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Read to honor Black History Month


ROSEBURG -- In honor of Black History Month, Roseburg Public Library staff created a booklist of some library holdings to help readers understand the Black literary experience. The canon is vast, so consider this just one resource on a lifelong learning journey.

To access the booklist, visit the library’s online catalog at Select “Booklists” from the “What’s Hot” tab, then click on “Black History Month & Beyond.” The list is limited to physical items in the library’s collection, so do not forget about electronic books and audiobooks available on cloudLibrary and Libby (OverDrive).

One of Library Director Kris Wiley’s favorite recent reads was Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’ “The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois,” a multigenerational family saga that, at 800 pages, is a commitment well worth the effort. The main character is Ailey, who comes of age in the 1990s living in the North with her family but spending summers in a small Georgia town. The author shifts back and forth through time so the reader understands the people who lived there – from indigenous people to the white people who took over the land and enslaved Black people to work it. Wiley got completely caught up in the multiple storylines and especially connected with Ailey’s Great-Uncle Root, a retired professor at a historic Black college and university (modeled after Howard University) who ties together some family history with his storytelling.

Wiley also highly recommends “The Sweetness of Water,” an intense Reconstruction-era novel set in Georgia by Nathan Harris, who is from Ashland. This is Harris’ first novel, and it was an Oprah Book Club pick and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. It is the story of Prentiss and Landry, brothers freed at the end of the Civil War who go to work for a white family near where the brothers had been enslaved. They intend to make enough money to begin a new life elsewhere. They work for the Walkers, George and Isabelle, who are grieving the loss of their son in the war. But then the son returns – he didn’t die after all – and his secrets, including his relationship with another soldier and friend, come to light. The tragedy that follows haunts everyone left behind. Wiley recommends this book for fans of Jesmyn Ward and “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead.

Finally, several participants in the library’s Online Book Group have recommended “How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America” by Clint Smith, a staff writer at The Atlantic. The book resonated with Wiley because it was a bit of travel writing with a great deal of study into how historical sites across the country and in Africa talk about how they were shaped by and remain tied to the legacy of slavery. As you might imagine, there is a great deal of disparity in what stories are told and who tells them. Especially enlightening were the conversations with random people who were on the tours with the author. Wiley always marvels at writers’ ability to divine wisdom from seemingly simple conversations.

The library’s booklist includes material for all age groups, and staff will continue to populate it throughout the year. Email staff at with titles you would like added to the list.

Posted by RoseburgAdmin