Books for Black History Month

Books+for+Black+History+Month

Nationally recognized in 1976, the purpose of Black History Month is to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history” (History.com). In the month of February, schools around the country learn about Civil Rights Activists like Dr. Martin Luther King Junior and Rosa Parks, but it is nearly impossible to recognize the all of the work that has been put into achieving racial equality in the past and present, as well as all of the work that still needs to go into building a better future. In order to get a better understanding of this, students now have access to a virtually unlimited span of knowledge via the internet; but reading theory and watching documentaries can be exhausting, not to mention inaccessible, for many. However, in our modern society, we now have many more accessible literature to inform us of these pressing issues in an entertaining way.

 

The Staple

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Starr Carter, a sixteen-year-old black girl, witnesses the murder of a friend by the police. Facing the struggles of dealing with this trauma, in addition to the normal family-, friend-, and school-related lives of any teenager, Starr is tasked with both the decisions of if she should use her voice and how she should do so in order to be heard.

“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”

Key Components: Black Lives Matter, close family relationship, contemporary

 

Racism in Schools

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

When seventeen-year-old Bri gets fed up with the mistreatment she endures on a daily basis, she uses rap as a creative outlet to express these frustrations. But in a world that has already decided who she is and who she’ll be, she has to fight for her song, for her dreams, and for equality, despite the odds being stacked up against her.

“There’s only so much you can take being described as somebody you’re not.”

Key Components: Rap, socioeconomic discussions, contemporary

 

Representative Fantasy

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Magic once was a common practice in Orisha, but when genocide is committed against the maji by the monarchy and magic disappears, it is up to Zelie Adebola, with the aid of the princess, to restore magic to the land. With a complex magic system, a setting in Africa, and an all-black cast, this book provides representation that has been long neglected in the world of Young Adult Fantasy.

“You crushed us to build your monarchy on the backs of our blood and bone. Your mistake wasn’t keeping us alive. it was thinking we’d never fight back.”

Key Components: Fantasy, enemies to lovers, African mythology

 

Black LGBTQ+ Representation

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus

Sixteen-year-old Audre is forced to leave Trinidad to live with her estranged father after she is caught by her mother with her secret girlfriend. Sixteen-year-old Mabel finds herself living in a world of confusion, along with the encroaching threat of a major illness. The two girls are brought together as if it was written in the stars–moving from strangers, to friends, to something more than friends.

“The Blackness between the stars is the melanin in your skin.”

Key Components: Magical Realism, LGBTQ+ relationship, coming of age

 

 

Pride and Prejudice Remix

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen gets a new look in the modern retelling of the timeless classic. Poet Zuri Benetez feels helpless against the rapid gentrification occurring in her very own neighborhood, and when the Darcy family moves in, she feels nothing but distaste for their family and what they represent, not even their two teenage sons. Darius Darcy seems rude and distant, but maybe he’s not as bad as he seems…

“It’s a truth universally acknowledged that when rich people move into the hood, where it’s a little bit broken and a little bit forgotten, the first thing they want to do is clean it up. But it’s not just the junky stuff they’ll get rid of. People can be thrown away too, like last night’s trash left out on sidewalks or pushed to the edge of wherever all broken things go. What those rich people don’t always know is that broken and forgotten neighborhoods were first built out of love.”

Key Components: Classic retelling, discussions of gentrification, first love

 

A New Type of Dystopian

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

The Belles are beautiful. The world is not. With an elaborate and creative world, in the kingdom of Orleans, people are born with grey skin, straw-like hair, and red eyes; the Belles make them beautiful, for a price. Camellia Beauregard is one of these Belles, with dark skin celebrated as a symbol of her natural beauty. When Camellia and her sisters are of age and take their places in the court, they the secrets of the monarchs of Orleans slowly reveal themselves, and they begin to realize that being a Belle comes at a great cost.

“I still hate the feeling in these moments that my body doesn’t belong to me. I become a doll—an object to be embellished.”

Key Components: Dystopian, Mythology, Elaborate World-Building

 

Forbidden Romance

If  You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson

Originally published in 1998, this book tells the tale of two teens whose love was forbidden for nothing but the color of their skin. Miah, a black boy, and Ellie, a white, Jewish girl, meet at the age of 15 at Percy Academy. A story of young love and epic tragedy, the content of this work of literature still stands true more than two decades after its publication.

“I think only once in your life do you find someone that you say, ‘Hey, this is the person I want to spend the rest of my time on this earth with.’ And if you miss it, or walk away from it, or even maybe, blink – it’s gone.”

Key Components: Interracial relationships, Classic retelling, Jewish representation

 

Written by a Local Author

Sleeping in my Jeans by Connie King Leonard

Mattie Rollins, a sixteen-year-old mixed girl, is homeless. A story that intersects concepts of race, gender, and class, this book takes on a wide variety of difficult topics. All of this considered, this book still manages to bring balance with a tight-knit family relationship and a budding romance. The author, being a white woman, has said she drew inspiration from her experience as a teacher, watching students come in one day no longer have a place to live. This book has a trigger warning for sexual assault.

“Our family’s scars aren’t as visible as Ruby’s. No one can see that our innocence is gone. People can’t look at us and know we carry a distrust in humanity so deep it breaks our confidence.”

Key Components: Teen homelessness, mixed main character, contemporary

 

We would love your input on this topic! Drop a comment with your favorite piece of modern media that also educates on Black culture, racial equality, or other topics that deserve more discussion during Black History Month.