Four Powerful Books for Black History Month
Recently, I've read four books that I highly recommend as reading for Black History Month.
I finished the first book last night, and I'm still steeping in its emotional and poetic words. Sing, Unburied, Sing won its author, Jesmyn Ward, the National Book Award, and for good reason. It deals with the opioid crisis, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Deep Water Horizon oil spill, and does so within a magical realist Mississippi haunted with ghosts. There would be a lot to discuss with your child in terms of family and race relations, the effects of drug use, the continued effects of slavery, and how different people deal with death. Definitely for the more advanced high school reader. It will speak to readers who enjoyed Beloved by Toni Morrison.
The second book is Kindred by Octavia Butler, which I'd recommend for high school and some middle school readers. It is science fiction with a historical bent: the main character Dana time travels (without knowing how or why) from her home in California to the antebellum South to save the white son of a plantation owner. It is an astonishing look at the horrors of slavery and the meaning of family. There is also a graphic novel adaptation by Damian Duffy (I haven't read it, but it looks well-reviewed).
Third is The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas, which is on the National Book Award Longlist. It is about a 16-year-old girl who lives in a poor neighborhood and attends the local prep school. She witnesses her unarmed friend get shot by a police officer, and her world is upended. I read this together with one of my high school students and found it created highly interesting conversations about racism, police shootings, and what it means to belong. Recommended for high school students.
Last is March, the multiple-award-winning graphic novel trilogy written by US Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. It follows the Civil Rights Movement and Lewis's role in it and I found it to be engrossing and informative. Excellent for upper middle and high school students.