Treasures on the Shelves: Recent books explore cultural and individual histories

Published 1:00 pm Thursday, February 23, 2023

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Treasures on the ShelvesAs Black History Month draws to a close, there are several noteworthy books published recently that explore both cultural and individual histories of Black Americans.

“American Sirens: The Incredible Story of the Black Men who Became America’s First Paramedics” by Kevin Hazzard explores the Freedom House EMS in Pittsburgh. Formed by a group of Black men who worked tirelessly for their community, they formed an ambulance service where none existed before and developed standards for emergency medicine and paramedics training that were adopted across the country.

Eartha Kitt and Chuck Berry are entertainers who left huge legacies and two new biographies explore their lives. “Eartha & Kitt: A Daughter’s Love Story in Black & White” is written by Kitt Shapiro, Eartha Kitt’s only child. This loving tribute to her mother examines both Eartha’s extraordinary career and her political activism and fight for civil rights. Chuck Berry was one of the biggest names in music, pioneering a sound and style that are still emulated today. Berry was a complex man of enormous talent and author RJ Smith explores the many facets of his life and career in “Chuck Berry: An American Life.”

Two recent fiction books focus on Black communities and the bonds and conflicts within them. “This Other Eden” by Paul Harding is based on Malaga Island, a community founded by formerly enslaved people that was located off the coast of Maine. It was settled shortly after the Civil War but in 1911, the residents were forcibly removed in order to make way for commercial development.

Harding’s novel is both beautiful and devastating and brings this little-known chapter in Black history to light. “Wade in the Water” the debut novel by Nyani Nkruma, features eleven-year old Ella, who is growing up lonely and neglected in small-town Mississippi, and Katherine, a civil rights researcher from Princeton. The two form a friendship and gradually reveal each other’s secrets. This novel from a first-time author has garnered excellent reviews and is not to be missed.

Visit your library to find these items and many others in celebration of and support for this historic month.

Holly Howze is the branch manager for the Ripberger Public Library located in Kenbridge. She can be reached at