Writing Literature & Publishing associate professor and Elma Lewis Distinguished Fellow Jabari Asim reviewed two new picture books for the New York Times, giving high acclaim to both.
An excerpt of Asim’s review of “”Have I Ever Told You Black Lives Matter” by Shani Mahiri King and illustrated by Bobby C. Martin Jr.:
The book’s narrative rhythms portray time as a river of swirling currents as opposed to points on a straight line. King’s long view of history connects the past strongly to the present, and vice versa. A mention of Colin Kaepernick expands to include Tommie Smith and John Carlos, Black athletes who bravely protested at the 1968 Olympics. A mention of Ida B. Wells sends us cascading through generations of journalists who have followed in her stead, including Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Yamiche Alcindor. In the world King has created, Jean Toomer occupies the same space as Jacqueline Woodson, and it’s but a small leap from Josephine Baker to Gregory Hines. At strategic intervals the narrator wisely reasserts — plainly — that Black lives matter.
An excerpt of Asim’s review of “The ABCs of Black History” by Rio Cortez, illustrated by Lauren Semmer:
Like “Have I Ever Told You,” “The ABCs of Black History” takes an imaginative view of time. Protest placards from earlier eras with messages such as “I Am a Man” and “Separate Is Not Equal” are placed alongside contemporary slogans such as “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” and “We Can’t Breathe.” On one particularly cool layout, Gwendolyn Brooks recites her poetry just inches from DJ Kool Herc, spinning jams on his wheels of steel. With such creativity at our disposal, Cortez and Semmer seem to suggest, full equality for African-Americans is not only possible but inevitable.