“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. This year, I will compare American texts that have been made into movies, and featuring authors who are women, people of color and immigrants – demographics whose voices have historically been repressed.
“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.