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October 19, 2018

2/7/2018 2:21:00 PM
Read Black
By Betsy Bird

Black History Month is here. For many libraries and bookstores, this means pulling together large displays of Black authors, Black subject matter, Black history, etc. But as many have pointed out, this month often turns out to be the only time these books are ever highlighted. Indeed some libraries and bookstores outright refuse to create these displays, opting instead to create them for the eleven other months of the year.

Here at the Evanston Library we strive to keep our displays diverse 365 days of the year. Meanwhile, while weeding the collection I inevitably come across amazing books by Black writers that haven’t circulated in four years or more. These books are titles that often did not have the publicity push other books were granted. As a result, we buy them, but they disappear into our stacks, never to be read again.

The solution? Why not make a display of them?

I thought about postponing the display until March, so as to make a point about doing them all year, but then I saw this sign: “Read them EVERY month – not just in February.”

That pretty much summed up the books I wanted to display. Here then is a small selection of titles that you may not have heard about, but that are definitely worth discovering. Stop by the library to check them out.

“If Sons, Then Heirs” by Lorene Cary
From Publishers Weekly, “Cary tells a complex story of family, race, and the challenges of reconciling the present with a persistent past … Cary (“Black Ice”) pairs generations of loving and loyal individuals with social history, making for an absorbing and moving tale.”

“Hottentot Venus” by Barbara Chase-Riboud
From Publishers Weekly, “Based on the true story of a woman who was exhibited as part of a freak show in London’s Piccadilly and upon her death at age 27 was publicly dissected in France … Kudos to Chase-Riboud for exploring this story of oppression and for humanizing a woman who was virtually regarded as an animal, according to the ideology of the day.”

“Unfinished Masterpiece” by Anita Scott Coleman
From Publishers Weekly, “Coleman (1890–1960) was a Black woman born in Mexico and raised in the American Southwest … Coleman’s perspective extends and challenges conventional notions about the settings, characters and themes of early 20th-century African American fiction. Her work is entertaining for the general reader and historically significant for the scholar.”

“Johnny Mad Dog” by Emmanuel Boundzeki Dongala
From Library Journal, “Taking place during a West African civil war, this powerful novel by Dongala (“Little Boys Come from the Stars”) centers on two members of rival ethnic groups caught up in the chaos. Hope hangs by a tenuous thread in this violent yet compelling tale.”

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