MailMondayMeme originated with Ari@ Reading in Color

Click for a sample chapter

I ran across Ernest Hill a few years ago during one of my random Internet searches for POC books. I added Cry Me A River to my school media center collection and when a teacher told me that one of her students related to the book so well that he wanted to just keep it, I decided to add more of Hill’s books. I’m reminded of him again because his most recent book, Family Ties is about to be released. This book, again, I found in a random Internet search.

As we constantly bemoan the dearth of male writers of color, why do we hear so little about Ernest Hill? Here’s a little background information on Mr. Hill and I hope that after reading, you’ll decide to purchase his book to add to your school or personal collection.

from his official webpage:

Ernest Hill was born in Oak Grove, Louisiana, the fourth of ten children. Raised by very progressive parents, Hill was taught the value of honesty, hard work, and education. He was also taught to dream of a life beyond the narrow confines of the small town into which he had been born.

As a young boy, Ernest grew up amid strict segregation. Outhouses, unpaved streets, and tin roof shanties, were still a way of life in the small rural Louisiana town. As a result, his formal education began at Combs McIntyre, a small, understaffed, segregated black school. By the beginning of his fourth year of school, profound political and social changes swept through the south. The struggle for desegregation was won and the equal opportunities that everyone thought would accompany the victory were now a reality.

Click for synopsis and reviewsIn 1970, Hill and many of his peers from Combs McIntyre entered the previously all white Oak Grove Elementary and High School system. In spite of the constant bomb threats, fights, and racial altercations, Hill quickly won over his classmates and teachers with his exceptional athletic abilities, which not only made his transition a smooth one but eventually earned him a football scholarship to Northeast Louisiana University.  Hill remained at NLU until injuries ended his football career. In 1981, at the suggestion of his older brother (a recent Yale grad who played for the Oakland Raiders), Hill transferred to the University of California, Berkeley.

During his first year at Berkeley, Hill enrolled in an Afro-American History class taught by a dynamic scholar, Earl Lewis. That class sparked a passion for studying and understanding African-American history and culture.  That passion led Hill to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Social Science with an emphasis on history. After earning his undergraduate degree from Berkeley, Hill enrolled at Cornell University to pursue a master’s degree in Africana Studies.

At Cornell, Hill met and befriended Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who later became his advisor. It was Hill’s relationship with Gates that nudged him towards writing. He completed his first novel, Satisfied with Nothin, while working on his doctoral degree at the University of California, Los Angeles, as a Dorothy Danforth Compton Fellow. This books was semi-autobiographical, set in rural Louisiana.

Click for sample chapter

In subsequent years, Hill went on to become the critically acclaimed author of four additional novels, A Life For A Life, Cry Me A River, It’s All About the Moon When the Sun Ain’t Shining and A Person of Interest. He also conducts workshops to inspire new writers.

The best source for reviews of Mr. Hill’s work that I’ve found is GoodReads.

3 thoughts on “MailMonday

  1. I’m one of those people who have never heard of Charles Hill! His story sounds fascinating. At first I was thinking that there are a lot of adult male PoC writers, not very many for YA/MG. Then I realized that there aren’t a lot of male PoC anything. and I was hard pressed to think of PoC male writers for adults. All I can think of right now is Walter Mosley (I could probably think of a few more if I really thought about it but still). it’s a shame and I get so weary of this. Especially because it doesn’t seem to be a big deal to anyone in the real world.


    1. Ari,
      I really should be getting breakfast rather than reading blogs right now! There are many, many classic Black male authors. I think right now, most are writing urban lit, but there are others. I’ll list some this evening unless someone beats me to it!


    2. POC male writers/adult lit:
      Edward Jones
      Junot Diaz
      Chang Rae Lee
      Gabriel Garcia Marquez
      Jhumpa Lahiri
      Rudolfo Anaya
      David Bradley
      Luis J. Rodriguez
      John Edgar Wideman
      Blair Underwood
      Lawrence Hill
      Chinua Achebe

      hip hop authors
      Jeff Chang
      M.K. Asante
      Nelson George
      Bakari Kitwana

      urban lit authors
      Eric Jerome Dickey
      Omar Tyree
      Carl Weber

      nonfic authors
      Richard Rodriquez
      Malcolm Gladwell

      There are more! There are religions, comics, graphic novelists… But these are some I could think of who are still walking this earth.

      Even with that glass ceiling, we can fly!


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