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The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

Book Club’s Black History Month Recommendations

Top left to bottom right: “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, “Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi, “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson, “Pet” by Akwaeke Emezi, “Piecing Me Together” by Renée Watson and “Akata Witch” by Nnedi Okorafor. (Courtesy of Goodreads)

To celebrate Black History Month, the book club hopes to expand WIS’s literary horizons and support Black-owned businesses and creators. With that intent, the following is a list of novels by Black authors, many of which address issues such as racism and inequality. 

“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas:

The hate u give little infants [expletive] everybody,” a Tupac Shakur lyric which in abbreviated form spells out T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E., inspired the title of the book and the themes discussed in it. The phrase refers to how systemic racism determines and influences the type of life Black people will lead. The Hate U Give” starts off with the unjust killing of protagonist Star’s best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. This sparks a movement to get justice for him backed with topics of racism, white privilege, economic status, police brutality, drugs and gang dynamics. Angie Thomas has written a must-read book which is both appropriate for a young adult audience and prompts valuable and insightful discussions.

“Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson:

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“Brown Girl Dreaming” is Jacqueline Woodson’s autobiography, starting when she was born in 1963, a few months before the March on Washington, and encompassing her adolescent life. It’s made up of several short chapters depicting memories, thoughts and anecdotes of her life in chronological order. The free verse style compliments the ideas discussed about growing up Black in South Carolina and New York. The topics are very varied, ranging from her dyslexia but affinity to read and write, to her uncle Robert and his involvement with the Civil Rights Movement, all backdropped with the impact of her father’s absence on her relationship with her family.

“Akata Witch” by Nnedi Okorafor:

Sunny is a young girl who moves to Aba, Nigeria and is labeled “Akata” by her classmates, a derogatory term towards Black people born outside of Africa. On top of this, she has achromasia, which further sets her apart from her peers and gives them something else to taunt her about. Despite these challenges, she soon makes three new friends, Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha, who introduce her to the world of juju, a special kind of magic. When a man called the Black Hat Otokoto begins kidnapping and sacrificing children, Sunny and her friends must band together and use their extraordinary powers to stop him. 

“Piecing Me Together” by Renée Watson:

“Piecing Me Together” tells the story of a Black girl, Jada, who lives in Portland, Oregon and attends a predominately white school on scholarship. She frequently experiences racial profiling and microaggressions both within and outside of school, yet her struggles go unnoticed by her white friends. Jada joins an after-school mentorship program, but later on, she is denied the chance to go on an exciting trip because her teacher feels she has already gotten too many opportunities. The book deals with the impact of prejudice, privilege and racism on Black women’s confidence.

“Light It Up” by Kekla Magoon:

A thirteen-year-old Black girl is shot by a policeman on her way home on a cold winter night. The next day, the town is in upheaval and the streets are flooded with protestors. “Light It Up” is a story about the aftermath of police shootings and how they affect the people living in the community where the shooting occurred. Kekla Magoon recounts a tale that is all too familiar, but in a way that we have never seen before. Through multiple viewpoints and powerful vignettes, she addresses oppression, racism, police brutality and how much people’s lives can change in one short moment. 

“Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi:

“Children of Blood and Bone” takes place in a fictional African country named Orïsha, where King Saran has ordered the killing of all adult practitioners of magic, who are called divîners or maji. Their children, marked by their white hair, grow up under intense oppression. In the novel, protagonist Zélie stumbles upon a disguised princess, Amari, who is carrying a scroll that can awaken divîners’ powers. Zélie’s quest to restore magic to the land becomes all the more difficult when she is forced to depend on an ally she is not sure she can trust. However, the solstice is quickly approaching and she only has a narrow window of time before it’s too late. Tomi Adeyemi’s novel, although fictional, beautifully illustrates some West African culture and religious beliefs. The book also wrestles with themes of oppression which are mirrored in the U.S. and the world. 

“Ghost” by Jason Reynolds:

Ghost is running. He’s not running anywhere, just away: away from his past, his father, from a lot of things, actually. That is, until he meets Coach, the first person to notice his natural talent and encourage him to join an elite track team. Ghost quickly befriends Patina, Lu and Sunny, and realizes that he can be so much more than he ever thought he could be. He hits roadblocks along the way, but with the help of his friends, he overcomes barriers and fixes his mistakes. Jason Reynolds is the national ambassador for young people’s literature and “Ghost” is just one of his many books that celebrate the stories of young Black people. 

“Pet” by Akwaeke Emezi:

Lucile is a dystopian city where all the monsters have been sent away. Racism, homophobia, transphobia, abuse and any kind of discrimination have all been banned. These ideas and concepts have been gone from Lucile for so long that when a creature named Pet comes to warn the city of a monster, no one believes it. No one except for Jam, a young, transgender girl of color, who befriends Pet and sets out to find the monster. Through “Pet,” Akwaeke Emezi takes the world we live in now and wipes it all away, creating a new reality that shows the potential the world has to become a better place.

By Ruthie Barrosse, Nora F. Galizia and Ale Ricci

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