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Special guest writer Kristin Wood, editorial manager for A Woman’s Paris™

Inspired by Monday’s post about Kiratiana Freelon’s Kiratiana’s Travel Guide to Black Paris: Get Lost and Get FoundI thought I’d share a few of my favorite books written by and/or about African-Americans in Paris and France. Some are novels; some are histories; all are fantastic reads.

Giovannis Room, James Baldwin

Giovannis Room, James Baldwin

Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin:

Set against the backdrop of 1950s France, Giovanni’s Room profiles a young man caught between two loves – his fiancée and an Italian bartender. Read it for the romance, but also for the in-depth descriptions of mid-century Parisian nightlife.

Best for: romantics, night owls

The Stone Face, William Gardner Smith

Smith is often overshadowed by his more famous contemporaries, James Baldwin and Richard Wright, in surveys of African-American expat literature – but this book, one of my all-time favorites, expertly tangles with issues of race, love, and prejudice in mid-century Paris, and deserves a spot on every Francophile’s bookshelf.

Best for: history lovers, especially those of military histories

Paris Noir, Tyler Stovall:

A professor at UC-Berkeley, Tyler Stovall has built a name for himself as an eminent expert of French history. This particular book is outstanding in its recounting of the community that was forged by African-American artists, writers, dancers, entertainers, musicians, etc., in 20th century Paris.

Best for: wannabe flappers, avant-garde artists

Josephine Baker in Art and Life, Bennetta Jules-Rosette:

While “La Baker” is perhaps best known for her role as “Siren of the Tropics,” (a problematic role in itself), Jules-Rosette explores several other roles Josephine Baker inhabited in her life, giving this famous entertainer a more multidimensional stardom than she has been given in the past.

Best for: jazz lovers, dancers, cultural theorists

You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris™ blog, Eating: Afro and French (in Paris), excerpts from Kiratiana’s Travel Guide to BLACK PARIS: Get Lost and Get Found, by Kiratiana Freelon.” Read about “Thieboudienne: A Taste of Senegal in Paris” and the “African Queen of Parisian Cuisine,” featuring head chef Rougui Dai of Le Petrossian 144, Paris, a Frenchwoman of Senegalese decent. 

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Text copyright ©2012 Kristin Wood
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