We find ourselves looking forward with hope that the country’s vaccination efforts will end the deadly pandemic that has in many states disproportionately killed more people of color. New presidential policies may right some of the wrongs of the previous administration, but what can we do about the demonstrations of the past year or the deadly police action against unarmed citizens, most of whom were people of color?
These thought-provoking books, available at Montgomery County Public Libraries, can help us see our role in America’s race-relations problem. — Dianne Betsey, Library Associate II, Montgomery County Public Libraries
“Two Trains Running: 1969” by August Wilson
August Wilson received the Pulitzer Prize for two of the 10 plays in his Century Cycle, a series of plays documenting the Black experience in America during different decades of the 20th century.
“Two Trains Running,” which zeros in on the Hill District of Pittsburgh around the end of the ‘60s, wasn’t one of the Pulitzer winners, but the play did earn Lawrence Fishburn the 1992 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his role as Sterling, a young man in his 30s just released from prison. Perhaps for this reason, Fishburn contributed the introduction for the 2007 Theatre Communications Group’s publication of the play, writing, “’Two Trains Running’ documents a turning point in the ideology of Black people in America, when the promise of a new way of thinking arises. Wilson scrutinizes that promise, holding it up to the harsh light of truth.”
We now find ourselves in a similar situation as Wilson’s Hill District people. How will we Americans face our tomorrows after the past four years and the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Freddie Gray, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and Philando Castile? We could benefit from reading about what the characters living after the Civil Rights era in “Two Trains Running” learned.
Other New Reads
“The Toni Morrison Book Club” by Juda Bennett, Winnifred Brown-Claude, Cassandra Jackson and Piper Kendrix Williams
The authors of this group memoir are Black, white, gay, straight, parents and college professors. Each uses wisdom found in different Morrison novels to get through a difficult time in their lives.
“Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
Written for teens (and the rest of us who couldn’t get through the 680-page “Stamped from the Beginning”), this nonfiction “remix” tells readers how to identify and eradicate their
own racist beliefs.
“Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own” by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
This biography — a mix of history, memoir and analysis — is the culmination of Glaude’s research on the final years of Baldwin’s life, including what the Black novelist said was “the one thing America must do.”
A version of this story originally appeared in the February-March 2020 issue of Montgomery Magazine.