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LACES Untied

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Celebrating Black Literature

LACES faculty explore acclaimed books
Celebrating+Black+Literature
Karjean Levine

As the LACES community celebrates Black History Month, it’s crucial to shine a light on some of the best Black authors in the literary world. This is a list of Black authors who LACES students can turn to for diverse narratives that take a deep dive into human life in many different worlds.

 

Feminism Is for Everybody – bell hooks

bell hooks (who uncapitalized her penname to have readers focus on her books, according to the Washington Post) wrote many books on a variety of topics, including feminism, race and class. AP World History and African American Studies teacher Ms. Cecilia Portillo specifically recommends hooks’ book Feminism Is for Everybody, as it is written in a style that is relatable and easy to digest. hooks talks about “lifestyle feminism,” which states that anyone, no matter their beliefs can and should be a feminist. hooks saw this as people living as both oppressor and oppressed, which caused the feminist movement to stall. For hooks, feminism must change for it to make any progress, and new generations must be convinced of the movement’s promise.

 

Ghost – Jason Reynolds

The school librarian Ms. Jasmin Kim introduced Untied to Jason Reynolds, a rising star whose Track series (including the bestselling novel Ghost) delve into the struggles of student-athletes navigating the challenges of middle and high school. From dealing with family issues to overcoming athletic and academic obstacles, Reynolds’ series captures the difficulty of being a teenager. His concise yet impactful narratives cater to a diverse audience, offering relatable stories that resonate with students.

 

Forty Million Dollar Slaves – William C. Rhoden

In his book Forty Million Dollar Slaves, Rhoden delves into the history of sports in America and how Black athletes have been exploited by white teams and owners. Portillo recommended this book for those interested in the relationship between American sports teams and their athletes. Rhoden’s “Conveyor Belt” theory details how young Black athletes from inner cities are recruited from their communities to big college/professional programs, where they are exploited by owners and the media. Rhoden speaks about how sports were introduced to plantations in the latter part of the 18th and early 19th centuries to prevent slaves from rebelling, and how he believes major sports leagues are doing the same today. 

 

Dear Martin – Nic Stone

Andrea Nicole Livingstone (aka Nic Stone) emerges as another hidden gem in the literary world, particularly for young Black readers. Her stories such as her debut novel Dear Martin explore the troubles of young Black children who face police brutality and the inequalities of the juvenile criminal justice system. “She has a lot of stories about young Black children going through rocky experiences, trying to understand why these [events] are happening to them,” Kim said. She emphasized Stone’s ability to present these stories in an amusing way, making them accessible to struggling readers as well as more advanced ones. 

 

Stamped from the Beginning – Ibram X. Kendi

AP Seminar/Research and Ethnic Studies teacher Dr. Ingrid Fey highlighted the impactful work of Ibram X. Kendi. Kendi’s book, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America is a monumental account challenging preconceived notions about racism’s origins and its effects. Kendi’s writings offer a critical lens on race and racism, leading to bans in certain states such as Florida and South Carolina. With abridged versions suitable for middle and high school readers, his works are valuable resources for students learning about the history of institutional racism in America.

 

Corregidora – Gayl Jones

Corregidora is a gripping novel about the enslaved women who were coerced into sexual relationships with their masters and the effect this had on future generations. Portillo says this novel is intense and invites thought about genealogy and how it can change people’s perspectives on life. The language and imagery of the book is carefully constructed, weaving a disturbing tapestry that consumes the protagonist, who must carry on the stories of her enslaved family.

 

Dork Diaries – Rachel Renée Russell

While Rachel Renée Russell may not be a household name, her Dork Diaries series has garnered immense popularity among pre-teens and teens. Kim highlighted how the Dork Diaries are well known, but not Russell’s body of work as a whole. As LACES students seek a balance between academic and personal challenges, Russell’s work provides a refreshing perspective, intertwining humor with relatable struggles such as adjusting to new school environments and navigating tumultuous school friendships.

 

Additional Recommendations

Fey also cited Ta-Nehisi Coates and Octavia Butler as two eloquent Black authors. Coates’ Between the World and Me serves as a powerful exploration of Black experiences and is taught in LACES English classes. Meanwhile, Octavia Butler’s science fiction pieces offer a fresh perspective to students interested in futuristic narratives that connect to current social issues. One such piece is Parable of the Sower, a post-apocalyptic novel that tracks the violence, hope and community of a world ravaged by climate change and social strife.

As LACES celebrates Black History Month, students can look to these books for thought-provoking stories. Through these stories, doors are opened to empathy, understanding, and a more inclusive literary landscape.

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Eddy Ju
Eddy Ju, Sports Editor
Hi, my name is Eddy Ju and this is my second year as Sports editor and third year in high school Journalism. Aside from being interested in the news and current events, I enjoy playing and watching numerous sports, playing the violin, and spending time with friends. I look forward to another amazing year in Journalism!
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