If you want to do some social research on the US of the latter half of the 20th century, read Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine. It is a first novel by Bebe Moore Campbell, published in 1992. All the major socio-political movements from the 1950s to 1990s are here, seen through the eyes of individuals living amidst the turmoil generated by idealism and socio-economic changes.
It can be emotionally hard to read but it’s well worth it. At the beginning, you meet unhappy poor people in rural Mississippi in the 1950s. Right off the bat, you see that there is going to be violence and misery. They are so unlikable that I almost stopped reading. I couldn’t get past them but my brother had told me this was a really good book so I kept going. He was right.
Ms. Campbell takes you into the black and white worlds of Mississippi and Chicago, of racism both personal and institutional, of poverty, of people who have dreams and those who have no hope. There are heroes and villains but there is no simple categorization of either/or. Just when you start feeling sympathy or respect for a main character, she or he will do something cruel or unthinkingly hurtful. When you decide that a character is unremittingly nasty, you will get a glimpse into his or her motivation that at least explains why or gives you reason to sympathize.
NPR wrote and broadcast about Ms. Campbell at the time of her death in 2006.