Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

6 Historical Fiction Books Set in the 1960s

Erika Hardison

Staff Writer

Erika Hardison is a writer, social media junkie, podcaster, publisher and aspiring novelist from Chicago currently residing in New Jersey. When she's not bridging the gap between Black feminism and superheroes on, she's spending sleepless nights as a new mom with her talkative toddler playing and giggling under the covers.

Algonquin Books.

Join eighteen-year-old Erica as she navigates the Greek island of Hydra and the lives of the real-life Australian writers Charmian Clift and George Johnston, the young, charismatic poet Leonard Cohen, and his beautiful, troubled muse, Marianne. Roiling with the heat of a Grecian summer, Polly Samson’s A Theater for Dreamers is a spellbinding tour-de-force about an unraveling utopia where everything is tested—the nature of art, relationships, and Erica’s own innocence.

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres because I love reading tales from different periods in history. While we may have an idea of what goes on socially, it’s the everyday lives of common people that don’t always get added to the history books. The 1960s was an explosive time in American and many places abroad. While some novels highlight the evil of humanity when it comes to race, sex, and religion, other novels focus on romance, music, and family lineage. The best thing about historical fiction novels is they give us a first-class ticket to a teleport machine for us to view a world that’s not too different from reality. If you love historical fiction as much as I do, you should add these historical fiction books set in the 1960s to your library.

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

This is a sometimes eerie but magical coming-of-age story about a boy named Macon “Milkman” Dead III who is the son of a rich, Black man in the midwest. The more Milkman learns about his family and their secrets the more he learns about himself. The backdrop of the ’60s in the midwest gives a different perspective of what it was like to grow up as a minority even when you come from an affluent family.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Set in Oklahoma, a group of brothers have recently lost their parents to a car crash. As the oldest brother tries his best to be mature for his younger brothers, trouble continues to find them. After several run-ins with the upper-class kids known as the Socs, a murder takes place, which prompts the youngest brother to flee with his friend as things heat up.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Set in Florida during Jim Crow, in a school Black boys attend. This novel follows their experiences. The more they understand racism and how it impacts their everyday lives, the more they desire to be free from racism and violence. Influenced by the Civil Rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, The Nickel Boys eventually questions how can Black people remain non-violent in the face of extreme cruelty.

Sahwira: An African Friendship by Carolyn Marsden and Philip Matzigkeit

During the turmoil in Rhodesia ( now known as Zimbabwe) two boys — Blessing, who is Black, and Evan, who is white — try to have a meaningful friendship, but it is constantly tested by the state of affairs around them. The main connection of their friendship is their loyalty to the church their families are involved with. But once the school Evan attends encourages their white students to fight the Indigenous Africans, their friendship takes an uneventful turn.

Black Betty by Walter Mosley

An L.A. private investigator named Easy Rawlins has taken a job from a white man to find the woman that has been seducing all the rich and affluent men in the area. This should be a simple job for Easy, but he knows who the infamous siren is and he’s willing to put his reputation and life on the line to see her again.

Confessions in B-Flat by Donna Hill

At the height of the Civil Rights movement and before the untimely murders of Dr. King and Malcolm X, there is a love blossoming between a southern man named Jason and a northern woman named Anita, who is also an activist. While they both have different approaches to what Black liberation looks like, they have similar goals that could make them more alike that different.