Underrated American Authors, You Need to Read

Underrated American Authors, You Need to Read

In American literature, there are authors who are really good but don’t get as much attention as the famous ones.

These authors have interesting views, tell great stories, and teach us important things. Here are some American authors you might not have heard of, but you should definitely check out:

Underrated American Authors

Here’s a look at some talented but under-recognized American authors worth discovering:

Dorothy Allison

Underrated American Authors, You Need to Read

Dorothy Allison is an acclaimed American author known for her raw, honest writing that often focuses on the experiences of the Southern working class, sexual abuse, and lesbianism.

Born into hardship in South Carolina, she became the first in her family to graduate high school.

Her most famous work, the semi-autobiographical novel “Bastard Out of Carolina,” brings these gritty themes to life.

Allison’s short story collections like “Trash” and essays in “Skin: Talking About Sex, Class & Literature” continue to explore complex issues of identity and survival.

Allison is a powerful voice for marginalized communities and a multiple Lambda Literary Award winner. But not enough people know about her, and they should.

Charles Johnson

Underrated American Authors, You Need to Read (2)

Charles R. Johnson is a celebrated American author, essayist, scholar, and cartoonist.

Born in 1948, he’s best known for his thought-provoking and philosophically-driven novels, often exploring issues of race, history, and the African American experience.

Charles Johnson won the National Book Award for his book “Middle Passage.

His books are kind of hard to understand, but they’re also really interesting once you get into them.

Percival Everett

Underrated American Authors, You Need to Read

Everett is a writer who uses satire and metafiction to discuss society and books.

He’s written a bunch of books, and you never really know what to expect from him.

Some of his books, like “Erasure” and “I Am Not Sidney Poitier,” are funny and make you think differently.

Everett is a Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California.

He’s authored over 30 novels and short story collections.

Jean Toomer

Underrated American Authors, You Need to Read

Toomer was a leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance when Black artists flourished in New York City.

His most famous work is called “Cane.” It’s really cool because it mixes together poetry and regular storytelling.

He talked a lot about race and who you are, which was pretty forward-thinking for his time.

During his later life Toomer became disillusioned with the labeling and expectations within literary circles.

He distanced himself from the Harlem Renaissance and later embraced Quakerism and the philosophies of Gurdjieff.

Nella Larsen

Underrated American Authors, You Need to Read

Larsen was also part of the Harlem Renaissance. Her books “Quicksand” and “Passing” are very good but not as popular as they should be.

They’re about how people were treated differently based on their race, gender, and wealth in the early 1900s.

Largely forgotten after her initial publications, her work experienced a resurgence of interest in the latter half of the 20th century.

Larsen also worked as a nurse and librarian throughout her life.

Louise Erdrich

Underrated American Authors, You Need to Read

Louise Erdrich (born 1954) is a highly acclaimed American author and an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.

She’s celebrated for her novels, poetry, and children’s books that vividly portray Native American experiences and explore complex themes of family, identity, and culture.

A good book to start with is “Love Medicine,” but she’s written lots of other great ones too.


  1. Octavia E. Butler: She writes stories that mix science fiction with important ideas about race and power. You should read her books like “Kindred” and the “Parable” series.
  2. Charles Chesnutt: His stories discuss life after the Civil War and how people from different backgrounds get along. Look for his books, “The Conjure Woman” and “The Marrow of Tradition.”
  3. Sherman Alexie: He writes about what it’s like to be a Native American today. You might like his books “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” and “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.”
  4. Joy Harjo: She’s a poet who talks about being Native American and how everything in the world is connected. Look for her poetry collections like “Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings” and “An American Sunrise.”
  5. Paule Marshall: She writes about people moving from the Caribbean to America and what it means to belong. Check out her books “Brown Girl, Brownstones” and “Praisesong for the Widow.”
  6. John Edgar Wideman: He writes about all kinds of things, like race and family. You might like his books “Brothers and Keepers” and “Philadelphia Fire.”

Why Are They Under-Recognized?

Various factors contribute to an author’s visibility:

  • Genre: Literary fiction often gets more critical attention than genre work.
  • Subject Matter: Challenging topics like race or sexuality may be less widely promoted in some markets.
  • Marketing and Luck: Even amazing books can remain obscure without the right push.

These authors have great stories to tell, and you’ll learn a lot from reading their books. So, give them a try next time you’re looking for something new to read!

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