Books

Read and view these during Black History Month

Samuel P. Beckwourth
Samuel P. Beckwourth Wikimedia

February is Black History Month, with roots in Negro History Week, founded in 1926 by Harvard-educated historian Carter G. Woodson (and others). It’s a time to honor the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans.

The Sacramento Public Library’s “Tapestry” program is a good place to start (828 I St., Sacramento, 916-264-2700):

• Now through Tuesday, Feb. 28: Artist Darryl Davis will display his collection of sketches and watercolors celebrating the African American experience in Sacramento, in the library’s atrium.

• 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12: American River College history professor Rudy Pearson will present a history of the African American community in Sacramento.

• 3 p.m. Sunday, March 5: Award-winning filmmaker Robert Lee Grant will show clips from his documentary “Gold Rush Generation” and lead a discussion. The film traces the life of explorer James Beckwourth, an African American-Crow Indian chief who blazed a route through the Sierra to the gold fields.

Also, the Samuel C. Pannell African American Collection at Martin Luther King Jr. Library has been expanded to 510 titles, including “Hidden Figures: The Untold True Story of Four African-American Women Who Helped Launch Our Nation Into Space” by Margot Lee Shetterly (now a major movie), and “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead, winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction.

More titles for Black History Month

It would be wise to point young readers to these two recent award-winners:

“Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe just won a 2017 Randolph Caldecott Medal and a Coretta Scott King Book Award: (Little, Brown, $18, 40 pages). The writer-illustrator offers this “visually stunning” picture book-biography of New York street artist Basquiat.

In that same recent round of awards, “Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life” by Ashley Bryan was named a Newbery Honor Book and won two Coretta Scott King Book Awards (Antheum, $18, 56 pages). The author-illustrator consulted historical documents of 11 people who were “named and priced as property” on a plantation. He then imagines their inner longings in portraits and narrative poetry.

Moving to more adult titles: “Martin Luther King Jr.: The Last Interview and Other Conversations” by Martin Luther King Jr. (Melville House, $16, 128 pages): Another in the publisher’s “Last Interview” series compiles five discussions with the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner. They include a never-before-published talk with TV journalist Mike Wallace and King’s last interview 10 days before his assassination in 1968.

“Amiable With Big Teeth” by Claude McKay (Penguin Classics, $28, 352 pages): The Harlem Renaissance was an artistic and intellectual outburst that seized Harlem in the 1920s and 1930s, creating a new sense of cultural framework for thousands of African Americans. In the middle of this creative window was novelist Claude McKay, whose final manuscript was discovered in 2009. The story centers on “the efforts by the Harlem intelligentsia to organize support for the liberation of fascist-controlled Ethiopia.”

“The Lost Eleven” by Denise George and Robert Child (NAL, $28, 416 pages): In World War II, 11 black U.S. soldiers managed to escape the Nazi firestorm known as the Ardennes Offensive (aka the Battle of the Bulge) and find refuge in a village in Wereth, Belgium. The Nazis soon found and murdered them. Yet the Wereth Eleven were omitted from the U.S. government’s official casualty lists until their “secret files” were uncovered in the National Archives 70 years later. As a result, a memorial was dedicated to them and all black soldiers who battled in Europe.

“The Black Presidency” by Michael Eric Dyson (Mariner, $16, 384 pages): This reprint is obviously timely, exploring how Barack Obama’s biracialism played a role during his White House years, and how it changed the landscape of race relations and “blackness” in America.

“And on the Seventh Day, She Rests” by Elizabeth Hope Brown (Est. Fourteen Forty-One, $21, 92 pages): The former Sacramentan and Folsom High grad imagines the inspirational first-person life stories of five women and a teenage girl, each of whom undergoes a transformation to a better lifestyle through smarter choices.

‘Dying’ for a laugh

Through five tongue-in-cheek adventures, Placerville amateur sleuth Laurel McKay has gotten herself out of many a pickle to emerge triumphant over the “bad guys” – and find true love along the way. In her sixth adventure in author Cindy Sample’s “Dying” series, “Dying for a Diamond,” Laurel and her newlywed husband are on a Caribbean cruise when she just can’t resist investigating a series of shipboard jewelry heists (CreateSpace, $15, 267 pages). Visit Sample at www.cindysamplebooks.com.

Sample will be at two book-launch parties for “Diamond” – noon, Sunday, Feb. 12, at Charming Charlie, 330 Palladio Parkway, Folsom, 916-817-8390; and 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19, at Face in a Book, 4359 Town Square Blvd., El Dorado Hills, 916-941-9401, www.getyourfaceinabook.com.

More author appearances

The Avid Reader at Tower continues its guest-author program (1600 Broadway, Sacramento, 916-441-4400):

• Saturday, Feb. 11: Gini Grossenbacher for “Madam of My Heart,” 2 p.m., and Angela Holmes for “I Don’t Look Like What I’ve Been Through,” 5 p.m.

• Saturday, Feb 18: Ruben Llamas for “Eye from the Edge: A Memoir of West Oakland,” 2 p.m., and Wanda Arnold for “The Long Silence,” 5 p.m.

• Saturday, Feb. 25: Anna Maguire for “Searching for the City of Love,” 2 p.m., and Sally McKee for “The Exile’s Song: Edmond Dédé and the Unfinished Revolutions of the Atlantic World,” 5 p.m.

Allen Pierleoni: 916-321-1128, @apierleonisacbe

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