Black History Month is almost over, but I couldn’t end the month without letting y’all know my thoughts on a few of the Black stories I read during February 2021. Surprisingly for someone who isn’t really into it, two of the books on the list are nonfiction! As a surprise to no one these are definitely from the backlist. Now, let’s get to the book talk!
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
If nothing else convinces you to read this book, then just know I read most of it in one day. Every time I thought I would take a break, I had to read just one more chapter. What I enjoyed most about An American Marriage was how the entire situation was mostly spent in the grey. It is obvious Roy is innocent of his charges, so the grey area comes through the dynamics of Celestial and Roy’s marriage during Roy’s incarceration. Reading each of their sides of this love story, I went back and forth about whether Celestial or Roy was in the wrong. In the end, I realized they were in an impossible situation where no one was ever really wrong.
I also saw An American Marriage as an alternative version of If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin. I haven’t read the novel, but I saw the adaptation in theaters in the Before Times when we did those activities. The juxtaposition between the two couples was always in the back of my mind. While Fonny and Tish seemed to be brought closer, Celestial and Roy drifted apart. Rating: Page Turner
Barack Obama: The Comic Book Biography by Jeff Mariotte, Illustrated by Tom Morgan, Len O’Grady, and John Hunt
It’s pretty cool to read about history when you actually lived through the events. That is how I felt while reading about Barack Obama’s historical 2008 presidential run. The entire book wasn’t a trip down memory lane, so the beginning about Obama’s childhood was enlightening and showed how young Barry was an outsider looking for where he belonged. Learning about all the bumps Obama experienced as a teen and young adult makes his accomplishment of becoming not only president, but America’s first president who wasn’t an old white man all the more astonishing.
The best part of this comic book was getting to experience some of Barack Obama’s best speeches like the one from the 2004 Democratic Convention that put him on the map. The worst part was the illustrations. Barack Obama was hit and miss, but those Michelle Obama renditions were trash with a capital “T.” The ones of Joe Biden were not much better. Despite all that I still give this book top marks. Rating: Page Turner
Just Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults): A True Story for the Fight for Justice by Bryan Stevenson
In this era where we increasingly hear phrases like “Black Lives Matter (too)” and “Defund the Police,” it is essential to see how our broken justice system and America’s original sin of slavery brought us to this place. Just Mercy does just that by highlighting some factors that led to the United States being the leader in the mass incarceration of its citizens. Bryan Stevenson along with the other dedicated lawyers at the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) worked tirelessly to right those wrongs for as many death-row inmates as possible. Just Mercy shares the successes and failures of that journey.
Although this book is adapted for teen readers, I can easily see adults devouring it. The words are simplified for younger readers, but the story is still powerful. I didn’t bawl my eyes out, but I was constantly on the verge of tears. There was plenty of rage at the mind-boggling injustice ingrained within America’s justice system. However, there was also joy when the EJI was able to give clients some long overdue justice. Rating: Carpe Librum
What Black stories did you read during Black History Month?