Category Archives: Black Culture and Identity

Counting the Stars: The Story of Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician

Written by: Lesa Cline-Ransome

Illustrated by: Raúl Colón

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: STEM, Women in Science, Historical Figure, Space, Segregation, Racism, POC-Centric Narratives, Black Culture & Identity, Historic Events. 

Summary: Katherine was an incredibly intellectually gifted child, starting 2nd grade at age 6, and 5th grade the year after.  Her parents strongly valued education and moved the family closer to the West Virginia Institute, where Katherine started high school at the age of ten and college at the age of 15 on a full scholarship.  Years later, after graduation and teaching, she got a job in the segregated computing office at Langley Aeronautics.

Katherine was disciplined, hardworking, and brilliant.  She soon blazed her own trail as the only permanently working woman and woman of color in the office where she was originally placed on just temporary assignment.  She was instrumental in the Space Race and has inspired too many people to count, especially young women of color to embrace their intelligence and interest in STEM.

This is a fantastic book that describes just how pivotal Katherine Johnson was to American history during the Space Race of the early 1960’s.  Having these books that intellectualize women, especially women of color during segregation is crucial for students to have a comprehensive history of the United States.  Katherine Johnson was largely ignored until recently, and there is additional information about Katherine in the back of the book.  This is a great book for older children, especially after reading some of the other Hidden Figures books or watching the movie!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

lesa_nola-2-2Lesa Cline-Ransome grew up in Malden, MA, a suburb just outside of Boston, the daughter of two nurses and the youngest of three. She considers consider herself very lucky to have grown up with a mother who loved to read. Each week Lesa’s Mom would take Lesa with her to the local library so that she could stock up on books. As Lesa grew older she would venture off into the children’s section and gather up her own collection to check out. Through her mother Lesa realized that reading could become a wonderful escape and writing even more so. When her mother gave Lesa a diary as a gift, she first filled the pages with the “very important” details of her life—adventures with her friends, secret crushes and the many ways in which her family drove her crazy. Then Lesa began creating my own stories! Lesa became interested in children’s books the year she married. Her husband, James was working on illustrating his first book which allowed both of them to look at picture books in a new way. When they’d browse books in bookstores, he studied the illustrations, she read the stories. Lesa eventually completed a graduate degree in elementary education and through coursework became truly immersed in children’s literature.

raul-colon-706247Raúl Colón is the award-winning illustrator of many picture books, including Draw! an ALA Notable Book and recipient of the International Latino Book Award; Imagine! an ALA Notable Book, a New York Public Library Best Book for Kids, and a Bookpage Best Book; Susanna Reich’s José! Born to DanceAngela’s Christmas by Frank McCourt; and Jill Biden’s Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops. Mr. Colón lived in Puerto Rico as a young boy and now resides in New City, New York, with his family.

This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work

Written by: Tiffany Jewell

Illustrated by: Aurélia Durand

For ages: YA middle grades and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: BIPOC Narratives, Social Justice, Activism, Anti-Racism, Anti-Bias, Education, Community Organizing, Self-Empowerment, Self-Reflection, Race Theory, Own Voices.

Summary: 

Alright so we might be a little late on this book coming out, but our lives are a bit wonky (just like everyone else’s!) and we’re just getting around to writing about this brilliant book now.  Seriously, where to even begin? This is the book we all need when we’re young.  Written by powerhouse Tiffany Jewell and beautifully illustrated by Aurélia Durand, this book was carried around and devoured immediately upon arrival to our house.  

This Book is Anti-Racist takes what young people know about the world and themselves and expands upon it, empowering young people to stand up for themselves and others by understanding the systems of oppression that are at work everyday.  While this and so much more social justice education should be typical curriculum in schools, it’s often not.  Even CRT classes are hardly offered in teacher education programs, which is a travesty.  In order to create ripples of change, we need education.  Not addressing the white supremacy and oppression that subversively operate is what keeps the wheels of marginalization turning effectively.  This book is one that can be sand in the gears, teaching readers to examine their own lives and the world around them while seeking out ways to change it for the better.

