#ReadingBlackout was a hashtag started by youtuber Denise D. Cooper as part of a 2018 challenge called “The Blackout Year for Books”. For her challenge, Denise only read books by black authors in the year 2018. Even though 2018 is over, Book Riot writer Emily Polson argues, “Even if you don’t join the challenge for the full year, the hashtag #ReadingBlackout is about prioritizing black authors from your TBR [To Be Read list], so Black History Month seem[s] like the perfect time to join in.”

The White Oak Library District staff decided to join the #ReadingBlackout challenge to celebrate 2019’s Black History Month! Scroll down to discover what books library staff are reading this February and why each staff member chose to read that title.

Don’t forget to leave a comment letting us know what you’ll be reading this month!

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Radio Silence by Alyssa Cole
No one expects the apocalypse. One moment Arden Highmore was living the life of an average Upstate New York postgrad, and the next the world went dark. No internet, no power, no running water–and no one knows why. All she and her roommate, John Seong, know for sure is that they have to get out, stat. His family’s cabin in a town near the Canadian border seems like the safest choice. Turns out isolation doesn’t necessarily equal safety. When scavengers attack en route to the cabin, John’s hot older brother, Gabriel, comes to the rescue. He saves Arden’s life, so he can’t be too bad … but the good parts seem to be hidden under several layers of controlling jerk. Arden thought reaching the cabin would give her a reprieve from her worries, but she finds her problems only grow once they arrive: the Seong’s parents have gone missing, teen sister Maggie’s growing pains won’t be stopped by an apocalypse, and no one knows when–or if–help will ever come. In the midst of all that, Arden and Gabriel find that there’s a thin line indeed between love and hate. Can they survive the darkness, or will their growing love be snuffed out?

An end of the world romantic novel that does not have zombies! Faith loves a good romance and a good end of the world novel, but hates zombies. Faith believes you really see a persons true character in end of the world situation which makes them so interesting. She despises the gore and horror associated with zombies, so anytime she find a book featuring a non-zombie end of the world situation Faith must read it.

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How To Cake It: A Cakebook by Yolanda Gampp
From Yolanda Gampp, host of the massively popular, award-winning YouTube sensation How to Cake It comes an inspiring “cakebook” with irresistible new recipes and visual instructions for creating spectacular novelty cakes for all skill levels. 

Yolanda has an amazing youtube channel where she creates out of this world cakes. Faith loves to bake even though she says she is not great. She loves to get inspiration and try new recipes from amazing cookbooks like this one.

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My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Satire meets slasher in this short, darkly funny hand grenade of a novel about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends.

Faith already finished reading My Sister, The Serial Killer and loved it! She thought it was such a good read with an unexpected ending!

Blended by Sharon M. Draper
Piano-prodigy Isabella, eleven, whose black father and white mother struggle to share custody, never feels whole, especially as racial tensions affect her school, her parents both become engaged, and she and her stepbrother are stopped by police.

Brittany is really looking forward to seeing how Draper, who has written so many great stories for kids, addresses identity and racial tensions in society with characters who are at an age where they can really start to comprehend these issues.

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Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson
Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable-more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried. When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn’t just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help. As Claudia digs deeper into her friend’s disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone?

Colleen is excited to read Monday’s Not Coming because she loves a good mystery, especially one that seems so ripe to be filled with unexpected twists and turns and buried secrets. Additionally, Colleen has always been a fan of books showcasing strong friendships. From the summary alone, the bond between Claudia and Monday is set to be a powerful one.

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On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
When sixteen-year-old Bri, an aspiring rapper, pours her anger and frustration into her first song, she finds herself at the center of a controversy.

On top of Terri’s to-read pile is On the Come Up by Angie Thomas. She’s so excited to see what everyone in Garden Heights is doing following the events in The Hate U Give. Thomas’ debut novel, The Hate U Give, was one of her favorite reads of 2017 and she knows On the Come Up will be just as insightful and moving.

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Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Pride by Ibi Zoboi is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice following Zuri Benitez, an Afro-Latino girl watching her neighborhood slowly being to become gentrified. When a rich family moves across the way, Zuri can’t stand them, especially not the younger brother–arrogant and judgemental Darius.

Maisie already finished reading Pride and couldn’t put it down! Take a look at what she thought!
“What struck me about this book is how intensely readable it is. It was hard to put down because it was just so enjoyable! Zuri, the main character, was a perfect combination of witty and bitter and a dreamer, and her poems throughout the book give readers easy access to her feelings in a way that doesn’t feel forced. Her sisters all had that wonderful energy from the original book–a little chaotic, a little quirky, but also full of love. The closeness between Janae and Zuri felt like a real driving power, and their relationship as sisters isn’t sidelined so they can focus on boys. Darius was as stiff and awkward and uncomfortable as any good Mr. Darcy should be!
One cool thing about this book is that it may be an adaptation, but you don’t have to be familiar with the original book! The narrative about adapting to a changing neighborhood is unique and compelling! I couldn’t put this book down, and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes a good, character-driven story!” – Maisie

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The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal and long-dormant wounds rising up to fester. This is Stillness, a land familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.

