BCALA Literary Award - Fiction

The BCALA Literary Award is given annually for fiction, nonfiction, first novelist, and outstanding contribution to publishing. They are given by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association for outstanding works by African American authors.

Award Year Authors(s) Title
2012 Tayari Jones Silver Sparrow A story about a man's deception, a family's complicity, and two teenage girls caught in the middle. Set in a middle-class neighborhood in Atlanta in the 1980s, the novel revolves around James Witherspoon's two families, the public one and the secret one. When the daughters from each family meet and form a friendship, only one of them knows they are sisters. It is a relationship destined to explode when secrets are revealed and illusions shattered. As Jones explores the backstories of her rich yet flawed characters, the father, the two mothers, the grandmother, and the uncle, she also reveals the joy, as well as the destruction, they brought to one another's lives. At the heart of it all are the two lives at stake, and like the best writers--think Toni Morrison with The Bluest Eye--Jones portrays the fragility of these young girls with raw authenticity as they seek love, demand attention, and try to imagine themselves as women, just not as their mothers.
2012 Martha Southgate The Taste of Salt
2011 Bernice L. McFadden Glorious Set against the backdrops of the Jim Crow South, the Harlem Renaissance, and the civil rights era. Blending the truth of American history with the fruits of imagination, this is the story of Easter Venetta Bartlett, a fictional Harlem Renaissance writer whose tumultuous path to success, ruin, and revival offers a candid portrait of the American experience in all its beauty and cruelty.
2010 Pamela Samuels Young Buying Time
2009 Diane McKinney-Whetstone Trading Dreams at Midnight Neena spends most of her adult life trying to track down her unstable, long-disappeared mother, Freeda, and funds her quest by blackmailing the married men she sleeps with. When a scam backfires in Chicago and Neena has to run for her life, she flees to hometown Philadelphia and discovers her sister, Tish, is in the hospital with a protracted pregnancy. Neena, not ready to face her grandmother Nan's rules and church-going ways, finds a flop and tries to keep her scam game going while revisiting the myriad disappointments and hurts caused by her mother's mental illness. But things get complicated when she meets Cliff, her latest mark. Meanwhile, Neena's friendship with street musician Bow Peep offers a chance at redemption, and Nan worries over her grandchildren and thinks back on Freeda's unstable father.
2008 Stephen L. Carter New England White Stephen L. Carter returns to the New England university town of Elm Harbor, where a murder begins to crack the veneer that has hidden the racial complications of the town's past, the secrets of a prominent family, and the most hidden bastions of African-American political influence." "At the center: Lemaster Carlyle, the university president, and his wife, Julia Carlyle, a deputy dean at the divinity school - African Americans living in "the heart of whiteness." Lemaster is an old friend of the president of the United States. Julia was the murdered man's lover years ago. The meeting point of these connections forms the core of a mystery that deepens even as Julia closes in on the politically earth-shattering motive behind the murder.
2007 Marita Golden After, a Novel After joining the police force and building a family with his wife, Bunny, Carson Blake is finally in control of his life in the enclave where African American wealth and privilege share the same zip code with Black American crime and tragedy. Both Carson and his wife have great careers and three beautiful children. Then, one night, Carson stops a young black man for speeding. The man pulls something from his waistband. Three shots are fired, one man dies, and two families are in turmoil.
2006 Martha Southgate Third Girl from the Left This novel tells a story of African-American women struggling against all odds to express what lies deepest in their hearts.
2005 Diane McKinney-Whetstone Leaving Cecil Street It is 1969 and Cecil Street is "feeling some kind of way," so the residents decide to have two block parties this year. These energetic, sensual street celebrations serve as backdrop to the stories of the people on the block.
2004 Barbara Chase-Riboud Hottentot Venus Chase-Riboud recounts the tragic life of Sarah Baartman, re-creating in vivid, shocking detail the racism and sexism at the heart of European imperialism.
2003 Jewell Parker Rhodes Douglass' Women The critically acclaimed author of "Voodoo Dreams" brings to life the fortunes of two actual 19th-century women who fell in love with the legendary Frederick Douglass. Against a background marked by a burgeoning women's rights movement, the disastrous raid on Harper's Ferry, and the Civil War, "Douglass' Women" is an unforgettable epic full of heartache and triumph.
2002 Pearl Cleage I Wish I Had a Red Dress As seen in this follow-up to What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, Ava's sister, Joyce, has never been flamboyant; she has never owned a red dress or experienced the kind of life that goes with it. But now after many years of selfless service to others, there's an unmistakable hint of romance on the wind.
2001 Paule Marshall The Fisher King A moving and revelatory story of jazz, love, family conflict, and the artist's struggles in society.
2000 Valerie Wilson Wesley Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do In a bold new storytelling direction, the bestselling author of the popular Tamara Hayle mysteries tells an insightful, poignant story. When her husband of ten years leaves her, a woman finds comfort in the arms of a 28-year-old jazz musician
1999 Gayl Jones The Healing The story of Harlan Jane Eagleton's transformation from a minor rock star's manager to a traveling faith healer, "The Healing" is a lyrical and at times humorous exploration of the struggle to let go of pain, anger, and even love.
1998 Sandra Jackson-Opoku The River Where Blood is Born "Part folktale, part spiritual, part modern romance" (Library Journal), this epic sage takes readers on a journey along a river of one family's history, from ancient Africa into today's America to tell a story of love and loss, ambition and despair.
1997 Florence Ladd Sarah's Psalm In this searing first novel, author Florence Ladd tells the story of Sarah Stewart, a young black Harvard graduate whose growing interest in Africa and declining interest in her failing marriage lead her down a path of self-discovery, love, and the choice between loyalty and truth.
1996 Walter Mosley RL's Dream RL's Dream is a novel about the blues - the blues as an expression of black poetry and black tragedy and how they sit in judgment on the American experience.
1995 Maxine Clair Rattlebone In Rattlebone, a "fictional" black community north of Kansas City, the smell of manure and bacon from Armour's Packing House is everywhere; Shady Maurice's roadhouse plays the latest jazz, the best eggs are sold by the Red Quanders, and gospel rules at the Strangers Rest Baptist Church.
1994 Ernest J. Gaines A Lesson Before Dying Black schoolteacher, Grant Wiggins, restores a sense of dignity to Jefferson, a black man wrongly condemned to die. The setting is a small 1940s Cajun Louisiana community.