We're turning this week's blog over to our staff—we asked them to create a Summer Reading List full of books and podcasts they love. Here are their recommendations:
Bakari Seller's new memoir chronicles his life growing up "country" in Denmark South Carolina, where he made history by defeating an incumbent State Representative to become the youngest member of the state legislature and the youngest African American elected official in the country. The book's most moving sections feature Bakari's insights on his relationship with his father, and the impact of his father's life experience on his own formation. Bakari's father Cleveland ("Cleve") a key Civil Rights Leader, survived the Orangeburg Massacre of 1968, an under-reported tragedy in which three Black students were killed by state troopers (two years prior to the more widely covered shooting at Kent State). Cleve Sellers was wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for involvement in the killings, and carried the burden of having a criminal record, until receiving a full pardon 25 years later. Bakari reflects on what it was like to live up to his father's courageous leadership in the fight for equality, and shares how he continues to deal with his rage at the harm done to his father by a white supremacist justice system.
History that doesn't suck is a bi-weekly podcast, delivering a legit, seriously researched, hard-hitting survey of American history through entertaining stories. Think of this as covering the basics of what an American should but possibly doesn't know (or has forgotten) about history.
The Vanishing Half is a page-turner that spans nearly half a century, from the 1940s to the 1990s, following twin sisters Desiree and Stella Vignes, who were raised in a small town conceived of by their great-great-great grandfather — after being freed — as an exclusive place for light-skinned Black people like him. The twins run away from the town at age sixteen. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. This is a book that I couldn't put down - it features so many interesting, rich, and varied characters.
Based on real events, The Nickel Boys tells the story of a Florida reform school in the 1960s through the eyes of its Black residents. It provides a small but powerful window on race and racism in the Jim Crow south, and the emotional legacy of the abuse that the boys carry with them into adulthood. Whitehead won his second Nobel Prize for Nickel Boys, cementing his place as one of our greatest writers.
Girl at War begins in Zagreb, Croatia, in 1991. Ana Jurić is a carefree ten-year-old, living with her family in a small apartment in Croatia’s capital. But that year, civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, splintering Ana’s idyllic childhood. Daily life is altered by food rations and air raid drills, and soccer matches are replaced by sniper fire. When the war arrives at her doorstep, Ana must find her way in a dangerous world. In 2001, Ana is now a college student in Manhattan. Though she’s tried to move on from her past, she can’t escape her memories of war—secrets she keeps even from those closest to her. Haunted by the events that forever changed her family, Ana returns to Croatia after a decade away, hoping to make peace with the place she once called home. As she faces her ghosts, she must come to terms with her country’s difficult history and the events that interrupted her childhood years before. Moving back and forth through time, Girl at War is an honest, generous, brilliantly written novel that illuminates how history shapes the individual. Sara Nović fearlessly shows the impact of war on one young girl—and its legacy on all of us. It’s a debut by a writer who has stared into recent history to find a story that continues to resonate today.
Guy Raz dives into the stories behind some of the world's best known companies. How I Built This weaves a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists—and the movements they built. Especially fun when it’s a brand or company that we are patrons of!
Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore is one of the most informative and moving books I’ve read about the real human impact of climate change and rising sea levels. Rush’s writing is poetic and incredibly informative all at once, delving into the policies and moral and amoral underpinnings that have already led to destruction of communities that can be too easy to ignore.
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous really drives home the importance of sharing one’s own story and understanding the far reaching impact of family history. This beautifully written book, at its core, is about the complicated relationship between a mother and son who are refugees to this country from post-war Vietnam, living in Hartford, CT. It is an in-depth exploration of race, class, sexuality, addiction, and trauma through the experiences of a young man now in his 20's, reflecting on his own life and the lives of his mother and family. Through intricate storytelling, he shines a light on some of the most complex and important issues of our day, providing a prospective we do not often take the time to listen to and understand.
In the Greater Boston Jewish Coalition for Literacy community, we are sharing book lists that cover topics of anti-racism for children. The Children's Literacy initiative shares lists for pre-schoolers and school aged children. Another great resource is the application Caribu that offers picture book reading remotely. Caribu's section on anti-racism includes a wonderful book called Flowers Only (no weeds allowed) by Mimi Mazzarella, illustrated by Barry Goldberg. The book is about "Iris" who is excited to go to the Flower Festival for the first time. When she invites "Dan DeLion" to join her, they are told he is not welcome. The book articulates the triumphs that can be achieved when we stand up for what we believe in to influence the negative perception of others.