Nic is really interested in N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season and the rest of the Broken Earth Trilogy. He became interested in this series when he listened to the Ezra Klein Podcast featuring the author and host going through a world-building exercise. The attention to detail that Jemisin was not only fascinating and compelling, but made it feel easy, despite world-building being a particularly difficult aspect to speculative fiction.

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Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
Go Tell It on the Mountain, Baldwin’s first published novel, tells a passionate story closely paralleling the author’s own family background. It focuses on John Grimes, a black boy growing up in a religious home in Harlem under the stern hand of his preacher father, Gabriel. The action of the novel takes place in 1936, on John’s fourteenth birthday, with sections detailing previous events in the lives of John’s aunt Florence, his father, and his mother, Elizabeth.

Having listened to dozens of youtube videos of James Baldwin interviews, debates, speeches, and discussion, one book that is still on Nic’s “to read” stack is Go Tell It on the Mountain. Nic has been truly compelled with the way that Baldwin would present his ideas in person, that he would be interested to see how much is translated into his writing. The speaker is different than the writer, but James Baldwin has left his mark as being strong in both arenas, and Nic is really interested to see for himself.

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Becoming by Michelle Obama
In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America, she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private. A deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations.

Amy greatly admires Michelle Obama as a person and for her politics. She is the epitome of grace, passion, and inspiration, so Amy knows she’ll get charged up after reading her book.

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
After witnessing her friend’s death at the hands of a police officer, Starr Carter’s life is complicated when the police and a local drug lord try to intimidate her in an effort to learn what happened the night Kahlil died.

Amy don’t know what this book is about, but she’s heard a lot of buzz around it since it’s a major motion picture. Since Amy was inspired by Colleen and the #ReadingBlackout, she thought she’d add the book to her to be read pile.

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The Truths We Hold: An American Journey by Kamala Harris
From one of America’s most inspiring political leaders, a book about the core truths that unite us, and the long struggle to discern what those truths are and how best to act upon them, in her own life and across the life of our country. By reckoning with the big challenges we face together, drawing on the hard-won wisdom and insight from her own career and the work of those who have most inspired her, Kamala Harris offers in The Truths We Hold a master class in problem solving, in crisis management, and leadership in challenging times. Through the arc of her own life, on into the great work of our day, she communicates a vision of shared struggle, shared purpose, and shared values. In a book rich in many home truths, not least is that a relatively small number of people work very hard to convince a great many of us that we have less in common than we actually do, but it falls to us to look past them and get on with the good work of living our common truth. When we do, our shared effort will continue to sustain us and this great nation, now and in the years to come.

Amy was looking over the NextReads New York Times non-fiction bestsellers list and put The Truths We Hold : An American Journey by Kamala Harris audio book on hold. Amy knows that Harris has put her bid in for the democratic nomination for President of the United States in 2020, and would like to learn more about her.

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Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime story of one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Gayle loves reading and listening to nonfiction, so when she read Bill Gates’ review of “Born a Crime,” she was intrigued. Trevor Noah’s coming of age story about how he went from someone who was literally born a crime in South Africa would be interesting on its own. But the fact that he overcame so much and became the host of the Daily Show is irresistible.

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The Book of Night Women by Marlon James
Lilith was born into slavery on a Jamaican sugar plantation at the end of the eighteenth century. Even at her birth, the slave women around her recognize a dark power that they–and she–will come to both revere and fear. The Night Women, as they call themselves, have long been plotting a slave revolt, and as Lilith comes of age and reveals the extent of her power, they see her as the key to their plans. But when she begins to understand her own feelings and desires and identity, Lilith starts to push at the edges of what is imaginable for the life of a slave woman in Jamaica, and risks becoming the conspiracy’s weak link.

This is a older book – published in 2009 historical fiction set during the 18th century on a Jamaican sugar plantation. The book follows Lilith, a young woman born into slavery, who challenges the boundaries of what is expected of her. Beverly’s favorite books are historical fiction and this story intrigued her being set in Jamaica.

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Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Seventeen-year-old Zelie, her older brother Tzain, and rogue princess Amari fight to restore magic to the land and activate a new generation of magi, but they are ruthlessly pursued by the crown prince, who believes the return of magic will mean the end of the monarchy.

Cindy wants to read Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi because it is an epic fantasy. She’s just waiting for her hold to come in!

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The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking. But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her Mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems. Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

Colleen added this title to her To Be Read pile after seeing it on YASF’s 2019 Tournament of Books. She’s excited to read this book because when she was in high school she wrote slam poetry and came to love the style. Now she can’t wait to read a book entirely written in such a rhythmic and emotional format.

This post was originally written by Colleen Melone, former Adult & Teen Services Supervisor at the Crest Hill Branch.

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