I’m not a sports person.
So why is a book about a basketball prodigy one of my favorites? Because of Kwame Alexander’s writing genius. In his book The Crossover he tells the story of a kid obsessed with basketball through gorgeous bits of poetry and hip-hop verse.
But this story doesn’t stop at basketball, it touches on death, love, and brotherhood. It focuses on the importance of family using basketball as a metaphor for life. One of my favorite quotes: “I am unprepared for death. This is a game I cannot play. It has no rules, no referees, you cannot win.” I can’t get this part out of my mind, it puts our mortality as humans into perspective and it mirrors everything I’ve been pondering lately.
This is what I mean about Mr. Alexander’s writing. It hits you. It grabs you. It holds you. Thinking deeply but writing clearly Kwame Alexander draws all kinds of people into his narrative.
Building on the sports theme comes another of his works Booked. A soccer narrative about Nick, a strong character with a clear voice, Booked is another story I’d recommend. I played soccer when I was younger, and though I have no connection to the game whatsoever, I do appreciate the storyline and character development of this story. Nick truly grows over the course of the book and we witness how the events in his life shape him.
Kwame Alexander is swiftly becoming one of my favorite authors and I’m looking forward to reading his other books Solo and Rebound. Definitely look for reviews of those in the future.
It’s crucial for each individual to tell his or her story, especially in a world where everyone voices opinions on who a person is and who they should be.
Booker T. Washington’s autobiography Up From Slavery chronicles his life from childhood in slavery to his success with Tuskegee Institute. Seeing an in-depth look at his journey allowed me to realize how his circumstances influenced his philosophy.
Some fault Booker T. Washington for being too sympathetic to white people after slavery or not thinking that black people were capable of more than labor. But reading this narrative, I see how big of a transition it must have been to go from slavery to freedom in one lifetime. I admire his reconciliatory spirit and his emphasis on education. And I see the difficult spot he was placed in, trying to raise money for his school.
Booker T. Washington was a resilient and dedicated person: walking for miles just to get to Hampton to get an education (shout-out to my Uncle: a Hamptonite), never giving up on Tuskegee Institute, and working hard to help lift up his people.
I recommend that everyone read this autobiography and hear the story of this great man from the man himself.
Novels in verse always hold a special place in my heart. Something about the beauty of poetry flowing through a storyline will always draw me. The magic of novels in verse is illustrated in Andrea Davis Pinkney’s novel Red Pencil.
It tells the story of Amira, a Sudanese girl, who longs to go to school but must instead escape her country’s war-torn scene to journey to a refugee camp. Amira’s voice comes through beautifully and the short poems never seem detached or lifeless. It’s so eye-opening to follow Amira on her quest and experience her hopes and dreams.
For those of us who live in America it can be hard to realize how vital education is because we can access it so easily. This novel expertly demonstrates the hunger we must all have for education, it shows the value of knowledge and the right of all people to learn. I’d definitely recommend this quick but impactful novel.
Telling the stories of great African Americans always comes with a bit of pressure, that pressure intensifies when that icon is your father.
Ilyasah Shabazz, Malcolm X’s daughter, expertly handled this pressure and created a stunning YA novel telling her father’s story. Along with Kekla Magoon Ms. Shabazz wrote X: A Novel, which illustrates a slightly fictional depiction of the journey of teenage Malcolm X into adulthood.
Rather than focusing on the giant of social change, this novel focuses on the guy just trying to fit into a new city, navigate life, and figure out who he is. We see the great Malcolm X, but more so we see the human Malcolm X. We witness a regular guy who spends too much money on a fancy suit, seeks out the best clubs Harlem has to offer, and gets a conk.
It’s an intriguing and exciting narrative made even richer by the fact that his daughter tells it.
Diversity is not only about ethnicity it deals with one’s body of work too. We desperately need black authors who write everything from historical fiction and coming-of-age narratives to humorous adventure stories and chilling dystopian chronicles.
Christopher Paul Curtis is an author whose repertoire is quite varied. In his books Mr. Chickee’s Messy Mission and Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money he delivers a fast-pace heist type story laced with humor and fun. Think Mission Impossible, but with a cool old man and a weird 9 year-old boy. I’d definitely recommend listening to these on road trips, they’re mindless enough for cruisin’ on open roads, but gripping enough to make 6+ hours seem like a piece of cake.
If you’re looking for something a bit more historical Mr. Curtis has The Watson’s Go to Birmingham. It tells the story of a family going down from Flint, Michigan to Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. Told from a 9 year-olds perspective, it tackles the tragic events of that city and year in a natural unintimidating manner. It’s one of those classic books that most people have never heard of but need to read. With wit, humor, and history it has something for everyone.
