August Wilson Books In Order | Update 02/2024

August Wilson was an accomplished American playwright whose work focused primarily on the African-American experience in the 20th century. Over the course of his career, he wrote a total of 10 plays, each of which explored the struggles and triumphs of black life in America. His work is celebrated for its rich characters, compelling storytelling, and deep exploration of race, culture, and identity. Wilson’s legacy continues to have a significant impact on American theater and literature.

August Wilson Books in Order

  1. Fences (The Century Cycle, #6)
  2. The Piano Lesson
  3. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  4. Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
  5. Gem of the Ocean
  6. Seven Guitars
  7. Two Trains Running
  8. Jitney
  9. Radio Golf
  10. King Hedley II

Summary of August Wilson Books in Order

Fences (The Century Cycle, #6)

“Fences” is a play written by August Wilson and is the sixth installment in his ten-part “Century Cycle.” The story is set in the 1950s and revolves around Troy Maxson, a former Negro League baseball player, and his struggles with family and race relations. The play explores Troy’s complex relationships with his wife, Rose, and his son, Cory, and delves into themes of fatherhood, betrayal, and the impact of racial discrimination on African American families. Through powerful dialogue and emotional storytelling, “Fences” offers a poignant portrayal of the African American experience during a tumultuous period in American history.

The play’s title, “Fences,” serves as a metaphor for the barriers and limitations that African Americans faced in post-war America. Troy’s personal struggles and aspirations are framed within the confines of his relationships and the societal constraints placed on him as a black man. As he grapples with his own disappointments and regrets, Troy’s interactions with his family and friends highlight the broader challenges faced by African American communities during this era. Wilson’s compelling narrative shines a light on the enduring impact of systemic racism and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

With its compelling characters and powerful themes, “Fences” has been celebrated as a seminal work in American theater. August Wilson’s masterful storytelling and richly drawn characters have cemented the play’s status as a timeless classic, exploring the intricacies of human relationships and the profound impact of history on individual lives. The play’s portrayal of the African American experience continues to resonate with audiences, offering a searing and thought-provoking exploration of race, identity, and the pursuit of the American dream.

The Piano Lesson

“The Piano Lesson” by August Wilson tells the story of the Charles family, who are wrestling with the legacy of slavery and struggling to build a future for themselves in 1930s Pittsburgh. The play’s central conflict revolves around a valuable piano that represents the family’s history and heritage. Siblings Boy Willie and Berniece disagree on whether to sell the piano for the money it could bring or keep it as a symbol of their ancestors’ struggle and sacrifice. As they confront this dilemma, they also grapple with questions of identity, spirituality, and the weight of history.

Throughout the play, the characters engage in a complex and emotionally charged exploration of their family’s past and its impact on their present lives. The piano becomes a focal point for these discussions, as its history is intertwined with that of their ancestors. Ultimately, the family must come to terms with their heritage and decide how to honor it while moving forward into the future. “The Piano Lesson” offers a powerful meditation on the legacies of slavery and the ways in which they continue to shape African American experiences in the modern world.

As the characters reckon with the piano’s significance, they also grapple with broader themes of economic struggle, racial identity, and the costs of pursuing the American Dream. The play highlights the enduring impact of slavery on African American communities and explores the ways in which individuals and families can navigate the complexities of their heritage. Through powerful dialogue and poignant confrontations, “The Piano Lesson” offers a moving and thought-provoking portrayal of one family’s quest to understand and honor its past while building a future in a world still grappling with the aftermath of slavery.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

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Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

“Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” by August Wilson is a play set in a Pittsburgh boardinghouse in the early 20th century. The story revolves around the characters living in the boardinghouse and explores the African American experience during the Great Migration. The play delves into themes of identity, belonging, and the search for freedom and justice in a time of racial oppression.

The main character, Herald Loomis, arrives at the boardinghouse in search of his wife who was taken by Joe Turner, a white man who illegally imprisoned African Americans for seven years. As the residents of the boardinghouse interact with Loomis and each other, their stories and struggles are revealed. Through powerful dialogue and lyrical language, the play captures the complex and often painful journey of these characters as they navigate their place in a world that seeks to oppress them.

“Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” is a powerful and poignant exploration of the African American experience during a turbulent period in American history. August Wilson’s rich storytelling and vivid characters bring to life the struggles and aspirations of the people living in the boardinghouse, shedding light on the enduring impact of systemic racism and the resilience of the human spirit.

Gem of the Ocean

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Seven Guitars

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Two Trains Running

“Two Trains Running” is a play written by August Wilson, set in the 1960s in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. The story revolves around the characters who frequent a local diner owned by Memphis Lee. The play explores the African-American community’s struggle for civil rights, economic empowerment, and self-determination during a time of rapid social change.

The play features a diverse cast of characters, each with their own experiences and perspectives on life, race, and their place in the world. Sterling, an ex-convict, seeks to make a fresh start, while Risa, the waitress at the diner, grapples with her own identity and self-worth. The play also touches on themes of inequality, urban development, and the decline of the neighborhood, as the characters find themselves caught between the past and an uncertain future.

