Reviews of the Week with Carole Boston Weatherford, Chad Sanders, Hena Khan, and More!

The Review of the Day has always been a brief, early way to spotlight exceptional upcoming titles on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

Essential American history and personal stories of triumph over strife shine in this week’s #ReviewsOfTheDay. Booklist wishes you all well.

Monday, January 11

Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre, by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated Floyd Cooper

“Once upon a time in Tulsa, there was a community called Greenwood.” This Black community was rich in money, love, and culture. So much so that white people searched for any reason possible to tear that community down. This tragic, painful event in American history calls into question notions of freedom, equality, and opportunity ostensibly promised to Black Americans following the Emancipation Proclamation, and it’s particularly pertinent in the current sociopolitical landscape, which is throwing a spotlight on the persistence of systemic racism in America. Weatherford draws on the folktale flourish “once upon a time” to set a scene that feels far away and removed from our present reality, while Cooper’s soft strokes of muted greens and sepia browns capture the event in a haze of both joy and mourning for the beauty of what Black Tulsa was. Unlike many historical picture books, Weatherford’s doesn’t shy away from naming white people as the perpetrator. This will cause obvious discomfort for some but will be the catalyst for conversation and change if read with eyes toward justice.

Tuesday, January 12

Black Magic: What Black Leaders Learned from Trauma and Triumph, by Chad Sanders

Once Sanders stopped downplaying his true self and his Blackness, and started embracing the skills he’d learned navigating the U.S. as a Black man, his tech career in Silicon Valley grew wings. Drawing on his own experiences at Google and those of the Black leaders, scientists, artists, business people, parents, innovators, and champions he interviewed, he investigates how being a Black person in predominantly white spaces creates what he calls Black Magic: resilience, creativity, and perseverance. This mix of memoir, interviews, and motivation is for readers who have faced trauma and kept going and for individuals who have been underestimated because of their race, family, socioeconomic status, gender, sexuality, or any other target for mindless prejudice. Sanders argues that facing adversity can generate a type of magic that has the power to lift those who have been cast low to the highest of positions.

Wednesday, January 13

Amina’s Song, by Hena Khan

After Amina’s monthlong trip to Pakistan with her family, she finds it difficult to leave her ancestral country behind, feeling that she is somehow losing an important part of herself and suddenly less certain about who she is. Back home, Amina tries to make sense of these feelings, and when she attempts to share them with her friends, she begins to wonder if they, too, are growing away from her. As Amina comes to better understand her friends, she finds a way to share the beauty of Pakistan with her classmates and to work together with those around her to help others in the community. Along with a new friend, Amina uses her beautiful voice to share her love of both Pakistan and America with others, helping those just like her who may feel part of two beautiful worlds. 

Thursday, January 14

The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation, by Anna Malaika Tubbs

Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin were all born within five years of each other in the 1920s. While their lives have been extensively documented, this intriguing triple biography of their mothers—Alberta King, Louise Little, and Berdis Baldwin—covers new territory and offers insights into Black women’s lives during the early twentieth century. These three women’s backgrounds could not have been more different. Alberta was the cherished only child of a respected Atlanta minister, Louise was raised by her grandparents in Grenada, and Bertis grew up with her widowed father, a fisherman from Chesapeake Bay. All three would live to see their sons become famous, and all three would see their sons die way too soon. Tubbs does a masterful job of interweaving the facts of these women’s lives into the evolving social and political histories of civil rights, including accounts of the horrific injustices suffered by women of color. 

Friday, January 15

Drawn across Borders: True Stories of Human Migration, written and illustrated by George Butler

A man behind bars in a Syrian prison poses for the artist, eyes staring directly at him, as well as at the reader; an Iraqi girl smiles out from deep within a caravan of refugees passing through Greece; people huddle around a fire in a warehouse in Belgrade while the cold seeps into their bodies through the concrete floor. This is a work of art, compassion, and activism, with journalist and illustrator Butler using his craft to bear witness to and build awareness of the effects of war on civilians whose lives are treated as mere collateral for those in power. The book includes accounts from 10 places ravaged by war between 2012 and 2018. Each account includes a snippet of conversation with someone Butler met: children and adults displaced by war and politics—but never abject victims. They have dignity, humor, tenderness, and, most important, names.'

About the Author:

Michael Ruzicka, Office Manager, was raised in suburban Los Angeles, received a BA in Creative Writing/Poetry at UC Santa Cruz, then moved to Birmingham, AL, where he spent five years owning an independent bookstore and earned an MLIS. He has brought his librarian skills to Vanderbilt’s Television News Archive, Battle Ground Academy, The Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Michael is very excited to be a part of Booklist and call Chicago his home.

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