Brilliantly created, this book is required reading for every single human on the planet.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

0115_RW_Tiffany_Jewell_photo_credit_James_Azar_SalemTiffany Jewell is a Black biracial writer, antiracist educator and consultant, and mama. She spends her time baking bread and macarons, building LEGOS, watching British detective shows, and dreaming up how she can dismantle white supremacy. Tiffany currently resides on the unceded traditional land of the Pocumtuc and the Nipmuck with her two young activists, her partner, and a turtle she’s had since she was nine years old. She is in her 15th year as a Montessori educator and nearing two decades of work in schools with young folks, families, and educators. This Book Is Anti-Racist is her first book for children and young adults (and definitely not the last). Follow her on social media @tiffanymjewell.

Portrait-Aurélia+DurandAurélia Durand’s art is a vivid celebration of diversity. She dedicates her artistic voice in making representation matters. Aurélia represents Afro-descendants as joyful, proud, and empowered — a united community whose destinies are intertwined. These colorful personalities present the unified voice of a global community whose hopes, dreams, and desires present a future inclusive of all. 
Aurélia has made a wild variety of creations with augmented reality, animations, paintings, murals, and illustrations.
She has been working with different clients such as Adobe, Facebook, GIPHY, DIPSEA, Instagram, Tinder, Apple music, Standford University, QuartoKids, Refinery 29, Califia farms, ESPN, and more.
Recently she illustrated the book “This book is anti-racist ” through the publisher “Quarto kids” printed for the US, Canada, and the UK.
Take a look at her Instagram: www.instagram.com/4ur3lia/

 

The Vast Wonder of the World (Biologist Ernest Everett Just)

Written by: Mélina Mangal

Illustrated by: Luisa Uribe

For ages: 5 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: STEM, Black Culture & Identity, Scientists, Historical Figure, Outdoors, Natural World, Trailblazers, Curiosity, Education, Racism. 

Summary: 

In 1911, Ernest was a scientist in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.  Woods Hole is on Cape Cod, and still a massive town for oceanic research today!  Ernest was gifted at caring for the creatures he took from the ocean, when others weren’t so careful, and Ernest was gifted at seeing the whole picture instead of just the tiny piece he was currently researching.  Ernest was especially gifted at studying how life begins from an egg, and became the entire world’s leading authority!

Ernest loved reading, but as a child had to relearn to read all over again after he contracted typhoid fever.  He observed everything around him, especially the natural world.  Ernest left the segregated South for boarding school, but when his mother died he didn’t know how to cope, so he just studied harder.  When he took a biology class in college, his entire world opened up and his lifelong fascination with cells began.  Ernest became a professor and taught his students to care for both the organisms they studied and their scientific instruments, to be kind and to observe as much as possible.  When he showed that the egg was just as important as the sperm in creating new life, he became world-famous and often worked in Europe where he was treated better.  He eventually moved with his family to France and became an independent researcher.

This book’s storyline is gorgeous, and the illustrations stunning. The story addresses both science and the systemic racism and oppression that Ernest faced because he was Black, despite being one of the most talented and intelligent biologists in the country.  In the back there is a lengthy Author’s note with a photo of Ernest, and timeline of his life, detailed information about his scientific work, and some quotes by Ernest himself.  This is a beautiful book and we are glad we found this to learn about someone new in the scientific world that worked for so many years nearby where we live!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

melina-mangalMélina Mangal loves being outdoors! From her website: “My earliest memories begin near the shores of Lake Superior, climbing trees, collecting rocks, and listening to birds. I love writing about nature and its place in young people’s lives.  Stories from faraway times and places have always captured my imagination as well.  I like to imagine what life was like as I walk along the river, or visit an historical site.  I work as an elementary school librarian, introducing students to great books, the exciting research process, and new technology.”

image-asset-4Luisa Uribe is an illustrator “living in Bogotá, Colombia. I love children’s books but venture into other fields from time to time. My favorite activities in no particular order are drawing, reading and chasing the cat around the house.”

Making Our Way Home: The Great Migration and the Black American Dream

Written by: Blair Imani, Foreword by Patrisse Cullors (BLM Co-Founder)

Illustrated by: Rachelle Baker

For ages: YA Middle Grades, 12 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Black Culture & Identity, American History, Enslavement, Reconstruction, Historical Figures, Family, Politics, Love.