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Through powerful and emotionally charged dialogue, “Two Trains Running” offers a candid and compelling portrayal of the African-American experience in the 1960s. The play’s rich and complex characters, along with its exploration of societal issues, make it a significant work in August Wilson’s renowned Pittsburgh Cycle, a series of ten plays that chronicle the African-American experience throughout the 20th century.


“Jitney” is a play by August Wilson that is set in the 1970s in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. The story revolves around a group of African American men working at a car service or “jitney” station. As they struggle to make ends meet, they also face the threat of the station being shut down due to urban development. Each character in the play has their own personal struggles and dreams, and their interactions and conflicts with one another form the heart of the story.

The play delves into themes of community, gentrification, and the resilience of the human spirit. Through the characters’ conversations and interactions, Wilson paints a vivid picture of the African American experience in urban America, capturing the nuances of their everyday lives and struggles. The play also touches on issues of fatherhood, friendship, and the passage of time, as the characters grapple with their pasts and their uncertain futures.

“Jitney” is an emotionally rich and deeply human story that offers a compelling glimpse into the lives of working-class African Americans in a rapidly changing urban landscape. Wilson’s masterful storytelling and rich characters make “Jitney” a powerful and thought-provoking exploration of the human experience.

Radio Golf

“Radio Golf” by August Wilson is the 10th and final installment in his acclaimed Century Cycle, a series of ten plays that portray African American life in the 20th century. Set in 1997, the play follows Harmond Wilks, a successful businessman and real estate developer in Pittsburgh, who is running for mayor. Wilks is in the midst of a major redevelopment project in the city’s Hill District, a historically African American neighborhood. However, his plans are complicated by the discovery of a house with deep historical significance, and the play addresses themes of gentrification, history, and the impact of progress on marginalized communities.

The play explores the tensions between progress and history, race and class, and the challenges faced by African Americans as they strive to achieve success and prosperity. Wilson’s powerful storytelling and rich character development offer a thought-provoking and poignant commentary on the complexities of modern society and the enduring legacy of systemic racism. “Radio Golf” is a compelling and timely work that encourages audiences to reflect on the ways in which historical injustices continue to shape the present, and the potential for change and renewal in the face of adversity.

As the final installment in the Century Cycle, “Radio Golf” serves as a fitting conclusion to Wilson’s remarkable body of work, providing a powerful and resonant reflection on the African American experience throughout the 20th century. The play’s masterful blend of drama, humor, and social commentary makes it a must-read for anyone interested in the complexities of race, history, and the struggle for justice and equality.

King Hedley II

“King Hedley II” by August Wilson is a powerful and intense play set in the 1980s in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The story follows the character King Hedley II, a man who is recently released from prison and desperately trying to make a fresh start in his life. King is determined to plant seeds in his backyard as a way to symbolize hope and growth, but he faces numerous challenges as he navigates the harsh realities of his environment. The play explores themes of family, love, crime, and the struggle for redemption in a society filled with poverty and violence.

The book delves into the lives of African American characters and their experiences of poverty, discrimination, and the African American struggle for self-fulfillment. As King tries to rebuild his life, he faces obstacles from his past, including a criminal record and a strained relationship with his mother. The play weaves together the characters’ personal stories, providing a deep and emotional portrait of their lives and struggles.

Throughout “King Hedley II,” August Wilson masterfully captures the complexities of the human experience, depicting the resilience and strength of the characters as they confront adversity and strive for a better future. The play offers a profound exploration of the human condition and the pursuit of hope and redemption in the face of hardship and injustice.

Biography August Wilson

August Wilson, the renowned American playwright, left an enduring literary legacy with his ten-play series, The Pittsburgh Cycle, for which he received two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. Each play in the series is set in a different decade, portraying the comic and tragic aspects of the African-American experience in the twentieth century. Born as Frederick August Kittel, Jr. in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Wilson was the fourth of six children. He changed his name to honor his mother after his father’s death in 1965. Wilson co-founded the Black Horizon Theater and made significant contributions to the Kuntu Repertory Theatre, the Kuntu Writers Workshop, and the Penumbra Theatre Company. His best-known plays include Fences, The Piano Lesson, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. Wilson’s life and career took him from Pittsburgh to Saint Paul and eventually to Seattle, where he developed a close relationship with the Seattle Repertory Theatre. Despite his untimely death from liver cancer in 2005, August Wilson’s impact on American theater remains indelible.

Author August Wilson

Frequently Asked Questions about author August Wilson

August Wilson novels conversions to the screen

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What types of books does August Wilson write

August Wilson is known for writing plays, particularly those that focus on the African-American experience. His work often centers around issues of race, family, and the African-American community in the United States. Some of his most well-known plays include “Fences,” “The Piano Lesson,” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

How many books has August Wilson written

August Wilson has written 10 plays that are collectively known as “The Pittsburgh Cycle” or “The Century Cycle”. The plays are set in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, where Wilson grew up, and each one explores a different decade of the 20th century.

What was the first book written by August Wilson

The piano lesson was written by August Wilson

Published at 10:35 - 08/02/2024
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