Black History Month: What We Are Reading

Graphic for "Black History Month" book series featuring what KLS staff and faculty recommend to read during February.
Rachel E. Skiffer, Head of School, Palo Alto Campus

Reading Together as a Community of Learners

Introductory Note from Rachel E. Skiffer:

"This year for Black History Month, the KLS Team and I thought a great way to stay connected as a community while still physically separated by COVID-19 would be to share what we have been reading in the past year (or are reading now) related to the African-American experience.

It is therefore my privilege to welcome you to the “What We Are Reading” series in the Insider for February. This month, as we will do next month for Women’s History Month and for additional months throughout 2021, we plan to spotlight stories and resources related to the theme (or multiple themes) during that particular month of recognition.

The Warmth of Other Suns (2010) by Isabel Wilkerson

Recommended by Rachel E. Skiffer, Head of School, Palo Alto Campus

Book cover for Isabel Wilkerson's "The Warmth of Other Suns."

I am excited to kick off the first of multiple KLS Team book recommendations with Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns. This Pulitzer Prize-winning work of non-fiction tells the story of the Great Migration, the mass movement from 1915 to 1970 of more than 6 million Black Americans from the south to urban areas in the north and west as they sought to escape widespread racial terror and violence in search of a better life.

This book has been on my shelf for a decade, but I am only reading it now, despite the fact that a dear, older family member of mine was interviewed for the book. Over the years, I’ve cracked the book open to see my cousin’s name in the acknowledgments - I hope you’ll join me in reading it now!"



Book Recommendations from KLS Lower & Middle School Team

Check back on Friday, February 26, for more book recommendations from our Lower and Middle School!

Ana & Andrew: A Day at the Museum (2019) by Christine Platt

Recommended by Emily Storms, ELA Specialist 

Book cover for Ana & Andrew: A Day at the Museum written by Christine Platt.

"IL2 took a virtual field trip to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture last week. We read Ana & Andrew: A Day at the Museum to kick off our trip. If you have young readers in your household, I recommend checking out Christine Platt’s Ana & Andrew series. It's always been a hit with my students!"—Emily


Romare Bearden: Collage of Memories (2003) by Jan Greenberg

Recommended by Marie-Helene Bauguil, Art Specialist 

Book cover for the book Romare Bearden: Collage of Memories by Jan Greenberg.

"I suggest Romare Bearden: Collage of Memories, a picture book by Jan Greenberg, which tells the story of the artist and is populated with high quality pictures of his art, particularly his collages.  An excellent introduction to the work and life of this artist for children.

Il1 and IL2 students have been working on a project this month inspired by his work."—Marie-Helene


Read-Alouds of Books & Music Books by Black Authors

Recommended by Jacob E.A., Music Specialist 

Screenshot of the digital library with the links to youtube read-alouds of books written by Black authors.

Explore this list of YouTube videos curated by Jacob.


Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (2019) by Kwame Mbalia

Recommended by Emily Storms, ELA Specialist 

Book cover for Kwame Mbalia's book "Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky."

Nevahn, IL2, is reading Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky right now. He shared his recommendation with us here: 

“I like Tristan Strong because it is fantasy. It’s different from other fantasy because there are no dragons or wizards, but it talks about African myths. I knew about John Henry, but the rest of the myths I didn’t know about before. I think other kids might like it because it’s exciting and has good characters. It’s helping me learn new words, and it has some funny quotes too. I think people who liked the Percy Jackson series would like Tristan Strong.”


Book Recommendations from KLS High School Team

The following recommendations come from our High School teachers and our greater KLS staff team: 

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (2016) by Trevor Noah 

Recommended by Malia McAndrew, History Specialist & Visiting Faculty

Book cover for Trevor Noah's book, "Born a Crime."

"In Born a Crime, the internationally-renowned comedian Trevor Noah gives readers an intimate history of apartheid and postapartheid  South Africa. Relating the story of his own life, and that of his indomitable mother Patrica (the true hero of the book), Noah recounts the history of a difficult topic with poise, grace, and even humor."—Malia


Becoming (2018) by Michelle Obama

Recommended by: Chi-Ray Chien, Head of Operations & Technology

Book cover for Michelle Obama's "Becoming."


A Promised Land (2020) by Barack Obama

Recommended by: Chi-Ray Chien, Head of Operations & Technology

Book cover for Barack Obama's "A Promised Land."

"Over this pandemic, I’ve been through many dozens of audiobooks. I’d recommend both Michelle Obama’s Becoming and Barack Obama’s A Promised Land. Both are delightful memoirs taking the reader through the lives of our nation’s first Black President and First Lady. Each is read for you by the author, so they have a very personal feel, like you’re sitting in a comfy sitting room hearing the story first-hand. Neither is a particularly 'political' book, though, obviously, they do discuss politics. I love them for the human stories of these super famous people with their genuine kindness and realness shown in vignettes woven throughout their stories."—Chi-Ray


Collected Poems: 1974-2004 (2016) by Rita Dove

Recommended by Derek Vanderpool, History Specialist

Book cover for Rita Dove's "Collected Poems: 1974-2004."

Amanda Gorman's poem at the 2021 U.S. Presidential Inauguration inspired me to revisit works from some of my favorite poets, and one whose work I've kept reading since is Rita Dove. I'd recommend any of her books, but to get the most bang for your buck the best option is Dove's Collected Poems: 1974-2004.”—Derek


The Vanishing Half (2020) by Brit Bennett 

Recommended by Jessica Peters, Director of SEL & School Counselor

Book cover for Brit Bennett's "The Vanishing Half."

"Brit Bennett's book a work of fiction that is about family, the influence of the past, race, and relationships. It was also on President Obama's list of Favorite Books for 2020!"—Jessica


Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval (2019) by Saidiya Hartman 

Recommended by Walter Greason, History Teacher & Visiting Faculty

Book cover for Saidiya Hartman's "Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments."

"One of the better titles in the last year." —Walter

More about the book: "In Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments, Saidiya Hartman examines the revolution of black intimate life that unfolded in Philadelphia and New York at the beginning of the twentieth century." Learn more here.

What are you reading at home during, and after, Black History Month? Do you have a great book recommendation to share with the KLS Community? Send your recommendations for consideration in future Insider newsletters to


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