Whose story are we reading? Who is telling the story? Whose story has been missing? Whose voice has not been heard? As we come to the close of Black History month, I want to highlight some of the books, stories, voices, and characters that we should be reading all year.
With our “Windows and Mirrors” approach to books, we can see and learn perspectives other than our own, and we see ourselves in the stories we read. And so, we need to continue to diversify our collection. If our libraries and reading experiences don’t include stories that reflect the diverse identities within our society, we erase these identities and silence so many voices. By supporting and sharing books by Black authors, we are able to support, appreciate, and promote more authentic storytelling that reflects Black experiences, identities, and voices. When we include books by Black authors, we see Black kids and teens with everyday experiences, not limited to the trauma-related or stereotypical stories often seen. Our Windows and Mirrors lens also helps challenge what Chimamanda Ngozi Adchidie called to our attention with her dynamic and oft-shared message of “The Danger of a Single Story.”
The following books written by Black women, tell stories that are relatable, and engage us in some of the untold stories of growing up female and Black.
Some Places More Than Others by Renee Watson
“My first day in New York is ending with Sunday Supper. Aunt Tracey is here with her daughters. Nina and Ava are in high school. Nina is sixteen, Ava is fourteen. I have never met them in person, but Aunt Tracey always sends photos and I’ve talked to them on the phone a few times. Our conversations are awkward because none of us can think of anything to talk about. I’ve seen Aunt Tracey a bunch of time when she’s come to visit Oregon. She always says, “Next time I’ll bring the girls,” but she never does (82).”
All Amara wants for her birthday is to visit her father’s family in New York City—Harlem, to be exact. She can’t wait to finally meet her Grandpa Earl and cousins in person and to stay in the brownstone where her father grew up. Maybe this will help her understand her family—and herself—in a new way.
But New York City is not exactly what Amara thought it would be. It’s crowded, with confusing subways, suffocating sidewalks, and her father is too busy with work to spend time with her and too angry to spend time with Grandpa Earl. As she explores, asks questions, and learns more and more about Harlem and about her father and his family history, she realizes how, in some ways more than others, she connects with him, her home, and her family. (goodreads.com)
The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert
“I usually have first-day jitters, but when I wake up on Monday, I don’t feel nervous at all. Just excited. I think maybe it’s because I’m starting seventh grade – which isn’t as great as eighth grade, but not nearly as bad as sixth. I had a stomachache a whole twenty-four hours before I started school last year. But, really, I think I feel better because Edie is here now (106).”
Beach-loving surfer Alberta has been the only Black girl in town for years. Alberta’s best friend, Laramie, is the closest thing she has to a sister, but there are some things even Laramie can’t understand. When the bed and breakfast across the street find new owners, Alberta is ecstatic to learn the family is black-and they have a 12-year-old daughter just like her.
Alberta is positive she and the new girl, Edie, will be fast friends. But while Alberta loves being a California girl, Edie misses her native Brooklyn and finds it hard to adapt to small-town living.
When the girls discover a box of old journals in Edie’s attic, they team up to figure out exactly who’s behind them and why they got left behind. Soon they discover shocking and painful secrets of the past and learn that nothing is quite what it seems. (goodreads.com)
From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks
“Whatcha reading?” Trevor asked, smiling.
“Shhh! What are you doing here? I looked past Trevor, but thankfully, he wasn’t with either of his parents.
“I was gonna ask you the same thing,” he said. “Simon dropped me off at the library so I could return my book and get another one. When I walked in, I saw you come up the stairs. I thought it was weird, since kids’ books and cookbooks are downstairs.”
“So you followed me.” Why did he keep butting his head where it didn’t belong?
“No,” Trevor said. I went down to the kids’ floor first, and got my book.” He held up the book he’d chosen – ‘Ghost’, by Jason Reynolds. “And then I came up to find you. Are you hiding from someone?”
“Who would I be hiding from?” I asked, as if it was the most ridiculous question ever. I closed ‘The Wrongfully Convicted’, ready to get up and away from Trevor (104-105).”
From debut author Janae Marks comes a captivating story full of heart, as one courageous girl questions assumptions, searches for the truth, and does what she believes is right—even in the face of great opposition.
Zoe Washington isn’t sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she’s never met, hadn’t heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who’s been in prison for a terrible crime?
A crime he says he never committed.
Could Marcus really be innocent? Zoe is determined to uncover the truth. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from the rest of her family. Everyone else thinks Zoe’s worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship and proving to her parents that she’s worthy of auditioning for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge.
But with bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus’s conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn’t know how to balance. The only thing she knows to be true: Everyone lies. (goodreads.com)
Enjoy the reads! Visit Ms. Lazar in the @bosquefordlibrary to learn more and to check out more from our growing collection!