Summary: 

This book is meticulously researched and fascinating!  Author Blair Imani takes readers on a journey through the American history that we don’t typically learn in history books, and discusses the Great Migration decade by decade starting with Reconstruction.

Coupled with gorgeous and very realistic illustrations, this is the type of history book I yearned for as a child.  I devoured this book in a single sitting, loving that the historical figures I learned about in college are available to children.  I was riveted, the facts weaving together in a way that was not dry or boring but instead ignited the desire to continue reading past my bedtime.  There is also an extensive (almost 30 pages!) glossary that explains everyone referenced in the text as well as landmark court cases and activist groups.  Seriously, do yourself a favor and read this one as soon as possible!

This book was generously sent to us by our friends at Ten Speed Press, but all opinions are our own.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Ryan+PflugerBlair Imani is a critically-acclaimed historian, outspoken advocate and activist, and dynamic public speaker. The author of two historical books: Modern HERstory: Stories of Women and Nonbinary People Rewriting History (2018) and Making Our Way Home: The Great Migration and The Black American Dream (2020), she centers women and girls, global Black communities, and the LGBTQ community. She serves as the official ambassador of Muslims for Progressive Values, one of the oldest progressive Muslim organizations supporting the LGBTQ+ community, and she dedicates her platform to advocating for the rights of marginalized people around the world.

Hailing from Los Angeles, California, Blair Imani attended Louisiana State University where, in 2014, she founded Equality for HER, a non-profit organization that provided resources and a forum for women and nonbinary people to feel empowered. Her fearless leadership took her to the front lines of anti-police brutality protests and, following her arrest at the protests of Alton Sterling’s murder in Baton Rouge, Blair began building a platform and social media presence to organize and create awareness about injustices in Black, Queer, and Muslim communities.

A highly sought-after public speaker, Blair Imani has appeared on FOX News (“Tucker Carlson Tonight”) and MSNBC (“The Point”), presented at colleges and universities (including Harvard, Yale, and Brown), spoken at progressive conferences around the world, and has delivered powerful talks and speeches for organizations that include GLAAD, TEDx, and LoveLoud. Her viral TEDxBoulder talk, “Queer & Muslim: Nothing to Reconcile”, has sparked important discourse about the intersection of the two identities. In 2019, she was proudly featured in New York City Pride’s campaign honoring the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. She has also been profiled in Teen Vogue, The Advocate, and Variety, on the Today Show, and by Yahoo! News. From the United States to countries like Kenya and the United Kingdom, Blair Imani has inspired audiences around the world.

In 2017, Blair Imani came out as a queer Muslim woman on national television (“Tucker Carlson Tonight”). Since then, she has been a proud public advocate for LGBTQ rights. Her work with the internationally renowned LGBTQ rights organizations Tegan & Sara Foundation, GLAAD, It Gets Better, Trevor Project, and LOVELOUD, continues to elevate the stories of queer people of faith globally.

As an advocate and historian, organizer and public speaker, Blair Imani is dedicated to making the world a better place and amplifying the voices and work of those fighting the good fight.

IMG_9028Rachelle Baker is a multi-disciplinary artist from Detroit, MI with a background in Relief Printing (Screenprinting, Lino/Woodcutting), Illustration, Comic Art, Video Art, and Music. She is inspired by Shoujo manga, anime and comics bad girls, stoic women dancing in the backgrounds of late 90’s/early 2000’s R&B videos, and the sound cats make when they’re yawning. She is a Capricorn with a Scorpio moon.

Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis’ Fleet-of-Foot Girl

Written by: Megan Reid

Illustrated by: Laura Freeman

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Historical Figure, Women in Sports, Segregation, Trailblazer, Black Culture & Identity. 

Summary: 

Althea Gibson was the first Black person to win a Wimbledon trophy!  This book talks about how sporty she was as a child, and how Althea could never stop moving.  When Althea found a Black tennis club a few blocks from her home in Harlem, she had the self-confidence to walk right in and start swinging a racket.  Soon, Althea began traveling to play against other Black players.

The story also addresses how sometimes Althea did not exhibit the best sportsmanship during games, making fun of other players and getting upset when she lost.  However, this drive also caused her to desegregate the women’s tennis league that competed globally for events like Grand Slams and Wimbledon.  Althea fearlessly took on the challenge, gaining notoriety.  She won Wimbledon in 1957 and then again in 1958.

