“Native Son,” written by American author Richard Wright, was published in 1940. Wright’s published works of revolutionary poetry, novels and short stories have elevated him alongside other African American icons of literature such as James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison and Langston Hughes. “Native Son” has been adapted for the screen several times, most recently the 2019 version for HBO that is a directorial debut from Rashid Johnson.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” is the first novel by American author Harper Lee, published in 1960. The book was adapted into a 1962 drama that was directed by Robert Mulligan, starring Gregory Peck and Mary Badham. Arguably one of the most influential and beloved pieces of 20th Century American literature, “To Kill a Mockingbird” is still widely taught in schools more than 50 years after it was first published.
“The Secret Life of Bees” is the first piece of fiction by American author Sue Monk Kidd, published in 2001. The story is set in the American South of 1964, and follows fourteen-year-old Lily as she searches for clues to her past and discovers the power of divine femininity. The book was adapted into a 2008 drama that was directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, and stars Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson, Queen Latifah and Alicia Keys.
“Go Tell It On the Mountain” is the 1953 semi-autobiographical novel by American author James Baldwin. The book is a coming of age story about a black boy growing up in the 1930’s during the Harlem Renaissance, and struggling with themes like religion, family, guilt and sin. The book was adapted into a made-for-television movie by the PBS in 1984 that was directed by Stan Lathan and starred Paul Winfield.
“Girl, Interrupted” is the 1993 memoir by American author Susanna Kaysen. The title comes from the 1658 painting created by Johannes Vermeer called Girl Interrupted at Her Music – the author visits the painting at the Frick Collection in New York several times in the book. The text was adapted into a psychological drama film in 1999 that was directed by James Mangold, and starred Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie and Clea DuVall.
“The Talented Mr. Ripley” is the 1955 psychological thriller by American author Patricia Highsmith. This is only the first book featuring the character of Tom Ripley; the author went on to write a series of four more crime novels between 1970 and 1991 which are collectively known as the ‘Ripliad.’ The book was made into a 1999 psychological thriller that was directed by Anthony Minghella, and starred Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow.
“The Hate U Give” is the 2017 young adult debut novel by American author Angie Thomas. The title comes from American rapper Tupac Shakur and his message that the hate and oppression that society shows young black children will eventually come back around, usually in the form of violence; his tattoo THUGLIFE is an acronym that stands for “The hate u give little infants fucks everyone.” The book was adapted into a drama film in 2018 that was directed by George Tillman, Jr.
Many contemporary movies are created from existing source materials: novels, memoirs, comic books and graphic novels. Some of them are faithful adaptations, and others share little more than a name and a few major themes.
“Beasts of No Nation” is the 2005 debut novel by Nigerian-American author Uzodinma Iweala. The title comes from a 1989 anti-apartheid album from Nigerian musician and Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. The book was adapted into a war drama film in 2015 that was directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga.
The best part about fantasy and science fiction writing is that the details don’t have to be tethered to reality – and nobody creates a more detailed world than J.R.R. Tolkien. As an avid student of mythology, language structures and etymology, Tolkien was adept at weaving these themes throughout his works, especially in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Lembas bread, or waybread, is created by the elves of Middle Earth and used for long journeys because they will stay fresh for months. It is said that one small bite of lembas is enough to fill the stomach of a grown man. The bread is first mentioned in The Fellowship of the Ring, which was published in 1954, so enthusiastic fans have had plenty of time to come up with a real-life recipe for this fictional food.
It’s 11 AM on the morning of September 1, which means that the Hogwarts Express is leaving Kings Cross station right now, bringing eager young witches and wizards to another year of school. One of the ways J.K. Rowling is able to paint such a rich, detailed picture of this fictitious universe is by using food – Harry, who has never known an abundance of food, suddenly experiences sumptuous feasts, holiday treats and hearty meals. I love this cookbook because it emphasizes how intertwined food and literature are, and the best meals are made with love and shared with others.