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Check It Out

Courier Article by David Locker
Sunday, February, 2000


The Library Offers a Feast of African-American Writers

Readers can easily fall into the habit of reading the same kind of book again and again. I am as guilty of this as anyone. But this month I discovered how good it can be to expand your reading horizons.

Reading these books by African American writers, in recognition of African American History Month, has taught me that the people these Black authors write about are not that different from myself, and this realization has made me understand myself better. This is what reading should be all about.

Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors by Marian Wright Edelman (Beacon, 1999).

Mrs. Edelman, the president of the Children's Defense Fund and the author of the bestseller The Measure of Our Success, has taken time out, as she approaches sixty years of age, to reflect on the lessons she has learned and the teachers who taught her. The daughter of a respected South Carolina minister, Mrs. Edelman was blessed with strong role models in her family and community. Determined to become a civil rights lawyer, she eventually did become the first Black woman attorney in Mississippi. There she experienced firsthand the Civil Rights Movement, and her mentors were the individuals who made the Movement possible. In these pages you will find wisdom and inspiration and evidence that you can be a liberal and still espouse moral and family values.

Tell No Tales by Eleanor Taylor Bland (St. Martin's, 1999).

Police detective Marti Macalister is recently remarried and on her honeymoon when she is called back to Lincoln Prairie, a suburb of Chicago, to help solve the murder of a homeless man who turns out to be a brother of one of the town's most prominent citizens. To complicate matters, a few days earlier a mummified corpse of a young woman had been discovered in an old movie theater. The question is whether the two cases are related. Homicide is often the result of either love or money but in this case, it is the consequence of racial prejudice. Read this Eleanor Taylor Bland mystery, and I guarantee it won't be your last.

Something's Wrong with Your Scale! by Van Whitfield (Doubleday, 1999).

Sonny Walker has a food problem. He can't stop eating. His girlfriend breaks up with him because he's too fat, and all he can think about is escaping from her apartment with the cheesecake. After months of burying his sorrows in binge eating, he decides he wants her back, so he joins FutraSystem. There he meets Kayla, who can eat him under the table any day of the week. Sonny is a regular guy who won't tolerate prejudice in his friends or his co-workers, but he discovers that he is just as guilty in his prejudice against the well-fed Kayla. Another thing he finds out is the real reason why he should be losing weight in the first place. This is one of the funniest books that I have ever read.

Black Girl in Paris by Shay Youngblood (Riverhead, 2000).

Eden was abandoned as a baby in a brown paper bag in a Greyhound bus station. She came to think of her life as invented and her ambition became to further the invention by becoming a writer. Influenced by her aunt and the great African-American expatriate writer James Baldwin, Eden sets off for Paris in search of freedom.

In Paris there was freedom but not necessarily freedom from prejudice. What Eden does find is love. Ms. Youngblood writes of Paris with startling sensuality. I read this book in one setting and savored it like a good French wine.

David Locker is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.