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Listening

Like many of you, we've spent this week listening and learning. We've always believed in the power of listening, and recent events have given us even more opportunities to learn.

Some of you have asked and searched for titles related to race. As we all take some time to consider how we can each make thoughtful choices, we hope these direct links to titles will help you in your searches and conversations.  We're still all in this together.

Elementary Grades

Let 'Er Buck Cover ArtLet 'Er Buck by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

The true tale of a cowboy's epic rodeo ride from acclaimed author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Caldecott Honoree Gordon C. James. In 1911, three men were in the final round of the famed Pendleton Round-Up. One was white, one was Indian, and one was black. When the judges declared the white man the winner, the audience was outraged. They named black cowboy George Fletcher the "people's champion" and took up a collection, ultimately giving Fletcher far more than the value of the prize that went to the official winner. Award-winning author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson tells the story of Fletcher's unlikely triumph with a western flair that will delight kids-and adults-who love true stories, unlikely heroes, and cowboy tales.

Child of the Dream cover artChild of the Dream by Sharon Robinson

An incredible memoir from Sharon Robinson that follows her turning 13 years old in 1963 - one of the most important years in American history for the civil rights movement! In January of 1963, Sharon Robinson turned thirteen the night before George Wallace declared on national television "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" in his inauguration for governor of Alabama. That was the start of a year that would become one of the most pivotal years in the history of America. As the daughter of Jackie Robinson, Sharon had incredible access to some of the most important events of the era, including her family hosting several fundraisers for Martin Luther King Jr. at their home in Connecticut, other Civil Rights heroes of the day calling Jackie Robinson for advice and support, and even attending the March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs. But Sharon was also dealing with her own personal problems like going through puberty, being one of the only black children in her wealthy Connecticut neighborhood, and figuring out her own role in the fight for equality. This memoir follows Sharon as she goes through that incredible year of her life.

Stone River Crossing cover artStone River Crossing by Tim Tingle

Martha Tom knows better than to cross the Bok Chitto River to pick blackberries. The Bok Chitto is the only border between her town in the Choctaw Nation and the slave-owning plantation in Mississippi territory. The slave owners could catch her, too. What was she thinking? But crossing the river brings a surprise friendship with Lil Mo, a boy who is enslaved on the other side. When Lil Mo discovers that his mother is about to be sold and the rest of his family left behind. But Martha Tom has the answer: cross the Bok Chitto and become free. Crossing to freedom with his family seems impossible with slave catchers roaming, but then there is a miracle - a magical night where things become unseen and souls walk on water. By morning, Lil Mo discovers he has entered a completely new world of tradition, community, and . . . a little magic. But as Lil Mo's family adjusts to their new life, danger waits just around the corner. In an expansion of his award-winning picture book Crossing Bok Chitto, acclaimed Choctaw storyteller Tim Tingle offers a story that reminds readers that the strongest bridge between cultures is friendship.

The Negro Leagues cover artThe Negro Leagues by Matt Doeden

When modern baseball fans think of African American players, they may think of Ken Griffey Jr. or Derek Jeter. But what about the black stars who didn't play Major League Baseball? In the early 1900s, black players were not allowed in the Major Leagues. The Negro Leagues provided an alternative for African American players. Discover the Negro Leagues in this book packed full of facts and stories. Learn about the biggest games and wildest moments of the Negro Leagues era, as well as some of the greatest (and least well-known) players. You'll also find out about the history of African American baseball and the people who worked to end the sport's decades of segregation.

Middle Grades

The Crossover cover artThe Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Fourteen-year-old twin basketball stars Josh and Jordan wrestle with highs and lows on and off the court as their father ignores his declining health. In this heartfelt novel, basketball and brotherhood intertwine to show Josh and Jordan that life doesn't come with a playbook and, sometimes, it's not about winning. Book Club for Kids talked about The Crossover. Listen to the episode here.

Lifting as We Climb cover artLifting as We Climb by Evette Dionne

An eye-opening book that tells the important, overlooked story of black women as a force in the suffrage movement. When the epic story of the suffrage movement in the United States is told, the most familiar leaders, speakers at meetings, and participants in marches written about or pictured are generally white. That's not the real story. Women of color, especially African American women, were fighting for their right to vote and to be treated as full, equal citizens of the United States. Their battlefront wasn't just about gender. African American women had to deal with white abolitionist-suffragists who drew the line at sharing power with their black sisters. They had to overcome deep, exclusionary racial prejudices that were rife in the American suffrage movement. And they had to maintain their dignity and safety in a society that tried to keep them in its bottom ranks. Lifting as We Climb is the empowering story of African American women who refused to accept all this.

Home Girl cover artHome Girl by Alex Wheatle

This isn't my home. Haven't had a proper home since... This is just somewhere I'll be resting my bones for a week and maybe a bit. This time next year you'll forget who I am. I haven't got a diddly where I'll be by then. But I'm used to it. New from the UK-based best-selling black British author and winner of the Guardian Children's Book Award, Home Girl is the story of Naomi, a teenage girl growing up fast in the foster care system. It is a wholly modern story which sheds a much-needed light on what can be an unsettling life - and the consequences that follow when children are treated like pawns on a family chessboard. Home Girl is fast-paced and funny, tender, tragic, and full of courage - just like Naomi. It is Alex Wheatle's most moving and personal novel to date.

