I didn't know about Juneteenth growing up. It wasn't something we talked about in school. We certainly learned about the 13th amendment, and Abraham Lincoln, but not Juneteenth. In scanning Twitter (which I spend far too much time doing) it appears that I am not alone in this. Perhaps that is because it is about enslaved people in Texas being freed, and not in the other states. Nevertheless, it is one of many examples of how lacking my knowledge of African-American history is.
I recently finished We Can't Breathe, by Jabari Asim, a brilliant book of essays on black lives, white lies and the art of survival. Jabari was kind enough to visit the store during his promotional campaign for the book back in December of 2018. I hadn't actually picked up the book until recently though. When I did, I was struck by how much I didn't know. From little things like the fact that in 1972 there was another book titled We Can't Breathe, by Ronald Fair, to big things such as the chief justice of the Supreme Court writing in 1857 that slaves "had no rights which the white man was bound to respect," I learned that I have a breathtaking amount to learn.
Even more discouraging were the essays, or parts of essays that seem as though they could have been published last week instead of nearly two years ago. Essays on police brutality, white supremacy, and African-Americans in publishing. In the chapter "The Seer and the Seen," we learn that a 1965 "survey of 5,206 books published in a three-year period showed that fewer than 7 percent of them included images of African-Americans." And really, it was less than that, because included in that seven percent were books where there were "one or two dark faces in the crowd." Lee & Low's annual diversity in publishing survey put the figure at just five percent for 2019. Presumably, this is a more-solid five percent, as the criteria in the latter survey is more rigorous, but the fact that the number hasn't shifted in the 55 years since is damning.
While I can't control what books get published, I can control what books we stock in the store. This week has been #BlackoutBestsellerlist Week, a week to try and get bestseller lists to feature only black authors, which I first saw last weekend in Nicole Dennis-Benn's (author of Here Comes the Sun and Patsy) Twitter feed.
As I've walked around the store this week, pulling books for social media posts in support of #BlackoutBestsellerlist Week, I've been thinking about our percentage of books by black authors. I believe our percentage in the store is higher than that five percent, but it's not as high as it can or should be. That's on me, and I'll do better. And I'll be personally reading more books by African-American authors as well, both fiction and non-fiction. From Jerry Craft to Jason Reynolds to Kekla Magoon to Jabari Asim, many of the African-American authors who I've read since opening the store I now count among my favorites, but I have much more work to do. I hope you'll join me. If you have suggestions, I am here to listen.
JUNETEENTH BOOK FESTIVAL
A group of authors have organized a virtual festival airing today on YouTube. The roster below of participating authors is incredibly impressive, so if you're interested in boosting and celebrating Black American stories, head over to their YouTube channel and check out the videos.
JUNETEENTH AT LIBRO.FM
Today - Juneteenth (June 19th) - 100% of sales on Libro.fm will go directly to black-owned bookstores. So if you were looking to stock up on audiobooks, today is a great day to do so!
PRIDE MONTH 2020
Celebrate Pride Month in style with one of the 50 titles on the curated list on our Recommendations page. They range from children's picture books, to middle-grade, young adult, and a variety of adult books - non-fiction, fiction, poetry, and fantasy included. A portion of the proceeds from any purchase of these 50 titles during the month of June will be donated to OUT Metrowest. Any purchase will also get a free rainbow-logoed Silver Unicorn sticker!
ANTIRACISM AND AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY LIST
FATHER'S DAY 2020
Dads can be hard to shop for. They don't tell you what they really want, or they just go buy it for themselves. Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaadd!!!! (shaking fist emoji) So I made you a 2020 Father's Day Gift Guide, housed on our Recommendations page.
SUMMER READING FORMS!
Summer reading forms are available every day from 11 am - 4 pm under this wonderful painted rock someone left us, on the red bench outside. Or, if you prefer, you can download it from our Summer Reading page.
CLICK HERETO READ PREVIOUS EDITIONS OF THE NEWSLETTER Last Newsletter: "Summer Reading Program 2020!"
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