's not sure what, but she'll know it when she sees it. Freddy Drake is a young soldier left reeling by the war. He's agreed to fulfil a dying friend's last wish and hand-deliver a letter to the boy's father in Cornwall. But Freddy's journey doesn't go to plan, and sees him literally wash up in Marvellous' creek, broken in body and spirit. When Marvellous comes to his aid, an unlikely friendship grows between the two. Can Freddy give Marvellous what she needs to say goodbye to the world, and can she give him what he needs to go on?

The Summer Before the War


Helen Simonson - 2016
    It is the end of England's brief Edwardian summer, and everyone agrees that the weather has never been so beautiful. Hugh Grange, down from his medical studies, is visiting his Aunt Agatha, who lives with her husband in the small, idyllic coastal town of Rye. Agatha's husband works in the Foreign Office, and she is certain he will ensure that the recent saber rattling over the Balkans won't come to anything. And Agatha has more immediate concerns; she has just risked her carefully built reputation by pushing for the appointment of a woman to replace the Latin master. When Beatrice Nash arrives with one trunk and several large crates of books, it is clear she is significantly more freethinking—and attractive—than anyone believes a Latin teacher should be. For her part, mourning the death of her beloved father, who has left her penniless, Beatrice simply wants to be left alone to pursue her teaching and writing. But just as Beatrice comes alive to the beauty of the Sussex landscape and the colorful characters who populate Rye, the perfect summer is about to end. For despite Agatha's reassurances, the unimaginable is coming. Soon the limits of progress, and the old ways, will be tested as this small Sussex town and its inhabitants go to war.