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Celebrate Black History Month with books!

Celebrate Black History Month With These 10 Powerful Novels

It’s the first day of Black History Month, and what better way could there be to celebrate the black community’s rich artistic legacy than with these ten iconic novels? These outstanding works of literature represent the diverse experiences of the black community, collectively featuring black authors and characters of varied genders, sexual orientations, nationalities, and mixed racial identities. If your favorite book isn’t on the list… be glad to have an extra recommendation! Truthfully, there are too many powerful books to list, and the collection below represents only the smallest fraction of the black community’s enormous cultural achievements. So read on! Whether classic or contemporary, these ten books represent some of the world’s greatest works of literature.

Beloved by Toni Morrison

 

'Beloved' by Toni Morrison

 

Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby.

Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Her new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.

Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement by Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrison.

 

GIovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

 

'Giovanni's Room' by James Baldwin

 

Baldwin’s haunting and controversial second novel is his most sustained treatment of sexuality, and a classic of gay literature. In a 1950s Paris swarming with expatriates and characterized by dangerous liaisons and hidden violence, an American finds himself unable to repress his impulses, despite his determination to live the conventional life he envisions for himself. After meeting and proposing to a young woman, he falls into a lengthy affair with an Italian bartender and is confounded and tortured by his sexual identity as he oscillates between the two.

Examining the mystery of love and passion in an intensely imagined narrative, Baldwin creates a moving and complex story of death and desire that is revelatory in its insight.

 

Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

 

'Their Eyes Were Watching God' by Zora Neale Hurston

 

Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person — no mean feat for a black woman in the ’30s. Janie’s quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots.

One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.

 

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

 

'Things Fall Apart' by Chinua Achebe

 

Things Fall Apart tells two overlapping, intertwining stories, both of which center around Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first of these stories traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world in which he lives, and in its classical purity of line and economical beauty it provides us with a powerful fable about the immemorial conflict between the individual and society.

The second story, which is as modern as the first is ancient, and which elevates the book to a tragic plane, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo’s world through the arrival of aggressive, proselytizing European missionaries. These twin dramas are perfectly harmonized, and they are modulated by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul. Things Fall Apart is the most illuminating and permanent monument we have to the modern African experience as seen from within.

 

The Underground Railroad by Colson whitehead

 

'The Underground Railroad' by Colson Whitehead

 

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven—but the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

 

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

 

'The Color Purple' by Alice Walker

 

The Color Purple is a classic. With over a million copies sold in the UK alone, it is hailed as one of the all-time ‘greats’ of literature, inspiring generations of readers.

Set in the deep American South between the wars, it is the tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls ‘father’, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually, Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.

 

wHITE tEETH by Zadie Smith

 

'White Teeth' by Zadie Smith

 

At the center of this invigorating novel are two unlikely friends, Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal. Hapless veterans of World War II, Archie and Samad and their families become agents of England’s irrevocable transformation. A second marriage to Clara Bowden, a beautiful, albeit tooth-challenged, Jamaican half his age, quite literally gives Archie a second lease on life, and produces Irie, a knowing child whose personality doesn’t quite match her name (Jamaican for “no problem”). Samad’s late-in-life arranged marriage (he had to wait for his bride to be born), produces twin sons whose separate paths confound Iqbal’s every effort to direct them, and a renewed, if selective, submission to his Islamic faith.

Set against London’s racial and cultural tapestry, venturing across the former empire and into the past as it barrels toward the future, White Teeth revels in the ecstatic hodgepodge of modern life, flirting with disaster, confounding expectations, and embracing the comedy of daily existence.

 

Invisible man by Ralph Ellison

 

Ralph Ellison's 'Invisible Man'

 

First published in 1952 and immediately hailed as a masterpiece, Invisible Man is one of those rare novels that have changed the shape of American literature. For not only does Ralph Ellison’s nightmare journey across the racial divide tell unparalleled truths about the nature of bigotry and its effects on the minds of both victims and perpetrators, it gives us an entirely new model of what a novel can be.

As he journeys from the Deep South to the streets and basements of Harlem, from a horrifying “battle royal” where black men are reduced to fighting animals, to a Communist rally where they are elevated to the status of trophies, Ralph Ellison’s nameless protagonist ushers readers into a parallel universe that throws our own into harsh and even hilarious relief. Suspenseful and sardonic, narrated in a voice that takes in the symphonic range of the American language, black and white, Invisible Man is one of the most audacious and dazzling novels of our century.

 

SIng, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

 

Sing Unburied Sing

 

Jesmyn Ward’s first novel since her National Book Award–winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America.

Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn’t lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent White father, Michael, who is being released from prison; his absent White grandfather, Big Joseph, who won’t acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given, who died as a teenager.

When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another thirteen-year-old boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.

Not Without Laughter by Langston Hughes

 

'Not Without Laughter' by Langston Hughes

 

Although best known as a poet and pioneer of the Harlem Renaissance movement, Langston Hughes proves himself one of modern literature’s most revered and versatile African-American authors with Not Without Laughter, a powerful classic novel.

This is a moving portrait of African-American family life in 1930s Kansas, following young Sandy Rogers as he comes of age. Sandy’s mother, Annjee, works as a housekeeper for a rich white family, while his father, traverses the country in search of work.

Not Without Laughter is a moving examination of growing up in a racially divided society. A rich and important work, Hughes deftly echoes the black American experience with this novel.

 

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pride

5 YA Books Starring PoC LGBT Leads

Happy Pride everyone! In order to make sure that everyone feels included within this beautiful celebration of this month dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community, we are including some essential reading featuring diverse, non-white protagonists.

