The Colour Purple by Alice Walker

Set in the deep American South between the wars, THE COLOR PURPLE is the classic tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls 'father', she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker - a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.

Cane River by Lalita Tademy

Set among the plantations in deepest Louisiana, CANE RIVER follows the lives of five generations of women from the time of slavery in the early 1800s into the early years of the 20th century. From down-trodden, philosophical Suzette, who was born and died a slave, to educated, pale-skinned Emily, whose high ambitions born in freedom become her downfall, we are introduced to a remarkable cast of characters whose struggles reflect the tragedy of slavery and, ultimately, the triumph of the spirit. This deeply personal saga - based entirely on the author's research into her own family history - ranks with the best African-American novels and introduces a major new writer.