By: Aleena Khan
Recognizing Black History Month also means appreciating and showcasing messages of Black authors. Here are four prominent novels that reveal the effects of oppression:
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander:
Michelle Alexander is a Black American writer and Civil Rights Activist who talks about her experience with the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) in northern California. Her purpose for writing this book was to focus attention on the new caste system and its controlling actions towards POC. She heavily focuses on how police, funded by the government, use racial profiling, which leads to many more arrests of black men. This action perpetuates the stereotype that black men are always criminals. After these innocent men wrongfully serve a sentence, they have to deal with the repercussions of the label “criminal’, which ends up following them around for the rest of their lives. Due to this label, black men struggle to find housing, jobs, and higher education and that causes them to struggle in regular society. This entire process is called “The New Jim Crow” and Alexander talks about how the Jim Crow laws have evolved.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas:
The Hate U Give focuses on a 16-year-old girl named Starr Carter who lives in a poor neighborhood but attends a prep school in the richer suburbs. Starr’s high school is predominantly white so she changes the way she acts to fit into her school better. Starr struggles with the balance of her home life versus school life until her friend, Kalil, was shot and killed by the police. Kalil’s death made headlines everywhere where many were claiming he was a gangbanger, thug, or drug dealer. Starr was the only witness so she was the only one who properly knew what happened that night. The book focuses on Starr’s struggles with identity and what truly happened the night that Kalil was killed.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou:
One of the most well-known civil rights activists from the 20th and 21st centuries was Maya Angelou. Angelou worked for both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. She ended up becoming a writer, singer, author, and poet within her lifetime. Her book is an autobiography that focuses on her experiences as a Black American in the south during the 1930s. She goes through her experiences of rejection and abandonment. She also had to face the pain of feeling like she was an ugly child due to bullying that she faced. Angelou talks about the struggle of bring a child who was sexually abused and how it affected her. Angelou’s book focuses on her struggles and her journey towards self-love during a hateful time. Angelou highlights the racism that she faced and how it shaped her into the activist that she is today.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi:
Tomi Adeyemi is a Nigerian-American writer who wrote a fantasy novel that was inspired by Nigerian mythology. The novel focuses on Orisa, who are supernatural deities in the Yoruba religion which is prominent in West Africa. In the novel's world, magic isn't allowed. Majis and their descendants, Maggots, are oppressed and or killed due to their powers. Zelie, the main character, is a diviner who lives with her brother and father. Her father was struggling with the loss of his wife, Zelie's mother, who was killed in a raid that was supposed to kill all the Maji’s. Zelie had to go to the city to trade to come up with money so that her family could pay taxes. She runs into Princess Amari, who has stolen a scroll that can bring magic back to Orisa. The story focuses on the evil of oppression of people based on their differences and the racial and cultural issues in a world where people judge one another based on their appearance.