Thursday, February 28, 2019

Past, Present, Future #1- African American History

by Toi Thomas

For those of you who don’t live in the U.S., please stick around and read this article anyway. You’ll find that it’s probably not what you expect it to be.


The Past

So, I’ve been keeping myself busy in the month of February. A little too busy, but that’s nothing unusual. I tasked myself with the challenge of starting 28 graphic novels, not necessarily finishing them all, and have been sharing the experience on social media with the hashtag #28daysofgraphicnovles (find it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). Part of the challenge included me starting each installment of the MARCH series.

This is a series I highly recommend to young people and anyone who thinks they understand the civil rights movement but can’t remember or recall exactly what happened and or what it all really means.

Since this blog is for readers and authors, I’d thought I’d also share this article I found about the 10 Black Authors Everyone Should Read. This article contains so many names I grew up hearing and reading about, yet as an adult so many of my peers (black, white, others included) have not heard of these writers or have ever read any of their writings. I’ll be the first to admit that I too have not read many of their works but do have them on my eternal TBR. In all honesty, I sometimes struggle to read content that I know will reflect my personal black struggle, but I do reconcile to face those obstacles in my own time. 

For instance, I read a book of poems and one of Maya Angelou’s autobiographies back in high school, but I haven't revisited those or read more since. They were hard to read, but I’m glad I read them and will read more when the time is right for me.

The Present

I thought I’d share a few books with you, that I’ve read, containing black characters. These books have not necessarily been written by black people and are likely not to be about “the black struggle,” and that’s precisely why I’m sharing these. I think sometimes, people assume that if they read or watch anything about a black person (or other minority), it automatically has to come with some sort of racial issue or dilemma when it really doesn’t.

Here's a bit of variety for you. Twenty Yawns has absolutely nothing to do with the little girl in the book being black, she just happens to be black. 

The Warrior is a standalone prequel, to a multicultural YA Fantasy series, focusing on one of the main black characters (I adore the Spellbringers series). 

Wires and Nerves is a spinoff graphic novel from the Cinder series (an amazing multicultural YA Sci-fi series I adore) about an android who's current form is that of a black woman. What I love most about this character is that her biggest struggle is being an android, not anything else. 

In Turn Tables (A Reel Romance sequel) the main two characters are a black woman and a Hispanic man. 

She Died In My Arms is the prequel to a series I've been meaning to read but haven't yet started. It's a world of black characters (I assume there are other races, but I've only read the prequel.) 

Lastly, I'm currently reading about Bass Reeves, a black U.S. Marshall in "Indian" Territory, said to be the original inspiration for the character of The Lone Ranger. His life is enough on its own to make him a legend. 

Here's an article I found on 28 Brilliant Books by Black Authors in 2018. Some of these are on my current TBR.

The Future

I want to read more books from black authors and about black characters, but more so, I want to read more stories that reflect the multiculturalism of the world I currently live in. I want to read about cultures other than my own, and I want other people to do the same. 

These are just a small few of the kinds of books I wish more people would talk about, whether there's a special cultural or racial awareness observation or not. Many people argue that Black History should be American History, and while I agree, I don't believe that it's a reality. At least not now. Perhaps someday, no one group will feel the need to be observed and recognized because all will be. 

American History will someday be African, Hispanic, Asian, Native, Irish, etc...
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  1. The American culture, customs and traditions is a patchwork of European, African and Asian cultures and traditions. People from every continent and country brought their heritage with them and bits and pieces from every nation's tradition melted together forming the American tradition. The past was cruel and savage and we have to learn from it and never to repeat it. Throughout black history month I learned so much about famous black inventors, scientists, artists, and authors. Thank you for showing us all these great books. I only read Maya Angelou's books which I love.

    1. Yes, perhaps one day, American history will be taught in a way that's representative of all the people who've contributed to it, but more importantly, I hope history will be taught accurately and will be used as a guide, to as you say, learn from and not repeat. Too often I feel that certain parts of American history are swept under the rug to conceal the horrors that this country was built on, when they should be brought to light and taught as "what not to do" moving forward. I know very little about Asian, Indian, and Hispanic American contributions because I've only learned what I've researched. I was never talk any of it in school.

  2. As the saying goes. "Never judge a book by the cover." Does that also apply to the name or picture of the author"? I cannot speak for others but I choose a book based on whether I think I will enjoy the read.

    1. That's a great outlook, however, only reading books you think you will enjoy may keep you from learning something valueable. I try to read books that I will enjoy or learn something from. I've read many books that I would not describe as enjoyable reads, but they were very valuable to me in the end.

  3. Thank you Toi for this very interesting post. Still lots to learn.

    How wonderful if history were taught as a guide of mistakes not to repeat. Unfortunately, History teaches us that Humans have a hard time learning from past experience, and keep falling in the same traps.
    Every generation thinks they know better and will improve on life regardless of what their elders might say, and often by a negative reaction to their parents, not emulating the good things but just changing for the sake of proving their ind├ępendance.
    History is made up of the sum of individual lives and only when an large amount of lives come together do we see real progress: social movements, uprisings, revolutions...or wars. As a result steps forwards are made, but they are baby steps compared to the whole of Homo Sapiens Sapiens history...
    We mustn’t despair. I am convinced that the path to a more peaceful and just society is that of education, and equality in education.

    1. What a fair and concise assessment. I like your final words and agree, through education and equality in education we will achieve the better future we all deserve.

  4. Toi, you've brought out so many conversational points worth having about multiculturalism.

  5. Thanks. That was my aim. I hope to do more of these.

  6. Another interesting post, Toi- yours always are. Many thanks for suggesting some titles. I have to admit to having read very few books with black characters. I read an excellent SF book in 2018 with a black lesbian heroine - in my quest for diversity. My current audio read - Black Dove, White Raven - features black and white protagonists in Ethiopia. One of my reads coming up is Children of Blood and Bone. I also plan to read more Hispanic - as I am part Chilean.

    1. Thanks so much for checking out this piece. Reading books from other cultures or with multicultural diversity is something I decided to make a priority last year. It's just something I think will enrich my life. I'm really excited about Children of Blood and Bone.