Jennifer Baszile has an intriguing new book out that examines the issues of growing up black in a white neighborhood. Jennifer’s parents wanted and had the means to provide the best for their daughter, and in order for that to happen in Los Angeles in the late ‘70s they had to live among whites. The Black Girl Next Door provides a serious look at the reality of race relations, but is also “packed with offbeat humor and suspense,” as Connecticut Post’s Joe Meyers wrote in a review. It’s tough being “the only one,” especially in those days, and money doesn’t make you “one of them.” Dwight Garner in his New York Times review says the family is “at the same time too black and not nearly black enough.”
Baszile, the first black woman to teach history at Yale, is writing a second memoir that deals with her life from high school through college, moving into the challenges of the adult world.
In honor of Black History Month (it’s never too late), read a book by an African-American author. If not Baszile’s try one of Maya Angelou’s (I have a signed copy of Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now, a treasure), or The Color of Water by James McBride, which is a very multicultural treatise about his mother, a white Jew who marries a black man and raises a large family in Harlem. How about Ben Carson: Gifted Hands, about Carson’s rise from inner city boy to director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins (made into a TV movie that aired earlier this month). Or Zora Neale Hurston’s famous Their Eyes Were Watching God, written in south Florida black vernacular. One of Barack Obama’s favorites is Song of Solomon by Tony Morrison. For younger kids try Most Loved In All the World by Tonya Cherie Hegaman, about a slave mother saving her child from the cotton fields to work in the Big House, then creating a quilt to help her follow the Underground Railway. Or Priscilla and the Hollyhocksby Ann Broyles, based on a true story of a slave child separated from her mother and ending up on the Trail of Tears. Expand your horizons. And don’t tell me we don’t need a Black History Month since Obama was elected.