The Nickel Boys

“The white boys bruised differently than the black boys and called it the Ice Cream Factory because you came out with bruises of every color. The black boys called it the White House because that was its official name and it fit and didn’t need to be embellished. The White House delivered the law and everybody obeyed.”

Colson Whitehead’s book after Underground Railroad tells the story of a reform school, the Black boys in the school, the devastating impact of the school and the system that enables it.

This novel has similar strengths (based on a true story, the concept, the research and historical truth behind the concept, the heft of the prose in the best parts) and weaknesses (underdeveloped secondary characters, the sometimes less inspired prose in transitional plot phases) as Underground Railroad. It’s still a great book that is important and deserving of its success and accolades.

But it also made me realize how the important, successful, critically acclaimed, powerful ™ books by and about Black people too often focus on (historical) hurt and pain. I could use some recommendations for important, successful, powerful ™ books about  Black joy. Not because books like Nickel Boys or Underground Railroad make white people like me uncomfortable – that’s the best part about Whitehead’s work – but because stories of joy and success need to be celebrated and supported, too. Especially in these times.

Mavis Staples – Take Us Back

The great Mavis Staples performed the opening cut from her soul-affirming new record Livin’On A High Note, live on the Late Show. She also sat down for a wonderful interview with Stephen Colbert, talking about her experience of ‘opening’ for Martin Luther King Jr.

106-year Old Woman Dancing with the Obamas

Today in “I will miss President and First Lady Obama” and also “Why representation matters”: 106-year old Black woman Virginia McLaurin was able to fulfill a dream this weekend by visiting the White House and meeting the Obamas during a Black History Month celebration. So wonderful to see the joy on all their faces. So important to think about what has happened and improved during Ms. McLaurin’s lifetime. 

The White House

on Sunday, February 21, 2016