African American

New Kid

Jordan is disappointed to start a new school. Instead of the art school he wanted to go to, his parents are making him go to Riverdale Academy Day School - the best school in town. Jordan’s new school is very different: he doesn't know his way around, the kids all dress differently, and the biggest difference of all is that nearly everyone at his new school is white, which isn’t really a problem except that Jordan keeps experiencing microaggressions and some more direct racial bullying which the teachers tend to ignore. How will Jordan navigate life at his new school while remaining true to himself?

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter

A Note from the Director

Recent events of racism and physical violence against Blacks across our country are both frightening and abhorrent. Monroe County Public Library mourns the lost lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many more. 

As a trusted community institution, we stand in solidarity with the American Library Association (ALA), the Black Caucus of the ALA, and with Monroe County residents who are susceptible to acts of prejudice, threats of violence, and even death based solely on their race or ethnicity. We condemn the systemic and systematic social injustices endured by Black people and people of color and we stand against racism and injustice.

We must all affirm that Black Lives Matter and understand that “all lives matter” is not an appropriate response. We must acknowledge systemic racism and the role that we all play in it––in our homes, our workplaces, and our community organizations.

Staff Picks: What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? by Chris Barton

Reviewed by Alejandria G. 

It’s impossible not to feel inspired while reading this gorgeous, well-written nonfiction picture book about the life of Texas congresswoman Barbara Jordan.

From a young age, Barbara Jordan had a remarkable voice. Her voice demanded attention and projected confidence beyond her years. As the author ponders, “What do you do with a voice like that?”. And so began the journey of Barbara Jordan from child to college student. From lawyer to Congresswoman. Jordan spent her career speaking up for those who had less power and protected the rights of those who were discriminated against. Chris Barton’s wonderful words remind us to honor Jordan’s legacy by making our own voices heard.

Ekua Holmes honors Barbara’s life with gorgeous mixed media illustrations. Bold colors and patterns fill the pages and add dimension to the story.

Staff Picks: Step Right Up by Donna Janell Bowman

Reviewed by Christina J. 

You have to read it to believe it. Then you have to see the photos in the historical note at the back of the book to really believe the incredible story of William ‘Doc’ Key and his intelligent horse Beautiful Jim Key. Even people who witnessed it firsthand, including scholars from Harvard University, couldn’t understand how Doc Key managed to teach his horse how to read, spell, cipher, and more on command. This is a stunning and inspiring story of how kindness and love has the potential to unleash the intelligence and capacity in animals, during a time when most people believed animals had no feelings.

Reading with Patrick

Everyone has heard about the talented, super-smart teachers who work for the Teach for America program. But why do many of these new teachers only stay for a year or two and then move on?

In Reading with Patrick, compelling and emotionally resonant memoir, Michelle Kuo, a Harvard-educated Asian American, relates her two years teaching in poverty-torn Helena, Arkansas, a delta town close to the Mississippi state line that has lost nearly all of its industry. Kuo also describes her parents’ great expectations for her career, and their deep disappointment when she takes a low-paying position in education.

Homegoing

A Ghana proverb says, “By going and coming, a bird weaves its nest.” The title of this novel tells the story of many people from Ghana who were forcibly removed from their African home, yet centuries later, two descendants return to find their family.

If you liked Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, Yaa Gyasi’s novel will make the perfect follow-up.  Hard to believe that she started writing this in her early twenties and finished it by age twenty-six. It covers much more ground than Whitehead’s historical novel: Africa and the U.S., and much more time, from the mid-seventeen hundreds to now.  

At one point in the novel, a black history teacher describes history as storytelling. Gyasi presents many eloquent and heart-rending stories here. What ties them together is that all the characters belong to one extended family, who were once royalty in Ghana. They became both slave-sellers and slaves. Many came to America.

Gyasi follows two tracks of this family: one remained in Ghana, the other was forced into slavery in the U.S.  It follows their descendants after the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the great migration north.

Gyasi visited Africa as a student to do research on a book about mothers and daughters. But when she toured Ghana’s Cape Coast Castle, something in the rooms, the cellar where slaves were chained and abused in dungeons called out to her. She immediately decided to focus on the African slave trade and its diaspora later in the U.S.

Who Run the World? Girls: Picture Book Biographies on Noteworthy Women

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