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Adult Book Lists: Roaring Twenties

[Printable book list]

Joe Okonkwo / FIC OKONKWO
Jazz Moon
As a teen, Ben realizes he is attracted to men, but in rural Georgia during the 1920s, that lifestyle is dangerous. He escapes to New York City, and on his way he meets and eventually marries Adeline. Ben finds modest success in Harlem with his new wife. But, his life forever changes when he meets and falls in love with Baby Back Johnston, who is on his way to Paris, France.

Beatriz Williams / FIC WILLIAMS
A Certain Age
Set against the backdrop of Gatsby's New York, this book focuses on the travails of Mrs. Theresa Marshall, a wealthy and established socialite, whose fallen for a young war hero, Captain Octavian Rofrano. Theresa and her philanderer husband, Sylvo, have an understanding that would enable her to pursue her feelings for Octavian. If only Theresa hadn't involved him in the family business, inadvertently creating a love triangle between her, Octavian, and her brother's fiancé, Sophie.
(Also available in large print and ebook)

Susan Grandall / FIC GRANDALL
The Flying Circus
Take an adventure through the rapidly changing American landscape during the 1920s. Three different people from different back-grounds find themselves bound together by need and torn apart by obsessions and conflicting goals. Each has a secret that, if exposed, would destroy their new friendship. They crisscross the heartland, exploring the new technology of aviation, from barnstorm-ing to bootlegging, from a flying circus to the dangerous sport of air racing.
(Also available in ebook)

Mary Morris / FIC MORRIS
The Jazz Palace
Two Jewish families in Chicago have suffered terrible losses. The Lehrmans run a small hat factory but lost their son Harold in a blizzard. The Chimbrovas run a saloon and lost three of their boys on the SS Eastland when it sank in 1915. Each family still hopes that one of their remaining children will carry on the family business. But Benny Lehrman has other hopes for his future, and they don't involve making hats. At night, Benny sneaks down to the South Side to hear jazz groups play at black clubs. Soon, he meets a trumpeter named Napoleon and they become close friends and collaborators, eventually playing at the Chimbrova saloon, renamed "The Jazz Palace." Take a trip back in time to when Chicago had its fair share of gangsters, musicians, and underground clubs.

F. Scott Fitzgerald / FIC FITZGERA
The Great Gatsby
Considered an American literary classic, the story of the extravagantly wealthy Gatsby, and his love for Daisy Buchanan is one that has spanned generations. Through the narration of outsider Nick Carraway, a recent arrival to West Egg, Long Island from the Midwest, the elaborate story of the wealthy Gatsby and Buchanans and the facade of wealth and security unfolds. Gatsby is known for wild and elaborate parties, all in an effort to draw Daisy back into his life. Befriending Carraway, Daisy's cousin, may be his way to finally reach her - but at what cost?
(Also available in large print, DVD with Leonardo DiCaprio and DVD with Robert Redford)

Bernice McFadden / FIC MCFADDEN
Easter Bartlett journeys from the violent Jim Crow South to the promise of Harlem in New York City. Easter encounters fictional and historical figures during her journey, including Langston Hughes, Fats Waller, and Marcus Garvey. This story is about the struggle to find peace in a racially polarized society, all while bringing Harlem to life.

Matt Bondurant / FIC BONDURAN
The Wettest County in the World: a Novel Based on a True Story
Christened the "wettest county in the world," Franklin County, Virginia was awash in moonshine in the 1920s. This novel, based on the true story of Matt Bondurant's grandfather and two granduncles, is a tale of brotherhood, greed, and murder. The Bondurant Boys run moonshine and liquor through Franklin County, Virginia during Prohibition and the years following. Each of the men struggles with their own personal demons as they forge a business, fall in love, and struggle to stay afloat in the shadow of death, business failure, the Great Depression, and the impending drought.

Judith Mackrell / 920.72 MACKRELL
Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation
Josephine Baker, Tallulah Bankhead, Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Tamara de Lempicka all came from vastly different backgrounds, but have one thing in common: they reshaped the role of women for future generations by way of their Parisian excursions. By the 1920s, women were exploring Jazz, racy fashions, and new attitudes, and Paris France was the mecca of the avante-garde. Beneath the flamboyance and excess of the "Roaring Twenties," these women were fighting for recognition in a male-dominated world.

Langston Hughes / B HUGHES
The Big Sea: an Autobiography
Langston Hughes was born in 1902, and came of age in the 1920s. In this book he recounts these memorable years spent in two of the greatest playgrounds of the decade: Harlem and Paris. In Harlem, Hughes was a rising young poet at the center of the Harlem Renaissance, and in Paris he was a cook and waiter at nightclubs, befriending everyone from dancers and musicians to the drunks and drug addicts.

Terry Teachout / 781.65092 TEACHOUT
Duke: a Life of Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington moved from Washington D.C. to New York in 1923, just when jazz emerged as the dominant musical style of the Harlem Renaissance. After renaming his band "The Washingtonians," Ellington attracted to his band some of the greatest jazz musicians in the country. By 1927, The Washingtonians played regular spots at many Harlem nightspots, most famously, The Cotton Club, landing them a weekly radio program that introduced Ellington's sound to the entire country. From there, Ellington's recognition as one of the greatest jazz artists of all time skyrocketed. This book provides insight into Ellington's life, personality, working habits, and his prolific compositions.

Langston Hughes / 811.52 HUGHES
The Weary Blues
This book of poems, written when Hughes was twenty-four years old, speaks directly and powerfully to the experiences of African Americans at a time when their voices were being newly heard in American literature. Writing himself into Walt Whitman's American "I," Hughes critiques and celebrates the American Dream through his rhythmic and powerful command of lyrics.

Eric Burns / 973.913 BURNS
1920: the Year That Made the Decade Roar
How did the surge of innovation and cultural milestones emerge out of the shadow of The Great War? Eric Burns investigates the year of 1920, which was not only a crucial moment in time, but one that foretold the future. Despite being the first full year of armistice, 1920 contained one of the greatest acts of terrorism in American history. And though it may be thought of as a start to a prosperous era, in fact, for many people, life had never been more unaffordable. Simultaneously, African Americans were putting their own stamp on culture and though the "flapper" may be regarded as a frivolous image of the party-era, the truth was that a new kind of power was being bestowed on women.

Boardwalk Empire
Five seasons worth of Prohibition-era drama focusing on Enoch "Nucky" Thompson (based on the historical Enoch L. Johnson), a political figure in control of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Nucky interacts with historical characters in both his personal and political life, including mobsters, politicians, government agents, and the common folk who admire him. The federal government grows suspicious of Nucky's lavish lifestyle, unheard of for a county politician, taking interest in the bootlegging and other illegal activities in the area.

Based on the book The Wettest County in the World, the film is about the violent conflict between three bootlegging brothers, Forrest, Howard, and Jack Bondurant, and the deputy Charley Rakes and his men who try to shut them down after Forrest refuses to pay off the cops to save their moonshine business.

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