Talking about race isn't easy. It's personal, it's political, it's visceral. That these were two of the most hotly anticipated and talked-about books of the year only underscores the power of literature to provide a window into this most difficult of subjects. Here are twelve books that have changed the way we talk about race in America.
There was the time this summer when my 13-year-old daughter asked me questions that I didn't know how to answer: "Will the police help me if I need help? Will they kill me, mom? Will they kill you?" I didn't want to answer her, because the truth of the matter is that I could have answered each of those questions with, "It's possible."
Flannery O'Connor damned the novel with pretty faint praise when it came out: "I think for a child's book it does all right." That seems unduly harsh (and unfair to YA literature). What works best for me as an adult reader is the slow accretion of local color, the barbed social comedy, and the graceful prose.