Saturday, January 20, 2018

MLK Week: Why Haven't I Read These Yet?

In honor of Dr. King's birthday earlier this week, I made a bunch of book lists.  Every day all week I posted a new list of books related to race in America, mostly  YA and MG fiction, mostly backlist, and mostly looking at the black/white issue. Tuesday I shared YA titles that deal with life as an African American teen in today's United States. Wednesday I put together a list of historical fiction for MG readers. Thursday I talked about some 20th century classics and pop fiction novels. Friday I listed some terrific African American poets. Then I put together a survey asking you to vote on some authors I should feature in my classroom displays. 

For my grand finale, I'm going to fangirl about:

Books I Haven't Read Yet But I Really, Really, Really Want To

You've read all of Kwame Alexander's and Jason Reynold's oeuvres.  You've been following along all week, wondering, "But why hasn't she mentioned___ yet?"  You are woke to the infinite degree and would like some NEW titles, not these ancient ones. You got money for your birthday yesterday and want to spend it on books by authors of colors. Have I got some suggestions for YOU--and ME!  Prepare for some caps locks and excessive exclamation points as I share how eager I am to get to these books.

Solo by Kwame Alexander.  Why haven't I read it yet? I bought it the first time I saw it. I love his work. I saw him in person a few years ago, and was blown away by his wit, use of language, and heart. It's a novel in verse, so even though it LOOKS big, it would be a quick read. WHY, Wendy, why?

As Brave As You, Patina, and The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds. Reynolds is another author whose entire body of work I'd like to read. Two of those books are in my classroom library. NO EXCUSES. Time to read them.

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson. I really liked This Side of Home, and I'm excited to read the next one. As a Portlander, I LOVE the cover! And again, I have not one but TWO copies of this in my classroom library. So I should read it already!

Little Green, Rose Gold, and Charcoal Joe by Walter Mosley. I stopped reading the Easy Rawlins series after Blonde Faith, which ended with the presumed death of the protagonist. I didn't realize that six years later, Mosley took up the series again, so now I'm three books behind. 

Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor. I loved the first book in ths middle grade fantasy series set in Nigeria. The author is Nigerian born and US raised, and her protagonist is US born and raised for part of her childhood before returning to her family's homeland of NIgeria. So I count this as African American #ownvoices writing, but it's set in a very different and fully realized setting.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone. I know, I even name-checked this one in my intro post, and I have it sitting on the end table at home, but I haven't had a chance to dive into it yet. I've heard it's a great choice for First Chapter Friday, and when I start that in two weeks, there's a good chance I'll want to keep going if no kid grabs it.

X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Maggon. I almost started to read this last summer. It's still on my bedside table. STOP STALLING, FALCONER!

X is based on Malcom X's early life. I'm going to go from there with some straight-up nonfiction I really need to get to.

They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of An American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Baroletti. The title makes it clear this will be no "fine people on both sides" dismissal of evil. Um, if a white author writes about the KKK, does that make it #ownvoices?  I guess that would actually be a horrific insult to her. 

Marching for Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don't You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge. I've had this in my classroom library for a couple of years, and it looks like a wonderful, primary source rich work of narrative nonfiction. So, maybe I should JUST READ IT ALREADY?!?

Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice by Phillip Hoose. This biography of a teenaged girl who was ridiculed and harassed for doing what Rosa Parks would do a short time later sounds fantastic. I'm hoping for something as moving as Ruby Bridge's MG memoir, Through My Eyes.

We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March by Cynthia Levinson Cynthia Skyped with one of my classes last year, and she's done a lot of research and has a lot of passion about history and how it affects our society today. 

From YA/MG nonfiction to a couple of adult nonfiction books I've been meaning to read FOR-EFFING-EVER.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Slacks by Rebecca Skloot. Goodreads tells me I put it on my TBR in November. Of 2014. Ridiculous.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.  It's a classic. I've never read it. I'm pathetic.

Finally, a couple of professional books I'd like to read, even though during the average school year I teach one black and two biracial children. Lisa Delpit's Other People's Children and Beverly Daniel Tatum's Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria taught me a lot about teaching kids of color, even if my population is much more Latino than black, so I know these books would strengthen my ability to teach without with less bias. 

Multiplication is for White People Lisa Delpit's newer title digs into what happens to create the so-called "achievement gap" in schools. 

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood and The Rest of Y'all Too by Christopher Emdin. This was the book everyone was talking about last year, but I never got a chance to read it. 


Thanks for hanging out with me this week while I talk up books that support the dream Martin Luther King shared with us. It's more complicated than we ever knew--well, at least growing up white in the 1980s, ending racism seemed imminent, and now I understand how deeply entrenched it is, both in all of us as individuals and in our society as a whole. It's definitely a case where (again, speaking as a white woman), the more you learn, the more ignorant you realize you are. I was motivated this week to take down and change a classroom display that was full of implicit bias, and you still have time to VOTE on which authors I should feature instead.  Please do!


  1. So many books! I hope you get a chance to read all these! I actually own As Brave As You, but I haven’t read it yet. I’m on a waitlist for Dear Martin, but the list is so long that I’ll probably buy the book first. I know the author of the KKK book in real life. She’s not in the Klan, but she’s a brilliant historian and excellent human. :)

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. AJ! I own two copies of Dear Martin! If I send you one, we could both read it and do a buddy review! So many exclamation points! Also, I'm glad to know that the author of the KKK book wasn't writing autobiographically.

  2. I have loved this feature!!!!! Such a great idea! I cannot believe I'm about to say this, but I have not even read 1 of the above books, even though so many of them have been on my radar for awhile. How is that possible. Side note.....Jason Reynolds will be at the middle school in my district next month. I'm trying to come up with a legit reason that I HAVE to be there (I mean we already know I legit need to be there)....or do I just take a personal day and do it? I mean....can you even believe it?


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