Martha Southgate

    Please join us in welcoming Martha Southgate to Top Ten Land. Martha is an award-winning author whose work often explores the tension and contradictions experienced by African Americans who live amongst whites.

    “Part of where my writing comes from is out of a long-time sense of being out of place wherever I am,” she told Tayari Jones in 2011. “I kind of had it as a bookish nerd when I was young [in Cleveland] and it was exacerbated by my decision to go to a primarily white prep school for high school. That’s where my life took a profound turn that continues to work itself out through my fiction. That sense of ‘only oneness’ that you find in my work (even when it’s not cross-racial) … grows directly out of that experience—which I don’t regret.” 

    In a New York Times essay, she observed: “At the parties and conferences I attend, and in the book reviews I read, I rarely encounter other African-American “literary” writers, particularly in my age bracket. There just don’t seem to be that many of us out there.”

    Martha has published four novels. Her most recent book, The Taste of Salt (2011), is a multi-generational story about addiction and its consequences. Third Girl from the Left (2006) describes the decision of a woman – whose mother survived the Tulsa race riot of 1921 – to leave Oklahoma in hopes of a career in Blaxploitation films in Los Angeles. It won the Best Novel of the Year award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was shortlisted for the PEN/Beyond Margins Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy award.

    The Fall of Rome (2003), which received the Alex Award from the American Library Association, is a story of race and class that focuses on an African-American teacher at an elite boarding school and his a new student from the inner-city. Her debut novel, Another Way to Dance which won the Coretta Scott King Genesis Award for Best First Novel, focuses on a 14-year-old ballerina who is one of only two African-Americans at a prestigious dance school.

    Martha is the 155th author to contribute a list and she adds five – count ‘em five – new books the list of books – the works by Morrison, Smiley, Baxter, Fitzhugh and Egan. It is another reminder that the number of great books is large and the best works are those that mean the most to each of us.

     Martha Southgate’s Top Ten List

    1. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (1989).
    2. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (1970).
    3. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (1977).
    4.  The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon (2000).
    5. The stories of John Cheever (1912–82).
    6.  The Age of Grief by Jane Smiley (1987).
    7.  The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter (2000). 
    8.  As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (1930).
    9.  Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (1964).
    10.  A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (2010).

    New List

    Francine Prose

    1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877).
    2. The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal (1839). (See below.)
    3. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (1913–27).
    4. The stories of Anton Chekhov (1860–1904).
    5. The stories of John Cheever (1912–82).
    6. The stories of Mavis Gallant (1922– ).
    7. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).
    8. Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871–72).
    9. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967).


    Classic List

    Amy Bloom


    1. The Deptford trilogy by Robertson Davies (1983).
    2.Persuasion by Jane Austen (1817).
    3. His Dark Materialsby Philip Pullman (1995–2000).
    4.The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields (1995).
    5.The Known World by Edward P. Jones (2003).
    6. The Beggar Maid by Alice Munro (1978).
    7. The Plot Against Americaby Philip Roth.
    8. The Hours by Michael Cunningham (1998).
    9. Fancies and Goodnights by John Collier (1951).
    10. Larry’s Party by Carol Shields (1997).


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