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Chapter 7 - Don't Know Much About History

It would be hard to write a book blog in February without paying tribute to Black History. It is also hard to write without being political or trivializing the black experience in America. As you know, I love history and learning about things I don't know a whole lot about. I find it important to learn about others, different time periods, and various perspectives so I can better understand the world.

While it is easy to talk about books by Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker and I certainly read those wonderful authors, I prefer to share authors and books you may not be as familiar with.

Here is a list of some fiction and non-fiction (and even poetry) which you might consider during this very important month.

The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes - In my opinion Langston Hughes was one of the best poets in the world. Although many of his poems speak specifically to the African American experience, so many are poems of universal truth. One of my favorites is I Dream a World but no doubt you would enjoy many of his poems in this collected works edition

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry - This is a play who's title is drawn from a Langston Hughes poem - What Happens to a Dream Deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? First performed in 1959, the play tells the story of a family who has received an insurance settlement due to the death of the father. They then have to decide which dream to follow - buy a house, go to medical school, or invest in a liquor store. Considered one of the first plays to portray black characters, themes, and conflicts in a natural and realistic manner, A Raisin in the Sun received the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play of the Year.

The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride - As he grew up, James McBride was told that his mother was a "light-skinned" black woman. It was only after he was 30 years old that he found out his mother was white and Jewish. The Color of Water tells his mother's story interspersed with McBride's own experiences growing up poor and black in America.

Of Long Memory: Mississippi and the Murder of Medgar Evers by Adam Nossiter - On June 12, 1963 Medger Evers, the NAACP field secretary in Mississippi, was gunned down by white supremacist Byron de la Beckwith. Tried two times by white juries, Beckwith escaped conviction for 30 years until a young Mississippi prosecutor decided to investigate and brought Beckwith back to trial in the 1990's when he was finally convicted. The book details how that reversal came about. This is a sad but riveting read.

Ruby by Cynthia Bond - This was an Oprah's Book Club 2.0 selection and for good reason. Ruby tells the story of a beautiful black woman who returns to her home in East Texas and starts to relive her troubled and violent childhood. Her biggest champion is a man who has loved her since childhood.

Together they fight demons and move into the future. The imagery in this story is beautiful and the writing lyrical.

Kindred by Octavia Butler - A cross between historical fiction and science fiction, Butler's story is about Dana, a modern black woman, who while celebrating her 26th birthday is suddenly transported from her home in California to the antebellum South. Dana is drawn into the past repeatedly and each time the stay is longer and more dangerous until it is uncertain if she will ever return to her own time again.

These authors and others like them enrich the literary history of our great country. Please check them out any time, not just in February!

Do you have any recommendations for Black History month?

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