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Friday, October 19, 2018

THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT A BLACK BOY by Tony Medina and 13 Artists


People who have followed my blog know my story. I'm a single, never-married white woman. My sons are African American. They were students at my school and I adopted them when they were seven and nine.  Our journey has been long and bumpy. Many, many people including a former boss, teachers, and football and basketball coaches, have been the village that have surrounded and raised my boys.

A single white mom, with two black boys, is probably not ideal. I know I did a lot of things wrong. But one thing I did right is to fill my sons' lives with books. And I made sure that we had books with people that celebrated my boys.

THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT A BLACK BOY, by Tony Medina and 13 Artists, is a book that I wish I had been able to give my boys when they were growing up. The title, as those who are more literary will probably recognize, is a play on Wallace Stevens' 1954 poem, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird." The thirteen poems, all in the tanka form, are a celebration of black malehood, arranged chronologically. The first poem, "Anacostia Angel," captures a black baby with a fly bow tie and koolaid smile.  In the last poem, "Giving Back to the Community," a black man returns to teach in his community. In between those two are poems that celebrate church, thie middle school/high school flirt, a teenage athlete chasing his bus, and several others.  Many of the poems are set in Anacostia, "a historically black neighborhood in Washington, D.C., which is quickly becoming more gentrified." Anacostia was also the home of Frederick Douglas.

The art in this book is absolutely spectacular. Thirteen different artists, including well-known picture book artists Floyd Cooper, Javaka Steptoe, and R. Gregory Christie each contributed one illustration, everything from watercolor, to pencil-like sketch to watercolor, to mixed media. Wow! I think this book would be a terrific addition to an art class- kids could pick one object and explore it in through several different mediums.

Extensive back matter gives information about each artist, about tanka, and about the Anacostia area.

"One-Way Ticket"
Payday don't pay much
   Every breath I take is taxed
The kind of life where
   I'll have to take out a loan
To pay back them other loans

"Athlete's Broke Bus Blues"
Know how many times
   I done missed this broke-down bus
Hardly catch my breath
   Running as fast as can be,
Wave at this bus leaving me

"Brothers Gonna Work It Out"
We righteous Black men
   Patrol the soul of this 'hood
Raise young bloods proper
   To be the kings that they are
Crowned glory of our future

Brenda, at Friendly Fairy Tales, is hosting Poetry Friday today.

9 comments:

Irene Latham said...

Carol, I honor your journey with your sons! Parenthood ain't easy, that's for sure. And I have been wanting a peek inside this book... Thank you! xo

jan godown annino said...

Hello Carol. I think this collection will be important to many teachers I know.
I expect to share it with a retired librarian who is African-American & devotes so much of
her time to mentoring black youth.
And I am sure families who have walked a similar path as yours will be lifted up by it.
With many appreciations.

Jan/Bookseedstudio

jama said...

Thanks so much for featuring this book -- love the sample poems and the art does sound incredible. Also appreciated hearing the story about your sons (didn't know all the details before). Your gifting them with books is a beautiful thing.

Linda B said...

Lucky that I just picked up this book at my library, Carol, and will read it soon. I know that it would have been wonderful to have when your boys were younger, but now, too, and for that grandgirl! Thanks for sharing more about it.

Mitchell Linda said...

I love this post! Last week, my school hosted Ellen Oh as a speaker. She is a co-founder of We Ne Diverse Books. She talked with the kids about how something was missing from books in her childhood....all kinds of people that were other than white middle class. Your wish that you could have given your sons this book when they were younger reminds me of that and the great work that is being done now to address representation in kid lit.

Buffy Silverman said...

Thanks for the glimpse inside this book--looks like a great read,

Mary Lee said...

After an informal inventory of my classroom library, I am trying to only add books that feature people of color. My library does not represent the students who are in my class and in our school. This one, for sure!

Kay said...

Thank you for sharing this book. It looks like a rich treasure for many bookshelves.

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