Unfortunately, Althea’s fame and ability did not break down as many racial barriers as she had hoped and Althea left tennis feeling like the sport abandoned her.  She did massive amounts of youth outreach and set up mobile tennis courts in neighborhoods that lacked them, but became jaded by the whiteness and racism that existed (and still exists) among the sports of the elite.  Overall, this is a very positive book that focuses on Althea’s achievements and life, and does not go into details about her later life, which is fine (it is a children’s book after all) but there is a long Author’s note in the back, timeline of important events, and a list of other resources to learn more.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Reid, MeganMegan Reid works in books and television. She’s lived in seven states and two countries (and gone to twelve schools!), but now she’s happy to be based in Brooklyn with her dog, Luna. Althea Gibson is her first book for children.

 

 

 

Freeman-headshot-G54sml_800Laura Freeman is originally from New York City, but now lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children. Laura received a BFA from the School of Visual Arts and began her career working for various editorial clients. Laura has illustrated over thirty children’s books, including Hidden Figures written by Margot Lee Shetterly, the Nikki & Deja series by Karen English and Fancy Party Gowns by Deborah Blumenthal. In addition to illustrating books and editorial content, her art can be found on a wide range of products, from dishes and textiles to greeting cards.

IntersectionAllies: we make room for all

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Written by: Chelsea Johnson, LaToya Council, Carolyn Choi

Illustrated by: Ashley Seil Smith

For ages: 6 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Intersectionality (as you may have already guessed), diversity, solidarity, activism, identity, activism, disability, protest.

Summary: 

This book is incredible! Written in an accessible way, the reader is introduced to a group of friends that have unique intersections of identity without it feeling like they were manifested to teach us a lesson about diversity.  There is not only a forward by Kimberlé Crenshaw herself (who coined the term ‘intersectionality’) but a letter to grownups about how to introduce concepts to kids like empathy.  Having this book address presumably the adult reader of the book prepares them for how to talk in-depth about the topics within the book, and frame them in a helpful way for the younger readers/listeners.  The letter emphasizes the importance of teaching solidarity and intersectionality to children from a young age, which is something we couldn’t agree more with.

When reading the story, we meet characters like Allie, the basketball fiend who also uses a wheelchair, and Kate who is non-binary and likes to wear a cape.  Adilah is an avid dancer and hijabi, taking ballet classes with some of her friends.  Nia participates in the Black Lives Matter movement, and the reader learns about protesting.  The kids featured in the book are dynamic and friendly, with bilingual identities reflected as well.

In the back are more resources and a vocabulary guide that mentions specific page numbers, giving valuable and robust information for further discussion.  It is refreshing to have such care taken, thoroughly underscoring the learning that this book provides for all who open its covers.  We cannot say enough good things about it, this book should have a space on every bookshelf and it’s praise shouted from the rooftops.

About the Authors & the Illustrator In their Own Words:

82894759_2605734689669770_1303419920322658304_o
Dr. Chelsea Johnson

“As a kid, I was often the only Black girl in my classrooms. Growing up as an “outsider within” my mostly white schools piqued my interest in how race, class, and gender shape social life. I gained the tools to understand my experiences as an undergraduate at Spelman College, an Historically Black College for women in Atlanta, Georgia.  It was at Spelman that I became a feminist. I went on to earn a PhD in sociology at the University of Southern California. My dissertation explored how fashion, politics, and culture relate. I traveled around the world, interviewing women with African roots in South Africa, Brazil, The Netherlands, France, Spain, and the United States about their lives. I now use research to help companies design products with underrepresented groups in mind. When I’m not researching or writing, I enjoy watercolor painting, reading fiction, and eating my way through new cities.”

 

LaToya Council

photo_1056258“I was raised in a single-parent mother-headed home. I would often stare at my mother in awe of her super-shero abilities to manage so many family demands while holding multiple jobs to make ends meet. These memories inspired my vision for a more inclusive world and drove me toward studying sociology at Spelman College, where I first learned about the concept of intersectionality. After graduating from Spelman, I studied the inequalities in love and how race, gender, and class intersect to inform relationship experiences for my master’s at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. I am currently working on my dissertation at the University of Southern California, which examines time use and self-care among Black middle-class couples. Intersectionality and the power of love frame how I do allyship and research. When not researching, I enjoy practicing meditation, cooking, and hanging with my cat Mimi.”

