Best Books of 2010

The Best Books of 2010
Selections by Clarence V. Reynolds for Mosaic


Beneath the Lion’s Gaze
Maaza Mengiste

W.W. Norton & Company

in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1974, this gripping story about blood ties and loyalty begins as Dr. Hailu is about to remove a bullet from a student protester; the young boy reminds him of his own son who has joined an underground revolutionary group that aims to help overthrow the government during the last days of Emperor Haile Selassie. Mengiste’s compelling debut novel is a vivid imagining of her homeland during political upheaval and the affects the turbulence plays upon a family struggling with their own trials.
Buy this Book

Bernice L. McFadden

Akashic Books

In her first historical fiction novel—with six books behind her—McFadden creates a proud and unforgettable character in Easter Bartlett, who becomes a writer during the Harlem Renaissance. After the rape of her sister and the death of her mother, Easter leaves Georgia for New York to escape the heartache and pain; her journey to find peace leads her through several enlightening experiences.

McFadden impressively melds fact with fiction in a story that revisits the Jim Crow South, the Harlem Renaissance and the Civil Rights era.
Buy this Book

Click here to watch Bernice McFadden read from Glorious

How to Escape from a Leper Colony: A Novella and Other Stories
Tiphanie Yanique

Graywolf Press

In Yanique’s splendid debut, the author explores the complexities of love and loss, desire and tragedy: whether it’s people who are lovers or people who are in love with someone whom is unaware of the affection, the author examines the rewards and consequences of the various degrees of intimate relationships. In a richly created collection of stories that take place in the Caribbean, African and the United States, the memorable characters and vividly expressed turn of events are anchored with moments of dark humor and the author’s fantastical storytelling.
Buy this Book
Click here to read an interview with Tiphanie Yanique.


How to Read the Air
Dinaw Mengestu

Riverhead Books

This is the second book in Mosaic’s 2010 listing by an Ethiopian author. In this inventive tale about cultural influences, the immigrant experience, and shifts in family relationships, Mengestu relates the tale of an Ethiopian couple that struggle to establish themselves in their new home, America. Years later, their restless adult son, who has a habit of making up scenarios for the sake of his own emotional reality, sets out to uncover the truths of his parents’ travels.
Jesus Boy
Preston L Allen

Akashic Books


Allen’s coming-of-age tale about a 16-year-old piano prodigy and devout member of the Church of Our Blessed Redeemer Who Walked Upon the Waters is a page-turning tragicomedy that showcases the author’s gift for creating a stimulating plot with a twist on the romantic theme. Set within a story line that includes a stern religious community, Elwyn’s desire for true love and the scandalous encounters that emerge are sure to ruffle the feathers of many churchgoers. And yet, it’s just this unusual blending along with lively dialogue and humor that makes for an unpredictable and absorbing reading experience.


Dolen Perkins-Valdez


Lizzie, Reenie, Sweet, and Mawu develop a strong bond while being guests at an exclusive resort in the mid-1800s in the free state of Ohio. In this masterfully written story, Perkins-Valdez explores an aspect of the dreadful institution of slavery that was oftentimes overlooked or examined—a narrative that concentrates on the lives of the slaveowner’s mistress, or in this case, the slaveowners’ mistresses. The women must face the realities of their amorous desires as they struggle for freedom, and deal with the emotional strain and disappointment that accompany it. In her debut, the author covers the tragic slavery theme yet adds rewarding tender elements mixed with the sad.



Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work
Edwidge Danticat

Princeton University Press

In Create Dangerously, Danticat constructs a dozen engaging essays (part of the Toni Morrison Lecture Series) that explore the passions and tribulations and the role of the artist, particularly as a
chronicler of cultural and political events and the voice of opposition, striving under oppressive circumstances. The Haitian-born novelist and memoirist recounts the lives of several artists who suffered during brutal government rule in her homeland.

Danticat writes with deep compassion and a broad view. She recalls poignant moments of her life and blends them with her own insight and observations as well as those of other literary figures and creative souls from America and Europe.

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates
Wes Moore

Spiegel & Grau

Moore, a Rhodes scholar and successful businessman, relates the true story about two young boys in Baltimore that happen to share the same name and have similarities in their upbringing. The Other Wes Moore is more than a story about two young, black men growing up with similar backgrounds yet have different outcomes in their lives. The book offers a firsthand look at the significance of role models and the effects of a nurturing environment in shaping those outcomes. Of his and the other Wes’ story, Moore says, “Young boys are more likely to believe in themselves if they know that there’s someone, somewhere, who shares that belief.”

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

Isabel Wilkerson
Random House

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson delivers a deeply researched narrative on the Great Migration, covering the years from 1915 to 1970, in which some six million black southerners left their unsettling homes and set out across the country “desiring something better.” Although Wilkerson focuses mainly on the journeys of three unrelated individuals and their families, the book is also composed of several hundred interviews and archival material. The Great Migration was a pivotal moment event in American history, and it’s the author’s intimate approach, highlighting the lives of three determined black migrants and their stories, that makes for an engrossing story.


Clarence V. Reynolds is an independent journalist and assistant director at the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY, in Brooklyn, New York.

Literary Freedom Project • 557 Grand Concourse PMB 143 • Bronx NY 10451