How It Went Down cover artHow It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson dies from two gunshot wounds, his community is thrown into an uproar. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white. In the aftermath of Tariq's death, everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events line up. Day by day, new twists further obscure the truth. Tariq's friends, family, and community struggle to make sense of the tragedy, and to cope with the hole left behind when a life is cut short. In their own words, they grapple for a way to say with certainty: This is how it went down.

Light It Up cover artLight it Up by Kekla Magoon

A girl walks home from school. She's tall for her age. She's wearing her winter coat. Her headphones are in. She's hurrying. She never makes it home. In the aftermath, while law enforcement tries to justify the response, one fact remains: a police officer has shot and killed an unarmed thirteen-year-old girl. The community is thrown into upheaval, leading to unrest, a growing movement to protest the senseless taking of black lives, and the arrival of white supremacist counter demonstrators. Told in a series of vignettes from multiple viewpoints, Light It Up is a powerful, layered story about injustice and strength, as well as an incredible follow-up to the highly acclaimed 2014 novel How It Went Down.

High School

Color Outside the Lines cover artColor Outside the Lines Compilation

This modern, groundbreaking YA anthology explores the complexity and beauty of interracial and LGBTQ+ relationships where differences are front and center. When people ask me what this anthology is about, I'm often tempted to give them the complicated answer: it's about race, and about how being different from the person you love can matter but how it can also not matter, and it's about Chinese pirate ghosts, black girl vigilantes, colonial India, a flower festival, a garden of poisons, and so, so much else. Honestly, though? I think the answer's much simpler than that. Color outside the Lines is a collection of stories about young, fierce, brilliantly hopeful people in love. - Sangu Mandanna, editor of Color outside the Lines

Boss of the Grips cover artBoss of the Grips: The Life of James H. Williams and the Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal by Erik K. Washington

In a feat of remarkable research and timely reclamation, Eric K. Washington uncovers the nearly forgotten life of James H. Williams (1878-1948), the chief porter of Grand Central Terminal's Red Caps-a multitude of Harlem-based black men whom he organized into the essential labor force of America's most august railroad station. Washington reveals that despite the highly racialized and often exploitative nature of the work, the Red Cap was a highly coveted job for college-bound black men determined to join New York's bourgeoning middle class. Examining the deeply intertwined subjects of class, labor, and African American history, Washington chronicles Williams's life, showing how the enterprising son of freed slaves successfully navigated the segregated world of the northern metropolis, and in so doing ultimately achieved financial and social influence. With this biography, Williams must now be considered, along with Cornelius Vanderbilt and Jacqueline Onassis, one of the great heroes of Grand Central's storied past.

Self-Portrait in Black and White cover artSelf-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race by Thomas Chatterton Williams

A meditation on race and identity from one of our most provocative cultural critics... A reckoning with the way we choose to see and define ourselves, Self-Portrait in Black and White is the searching story of one American family's multi-generational transformation from what is called black to what is assumed to be white. Thomas Chatterton Williams, the son of a "black" father from the segregated South and a "white" mother from the West, spent his whole life believing the dictum that a single drop of "black blood" makes a person black. This was so fundamental to his self-conception that he'd never rigorously reflected on its foundations-but the shock of his experience as the black father of two extremely white-looking children led him to question these long-held convictions. It is not that he has come to believe that he is no longer black or that his kids are white, Williams notes. It is that these categories cannot adequately capture either of them-or anyone else, for that matter. Beautifully written and bound to upset received opinions on race, Self-Portrait in Black and White is an urgent work for our time.

Say Her Name cover artSay Her Name by Zetta Elliott

Inspired by the #SayHerName campaign launched by the African American Policy Forum, these poems pay tribute to victims of police brutality as well as the activists insisting that Black Lives Matter. Elliott engages poets from the past two centuries to create a chorus of voices celebrating the creativity, resilience, and courage of Black women and girls. This collection features forty-nine powerful poems, four of which are tribute poems inspired by the works of Lucille Clifton, Audre Lorde, Nikki Giovanni, and Phillis Wheatley. This provocative collection will move every reader to reflect, respond-and act.

Sweet Taste of Liberty cover artSweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America by W. Caleb McDaniel

Born into slavery, Henrietta Wood was taken to Cincinnati and legally freed in 1848. In 1853, a Kentucky deputy sheriff named Zebulon Ward colluded with Wood's employer, abducted her, and sold her back into bondage. She remained enslaved throughout the Civil War, giving birth to a son in Mississippi and never forgetting who had put her in this position. By 1869, Wood had obtained her freedom for a second time and returned to Cincinnati, where she sued Ward for damages in 1870. Astonishingly, after eight years of litigation, Wood won her case. McDaniel's book is an epic tale of a black woman who survived slavery twice and who achieved more than merely a moral victory over one of her oppressors. Above all, Sweet Taste of Liberty is a portrait of an extraordinary individual as well as a searing reminder of the lessons of her story, which establish beyond question the connections between slavery and the prison system that rose in its place.

More Biographies

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** Thank you Jenny Holt, a freelance writer and author of many blogs and books, for this guest post.

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