"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Black History Month---Black YA Authors and a perplexing question

Recently I had an ah-ha moment as I was decorating the library for Black History Month. I decided this year to focus on black authors so I started searching around the library for books. When my display still needed a few more titles, I drew a blank on other names so I consulted Google. The list of black YA authors on Google was laughably short with only seven names and one of the authors listed isn't African-American, her last name is Black. That is when it hit me. Ah-ha! Is searching for an author by race an inherently racist thing to do? If I typed in white authors in Google, I'm sure I would get zero hits. In fact, I just did that and the result was what I expected, zero.

So what is a librarian to do? I want to be sensitive to everyone AND I want to highlight the writing achievements of fabulous black authors. Don't the black students at the school deserve to know there are authors who are writing from experiences more similar to their own? How am I supposed to know who they are without looking them up? My own experience tells me that I don't normally know the race of many author unless that author has won an award like the Coretta Scott King Award which is given to African-American authors or the Pura Belpre Award given to Latino authors. I often don't even know the gender of an author, especially those who go by initials instead of first names.

So, my display is up and I hope it attacks the attention of all readers, not just the African American students. I know I am richer if I take the opportunity to read books written by people of other cultures, the same goes for sub-cultures within the American culture.

I'd sure appreciate some guidance or your thoughts on this issue.

P.S. I did dig deeper and many more names of African American authors. Many I have in my library, others I will look for their books.

Walter Dean Myers                Coe Booth                               Octavia Butler
Kekla Magoon                       Sharon Draper                          Sharon Flake
Nicola Yoon                           Kwame Alexander                   Varian Johnson
Jason Reynolds                      Nikki Grimes.                           Bil Wright
Alaya Dawn Johnson             Jacqueline Woodson                 Stephanie Kuehn
Jewel Parker Rhodes              Danielle Paige                          Walter Mosley
Rita Williams-Garcia              Lamar Giles                             Christopher Paul Curtis
Angela Johnson                      Brandy Colbert                         Renee Watson
Sherri Smith                           Brian Walker.                            Dhonielle Clayton


  1. This was also a hard display for me to do too. I wanted to move beyond the usual topics like Civil Rights Movement and Slavery so I started with the Coretta Scott King and then branched outward to fantasy, mystery, poetry, nonfiction (where I included history of hip hop/rap), and sports. I also moved our display which usually hangs in the back due to space constraints so that way everyone sees it as they enter and leave the library. I talked to my coworker and we both think that a running spreadsheet with genres/topics would be a good place to start.

    1. I think that keeping a spreadsheet is a really great idea. That way I can be mindful of African-American authors who write other genres than realistic fiction, such as Octavia Butler and Alaya Dawn Johnson (Sci-Fi.) Thank you.

      I, too, put my display front and center this year and I did book talks today and highlighted African American authors so now I need to get back into the library to find some more titles because now the display is looking pretty picked over.

  2. No. Searching for books by a known marginalized group - black, Native American - is not inherently racist. Your Google search for "white YA authors" should just have been a search for YA authors and then pick any list and chances are it will be 99℅ full of white authors. That's sort of the point.

    I would like to suggest that your search should have been more thorough. And perhaps taken more time as you would do with anything of value that you're searching for. There are quite a few resources out there and a Google search that I did brought them up ( I'm typing on my phone or o would share the link).

    I'm not sure if you shared the authors you found here on your blog, bit that might also help the next person doing g a Google search 🙂

    1. You are right. My search should have been more thorough. Actually it was. I just neglected to state it here. After finding the list of seven, I did a much deeper search and found many names of black authors. I should have mentioned that. Thank you. I am going to amend my post now.

  3. It's great that you (and Rummanah) are ensuring that the displays are front and center. Another idea is to ensure you include African-American, Latino, women, etc in each display (if possible). But it is difficult to know which category each author fits into! I like seeing Jason Reynolds' books on the display since I just read Boy in the Black Suit

  4. Great and insightful post, Anne. I think you are amazing and the efforts you go through for your students are what public education is all about.

  5. Good list there - this year at my library we did nonfiction for Black History month and blind date with a book for fiction.

  6. I would think it would be good to make a display of Black authors -- for the history month. I admit my knowledge of YA authors is abysmal. I know Jacqueline Woodson but can you also add classics such as Invisible Man or Native Son or Langston Hughes's poetry? hmm.


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