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What to Read

Need a reading recommendation? Well, you've come to the right place. Each month our What to Read page highlights a few of our recent favorites, plus the latest best-sellers to hit our shelves and the hottest "coming soon" titles. 

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Best-Sellers Fiction  |   Best-Sellers Nonfiction  |   Coming Soon Fiction  |   Coming Soon Nonfiction

Celebrating juneteenth

We're honoring Juneteenth with this collection of titles that commemorates African American freedom and achievement.

juneteenth

BY EMILY DOLBEAR

Juneteenth-3.pngJuneteenth will help you explain the significance of the date to your children and why this date carries such a special significance for members of the African American community in the United States.

Learn the basics about Juneteenth, also called Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, and how the holiday celebrates the emancipation of slaves in the United States.

Additional features include detailed captions and sidebars, critical-thinking questions, a phonetic glossary, an index, and sources for further research.


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i am the rage

BY DR. MARTINA McGOWAN

i-am-the-rage.pngI am the Rage is not just a poetry book. It is a call-to-action.

This evocative collection of thirty poems puts readers in the position of feeling, reflecting, and empathizing with what it means to be Black in America today. Dr. Martina McGowan, a doctor and grandmother who has been a victim of and an advocate against social, racial, and sexual injustices, uses powerful free verse poetry to express the range of emotions, thoughts, and grief she had following the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests, and the ongoing attacks against the Black community.

For those who are moved by the poetry of Amanda Gorman and Maya Angelou, Dr. McGowan's poems are a glimpse into the Black experience and will stay with you long after you've read them. Her unforgettable words are brought to life through powerful illustrations by Diana Ejaita, whose work has been featured in Vanity FairThe New Yorker, and The New York Times, making it a beautiful poetry gift book for women and men.


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The three mothers: how the mothers of martin luther king, jr., malcolm x, and james baldwin shaped a nation

BY ANNA MALAIKA TUBBS

the-3-mothers.pngTake Me Home Huey: Honoring American Heroes Through Art is the moving story of visionary artist Steve Maloney's mission to honor Vietnam veterans by resurrecting a shattered medevac helicopter that was shot down on Valentine's Day 1969, and dramatically transforming it into a traveling sculptural memorial to honor those who served.

The book documents, through stunning photographs and Maloney's narrative, how the artwork evolved from a wish to honor Vietnam service members 50 years after the war's end into a touchstone for solace and connection among veterans, including some with PTSD.

Interviews throughout the unique narrative provide vital context for the multi-media work. Readers will hear from the former medevac crewmen, other veterans of the helicopter war, PTSD survivors, art therapists, and historians, as well as journalist Joe Galloway, the official spokesperson of the national Vietnam War 50th Anniversary Commemoration.

The book is the perfect capstone of this groundbreaking multimedia project that includes the sculpture, as well as an Emmy award-winning film and an original song.


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how the word is passed: a reckoning with the history of slavery across america

BY CLINT SMITH

how-the-word-is-passed.pngBeginning in his hometown of New Orleans, Clint Smith leads the reader on an unforgettable tour of monuments and landmarks—those that are honest about the past and those that are not—that offer an intergenerational story of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation’s collective history, and ourselves.

It is the story of the Monticello Plantation in Virginia, the estate where Thomas Jefferson wrote letters espousing the urgent need for liberty while enslaving more than four hundred people. It is the story of the Whitney Plantation, one of the only former plantations devoted to preserving the experience of the enslaved people whose lives and work sustained it. It is the story of Angola, a former plantation–turned–maximum-security prison in Louisiana that is filled with Black men who work across the 18,000-acre land for virtually no pay. And it is the story of Blandford Cemetery, the final resting place of tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers.

A deeply researched and transporting exploration of the legacy of slavery and its imprint on centuries of American history, How the Word Is Passed illustrates how some of our country’s most essential stories are hidden in plain view—whether in places we might drive by on our way to work, holidays such as Juneteenth, or entire neighborhoods like downtown Manhattan, where the brutal history of the trade in enslaved men, women, and children has been deeply imprinted.

Informed by scholarship and brought to life by the story of people living today, Smith’s debut work of nonfiction is a landmark of reflection and insight that offers a new understanding of the hopeful role that memory and history can play in making sense of our country and how it has come to be.They came from across the continent and Hawaii. Their parents taught them to embrace both their Japanese heritage and the ways of America. They faced bigotry, yet they believed in their bright futures as American citizens. But within days of Pearl Harbor, the FBI was ransacking their houses and locking up their fathers. And within months many would themselves be living behind barbed wire.

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yellow wife

BY SADEQA JOPHNSON

yellow-wife.pngCalled "wholly engrossing" by New York Times bestselling author Kathleen Grissom, this harrowing story follows an enslaved woman forced to barter love and freedom while living in the most infamous slave jail in Virginia.

Born on a plantation in Charles City, Virginia, Pheby Delores Brown has lived a relatively sheltered life. Shielded by her mother’s position as the estate’s medicine woman and cherished by the Master’s sister, she is set apart from the others on the plantation, belonging to neither world.

