This Black History Month at Agate, we celebrated the publication of The Last Thing You Surrender, the newest novel from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Leonard Pitts, Jr. This powerful story takes the classic World War II narrative—so familiar to us, and yet so frequently told from the same perspectives—and turns it inside out, this time bringing all-too-often overlooked African American characters to the forefront.
Set during World War II, this historical page-turner follows three characters from the Jim Crow South as they face the enormous changes World War II triggers in the United States. An affluent white marine survives Pearl Harbor at the cost of a black messman’s life only to be sent, wracked with guilt, to the Pacific and taken prisoner by the Japanese . . . a young black woman, widowed by the same events at Pearl, finds unexpected opportunity and a dangerous friendship in a segregated Alabama shipyard feeding the war . . . a black man, who as a child saw his parents brutally lynched, is conscripted to fight Nazis for a country he despises and discovers a new kind of patriotism in the all-black 761st Tank Battalion. Set against the backdrop of violent racial conflict on both the front lines and the home front, The Last Thing You Surrender explores the powerful moral struggles of individuals from a divided nation.
Though Black History Month may officially be coming to a close, we want you to celebrate and share black voices and stories all year round! After picking up a copy of The Last Thing You Surrender as soon as you can, check out more recommendations from our Bolden imprint—dedicated to fiction and nonfiction by African American writers—and keep the remembrance, education, and celebration going:
For Kids: Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes & Gordon C. James
A 2018 Kirkus Prize Winner, and a Caldecott Honor, Newberry Honor, and Coretta Scott King Author and Illustrator Honor book, Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair—a tradition that places on their heads a figurative crown, beaming with jewels, that confirms their brilliance and worth and helps them not only love and accept themselves but also take a giant step toward how they present themselves to the world. Crown is a high-spirited salute to the beautiful, raw, assured humanity of black boys and how they see themselves when they approve of their reflections in the mirror.
For Social Justice Advocates: Someone Has Led This Child to Believe by Regina Louise
In this unflinching, unforgettable memoir, child advocate and motivational speaker Regina Louise tells the true story of overcoming neglect in the US foster-care system. She writes of her determined pursuit of a college education upon her high school graduation—the event that officially marks a foster child’s “aging out” of the system—despite an unsupportive social worker and the challenging circumstances surrounding her early education. Louise also lays bare her attempts as an adult to acknowledge and overcome her early trauma through writing: an outlet that eventually led to a reunion with the woman to whom Louise had been closest during her childhood—and whose own long effort to adopt Louise finally came to fruition after the publication of Louise’s first memoir, Somebody’s Someone. Regina’s story is the basis of a Lifetime movie (I Am Somebody’s Child) due out April 20.
For Motivation and Inspiration: Soar by Gail Campbell Woolley
The posthumous memoir of acclaimed journalist Gail Campbell Woolley, who, after being diagnosed with sickle cell anemia at age seven, made a conscious decision to live life, full of ambition and hope. While doctors predicted Gail would be dead by age 35, Gail outlived her diagnosis by more than 20 years and lived an eventful, exciting life that ultimately included—despite a troubled home life and the systemic racism and sexism of the late 20th century—academic success, an impressive career, a long and loving marriage, and the ability to leave her unmistakable stamp on every person she met. Woolley’s remarkable story not only will move readers to root for this irrepressible, quietly heroic woman but also will push readers to reassess their own approach to life.
For the Political Junkies: Harold, The People’s Mayor by Dempsey Travis
Harold, The People’s Mayor is a firsthand personal account of the life and career of one of the country’s most significant big-city mayors and influential African American politicians––a man who former President Barack Obama credits as an inspiration––written by civil rights activist and prolific author Dempsey Travis whose own friendship with Washington spanned 50 years. Moving, comprehensive, and well-researched, Harold, the People’s Mayor is required reading for anyone interested in 20th-century big-city politics and in this remarkable figure and how he lived, worked, and rose to transform the political landscape of Chicago.
For History Buffs: An Autobiography of Black Chicago by Dempsey Travis
In An Autobiography of Black Chicago, Author Dempsey Travis depicts Chicago’s African American community through his own personal experiences, as well as those of his family and his circle. Starting with Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, who was the first non-Native American to settle on the mouth of the Chicago River, and ending with Travis’s own successes leading the city’s NAACP chapter, organizing Martin Luther King Jr.’s first march in the city, and providing equal housing opportunities for black Chicagoans, The Autobiography of Black Chicago is a comprehensive yet intimate history of African Americans in 20th-century Chicago.