Reading Black History Month in a Different Way

To that end, how and what do we read during Black History Month?  Do we go back to the old guard of fiction and nonfiction on the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the march through Selma?  Break out Roots and Queen and The Autobiography of Malcolm X?  These things are all well and good, but Black History Month is just as much about the African-American past as it is about the African-American present.  Not only must we all reach out to understand what has gone on, but take just this one month to also share what still is going on.

-Jessica Pryde for YASLA’s The Hub

Here are some recommended books in the Southfield Public Library catalog with commentary by the article’s writer. If you don’t see a copy available, contact a librarian to place an item on hold for you!

Cane
Toomer, Jean
An ambitious teen might find this collection of poetry and prose from the 1920s a fascinating read. Toomer is one of the earliest members of the Harlem Renaissance and brings light to a turn-of-the-century view of the South that we no longer see in our retrospective spyglasses.
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The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes
Hughes, Langston
Whether you like poetry or not, this book has something for you. From comedic strophe, to brief odes to dancers (check out Midnight Dancer on page 91), to revolutionary poems, Langston Hughes is the king of the Harlem Renaissance.
Our Catalog
The Collected Poems of Nikki Giovanni, 1968-1998
Giovanni, Nikki
Covering three bombastic decades in the matter of Black History across the globe, we get everything from the seven line, 22 word A Poem/Because It Came As A Surprise To Me to lengthy prose poetry featuring numerous ellipses. Some have a deeper meaning to sit and consider; others are more fun and straightforward (or are they? You decide)
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Copper Sun
Draper, Sharon M.
This is a favorite of my students (and of mine, in the Historical Fiction category). Sharon M. Draper wanders into the world of Historical Fiction with the story of a young African girl taken into slavery and her daring escape. It’s an award winner and a crowd pleaser, and it can make a great discussion piece with some of the questions in the back.
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Dreams From My Father
Obama, Barack
Because it just has to be there.
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For Colord Girls who have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf: A Choreopoem
Shange, Ntozake
This epic poem-play tells stories on top of stories, and brings the intense plight of women of color in the 1970s and through time. There are some situations and language that might be offensive to some readers, so go in prepared. You’ve also got to get over the dialect a little—try saying it aloud if you’re really having trouble. The release of the film For Colored Girls has also brought more interest in the original text.
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Hope on a Tightrope
West, Cornel
We don’t always agree as far as philosophy, but this is a great collection of words and wisdom for any person, young or old, of any race, any ethnicity, any faith. My favorite quote? “You can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people. You can’t save the people if you don’t serve the people.
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Incognegro
Johnson, Mat & Pleece, Warren
This fascinating graphic novel was inspired by some of the writer’s own experiences, but takes them to a whole new level. Our hero, Zane Pinchback, is a very light-skinned New York journalist who goes undercover to investigate lynchings in the south and report the stories via his “Incognegro” column. Bring on the newest mystery, which includes his brother in Mississippi, and we’ve got some serious noir for you.
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Letters to a Young Brother
Harper, Hill
As someone who portrays a successful doctor and investigator on a network crime drama, Hill Harper is a recognizable and attention-worthy personage in the community. At least if you watch CSI:NY. Harper uses different methods of writing letters, emails, memories, and straight talk to discuss some of the questions and thoughts potentially lurking at the backs of a young brother’s skull, alongside his own history, thoughts, success and potential. The advice that you take away, whether you are a young brother or not, is both poignant and useful.
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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave
Douglass, Frederick
Speaks for itself.
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Push
Sapphire
With the release of Precious a couple of years ago, the novel that it was based upon is still garnering interest. Providing a look into a beautiful person with a horrible life dealt to her, we can feel her triumph alongside her inspiring teacher, Ms. Rain. (Side story: When I was fifteen years old, my school librarian pulled me and my best friend aside and gave us a copy of Push, asking us to read it and tell us if she should get it for the library. We both, of course, said yes).
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Their Eyes Were Watching God
Hurston, Zora Neale
If by some chance you haven’t read it in some high school English class, this is a must read. While the dialect is something to get around at the beginning, the sumptuous descriptions and fascinating characters living in early 20th century Florida are well worth it.
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Warriors Don't Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock's Central High
Beals, Melba Patillo
While we learn in history class about those that got the movement going, this book tells us about a person Brown v. Board of Education actually affected. Her story of integrating and coping with that integration gives us a view into high school that many of us take fully for granted nowadays.
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