Monday, March 21, 2011

Women of Color Make Their Presence Known

March 21 - Today's post provided by TheHappyNappyBookseller
I loved the movie A League of Their Own, directed by Penny Marshall. The story is inspired by the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. It's been years since I've seen it but I still remember a lot of it.  Geena Davis was fearless behind the plate, and of course the now classic scene of Tom Hanks screaming, "there's no crying in baseball."

Another smaller scene I will never forget is when the players are practicing and a ball gets away from Madonna and Rosie O'Donnell's characters.  On the other side of the fence three Black woman are walking past. When asked to return the ball, one of the woman just guns it back.  All the women just stare at each other for a blink of a second.  The Black woman is clearly good enough to play but can't because of her race.   

The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights, by Russell Freedman, the story of singer Marian Anderson, broke my heart.  Anderson was rejected many times because of either race or gender. 

It's not lost on me that both examples I've given feature Black women.  It's second nature for people to focus on what they feel most connected to.  The trick is to recognize this and make a conscious  effort to think outside of yourself.            

One book I discovered last March was Amelia to Zora: Twenty-six Women who Changed the World, by Chin- Lee Megan, illustrated by Halsey Sean Addy.  A few of the women featured are Babe Didrikson Zaharias, an athlete that excelled at every sport she played; Cecilia Payne Gaposchkin, an astronomer and the first female professor at Harvard University; Nawal El Sadaawi a doctor and fighter for woman's rights; Grace Hopper inventor and computer pioneer; Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit -an Indian diplomat and the first woman president of the United Nations.   I love that the woman included are as diverse as their accomplishments. 

 It's no secret Women of Color  face more obstacles in life and I am always moved by their stories.  Below are a few of the ones I've loved.   

Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story by Paula Yoo, illustrated by Lin Wang- The first Asian movie star in Hollywood. If you get a chance watch this great interview with the author.

The Little Piano Girl : The Story of Mary Lou Williams by Ann Ingalls and MaryAnn Macdonald, illustrated by Giselle Potter -  Not only was Mary Lou Williams a jazz pianist she was also a  composer and arranger.  In the afterword there is a Duke Ellington quote - "Mary's music retains a standard of quality that is timeless. She is like soul on soul."

In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage by Alan Schroder,  illustrated by JaeMe Bereal - Augusta Savage was one of the primary artists of the Harlem Renaissance. Thanks to this biography I know that Savage created  a sculpture for the 1939 World's Fair in New York, "The Harp."

She Loved Baseball by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Don Tate. The story of Effa Manley, co-owner of the Brooklyn Eagles, a Negro League Baseball team. Manley is the first woman to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. 

Skit Scat Raggedy Cat : Ella Fitzgerald by Roxanne Orgill, illustrated by Sean Qualls.  We get a whole lot of Ella. Perfect for anyone who loves Fitzgerald's music and for those who are not familiar with her work.   

Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee by Marissa Moss, illustrated by Carl Angel - One of only two Chinese American women to serve in Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program during WWII. Moss includes some wonderful photographs in the back, including one of Maggie in her uniform and Maggie's mother building Liberty ships, hardhat and all.
Side by Side/Lado a Lado by Monica Brown,  illustrated by Joe Cepeda- Dolores Huerta is an activist and co founder of National Farmers Workers Association with Cesar Chavez. There are a few children's biographies on Cesar Chavez, although as far as I know this is the first one that pertains to Dolores Huerta.

Seeds of Change: Wangari's Gift to the World by Jen Cullerton Johnson, illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler-  This is my favorite children's biography on Wangari Maathai. My interview with the author can be found here. 

Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in  the Bronx by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Edel Rodriquez - A timely biography on the first Latina judge to serve on the Supreme Court.  

I did my best to place the biographies in a timeline order. This last one should be somewhere in the middle but I felt its gender and racial unity made it the perfect book to end with.  

The Sweethearts of Rhythm: The Story of the Greatest All-girl Swing Band in the World by Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney - The Sweethearts of Rhythm was the first integrated all women swing band in the world. When formed in 1937 the band included a Chinese saxophonist, a Hawaiian trumpeter and a Mexican clarinetist, along with Black musicians. In 1943, White musicians join the band for the first time.  

All of these women refused to let anyone deny them their rightful place in history.  Knowing what all they have accomplished in spite of everything fulls me with so much joy.  All of these biographies make sure their contributions, successes and sacrifices are not forgotten. 

Editor's Note:
TheHappyNappyBookseller is a bookseller and baseball fan in Atlanta Georgia.
Author Audrey Vernick, mentioned above, has shared her experience of writing She Loved Baseball in an earlier post.


  1. What a wonderful list of recommendations. I have Amelia to Zora for my girls, and now I have more to add to their reading pile. Thank you, Doret and Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month!

  2. You've found some lovely, inspiring books here. Seeds of Change was one of my favorite books last year. Skit-Skat Raggedy Cat tells a tough story and pulls no punches, yet is still age appropriate.

  3. I already love some of these titles, shared so generously by TheHappy NappyBookseller.
    But most are new to me.
    Many thanks for the great tips here

  4. Wonderful books, Doret! I always wonder why we can find such a richness the people we present to young children, but so few for young adults. That having been said, I've learning there's little reason not to have these "children's books" in a YA library. Between the artwork and the story, they're real winners!

  5. Campbele - as a children's librarian, I am biased, but I truly believe that children's nonfiction titles are often the best available on some topics. The best authors and illustrators distill not only the story, but the mood, the period, and the emotion into a powerfully compact and informative format. Picture book nonfiction is truly an art from.

  6. Posts like these make me wish I read children's nonfiction picture books. I never make the time to do so but they cover such great subjects. Thank you for giving me a starting point

  7. OMG, I really need to get my hands on Amelia to Zora!

    As always, Doret really rocks the nonfiction recommendations. =D

  8. Thank you Margo and Lisa for the wonderful layout. It looks so good and all great links.

    The Harp, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Women Airforce Service Pilots was all their doing.

  9. Fantastic list, Doret. Many thanks for reminding me about books I love and pointing me to some that I know I will love as soon as I read them.

  10. Doret, THANK YOU for this list! I was trying to find books on women of color to refill my Women's History Month display last week and it was not the easiest catalog search. This is very helpful!!