For the past few weeks I have listened to my mother complain about the lack of Black History month enthusiasm. While I realize we shouldn’t rely upon the media, it really is unfortunate that nobody has shown any commercials or specials. I bet my mother that we would see more stuff during the final week of February, but even that statement seems sketchy now.
So during my visit to USA Today’s book page, I found a special link titled “This month, flip through the pages of black history.” Unfortunately, the author, Bob Minzesheimer, seems to think that black history is limited to slavery and the civil rights movement. Such a shame. He introduces his selections with:
In February, Black History Month, publishers release a flood of books about or by African Americans. USA TODAY recommends a dozen new titles for all ages.
What’s funny is, I checked AALBC’s listing of February black book releases and discovered 21 pages of books that could have been chosen but that didn’t quite make the list. A few of Minzesheimer’s selections weren’t even released in February so that whole introduction needs to be revised (amongst other reasons). And don’t get me started on Minzesheimer’s comment section, because when I finish this post I’m going to leave a brief one of my own. Here are my top three two picks from the list (a pretty sorry list if you ask me):
The Black Girl Next Door (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, $25) by Jennifer Baszile – At six years of age, after winning a foot race against a white classmate, Jennifer Baszile was humiliated to hear her classmate explain that black people “have something in their feet to make them run faster than white people.” When she asked her teacher about it, it was confirmed as true. The next morning, Jennifer’s father accompanied her to school, careful to “assert himself as an informed and concerned parent and not simply a big, black, dangerous man in a first-grade classroom.” This was the first of many skirmishes in Jennifer’s childhood-long struggle to define herself as “the black girl next door” while living out her parents’ dreams. Success for her was being the smartest and achieving the most, with the consequence that much of her girlhood did not seem like her own but more like the “family project.” But integration took a toll on everyone in the family when strain in her parents’ marriage emerged in her teenage years, and the struggle to be the perfect black family became an unbearable burden.
The Ballad of Blind Tom Wiggins, Slave Pianist (Overlook, $24.95) by Deirdre O’Connell – Born into slavery in Georgia, Tom Wiggins died an international celebrity in New York in 1908. His life was one of the most bizarre and moving episodes in American history. Born blind and autistic-and so unable to work with other slaves-Tom was left to his own devices. He was mesmerized by the music of the family’s young daughters, and by the time he was fourTom was playing tunes on the piano. Eventually freed from slavery, Wiggins, or “Blind Tom” as he was called, toured the country and the world playing for celebrities like Mark Twain and the Queen of England and dazzling audiences everywhere. One part genius and one part novelty act, Blind Tom embodied contradictions-a star and a freak, freed from slavery but still the property of his white guardian. His life offers a window into the culture of celebrity and racism at the turn of the twentieth century.
Maybe I need to come up with a black history month list of my own. Maybe. Happy reading y’all!