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Seeing life through different eyes—at the Library

A variety of books by Black authors on offer during Black History Month
Lincoln Pelham Public Library Director of Customer Experience Amy Guilmette and Kelly Spence, Communications and Outreach Coordinator, look over books on display during Black History Month.

February is celebrated as Black History Month, so naturally more readers are motivated to pick up books written by black authors. But Kelly Spence, the Lincoln Pelham Public Library’s (LPPL) Communications and Outreach Coordinator, said many patrons choose to read authors from a variety of cultural backgrounds year-round and not just during any given month.

“Many of our patrons don’t wait until February to pick up books by Black authors. A lot of these books are borrowed throughout the year. But there does tend to be a bigger push in February.”

Typically, the library staff have their top picks featured on a display rack. This month, a variety of fiction and non-fiction works written by Black authors is on display.

“We’re seeing people come in and pick up these books because it’s right in front of them,” Spence said.

According to Spence, reading can be a transformative experience because the words written on the page can let readers view life through a different cultural lens. That includes how people think, manage relationships, and how they behave.

“Reading helps raise awareness. When you read a book, you get to learn about an author’s experience and you get to see different perspectives.”

Spence said the library offers an extensive collection of books and resources for readers of all ages. If people are unsure of what they might be interested in, Spence encourages patrons to ask staff for recommendations.

Many of our patrons don’t wait until February to pick up books by Black authors

One of the books library staff recommend for reading during Black History Month is called In the Upper Country, written by Kai Thomas. It’s also the next book to be featured during the upcoming annual One Book, One Niagara event plan planned in April.

“It’s a historical fiction that talks about the Underground Railroad as well as Black and Indigenous history,” Spence said.

The story takes place in Dunmore, a Canadian town settled by refugees from American slavery. Young Lensinda Martin aids a Black journalist and becomes entangled in a murder case involving a newcomer from the Underground Railroad. Urged by a farmer to gather testimony from the accused, Lensinda begins a storytelling exchange of tales that reveal an interwoven history of Black and Indigenous peoples in North America.

As part of the One Book, One Niagara program, the community is encouraged to read Thomas’ book. Spence said there will be a chance to meet and speak with the author about the book on April 23.

“Not all of the details are confirmed yet, but more information will be revealed as it becomes available.”

One Book, One Niagara was launched in January last year in collaboration with the Brock University Library, and Niagara’s 11 public libraries to connect community members through the shared experience of reading the same book. For more information about One Book, One Niagara visit

If readers are interested in picking up books written by Black authors, the library team has prepared a list of recommended readings. Here is a list of age-appropriate reading materials that are available for borrowing in person at the library or virtually.

For adults:

  • In the Upper Country by Kai Thomas

  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

  • Shut Up You're Pretty by Téa Mutonji

  • Barracoon: The Story of the Last Black Cargo by Zora Neale Hurston

  • The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power by Desmond Cole

  • Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

  • Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson

For teens:

  • I'm Still Here: Loving Myself in a World Not Made for Me by Austin Channing Brown

  • Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield

  • Charming As a Verb by Ben Phillipe

For children:

  • Because You Are by Jael Richardson

  • Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry

  • Don’t Touch My Hair! by Sharee Miller

  • Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o

  • Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged! By Jody Warner

  • Malaika’s Winter Carnival by Nadia Hohn