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NYC Novels by Decades

NYC Novels by Decades

How do we, as readers, envision New York City? How do publishing houses help to create visions of New York City? The publishers tend to use more enticing images and illustrations of brownstones, skyscrapers, and city streets to create impressions of city life. These images play on readers’ sensibilities and contribute to how we think of the novels’ environments and characters.

In our “100 Novels Collection,” it is notable that nearly every decade (except 1910-1919) has a novel that uses New York City as a major setting.  These rendering of New York demonstrate the importance of the city in the literary imaginations of black writers.

Below, I have provided a bibliography, by decade, of novels in the study that take place in NYC.


The Sport of the Gods (1902) Paul Laurence Dunbar



The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (*1927) James Weldon Johnson

The Walls of Jericho (1928) Rudolph Fisher

Quicksand (1928) Nella Larsen

Home to Harlem (1928) Claude McKay



Black No More (1931) George Schuyler



The Street (1946) Ann Petry



Invisible Man(1952)  Ralph Ellison

Go Tell It on The Mountain (1953) James Baldwin

The Outsider (1953)Richard Wright

Brown Girl,Brownstones (1959) Paule Marshall



The Man Who Cried I Am (1967) John A. Williams



The Third Life of Grange Copeland (1970) Alice Walker

The Cotillion: or, One Good Bull Is Half the Herd (1971)  John Oliver Killens

Eva’s Man (1976) Gayl Jones



Tar Baby (1981) Toni Morrison

The Women of Brewster Place (1982) Gloria Naylor

Mama Day (1988) Gloria Naylor



Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994) Edwidge Danticat

Jazz (1992) Toni Morrison

The Intuitionist(1999) Colson Whitehead



The Coldest Winter Ever (2000) Sister Souljah


[Related: 30 Days of 100 Novels]


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