By Cate Tarr
As Black History Month draws to a close, we wanted to bookend the month by highlighting some notable works by Black authors to check out this spring. Tana Elias, digital services and marketing manager of The Madison Public Library, compiled a list of great books by Black authors who have appeared at the Wisconsin Book Festival in the last two years, so we can all read and learn more about Black perspectives and experiences.
“The Office of Historical Corrections” by Danielle Evans
Danielle Evans is widely acclaimed for her blisteringly smart voice and insight into complex human relationships. In “The Office of Historical Corrections,” Evans zooms in on moments and relationships in her characters’ lives in a way that allows them to speak to larger issues of race, culture and history. She introduces the reader to Black and multiracial characters who are experiencing the universal confusions of lust and love and getting walloped by grief — all while exploring how history haunts us, personally and collectively. Ultimately, she provokes us to think about the truths of American history — about who gets to tell them, and the cost of setting the record straight. Evans formerly taught at UW-Madison and the novella is partially set in Wisconsin. Watch online at https://www.crowdcast.io/e/wbf-office-of-historical.
“Homie: Poems” by Danez Smith
A magnificent anthem about the saving grace of friendship, “Homie” is rooted in the search for joy and intimacy in a time where both are scarce. In poems of rare power and generosity, Danez Smith acknowledges that in a country overrun by violence, xenophobia and disparity, and in a body defined by race, queerness and diagnosis, it can be hard to survive — and even harder to remember reasons for living. But then family (either blood or chosen) — arrives with just the right food and some redemption. Smith is also the author of “Don’t Call Us Dead,” winner of the Forward Prize for Best Collection and a finalist for the National Book Award.
“The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America” by Carol Anderson
In this novel, historian and award-winning, bestselling author of “White Rage” Carol Anderson powerfully illuminates the history and impact of the Second Amendment (the right of people to keep and bear arms) and how it was formulated to keep African Americans powerless and vulnerable. “The Second” is neither a pro-gun nor an anti-gun book; rather, the lens is the citizenship and human rights of African Americans.
Through a compelling historical narrative merging into current events, Anderson’s penetrating investigation shows that the Second Amendment is not about guns, but about anti-Blackness, shedding shocking new light on another dimension of racism in America. Watch online at crowdcast.io/e/wbf-the-second.
“Make Me Rain: Poems & Prose” by Nikki Giovanni
For more than thirty years, Nikki Giovanni’s poetry has inspired, enlightened and dazzled readers. In “Make Me Rain,” this celebrated poet challenges us with this powerful and deeply personal collection of verse that speaks to the injustices of society while illuminating the depths of her own heart. As sharp and outspoken as ever, this profound book of poetry calls attention to injustice and gives readers an unfiltered look into Giovanni’s private thoughts. Watch online at crowdcast.io/e/wbf-make-me-rain.
“The Beauty in Breaking: A Memoir” by Michele Harper
Michele Harper is a female, African American emergency room physician in a profession that is overwhelmingly male and white. Brought up in Washington, D.C., in a complicated family, she went to Harvard, where she met her husband. They stayed together through medical school, and two months before she was scheduled to join the staff of a hospital in central Philadelphia, he told her he couldn’t move with her. Her marriage at an end, Harper began her new life in a new city, in a new job as a newly single woman. In the ensuing years, Harper learned to become an effective ER physician, bringing insight and empathy to every patient encounter. In her profession she came to understand that each of us is broken — physically, emotionally, psychologically. How we recognize those breaks, how we try to mend them and where we go from there are all crucial parts of the healing process. Watch online at crowdcast.io/e/wbf-the-beauty-in-breaking.
“Redeeming Justice: From Defendant to Defender, My Fight for Equity on Both Sides of a Broken System” by Jarrett Adams
Jarrett Adams was 17 years old when an all-white jury sentenced him to 30 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Now a pioneering lawyer, he recalls the journey that led to his exoneration — and inspired him to devote his life to fighting the many injustices in our legal system.
At seventeen years old and facing prison time, Adams sought to figure out the “why” behind his fate. Sustained by his mother and aunts who brought him back from the edge of despair through letters of prayer and encouragement, Adams became obsessed with the legal system in all its damaged glory. After studying how his constitutional rights to effective counsel had been violated, he solicited the help of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, an organization that exonerates the wrongfully convicted, and won his release after nearly ten years in prison. Watch online at c-span.org/video/?515492-6/redeeming-justice.