This February, we shifted our gaze ever so slightly, so that it rested not only upon black histories but also black futures, curating displays and collections that showcased myriad Black narratives set in the past, present, and future.
Our inspiration came from local author Patrice Gopo, who, in a piece for the New York Times, wrote “in a society with an abundance of stories featuring white characters, my daughter needs to see herself reflected in the pages. She needs me to help her find stories that expand our country’s typical narrative about black people — beyond slavery, segregation and the civil rights movement. She needs to see people who share her race existing in a variety of books — happy, carefree, fantastical ones, as well as stories of strife.”
Although we’ve selected just five books from our curations to share with you in this post, there are so many extraordinary Black Futures Month reads still in the store, awaiting your review…
1. Crown by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon James
This rhythmic, read-aloud title is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair—a tradition that places on their heads a figurative crown, beaming with jewels, that confirms their brilliance and worth and helps them not only love and accept themselves but also take a giant step toward caring how they present themselves to the world. The fresh cuts. That’s where it all begins.
2. Blended by Sharon Draper
"You’re so exotic!” “You look so unusual.” “But what are you really?” Eleven-year-old Isabella is used to these kinds of comments - her father is black, her mother is white - but that doesn't mean she likes them. And now that her parents are divorced (and getting along WORSE than ever), Isabella feels more like a push-me-pull-me toy.
Being split between Mom and Dad is more than switching houses, switching nicknames, switching backpacks: it’s also about switching identities. If you’re only seen as half of this and half of that, how can you ever feel whole?
3. All the Colors We Will See by Patrice Gopo
Patrice Gopo grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, the child of Jamaican immigrants who had little experience being black in America. From her white Sunday school classes as a child, to her early days of marriage in South Africa, to a new home in the American South with a husband from another land, Patrice’s life is a testament to the challenges and beauty of the world we each live in, a world in which cultures overlap every day. As she digs beneath the layers of immigration questions and race relations, Patrice also turns her voice to themes such as marriage and divorce, the societal beauty standards we hold, and the intricacies of living out our faith.
4. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. Until Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. As Roy’s time in prison passes, Celestial is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together. This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward—with hope and pain—into the future.
5. Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates
When a superhuman terrorist group called "The People" sparks a violent uprising, the land of Wakanda, famed for its incredible technology and proud warrior traditions, will be thrown into turmoil; but can its king, the Black Panther, save it from this fate? Written by MacArthur Genius and National Book Award-winning writer Ta-Nehisi Coates.