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Youth Book Corner: Black History Month

In celebration of Black History Month, our Outreach Coordinator, Leena Desai, recommends some books that profoundly speak of the Black experience in the world today.   

All Because You Matter
Written by Tami Charles, illustrated by Bryan Collier

This picture book is written in verse and is meant to complement the Black Lives Matter movement. Author Tami Charles recognizes the social inequities that exist in the world today—especially towards black and brown children—and wants them to know that in spite of what the world might have them believe, they matter. Since the time they were born until the time they come of age and start understanding the gravity of current events, Charles reinforces the idea that they have, and always will, matter. Award-winning illustrator Bryan Collier’s collages lend vibrancy and energy to Charles’s powerful message of affirmation and hope. Grades Preschool-2

Africville
Written by Shauntay Grant, illustrated by Eva Campbell

Africville is a gorgeous and radiant ode to the Black neighbourhood of the same name that existed in Halifax, Nova Scotia for more than 150 years. This was a lively, close-knit community with brightly painted houses, kids who played football and went rafting, bountiful seafood, and huge bonfires. The residents of Africville paid municipal taxes, but lived without running water, sewers, paved roads and police, fire-truck and ambulance services. In the 1960s, city officials demolished the community, moving people out in city dump trucks and relocating them in public housing. Author Shauntay Grant reimagines the community from the perspective of a little girl. She remembers the stories of the neighbourhood that she has been told and wonders how things were back in the day. In the place of a throbbing community, there now exists a park, which hosts the annual Africville Festival where past residents still gather and reminisce of the days gone by. Grades K-2

The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person
Written by Frederick Joseph

The Black Friend is a book of essays targeted towards people who see themselves as allies of Black people. It is also, of course, meant for people who believe that racism and white privilege no longer exist and those that engage in acts of violence or discrimination against Black people. The book starts with author Frederick Joseph recalling his experience studying in a largely white high school in the early noughties where he was regularly confronted with questions and comments such as “I didn’t know Black people liked Star Wars!” and “What hood are you from?” Joseph weaves anecdotes from the past with what is happening in the world today and invites friends and activists such as Angie Thomas, April Reign and Jemele Hill to weigh on the state of affairs today. The backmatter of this book includes an encyclopedia of racism, providing details on relevant historical events, terminology and more. Overall, this book is a brilliant educational tool and a conversation-starter on the topic of racism. Grades 8-12

 

Like Home
Written by Louisa Onomé

Like Africville, a community is at the heart of Nigerian-Canadian author Louisa Onomé’s debut novel. The neighbourhood that feels “like home” is Ginger East where Chinelo—or Nelo as she is called—has lived her whole life. It’s an easygoing neighbourhood with a very strong sense of community and Nelo loves living there and hanging out with her best friend Kate. Things in Ginger East are changing, though. The people that made the neighbourhood worth living are leaving; even Kate’s family’s future over there seems uncertain after their corner store is vandalized. The police, the media, and other outsiders start making assumptions about Ginger East and have plans to gentrify it. Nelo finds herself in the middle of a national crisis and at the risk of losing everything she loves. Like Home makes a case for the importance of communities, the deep bonds they can foster and the need to nurture, not destroy such enclaves of identity and togetherness. Grades 8-12

Author

Leena Desai