 

Via Giphy

Via Giphy

 

1. Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

Leila has made it most of the way through Armstead Academy without having a crush on anyone, which is a relief. As an Iranian American, she’s different enough; if word got out that Leila liked girls, life would be twice as hard. But when beautiful new girl Saskia shows up, Leila starts to take risks she never thought she would. As she carefully confides in trusted friends about Saskia’s confusing signals, Leila begins to figure out that all her classmates are more complicated than they first appear to be, and some are keeping surprising secrets of their own.

 

2. Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff. Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle? With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlowe, and most importantly, herself.

 

3. Little & Lion Hardcover by Brandy Colbert

When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she’s isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (as well as her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.

 

4. Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

 

5. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire  

 

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.
 

 

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Collage of items for sale

‘Little Women’ Goes Modern With Multicultural Graphic Novel

In honor of Little Women‘s 150th anniversary,  Little, Brown Books Books for Young Readers is revamping Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic with a modern spin. 

 

The publishing company is collaborating with Tapas Media to bring color to the pages of this classic with a new graphic novel which will feature a muilticultural version of the March family.

 

150 years after Little Women enchanted readers everywhere, audiences across the world have become immersed in more diversified cultures and will find themselves better able to identify with the March family ever more than before.

 

LITTLE WOMEN

Image Via Bre Indigo/Tapas Media

 

Written by Rey Terciero and illustrated by Bre Indigo, this graphic novel, titled Meg, Joe, Beth, and Amy, will honor Alcott’s incredible characters while acknowledging the dramatic cultural shift that has occurred in the last 150 years.

 

“Bre and I wanted to see ourselves in the characters, too, which is why we made the family diverse,” Terciero said. This representation will go beyond skin color, however, as the graphic novel will also feature an LGBTQ character.

Terciero comments:

 

I wanted to play with the subtext that may not have been available 150 years ago, but that we can speak openly about these days. Being LGBT myself, I’m just happy to be creating a book that I wish I could have read as a young reader.

 

picture

Image Via Bre Indigo/Tapas Media

 

Mirroring Alcott’s version, the graphic novel will dive into some heavy topics including sexuality, maturity, sisterhood, identity, and more. However, the colorful illustrations will help to bring light to the dark matters and maintain an uplifting tone.

 

“It’s also very PG, and very sweet,” Terciero said. “I wanted to be sensitive with the heavy topics while staying true to Alcott’s vision of empowering young women.”

 

pic

Image Via Bre Indigo/Tapas Media

 

Indigo spoke of her desire to see modern audiences find a new reliability in the diverse characters.

 

She said:

 

Meg, Joe, Beth, and Amy have so much in common with today’s youth and hopefully when young readers pick up the book they can find themselves in the girls and apply their growth to their own lives. My personal goal as an artist is to help others to embrace empathy, to relate to one another and grow as individuals. And I think our book does just that.

 

Meg, Joe, Beth, and Amy will premiere as an episodic series online, with the first episode available this week. A paperback version along with e-book editions will be released in November 2018.

 

Feature Image Via Bre Indigo/Tapas Media

We Read Too

New App Allows Readers to Find Writers of Color at the Tap of a Screen!

Software engineer Kaya Thomas designed an absolutely awesome app called We Read Too. It lets readers easily find children’s books by writers of color featuring characters of color. It’s not always easy to find diverse children’s literature, and Thomas noticed this growing up. We Read Too should help future generations read from a wider array of authors.

 

The app is sleek, colorful, and easy to browse. It allows users to filter by picture, chapter, middle grade, and young adult books. With over 600 books included, the simple browsing system allows parents, teachers, tutors, guardians, and basically all adults help children find books by writers of color, featuring, hopefully, characters that look a little more like them.

 

Thomas is an Associate Engineer at Slack Technologies (yes, the site you use to send funny memes to your coworkers), but We Read Too is her passion project. It’s available to everybody for free, and that’s how Thomas wants to keep it. Speaking to Apple, Thomas said, “I wanted We Read Too to be accessible to everyone, regardless of whether they could afford to buy a $1 app. I have no intention of ever charging anyone for access to the information.”

 

We Read Too gives us a reason to be optimistic, as more young readers will now be able to read books by writers of color. Thomas hopes to partner with libraries in the future. If that pans out, then it will help ensure the information she’s gathered is going to the right people. Pick up We Read Too on the App Store and Google Play today!

 

Feature Image Via We Read Too

Jude Law as Dumbledore

“Not Explicitly”: New ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Film Won’t Explore Dumbledore’s Homosexuality

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Fantastic Beasts director David Yates has said that the new film will not “explicitly” explore the relationship between young Dumbledore (Jude Law) and Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp). 

 

However, he continued, saying

 

I think all the fans are aware of that. He had a very intense relationship with Grindelwald when they were young men. They fell in love with each other’s ideas, and ideology and each other…He’s a maverick and a rebel and he’s an inspiring teacher at Hogwarts. He’s witty and has a bit of edge. He’s not this elder statesman. He’s a really kinetic guy. And opposite Johnny Depp as Grindelwald, they make an incredible pairing.

 

Okay, skillful sidestep there, David. All may not be lost, however. J. K. Rowling, who serves as producer and screenwriter for the films has previously stated

 

I can’t tell you everything I would like to say because this is obviously a five-part story so there’s lots to unpack in that relationship. You will see Dumbledore as a younger man and quite a troubled man—he wasn’t always the sage…We’ll see him at that formative period of his life. As far as his sexuality is concerned … watch this space.

 

So maybe Dumbledore’s sexuality will be explored in future films, but it seems remiss and even irresponsible to exclude any explicit mention of it. Representation matters, David. 

 

Colin Farrell

 Via Tumblr

 

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