Feature

De'Shawn Charles Winslow's 6 favorite books about self-identity

The novelist recommends works by Toni Morrison, Jonathan Parks-Ramage, and more

Novelist De'Shawn Charles Winslow is the author of In West Mills, which won a 2020 American Book Award. His second novel, Decent People, is set in 1976 in a segregated North Carolina community rocked by an unsolved triple homicide.

Tar Baby by Toni Morrison (1981) 

In Morrison's captivating holiday-season novel, a wealthy couple awaits the homecoming of their only child, Michael, while readers also get to know the unforgettable members of the household staff. Tar Baby shines a bright light on class, trauma, and the nuances of parenthood and marriage. It asks us to not judge people based on what they do or do not have. Buy it here.

Paradise by Toni Morrison (1997)

When a group of ostracized women are murdered in their place of peaceful refuge, members of the community are forced to reckon with their traditions and attitudes. This novel, at once magical and heartbreaking, deftly reminds us that, for better or worse, people will unite around a common goal. Buy it here.

After the Parade by Lori Ostlund (2015) 

Forty-year-old Aaron just wants to find himself after separating from his longtime partner, and so moves to the queer promised land that is San Francisco. In this heartstring-tugging novel, he meets a new chosen family but also learns that moving can't always heal the past. Buy it here.

Yes, Daddy by Jonathan Parks-Ramage (2021) 

A young man moves to New York City seeking fun, community, and artistic success, but finds himself in a prison of sorts after meeting a charming man who has it all. Yes, Daddy is an audacious novel that asks us to think closely about what we want and the ways we pursue it. Buy it here.

Revival Season by Monica West (2021)

Fifteen-year-old Miriam Horton just wants to serve her God and her family and be happy, but after witnessing an act of violence, she must reevaluate all she's been taught about the church and the people closest to her. West's beautifully written novel is about patriarchy, family, and forging one's own path. Buy it here.

Don't Cry for Me by Daniel Black (2022)

As Jacob's life draws to a close, he is determined to make sure his estranged son knows everything he's been keeping inside. So he writes letters to his son, describing his own childhood, the loved ones who shaped him, the people he gained and lost, and his regrets. A stunning novel that all fathers and father figures should read. Buy it here.

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.

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