What the TBF community is reading this Black History Month

This month, in honor of Black History Month, we asked the Texas Book Festival community to share book recommendations and updates on what they’re currently reading. Make sure you add these reads to your list!

Maya Smart, who serves on the TBF Board of Directors, is reading Daina Ramey Berry’s A Black Women’s History of the United States, a recent debut.

Gigi Edwards Bryant, who also serves on the TBF Board, shared the following story about what she and her family are reading, along with a video of her reading with her grandchildren:

“When our grandchildren visit I read stories to them that I have found throughout the year.  They get to take the book home and read it with their parents after we read it. For Black History Month we read Sing a Song, How ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’, Inspired Generations, by Kelly Starling Lyons. My daughter-in-law was videoing us because I wanted to send the clip to the author, which I did. The second book, which is being read in parts, is The Assassination of Malcolm X by Allison Strak Draper (children’s edition.  The autobiography of Malcolm is a favorite in our family, which we have all read. My last reading for myself, which I recommend, was Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland by Jonathan M. Metzl, MD.  This is my historical perspective for the month.”

TBF Board member Leslie Wingo said she plans to read Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. She also shared that her kids are reading Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o and Legacy and the Queen by Kobe Bryant. She also shared this must-read article written by Austinite Karen Valby, which highlights the lack of representation for people of color in Hollywood and the YA fantasy novels that are picking up Hollywood’s slack.

Hopeton Hay, who hosts the KAZI Book Review on KAZI in Austin, recommends:

“John Hervey Wheeler, Black Banking, and the Economic Struggle for Civil Rights by Brandon Winford.  John Harvey Wheeler was president of M&F Bank (founded in 1908, it is 2nd oldest black-owned bank in nation), in Durham, North Carolina from 1952-1978 and a civil rights lawyer.  He was one of the leading activist in Durham in the successful efforts to integrate the city. In 1956, was the first African-American to bring an integration suit in the state of North Carolina. In 1963 he supported student sit-ins against racial discrimination in employment. In 1964 he became the first black delegate from North Carolina to attend the Democratic National Convention, he served on President John F. Kennedy’s Committee for Equal Employment Opportunity and Urban Housing 1961-1965.”

Dave McClinton, the Austin artist who created the 2019 Festival poster for TBF, recommends:

“The Cheese Monkeys by Chip Kidd: A fun read that makes me pine for my university days.

Rusty Brown by Chris Ware (graphic novel): The detail sends me into a rabbit hole and the emotional depth of the drawings is staggering.

No Name in the Street by James Baldwin: His writing makes me assess the relevance of my own creative output.

Logo Modernism by Jens Muller: I love logo design. It’s how I make my living.”

Don Tate, a local children’s author and illustrator, recommends:

“Currently I’m reading How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram Kendi. It’s a must-read for anytime of the year. It’s made me rethink my understanding of what the word “racist” means and who can have racists ideas (racist ideas aren’t limited to white people). Since I’ve begun reading the book, I find myself putting my own thoughts and actions into check when I go out into the world and do things and say things that I now understand as supporting racists ideas and policies. The book is written as a memoir, and the author is self deprecating, which serves as a reminder that we are all fallible.

I also read Born a Crime: Stories of a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah. It was absolutely one of the most educational, entertaining, and eye-opening books I’ve read in a long time. The stories that he tells about his childhood growing in apartheid South Africa had me fuming one moment and cracking up laughing in the next. It’s also a book that challenged a few of the stereotypical images formed in my head about life for a Black people in South Africa—Africa period. Some of Noah’s stories seemed right out of my own life growing up in very white Des Moines, Iowa. His stories are universal.

As far as children’s books, I’ve enjoyed Freedom Soup by Tami Charles and illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara, a story about the Haitian New Year tradition of preparing and eating Freedom Soup. It’s a story of culture and history and passing down family tradition, that dates back to the Haitian Revolution.”