September 2017 Selections
Readers, we're going to start in September with a curated collection of THREE books. (Three is a lot. I know. But stay with me on this. If it works for you, we'll keep up with this format. If not, we'll make some changes.) Given the recent events happening in Charlottesville, Virginia our theme for September will be African American experiences in the United States. These are books about race, the history of racial oppression in America, and current civil rights events.
Obviously, there are so many books that we could choose to read this month. And don't worry, this won't be the only month that we'll be reading books on this topic. This month, I've selected one adult fiction book, one young adult fiction book, and a middle grade fiction book. We also have a selection of picture books to share with younger readers.
You can choose to read any (or all) of the three books.
Two of these books are quite popular, so you may have already read them. If that's the case, please join the discussion still! We'd love to hear your thoughts.
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Adult Fiction Selection:
Y'all if Oprah deems this worthy of her book club, then we should read it too, right?
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.
As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day.
The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.
Readers, I've heard that this is an emotional read. If you're an HSP (which, thanks to Anne Bogel's new book, I've realized I fall into that category), this is going to be a tough one.
But now is not the time to shy away from hard things.
So, my plan is to read this and supplement my reading with some lighter reads that I know will provide an escape. I suggest that you also find a way to practice self-care in this month of reading.
Young Adult Fiction Selection:
This is one that many of you recommended to me when I first reached out to curate my list of diverse reads. I thought that I was the last person on earth to read this book, but it turns out many of you also have this one waiting on your shelves. So if you haven't read this one yet, now is the time!
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
Middle Grade Selection:
This is a book that I'm currently listening to on audio. (The narration is great!) and it's on the master list for the 2017-2018 Massachusetts Children's Book Award (a list that I wholeheartedly trust when choosing middle grade books).
When the Ku Klux Klan's unwelcome reappearance rattles Stella's segregated southern town, bravery battles prejudice in this Depression-era tour de force from Sharon Draper, the New York Times bestselling author of Out of My Mind.
Stella lives in the segregated South; in Bumblebee, North Carolina, to be exact about it. Some stores she can go into. Some stores she can't. Some folks are right pleasant. Others are a lot less so. To Stella, it sort of evens out, and heck, the Klan hasn't bothered them for years. But one late night, later than she should ever be up, much less wandering around outside, Stella and her little brother see something they're never supposed to see, something that is the first flicker of change to come, unwelcome change by any stretch of the imagination. As Stella's community - her world - is upended, she decides to fight fire with fire. And she learns that ashes don't necessarily signify an end.
Picture Book Selections
I know that many classrooms have prescribed curriculums that mandate which books that we read with our students, but occasionally there's time to choose our own picks for a read aloud. If you're a teacher, these are the books I'd recommend for reading in your classroom this month. (It's important that we don't just read literature about African Americans during Black History Month, but all year long.)
For the parents out there, these are the books you could use to introduce and discuss these periods in American history with your children. These books have been vetted by teachers and come highly recommended.