Books we like
Posted on 2/10/2014
The Watsons Go to Birmingham -1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis is a historical fiction novel told through the eyes of Kenny, the middle child of Wilona and Daniel Watson. When Kenny's older brother, Byron, gets into too much trouble in Flint, Michigan, the family decides that it is time to take Byron down south to Birmingham, Alabama to live with Grandma Sands. The novel comes to a climax as the family bears witnesses to the 16h Avenue Church Bombing of 1963. This novel is great for middle-school kids. I also recommend the audiobook version narrated by LeVar Burton, which is very engaging.
Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin is the nonfiction depiction of the white author's experience of traveling on Greyhounds and hitchhiking throughout the South passing as a black man. The author, under the care of a professional, altered the tone of his skin to resemble that of a black man. The book was published in 1961 during the height of racial turmoil in the country, particularly the South. In this novel, Griffin is able to depict the difficulties imposed on African Americans by societal norms, particularly in the South, from a first person perspective. For me, this book was an eye-opening surprise as Griffin provides an initial reaction and conscious explanation of the prejudices that blacks faced in the 1960's.
Kindred by Octavia Butler. While not based in the 1960's this time-traveling historical fiction novel takes place between 1976 and 1815. Dana, and her husband Kevin, have moved into a new apartment (her husband is a white novelist which plays a key role later in the book). While unpacking, Dana becomes dizzy and when she recovers she is outside, near a river, in 1815 where a red headed boy is drowning in the river. As stated before, this book is not based in the 1960's but provides thematic insight on race and discrimination in both the 1970's and the 1800's and how the plight of black people has not changed much within these two completely separate periods of time. Butler continues to be one of my favorite authors and Kindred one of my favorite books.
11/22/63 by Stephen King is another time travel, historical fiction novel that takes place between the present and the late 1950's. The main character, Jake, discovers a time travel portal in the pantry of a decaying diner. While Jake is in past (he stays for extended periods of time), he has the option of saving the life of a prominent figure during that time period, but beware, what is changed in the past has consequences in the future. This is a change from the other novels that King has produced, but very entertaining and an engaging read nonetheless. I highly recommend this book.
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli is a favorite of mine and one of the first books that encouraged me to read more often as a child. The main character, Jeffery is an orphan who is known for running really fast everywhere. After living with the hate of an uncle and aunt, Jeffery runs away to the East End where the black people of Two Mill live. From there, the novel tells the story of how Jeffery tries to bridge the gap between whites and blacks in this adventurous and entertaining novel. This book is great for kids and the young at heart.
Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin is a film documentary about the life of the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. The lost story of this Civil Rights activist has recently come to light since President Obama awarded Bayard with a posthumous Medal of Freedom in 2013. One of the main reasons that Bayard's story was not spoken of in past years was because he was an out gay man during the 1960's. But in spite of the prejudices imposed on him for not only his race, but orientation, he is now being recognized for his instrumental organization of the March on Washington and this film depicts this and many other works that Bayard had a hand in during this time and throughout his life. The Central Library will offer a public screening this film on Monday, February 17th @ 6 pm.
Please join us for this film screening and a short discussion afterwards.