February is Black History Month (2018)


After last year, when I dove rather deeply into reading about Emmett Till for Black History Month, I decided I wanted to incorporate more regular Black history and Black culture reading into my life. So I have put those books into my library queue more consciously this year, rather than just looking in February for interesting stuff. Unfortunately, the way the queue works (my waiting list, the library waiting list, and then the wait once I have the book in hand) and the way my February is looking, I may not finish reading these in time for my February summary. But I wanted to mention them, nonetheless, and reviews will trickle through as I finish them.

Oh: and I’ll be at the movies to see Black Panther on Tuesday — the trailer really convinced me the film will be something special.


Anne C. Bailey, African Voices of the Atlantic Slave Trade. I can’t remember where I saw a review of this, but it got me to request the book from the library. It’s a study of the slave trade from the perspective of (continental) Africans who participated in it. First chapter was excellent. Current location: bookbag. Here’s the publisher’s blurb.

Jonathan Eig, Ali: A Life. Last year dad and I watched all eighteen hours of the excruciatingly nostalgic Vietnam War documentary made by Ken Burns. Muhammad Ali came up as a footnote in the story, as probably the most famous draft evader — with the comment that he gave up probably the most lucrative and active years of his career for the sake of his political convictions. That fascinated me, so when I noticed the NPR review I put it in the queue. It’s really long (the most comprehensive biography to date), and there’s a lot of detail about things I don’t know much about. One interesting thing I’ve gleaned: Ali felt that he could toughen up his head, so during training he took extra hits to the head — Haig estimates 200,000 over the course of his career. The mind pales. Current location: nightstand (because it’s too heavy to carry around).

N. K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season. On a planet that undergoes periodic climate-change related natural disasters, a woman searches for her daughter in the middle of political collapse. Hugo Award Best Novel winner 2016, which I had heard about because I’d read about the Sad Puppies / Rabid Puppies campaigns to exclude “message novels” and women and minority artists from the awards. An end of year list got me to put it in the queue. I’m about 80 percent through and it. is. fantastic. I don’t read a lot of fantasy because world-building often annoys me, but this story is enthralling right from the beginning. I’m also enjoying a plotline about a young woman born with the power to influence the consequences of the climate disaster. Already salivating over the sequel, which won the subsequent year’s Hugo for Best Novel. Current location: front seat of car.

Attica Locke, Bluebird, Bluebird. A Black Texas Ranger (Texas state policeman) has to solve two murders in small-town East Texas. It’s a book about U.S. race relations, a crime novel, but also an evocative, bittersweet description of East Texas. About half done. Current location: front seat of car.

Thomas Mullen, Darktown. First book in a fictionalized crime series about the first African-American policemen in Atlanta. Encountered on a list of recommended Black crime novels. (See, I do love genre fiction!). Current location: coffee table next to sofa.

Julie Lythcott-Haims, Real American: A Memoir. Daughter of a Black father and white mother (both of whom were highly educated professionals) reflects in vignettes on her challenges and identifications growing up in a white neighborhood, her hesitation and struggles in identifying as Black, and current events. Current location: nightstand.

Tayari Jones, An American Marriage. The plans of a newlywed couple are destroyed when the husband is convicted of a crime he did not commit. Supposed to be a comment on (Black) mass incarceration in the U.S. Also now an Oprah’s Book Club choice, so I decided to get it read before the waiting list gets really long. Current location: front seat of car.

~ by Servetus on February 16, 2018.

11 Responses to “February is Black History Month (2018)”

  1. Ich habe “Black Panther” gestern gesehen und bin vollkommen begeistert. Allerdings bin ich voreingenommen, da ich die Geschichten um die “Avengers” grundsätzlich recht faszinierend finde und seit “Civil War” sehr auf “Black Panther” gewartet habe. Der Film hat viele starke Stellen und es gibt aus meiner Sicht nur Kleinigkeiten zu kritisieren. Besonders die Frauenpersönlichkeiten haben mich überzeugt. Wir reden ja hier von einem “Superheldenfilm”, also eigentlich “Popcorn-Kino” (wie man das hier etwas herablassend nennt) und er schneidet gleich mehrere gesellschaftlich relevanten Themen an.
    Ich bin gespannt wie er dir gefällt und möchte hier nicht zu viel verraten. 🙂


    • I was just listening to a radio program about it this morning — people were calling in with shaky, teary voices to say how much they loved it. I was going to wait unilt Tuesday (cheap day) but I might sneak it in earlier, based on the excitement.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember how infuriating, and full of tears last year’s was. Whenever I’m reminded of so many horrendous days, and the atrocious hatred shown each other, I have to hope I would be on the side of right. The truth is, as much as I hope that’s true, i wasn’t born during slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and early civil rights. I was born in May, 1963, in one of the most liberal northern states. I was, for the most part, both protected, and shielded from the events of that period.
    I do vividly remember April 4, 1968, just shy of my fifth birthday my mother, who didn’t drive, taking me on a bus from West Hartford, CT to go “downtown” to Hartford for shopping and lunch. I had no understanding of what that day turned into other than being scared because my mother was scared, and that things became very different from a normal outing to the city. That day, that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated so far away in Memphis, TN exploded in both mourning, and race riots all over the country, including tiny, northern Connecticut.
    We were safe very quickly. My guess is that the doors of G. Fox & Co. were likely locked when things began. My mother called my father, who left work, picked us up, and drove us back to the quiet, white suburb.
    After that, my only real interaction with “colored people” was that after I began Catholic school, a handful of black children were bused from Hartford each day as part of Project Concern. I guess it was the Archdiocese’s attempt at integration and melding. Then in high school, a lot of black kids took city buses from Hartford, and some other surrounding towns.
    There was never predudice in my home, or language that would reflect any, but it was a white home in the 60’s and 70’s.
    I like to think that I do not have any in me, that I go out of my way to smile at the black man who steps into my elevator, maybe say “hi” or “morning”, or brown teen in a hoodie that I pass on the street because I smile at everyone I encounter. Deep down, I have to wonder if I do that out of the kindness that I espouse, or to push down that tinge of fear that could live deep inside without my consent? I don’t know for sure. I don’t know for sure what sort of young adult I would have been in those years had I been born ten or fifteen years earlier. I hope I would have passed my own test, but I can’t ever know that for sure either.
    I’m sorry Servetis, I didn’t mean to highjack your comments. It just kept flowing.


    • Thanks for sharing your history. I think we all got a wake up call with the election of this latest president. We HAVE to try harder. That’s how I fee anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love sci fi – The Fifth Season sounds like one for my reading list.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really feel comfortable recommending it — she’s a multiple nominee for prestigious SF awards, so apparently other readers enjoy it too. I love the narrative voice in this novel.


  4. After reading your review of The Fifth Season I went to Amazon to buy it and found out that I already have done this for our sabbatical. So thanks for reminding me – I will start reading right now!


  5. […] Jemisin: The Fifth Season. One of my Black History Month picks. I had read about this when it won the 2016 Hugo Award, and then saw it on a “best of […]


  6. […] Lythcott-Haims, Real American: A Memoir. One of my black history month picks. It’s a memoir of a woman who identifies as Black, with a white mother and a Black father, […]

    Liked by 1 person

  7. […] Jones, An American Marriage. One of my Black History Month picks. And now an Oprah’s Book Club selection as well. Widely profiled in the literary press. A […]


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