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Book Spotlight: Black History Month

by Saeideh Rajabzadeh, Kira McKesey, Susana Gonzalez, Samantha Wheadon

By For Black History Month, our team has put together a Book Spotlight that highlights both black joy and struggles. A short description of the author and the book, content warnings, and image descriptions are included for each of the seven books below.

Blood Like Magic, Liselle Sambury

Book cover of a black girl surrounded by purple and pink smoke.

Liselle Sambury is a Trinidadian-Canadian author born and raised in Toronto, ON. Sambury’s debut young adult novel Blood Like Magic was released in 2021. This urban fantasy book is set in Toronto and follows a girl named Voya on a quest to save her family’s magic. The only problem is that in order for her to complete her quest, Voya must kill her first love, even though she’s never been in love.

Content Warnings: blood, slavery, death

[Image Description: In the center of this book cover is a black girl surrounded by smoke. The bottom of the cover shows the title of the book in large font, Blood like Magic. Beneath in small font is the name of the author, Liselle Sambury. The cover showcases bright colours such as pink, purple, and some green mixed in the smoke surrounding the central character.]

I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You: A Letter to my Daughter, David Chariandy

Book cover with the title "I've been meaning to tell you: A letter to my daughter" it big white font. The background is divided into small squares with sketches of faceless people.

David Chariandy is an award-winning Canadian author whose writings are set in Scarborough, ON. I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You: A Letter to my Daughter is a letter to his 13-year old daughter about his experiences as a visible minority. From his writing, a sense of duality emerges between the unpleasant past experiences and hope for a better future.

Content warnings: racism, discrimination

[Image Description: A book cover is seen. The top line is the name of the author, David Chariandy. Below this line, it reads: “Award-Winning Author of Brother”. I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You is in white large font in the center. In a smaller font below, it reads: “A Letter to my Daughter”. The background is divided into small squares showing sketches of people without faces wearing different colours such as yellow, pink, and blue.]

Burning Sugar, Cicely Belle Blain

Book cover with a simple painting of a sun and mountains.

Cicely Belle Blain is a Canadian poet, activist, and founder of Black Lives Matter Vancouver. Burning Sugar is a poetry collection about history, Black identity, and the impact of colonization on Black bodies.

Content warnings: racism, discrimination

[Image Description: On this book cover, the title Burning Sugar is seen in capital letters. Below, it reads: “poems”, and at the bottom of the cover is the name of the author, Cicely Belle Blain. The background displays a simple painting with the sun on the right and mountains of different sizes and colours - orange, pink, and brown - on either side.]

Charming as a Verb, Ben Philippe

Book cover illustration with a boy and girl walking their dog across a busy street.

Author Ben Philippe was born in Haiti and raised in Montreal, QC. He currently lives in NYC. In his novel Charming as a Verb, we follow Henri a first-generation American and star student at FATE Academy who walks dogs for a living. His classmate and neighbour, Corinne Troy, finds out that Henri is scamming his customers. Now Henri must act fast and do something so that she doesn’t tell everyone his secret. This is a super cute coming-of-age romcom!

Content Warnings: racism, cursing

[Image Description: A drawn image of a boy and girl walking a dog across a busy street in NYC is seen on this book cover. The background includes hazy buildings and yellow taxis. On the top in large font is the title of the book, Charming as a Verb. Above, it reads: “He could charm anyone … until now.” In small font at the bottom, it reads: “Award-winning author of The Field Guide to the North American Teenager”. The author’s name, Ben Philippe is written in capital letters at the very bottom.]

Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Marlon James

Book cover of intertwined faces of a leopard and wolf in green, red, and blue.

Marlon James is a Jamaican, award-winning author whose writings explore a variety of themes such as sexuality, religion, violence, and colonialism. Part of the Dark Star trilogy, Black Leopard, Red Wolf is a fantastical book, which tells the story of a mercenary who is hired to find a missing child.

Content warnings: violence, sex

[Image Description: This book cover includes a sticker on the upper right corner that reads: “National Book Award Finalist.” On the cover, the title appears: Black Leopard, Red Wolf. At the bottom of the cover the name of the author, Marlon James, is seen. The cover includes intertwined faces of a leopard and a wolf painted in green, red, purple, and blue.]

If Beal Street Could Talk, James Baldwin

Book cover of a boy jumping in front of a building.

James Baldwin was an American author and activist, who drew from social and political movements in his narratives. Many of his works discuss topics such as race, spirituality, and humanity. In his novel If Beal Street Could Talk, we follow the love story of Tish and Fonny in Harlem, New York. Tish finds out she is pregnant, soon after Fonny is falsely accused of a crime and imprisoned. A film adaptation of the same name based on the book was released in 2018.

Content Warnings: racism, sexual content, racial slurs

[Image Description: A book cover is seen. The top half of the cover, in black and white, is an image of a boy jumping in front of a building. The center of the cover in large font is the author’s name, James Baldwin, beneath is the title of the novel If Beale Street Could Talk. The bottom of the cover, in light blue, includes a quote from The Philadelphia Inquirer that reads: “One of the best books Baldwin has ever written - perhaps the best of all.”]

Angry Queer Somali Boy, Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali

Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali was born in 1985. Ali was kidnapped by his father, moved from Somalia to the Netherlands, and then immigrated to Canada. Ali’s memoir, Angry Queer Somali Boy, follows the story of how he ended up at a homeless shelter in Toronto. His memoir explores what it is like growing up as a gay Muslim immigrant and discusses exile, addiction, and racism.

Content Warnings: addiction, alcoholism, child abuse, racism

[Image Description: On this blue book cover, a large font spells out Angry Queer Somali Boy. In small font beneath, it reads: “A complicated memoir”. The author's name below it is seen in white font, Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali.]

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