When her daughter was 13, way back in the '70s, Nothando Zulu
wanted her to read the work of a respected black author writing
about an African-American girl dealing with the challenges of life.
She wanted her to prize black literature for both its beauty and
So she special-ordered books written by Rosa Guy, one of the
founders of The Harlem Writers' Guild.
"To me it's important for African Americans to read about folks
who are succeeding, who are living their lives and may not have had
the best of beginnings,'' explains Zulu.
Now 67 and a professional storyteller, Zulu is one of a growing
number of people and programs interested in bringing African-
American literature into the homes of children and adults throughout
the Twin Cities. Their goals: appreciating the art of African-
Americans, better understanding the black experience and narrowing
the academic achievement gap.
The north Minneapolis woman is a discussion leader for the second
annual Givens Black Books: Community Reading campaign involving
1,000 people meeting in libraries and schools around the Twin Cities
to discuss African-American literature. The campaign, sponsored by
the Givens Foundation for African American Literature, culminates
with a Literary Luncheon April 21 and a keynote talk by Walter
Mosley, a best-selling and award-wining black author of 37 books.
The event is sponsored in part by the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority,
Inc., Minneapolis St. Paul Alumnae Chapter.
"The program reaches out to the community. It provides access to
quality African-American authors by giving participants free books
and convening discussions,'' explains Eartha Bell, assistant
director of the Givens Foundation. The foundation is able to buy
books at a discounted price thanks to Magers & Quinn Booksellers in
In his fiction and nonfiction, author Mosley has documented the
black experience in America from the migration out of the Deep South
through the election of an African-American president.
With a Jewish mother and an African-American father, Mosley
experienced significant racism, Zula says, but overcame that to
receive an O. Henry Award and a Grammy and to become the first
African-American serving on the board of directors of the National
"We're trying to show the community that [African-American]
literature is not tangential, but it is an essential part of the
curriculum" in schools and a way of narrowing the academic
achievement gap, says Ezra Hyland, founder of the African American
Read-In program at the University of Minnesota's College of
Education and Human Development. …