I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina

alfonso

Originally published in: 2017

What’s it about: A graphic novel about a black teenage boy who is shot and killed by a police officer who mistook the hanger in his hand for a gun. The story follows his friends and family in the aftermath of his death and his own journey as those who have previously lost their lives to police violence lead him through the process of understanding and accepting his death.

What made me pick it up: A colleague put this on hold for me because she thought I was probably going to read it anyway.

My favorite things: Alfonso Jones is shot on the first page, but his story doesn’t end there. I love that we still get insight into his life and that the authors take the time to remember the details of the lives lost to police violence like Amadou Diallo and Anthony Baez. There’s an interesting juxtaposition I haven’t seen in fiction before between police treatment of black and brown men who haven’t committed violent crimes and that of typically white school shooters.

Who it’s great for:  A good read for teens and adults looking to understand the motive for the Movement for Black Lives. Good for fans of The Hate U Give, Dear Martin, and March.

Abby’s rating: five shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Little Leaders by Vashti Harrison

little leaders

Originally published in: 2017

What’s it about: A collection of 40 brief biographies of Black women who have made significant contributions throughout US history, geared toward children and complete with charming illustrations of each woman.

What made me pick it up: I couldn’t not pick it up.

My favorite things: I love the variety of women profiled! There are women from early US history, those alive and achieving today, and those from all the time in-between. Harrison includes women who were pioneers in science, education, law, activism, athletics, and the arts among others. Each biography is long enough to learn about each woman’s life and work, but still short enough to fit on one page so you can easily read a few at a time. I learned a lot!

Who it’s great for:  Readers looking for inspiring stories of Black women’s achievements. Young readers of all identities and backgrounds looking for strong role models. Fans of Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky

Abby’s rating: five shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith

dont call us dead

Originally published in: 2017

What’s it about: A collection of poetry that mourns the black men and boys whose lives are cut short by gun and police violence, while simultaneously exploring his identity as a black, gay, HIV + man.

What made me pick it up: My first reaction to poetry is “ugh, I hate poetry!” So now I’m trying to find poets that I actually want to read.

My favorite things: Some of these poems are really breathtaking. At one point he equates his lifelong fear of death by gun violence to his more recent fear of death by an internal violence – his HIV.

Who it’s great for:  Fans of autobiographical or political poetry. Roxane Gay gave this collection 5 stars on Goodreads, so read this if you trust her opinion.

Abby’s rating: five shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

a kind of freedom

Originally published in: 2017

What’s it about: A New Orleans-based family saga that traces the history of racial disparity from the days of Jim Crow through modern post-Katrina reality.

What made me pick it up: I saw that this got long-listed for the National Book Award in Fiction, and thought it sounded like a good compliment to Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing, which I really enjoyed (and which actually won the award).

My favorite things: While this doesn’t dip into the supernatural they way that Sing did, it still traces similar themes that I was hoping to find. Each character experiences specific manifestations of systemic racism unique to their era but undeniably tied to those of the other generations. The lines between each are clear, with the desperation escalating in younger characters. The people missing from each character’s life have almost as much of an impact on their stories as do those who are present.

Who it’s great for:  Fans of family histories that trace multiple generations. Readers looking for writers telling complex stories of the African-American family; fans of Jesmyn Ward, Tayari Jones, and Angela Flournoy.

Abby’s rating: four-shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).