Sunday, February 7, 2016

Great new books to read for Black History Month

February is Black History Month and there are several wonderful new books to consider.
Sybil Haydel Morial discusses not only her marriage to former New Orleans Mayor Dutch Morial but her years of political activism and association with top African American leaders in her memoir “Witness to Change: From Jim Crow to Political Empowerment.”
Former Ambassador and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young writes in the foreword, “It is doubtful that New Orleans could have produced two mayors with the dynamic, creative and visionary leadership of Dutch and Marc Morial without a wife and mother of Sybil’s loving strength, intelligence and moral courage. But the life she lived in the crucible times and her perception of the Civil Rights Movement in New Orleans go far beyond that.”
Global gender studies professor LaKisha Michelle Simmons examines black females in the segregated south in “Crescent City Girls: The Lives of Young Black Women in Segregated New Orleans.” Using oral histories, photography, newspaper articles, police reports and more, Simmons offers a window into the lives of women and girls who encountered an unequal environment and the sometimes violence of Jim Crow while being pressured to adhere to middle America standards for women.
George Washington Eames Jr. was shot in the back just for being a black man in a white neighborhood. Even though he lived the rest of his life in a wheelchair, he fought for civil rights and in support of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Kathy Andre-Eames tells her husband’s story in “Warrior for Justice: The George Eames Story,” published by Pelican Publishing of New Orleans with a foreword by former LSU coach Dale Brown.
            Mildred D. Taylor began a series of stories about the Logans, an African-American family living in Mississippi during the Great Depression, with the 1975 novella “Song of the Trees.” Her sequel, “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” won the 1977 Newbery Medal, followed by several more books. Penquin has published a 40th anniversary edition of “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” with new cover art by Caldecott Honor Award winner Kadir Nelson.

Book news
Tulane English professor and author Jesmyn Ward is one of two recipients of the Strauss Living Award for literary excellence, given every five years by the Academy of Arts and Letters. The author of three books, including the National Book Award winner for fiction “Salvage the Bones,” will receive $200,000 to devote two years to writing. Ward is also the author of the memoir, “Men We Reaped,” named one of the best books of 2013 by The New York Times Book Review.
Lisa Graley, a 1995 McNeese graduate and an assistant professor of English at UL Lafayette, is the co-winner of the 2015 Flannery O’Connor Award in Short Fiction sponsored by the University of Georgia Press. The award, named after Georgia writer Flannery O’Connor, is given annually to two outstanding collections of short fiction. Winners each receive $1,000 and their collections are published by the University of Georgia Press. Her collection of stories, “The Current That Carries,” will be published in the fall of 2016.
Dr. Bill Ferris will kick off the 2016 Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration, Feb. 26-27, with his keynote address “The Mississippi River: Memory and Sense of Place.”

Book events
Sunil Yapa will sign copies of “Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist” at 6 p.m. Friday at Octavia Books in New Orleans.
Roberta Kaplan discusses her book “Then Comes Marriage: United States V. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA” at 2 p.m. Saturday at Temple Sinai in New Orleans.
Dixie Poche will sign copies of “Classic Eateries of Cajun Country,” a nostalgic look at 40 of French-Louisiana’s old-time restaurants, bakeries and grocery stores from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Books-A-Million in Baton Rouge.

Cheré Dastugue Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She also writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire, “A Cajun Dream” and “The Letter.” Write her at