Bud Not Buddy is another amazing read, it tells the story of a little boy in search of his father. Armed only with his precious suitcase, flyers with clues of his past, and a bucket full courage and charisma, Bud launches on a long and intense journey filled with adventure and lots of jazz.
I’ve loved each of these five books at different times and in different ways, I hope they impact you as positively as they’ve impacted me.
Expertly weaving Christianity throughout intriguing narratives, it’s no wonder Nikki Grimes is a greatly beloved and acclaimed children’s and young adult author. I recently read her novel A Girl Named Mister which introduces us to Mary Rudine, a young teenager busy with church and school, devoted to her promise of purity. The narrative deals with the aftermath of her breaking that promise and the consequences of sexual sin. Ms. Grimes draws parallels from the story of Mary the mother of Jesus in a fresh way. And despite the subject matter she keeps this book appropriate which shows immense writing skill.
One thing that I love about this novel is that it shows the consequences of sin but also the complete and total forgiveness of God. It shows how God can make beauty from broken things and that he uses people to show his good and wonderful nature. Ms. Grimes also illustrates beautiful mother-daughter relationships, the metamorphosis of the parent-child dynamic, and the power of a mother’s constant love.
I’m in the midst of reading Ms. Grimes Dark Sons and I’m looking forward to finishing it soon and reading more of her dynamic work.
Activist, abolitionist, author, It’s hard to believe that Frederick Douglass began his life in slavery. In his famous book: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass he tells the story of his bondage, his escape, and his calling.
Never shying away from recounting the horrors of slavery and the injustice he experienced, Frederick Douglass boldly exposes issues that need to be in the open: the rape, beating, and murder that were rampant in the time.
But make no mistake, Douglass’ ideas not only apply to the age of American chattel slavery, but they apply to our day. By exposing the issues with Christianity of his time: Christians allowing and promoting inhumane and inconceivable acts in the name of Jesus, through his narrative I noticed parallels between the attitudes of that day and our day. As Douglass said, the Christianity of Christ is far from the women-whipping, cradle-plundering, murderous Christianity of this land. Christ’s Christianity addresses social issues and cares about people before politics and people before patriotism. It seems to apply to the response to police brutality issues of late: Christians don’t need to be “black or blue” as Christians we should be for justice and life. No person should fear murder because of the color of their skin, period.
A short book, it won’t take long to read and the thoughts of Narrative of the Life stay with you long after the final page has been turned.
Can I start by saying that I’m struggling? I’ve never blogged every day before, let alone for 28 days straight. I’m really enjoying doing this series though, and I think that writing this is of the utmost importance. Anyway, let’s get to today’s author!
Angie Thomas is currently one of the most famous YA authors. Her debut novel The Hate You Give rocketed her to the top of lots of people’s radars and has even gotten the attention of movie producers.
The Hate U Give tells the story of Starr Carter, a teen girl who witnesses her best friend’s murder by the police. It wrestles with police brutality, which is a very timely issue, in a fresh way. Making both the victim and police officers multi-faceted and real, Angie Thomas allows the reader not to see this as a racial issue but a human issue above all.
Details like hip-hop and sneaker references allow this book to be fun and impactful. With interracial relationships, family dynamics, and economic disparity there’s almost nothing that The Hate U Give doesn’t cover.
I’m truly looking forward to Angie Thomas’s next novel On the Come Up and hope it impacts the culture as much as this one has.
YA is rife with coming-of-age books, so it’s always nice to find a book that casts the same narrative in a new light. Liara Tamani’s debut novel Calling My Name is that book.
It tells the story of Taja Brown, from middle school to senior year, as she struggles with who God is, who she is, and who she wants to be. Navigating death, love, and friendship Taja looks at the world with fresh eyes and Ms. Tamani writes her observations with fresh prose. It flows like poetry and evokes vivid imagery, yet stays casual enough to feel as if we’re really in the mind of a regular girl.
I can’t wait to read more from Liara Tamani in the future and whole-heartedly recommend Calling My Name.
Making history come alive takes a special skill, a skill that John Lewis possesses. As a civil rights activist, United States representative, and author he has a lot to say. Living through lunch counter sit-ins and marches of the 60s, and even giving a speech at the March on Washington, John Lewis was on the front lines of the civil rights movement.
In his graphic novel March, Mr. Lewis brings the history of integration and revolution to life. Telling his stories of fighting for justice and equality, he shows the beauty of that time in history. This book and its sequels are perfect for reluctant readers because the easy comic book-like style makes it an entertaining read.
There’s something special about reading history from someone who lived it first hand. John Lewis fought, spoke, and went to jail for freedom. And in the March series we get to witness it all with him.