So it's February again and it is Black History Month, which is good and bad. Good in the sense that we need it, but bad in the sense that it is swallowed up by all the other "month" observances we now pay homage to. For example, did you know that February is also American Heart Month, American History Month, National Bird Feeding Month, National Boost Your Self-Esteem Month, and National Canned Foods Month (to name a few)? Despite all that, February still belongs first and foremost to celebrating Black History, and there are a couple of books on our plate that I wanted to mention.
The first book is The Underground Railroad: An Interactive History Adventure by Allison Lassieur. I plan on reading this aloud with the kids at dinner over the next several days. Definitely for the older crowd (over age 6, for sure), but I love that it's interactive. You are reading from the perspective of a slave in the 1850s trying to escape, or a slave catcher hoping to get rich catching escaped slaves, or part of the Underground Railroad, helping slaves escape to freedom. While I'm not keen on the slave catcher's perspective, it does present an accurate character in the history of the Underground Railroad that you cannot gloss over. Everything in this book happened to real people, and my kids get to choose which side they're on and what to do next. We've had a lot of success reading biographies aloud together, and I hope the kids will get into the history lesson this book provides.
The next book, for me--not the kids, is How to be Black by Baratunde Thurston. I heard him interviewed recently on a radio program and he had me crying I was laughing so hard. He brilliantly writes about his experiences as a black male growing up in the Washington, D.C. area, and his interactions with everyone around him in his neighborhood, school, college, and beyond. His observations are witty yet spot-on, and if you've never understood the Oreo reference among African-Americans, you will one you've finished the book. I can't wait to get my hands on this.