She’d been promised freedom on her eighteenth birthday, but instead of the idyllic life she imagined with her true love, Essex Henry, Pheby is forced to leave the only home she has ever known. She unexpectedly finds herself thrust into the bowels of slavery at the infamous Devil’s Half Acre, a jail in Richmond, Virginia, where the enslaved are broken, tortured, and sold every day. There, Pheby is exposed not just to her Jailer’s cruelty but also to his contradictions. To survive, Pheby will have to outwit him, and she soon faces the ultimate sacrifice.

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on juneteenth

BY ANNETTE GORDON REED

on-juneteenth.pngThe essential, sweeping story of Juneteenth’s integral importance to American history, as told by a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and Texas native.

Weaving together American history, dramatic family chronicle, and searing episodes of memoir, Annette Gordon-Reed’s On Juneteenth provides a historian’s view of the country’s long road to Juneteenth, recounting both its origins in Texas and the enormous hardships that African-Americans have endured in the century since, from Reconstruction through Jim Crow and beyond. All too aware of the stories of cowboys, ranchers, and oilmen that have long dominated the lore of the Lone Star State, Gordon-Reed―herself a Texas native and the descendant of enslaved people brought to Texas as early as the 1820s―forges a new and profoundly truthful narrative of her home state, with implications for us all.

Combining personal anecdotes with poignant facts gleaned from the annals of American history, Gordon-Reed shows how, from the earliest presence of Black people in Texas to the day in Galveston on June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger announced the end of legalized slavery in the state, African-Americans played an integral role in the Texas story.

Reworking the traditional “Alamo” framework, she powerfully demonstrates, among other things, that the slave- and race-based economy not only defined the fractious era of Texas independence but precipitated the Mexican-American War and, indeed, the Civil War itself.

In its concision, eloquence, and clear presentation of history, On Juneteenth vitally revises conventional renderings of Texas and national history. As our nation verges on recognizing June 19 as a national holiday, On Juneteenth is both an essential account and a stark reminder that the fight for equality is exigent and ongoing.


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a question of freedom: the families who challenged slavery from the nation's founding to the civil war

BY WILLIAM G. THOMAS III

a-question-of-freedom.pngFor over seventy years and five generations, the enslaved families of Prince George’s County, Maryland, filed hundreds of suits for their freedom against a powerful circle of slaveholders, taking their cause all the way to the Supreme Court. Between 1787 and 1861, these lawsuits challenged the legitimacy of slavery in American law and put slavery on trial in the nation’s capital.

Piecing together evidence once dismissed in court and buried in the archives, William Thomas tells an intricate and intensely human story of the enslaved families (the Butlers, Queens, Mahoneys, and others), their lawyers (among them a young Francis Scott Key), and the slaveholders who fought to defend slavery, beginning with the Jesuit priests who held some of the largest plantations in the nation and founded a college at Georgetown. A Question of Freedom asks us to reckon with the moral problem of slavery and its legacies in the present day.

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sweet taste of liberty: a true story of slavery and restitution in america

BY W. CALEB McDANIEL

sweet-taste-of-liberty.pngThe unforgettable saga of one enslaved woman's fight for justice--and reparations

Born into slavery, Henrietta Wood was taken to Cincinnati and legally freed in 1848. In 1853, a Kentucky deputy sheriff named Zebulon Ward colluded with Wood's employer, abducted her, and sold her back into bondage. She remained enslaved throughout the Civil War, giving birth to a son in Mississippiand never forgetting who had put her in this position.

By 1869, Wood had obtained her freedom for a second time and returned to Cincinnati, where she sued Ward for damages in 1870. Astonishingly, after eight years of litigation, Wood won her case: in 1878, a Federal jury awarded her $2,500. The decision stuck on appeal. More important than the amount, though the largest ever awarded by an American court in restitution for slavery, was the fact that any money was awarded at all. By the time the case was decided, Ward had become a wealthy businessman and a pioneer of convict leasing in the South. Wood's son later became a prominent Chicago lawyer, and she went on to live until 1912.

McDaniel's book is an epic tale of a black woman who survived slavery twice and who achieved more than merely a moral victory over one of her oppressors. Above all, Sweet Taste of Liberty is a portrait of an extraordinary individual as well as a searing reminder of the lessons of her story, which establish beyond question the connections between slavery and the prison system that rose in its place.

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stolen: five free boys kidnapped into slavery and their astonishing odyssey home

BY RICHARD BELL

stolen.pngA gripping and true story about five boys who were kidnapped in the North and smuggled into slavery in the Deep South—and their daring attempt to escape and bring their captors to justice, reminiscent of Twelve Years a Slave and Never Caught.

Philadelphia, 1825: five young, free black boys fall into the clutches of the most fearsome gang of kidnappers and slavers in the United States. Lured onto a small ship with the promise of food and pay, they are instead met with blindfolds, ropes, and knives. Over four long months, their kidnappers drive them overland into the Cotton Kingdom to be sold as slaves. Determined to resist, the boys form a tight brotherhood as they struggle to free themselves and find their way home.

Their ordeal—an odyssey that takes them from the Philadelphia waterfront to the marshes of Mississippi and then onward still—shines a glaring spotlight on the Reverse Underground Railroad, a black market network of human traffickers and slave traders who stole away thousands of legally free African Americans from their families in order to fuel slavery’s rapid expansion in the decades before the Civil War.

Impeccably researched and breathlessly paced, Stolen tells the incredible story of five boys whose courage forever changed the fight against slavery in America.

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