WASH by Margaret Wrinkle
Margaret Wrinkle’s debut novel, WASH, presents the life of Wash, a slave with ancestral roots in West Africa who is used for breeding by his owner in the South during the early 1800s. The book is split into seven parts, each one distinguished by the year it takes place. This format paradoxically nods to the oversimplification of time, complicating the notion that it is the ultimate arbiter of contextual truth. Wrinkle’s marriage of first-person accounts with third-person narration reflects the scaled, non-linear development of memory. Her writing brilliantly captures the spatial nature of identity production through the characters. In doing so, her work reveals the residual and accumulative weight of our country’s colonial history.
My favorite part of the book is the photographs that Wrinkle includes at the beginning of each part of the text. At first, they seem simple, almost nonessential—but the deeper you dive, the more you understand that these images offer an opportunity to learn about how you see, an unexpected lesson. —Caitlin Grann
You can find WASH locally at Garcia Street Books.
The Other Madisons: The Lost History of a President’s Black Family by Bettye Kearse
“Always remember—you’re a Madison. You come from African slaves and a president.” That family credo, repeated to Bettye Kearse from childhood on, led to her becoming an eighth-generation griotte, the West African word for a family’s female oral historian. Drawing on meticulous research, visits to relevant places and other firsthand experiences, Kearse traces the poignant, inspiring and sometimes heartbreaking story of her family roots. It began when an abducted Ghanaian girl, sold into slavery in Virginia and given the name Mandy, was impregnated by James Madison Sr. When she gave birth to Coreen, Mandy became the matriarch of President Madison’s black — and only — descendants. Years later, Coreen was impregnated by her half-brother, James Madison Jr., the president referenced in the family credo.
Kearse, a retired pediatrician who now lives with her husband in Santa Fe, is a prolific writer whose goal is to remind young African Americans that they are descended from strong, talented and resilient forebears, and that like their ancestors, they can not only endure, but prevail. —Janet Elder
A Dance Like Starlight by Kristy Dempsey (writer) and Floyd Cooper (illustrator)
In 1950s Harlem, it takes more than wishing upon a star to make dreams come true, especially when they are the dreams of a young African American girl who aspires to be a ballerina. But the hopeful, hardworking dancer at the heart of A Dance Like Starlight may just end up having what it takes to break through the barriers of racial prejudice and segregation.
Author Kristy Dempsey and illustrator Floyd Cooper deliver a story of hope and perseverance, while shining light on the inequalities faced by so many throughout history. The beacon for Starlight’s young protagonist is the historical figure Janet Collins, the prima ballerina who, on November 13, 1951, became the first African American to perform with New York City’s Metropolitan Opera.
There has never been a better time for stories of hopes and dreams. A Dance Like Starlight gives us this, along with the opportunity to discuss the history of race in America with the budding readers in our lives. — Brian Nelson
Meg Peralta-Silva was born in Baltimore and lived in many states and countries before moving to New Mexico three years ago. She has worked as a youth advocate, creative expression instructor, program director and farm intern. She enjoys learning from others’ perspectives and challenging her own biases.