Hispanic Heritage month began last week (running from September 15th to October 15th). The Bronx is a beautiful, bursting hub of Hispanic and Latino cultures, and I’m excited to explore and share ways to celebrate this through reading in the coming weeks. But I just learned a few days ago that September is also African Heritage month. I’m so glad to have learned this! Because it only takes a brief stroll along 149th street’s shops near the Hub or through the markets of Mount Hope to realize that the Bronx is also home to a vibrant and fast-growing African community as well.
There are a lot of wonderful books for children that focus on African culture–from folk tales to realistic fiction to poetry and beyond. To view a longer (and ever-lengthening!) list of Africa-focused books for kids, check out my goodreads list. But for today, I wanted to focus not just on books about Africa, but written by African authors. So without further ado…
Diakité’s lively folktales are filled with clever animals, mischief and magic and striking ceramic patterns. He was born and grew up in Mali and now lives in Oregon. His children’s books have received numerous awards and–fun fact–he even collaborated on a story written by his then-12-year-old daughter (I Lost My Tooth in Africa).
Mollel, from Tanzania, has written both realistic contemporary stories and traditional folk tales. His stories are often funny, sometimes mystical. He has collaborated with different illustrators, each using their own style–from the soft water colors and round, gentle curves of Song Bird to the dark jewel tones of The Orphan Boy.
Nigerian writer Ifeoma Onyefulu has written many nonfiction children’s books featuring different aspects of everyday life in Africa, including relatable topics like colors, clothing and counting. Her books are illustrated by her photographs, which are straightforward and engaging, giving you a glimpse of the experiences of African children. A is for Africa is a great place to start.
Also Nigerian, Atinuke’s books include the wonderful”Anna Hibiscus” series. The books show Anna’s life growing up with her family in West Africa. They are cheerful and bright while still at times touching on topics of hardship and struggle.
Beyond the Books…
If you’d like to celebrate African Heritage month off the page, consider a visit to “The Bronx Meets East Africa” art exhibition at Poe Park in Kingsbridge. The exhibition is showcasing East African artists who explore the relationship between East Africa and the Bronx. It is running from 9:00am-5:00pm every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday until the end of September. A great book to accompany your visit would be The Color of Home, the story of a little boy from Somalia trying to adjust to his family’s new life in the U.S.