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Carolyn Choi

The Los Angeles Riots were a defining moment in my childhood that shaped my identity as a person of color and brought me to feminism later in life. My interests in gender, culture, and immigration led me to study sociology and Korean literature at UCLA. After graduating from college, I began community-based organizing and advocacy work as an intern at Koreatown Immigrant Workers’ Alliance, a non-profit civil rights organization in Los Angeles. I earned my master’s degree at the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2009. A few years later, I began doctoral study in sociology at the University of Southern California. My research tackles issues around migrant labor, human trafficking, and international education and has taken me across the United States, South Korea, the Philippines, and Australia. In my spare time, I enjoy spreading greater awareness about the Korean arts through performing pansori, a form of traditional folk music.”

Ashley Seil-Smith

lighter“I grew up one of five girls (and a twin!) in Southern California and Texas. My conservative roots prompted questions about privilege and feminism, which led me to study cultural anthropology as an undergraduate, including ethnographic research on women’s health in South India. I eventually moved to New York City and helped launch The Period Store as a vehicle to educate women about all of their options for period management, while also earning my MFA from the School of Visual Arts. When I’m not drawing, painting, or print making, you can find me outside being active or caring for my menagerie of adopted senior animals with the help of my husband, Nate.”

Work it, Girl: Mae Jemison [released March 3]

Written by: Caroline Moss

Illustrated by: Sinem Erkas

For ages: 8-12 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Women in STEM, Historical Figure, Biography, Astronauts, Trailblazer, Black Culture & Identity, Dancers.

Summary: 

If you think we’re ever going to stop posting books about Mae Jemison, you would be sorely mistaken.  This badass speaks 4 languages, and was the first Black woman in space.  How could we not continue to heap love upon her at every opportunity?!

This is another fantastic addition to the Work It, Girl! series, and this one is the perfect next step for the slightly older elementary reader that is fascinated by space and Mae herself.  This book is similar to the picture books that introduce Mae and her astronomical achievements, but goes into much greater detail about her childhood and the drive she had to achieve her goals. Mae not only became an astronaut, but a medical doctor and accomplished dancer as well.  Seriously Mae, leave some trails for us to blaze!

For real though, this book talks about how getting a splinter was the catalyst for Mae’s fascination for science and the strength her parents instilled in her to ignore naysayers and go after exactly what she wanted.  The beautiful paper cutouts illustrate the text in a brightly colored and creative way.  We are thrilled that this series is featuring Black women that achieved great things and continued on to help others, as well as inspire readers to do the same.  Like the Michell Obama volume, this one has life lessons to learn from Mae and self-reflection questions for the reader to answer.  Honor the people you love, stay motivated and passionate, but remember it’s ok to take breaks too!

This awesome book is out tomorrow, March 3rd! It was sent to us by our friends at Quarto, but all opinions are our own.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

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Benjamin Pu

Caroline Moss began her writing career as a technology and culture reporter at Business Insider, where she rose the ranks to deputy editor over two and a half years at the company. Caroline covered viral content, YouTube and social media stars, and internet trends before leaving to write “HEY LADIES!” with Michelle Markowitz, a book based on their popular series at The Toast. A few years later she joined BuzzFeed News to help produce their morning show, AM to DM, and it was there that Caroline wrote the first two books in the “Work It, Girl!” series.

In between, she has written for The New York Times, New York Magazine, Cosmopolitan, The Hairpin, Racked, VICE, and more. Caroline’s books have appeared in The New York Times, Refinery29, Bustle, and more.

thumbweb-xoxoSinem Erkas is a graphic illustrator and art director with an appetite for experimentation and a good sense of fun.

Her practice ranges from digital artworks to 3D photo-illustrations and her favourite projects involve creating playful and bold imagery that make you look twice.

Based in London, she graduated from CSM in 2008 and has since acquired numerous design awards and clients that include Profile Books, Elle Decoration, Hachette Publishers, Google, SHOWstudio and Warp Records amongst many others.

Sinem’s first illustrated book The Girl Guide has been published in 16+ languages and she is currently working on a series of illustrated biographies Work It, Girl.