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Black History Month Book Recommendations from ISD Staff

Black History Month is in full swing. Fast approaching is February 14th, the birth date of Frederick Douglass. This month, instead of manufactured love, let’s all agree that we can take a page out of Douglass’ playbook. Let’s agree that loving one another includes hearing each other’s stories, appreciating a narrative that is different from one’s own, and engaging with people who on the outside may appear different. What better way to bridge cultural distance than to read stories! Below are recommendations from Jackie, Marciale, Denrol, Adja, and Stephanie that include science fiction, biography, fiction, short stories, and more. Come to the library to find something just right for you.

Jackie Dieye Recommends Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler

I wouldn’t define myself as a science fiction reader. However, there’s no denying just how much I enjoyed reading Wild Seed by Octavia Butler. The beginning is a magnificent piece of writing that draws you in and will not let you go until the very end of the story. This story begins in 12th century Africa, at the dawn of slavery. The story is about body possessing, shape shifters, and the offspring of those with exceptional “abilities”. It’s a tale of relentless pursuit. And yes, it’s also about the power of possessing someone’s body, mind, and soul, and one awesome woman using her exceptional abilities to protect all that is hers. I loved this book!

Marciale Hounton Recommends The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake

I like this book because it refers to what happens in our society, especially in schools where students are compared to one another. Some think they do not have a nice skin tone or good social standing, so they consider themselves inferior. This book is about an African black teenager who found herself in a school surrounded by white people. She was a very smart student with good grades. But students did not care about her grades. They spent their time sneering at her dark black skin and her outdated clothes made by her mom. In school, we all come from different backgrounds, so it is normal to have diversity. For example, if you have a skin color that your classmates don't like, be proud of it and try to find benefits to it.

Never try becoming part of a gang or doing bad things to makes yourself interesting. Due to the new teacher, the girl was saved and kept from trouble. Do not think you are going to have a savior like this girl. You are on your own. Focus on your studies. The future will give you reason.

Denrol Carayol Recommends Memoirs of An African Woman on a Mission by Oley Dibba-Wadda

I do not think the ISD Library has this book, however, it is a must read in my opinion. It is raw, direct, and gives the reader an insight into the life of a privileged African woman that few would ever write about. The book can be purchased on Amazon.

Adja Sakho Recommends The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Short stories have never been my cup of tea as you get entwined into the character only for their story to end so abruptly. The Thing Around Your Neck, Chimamanda is able to open the door for various advantage points of women living within the African society and although you DO get sucked into learning more about their lives, the storytelling is done in a way that you can wonder and come up with your own ending without taking away from the way the book is written. Across the pages of The Thing, we encounter women newly immigrated to the US, those living on the African continent and others gliding through life invisible to the outside world but yet determined in some way to be seen and heard. The bind that brings the book together is the spirit and strength of the African/Black women and if you are looking to learn more about where these complexities lie and how for centuries how Black/African women have had to be the glue that held their families togethers within their own chaos, grab a cup of tea and put your feet up for this quick read.

Stephanie Creamer Recommends The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano by Margarita Engle.

Some of you may know that I’ve turned the National Hispanic Heritage Month into a year long project. So to that end, I needed to find a book that fit under both categories of Black History Month and National Hispanic Heritage Month. Afro-Latinidad recognizes that the African Diaspora extends into all of the Americas and the Caribe. Thus, a biography of Juan Francisco Manzano from Cuba still offers ISD readers a peek into African history from a Caribbean perspective. Engle does not deal specifically with the slave trade, but rather the specific life of this poet’s struggle to hold onto language, words, rhythms, and rhyme under the manipulative and psychotic machinations of Prado de Meno. The tensions between hope and despair, love and hatred, revenge and forgiveness hold the reader captive. The structure of the novel is in poetic verse, and it’s about 150 pages in length. Poet Slave of Cuba is not a “feel good” novel. But it is beautiful. Come to the library and check it out, or put it on hold.

Last recommendation: Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The library has the first two graphic books. But, be prepared to put these on hold. Before the movie comes out, they are quite frequently checked out by students.

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