Our favorites for Black History Month 2020

We’re celebrating the important stories, contributions, and achievements of African Americans with a book display in our atrium throughout the month of February. 

Black History Month Book recommendations from our Adult Circulation Librarians + Library Staff: 

  • Terry (Adult Circulation – Head Librarian) recommends An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. “This book is one of Oprah’s Book Club selections. It follows the wrongful imprisonment of a young black man and its impact on him and his new wife. It is filled with breathtaking twists and turns, bursting with realized and unrealized dreams. My heart ached for all of those impacted by the situation. It is the winner of the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction, and received the NAACP Image Award for outstanding literary work.”
  • Yvonne (Adult Circulation Librarian) recommends Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates. “This suspenseful novel tells the story of Hiram Walker, a man born as a slave who was gifted with a mysterious power. This book was selected for Oprah’s Book Club, and was named a “Must Read Book of 2019” by Time Magazine, and made the best of 2019 lists in The Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune. It’s not to be missed.”
  • Yvonne also recommends Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones. “This fictional book is set in the 1980s in a middle-class neighborhood of Atlanta. The storyline centers on the two families of secret bigamist James Witherspoon. The book explores secrets, new friendships, and growing up.”
  • Jeannette (Adult Circulation Librarian) recommends The Best American Poetry 2000 with guest editor Rita Dove. “This collection is edited by one of the first poets who opened my heart to the idea that beautiful lyrical language can also tell stories, offer witness to history, and represent people’s lived experience. I love poetry because it can be devoured, or nibbled on. It offers us, as readers, the chance to connect to language, to new ideas and experiences, and eventually to one another. There are so many incredible African American poets, and while I chose this text for Rita Dove, I want to highlight the voices of other poets we have, and some we are in the process of adding to Skidompha’s collection — Langston Hughes, June Jordan, Alice Walker, Nikki Giovanni, Audre Lorde, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Maya Angleou.”
  • Carrie (Development Director) recommends Notes from a Young Black Chef (A Memoir) by Kwame Onwuachi. “As a daughter of restaurateurs, a fan of Top Chef, and a want-to-be foodie, I thought this book was a great read. It’s a coming of age story that shines a light on the racism and classism that exists in the food industry in the US.”
  • Carrie also recommends In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose by Alice Walker. “I read this many years ago. Having devoured works by Alice Walker and Zora Neal Hurston, I was eager to dive into this book of essays for a different glimpse into their worlds. Though decades old, this is still a relevant and important collection for all to explore.”

Black History Month Book recommendations from our Young Adult + Children’s Librarians:

Sophie (Teen Librarian) recommends:

  • March: Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell. “March is a powerful story, rooted in Congressman John Lewis’s personal narrative, and is a compelling reflection on the Civil Rights Movement. I love graphic novels; they bring stories to all types of  readers in a new, accessible format.” 
  • Obviously: Stories from My Timeline by Akilah Hughes. “This coming-of-age memoir is a must read for teens and adults alike. Hughes brings the reader along for laugh-out-loud hilarity as well as her more cringe-worthy moments.”

Jessie (Children’s Librarian) recommends:

  • The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander. The Undefeated just won the Caldecott Medal, the Coretta Scott King Award, and was named as a Newbery Honor Book. The illustrations are beautifully detailed and realistic. The book is actually a poem written by Alexander as a love letter to Black life in America. It highlights the trauma of slavery, the empowerment of the Civil Rights Movement, and brings the reader all the way to contemporary Black heroes and icons. His words are simultaneously haunting and empowering.
  • Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey by Ashley Bryan. Maine author and artist, Ashley Bryan, beautifully tells the story of his life from his time in World War II to the present. This title was recently named as a Coretta Scott King Award Honor book. Exquisite, detailed illustrations are paired with copies of letters, documents, and newspaper clippings to tell the story of how he came to a place of peace. This book was written for kids, but adults will find it equally, if not more, illuminating. There is so much detail, readers will undoubtedly learn something new about this wonderful Mainer.
  • Ghost by Jason Reynolds. “This is the first installment in a series of four books about a track team. Ghost tackles issues of poverty, racism, violence, and more. Even if you’re not a runner, you’ll find something to connect with through these characters. Author Jason Reynolds is the newly minted National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and he never disappoints in his storytelling. I enjoyed the audiobook version of this story, as the reader does a phenomenal job.”
  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. This book changed me. Winner of the National Book Award and written in verse, it is a beautiful exploration of growing up, how one’s view of the world changes, and how to navigate those changes. Xiomara, the main character, has always written poetry, but when encouraged by a thoughtful teacher, she begins to explore spoken word. She finds herself through this outlet for her struggles and victories.