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Kid Sterling: Books on Jazz and Justice

Christine Welldon introduces her debut novel, Kid Sterling, and she marks its release with a list of inspiring books that addresses the problems of racism and the trials of gifted African Americans and Canadians who dared to pursue their dreams in an unjust world.

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Kid Sterling is a Young Adult novel about Sterling Crawford, a young African American kid living in New Orleans in 1906, who works on the streets to help his family. He plays trumpet, and what he’d really like is to learn from his idol, the legendary Buddy Bolden, who is playing a new kind of music that’s turning New Orleans upside down.

Through the pages of this vivid novel, you will discover others whose genius created modern music. The beat and the strains of jazz surged into life even while African-Americans struggled against deep racial divisions of the time: curfews designed to keep black people out of the streets, a loaded justice system, and racial barriers that divided a nation.

For Sterling, life is not easy, but in the end he finds his way in a new and challenging musical world in this richly textured story of a culture that thrives against all odds.

The list below includes African Canadians and African American musicians and others who fought against racism and inspired succeeding generations to never give up on their dreams.

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Book Cover Let My People Go

Let My People Go: African Americans 1804–1860, by Deborah Gray White

In 1800, African Americans began to protest the cruel institution of slavery. People like Nat Turner, Maria Stewart and others tried to promote slave rebellions or wrote books and made speeches calling for an end to slavery.  Let My People Go documents the brave and dedicated people who fought to end this practice.

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Ornette Speaks: A Cartoon Grammar, by Matthew Brown

Ornette Speaks showcases the words of saxophone genius and composer Ornette Coleman (1930-2015) spoken in filmed interviews. An expert at 'free jazz', a term he invented in 1960,  Coleman delivered  blues-flavored jazz for decades. This book illustrates jazz music's use of improvisation and offers a vivid picture of Ornette's life, music and philosophy and his personal victory over racism.

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Book Cover Viola DEsmond Won't Be Budged

Viola Desmond Won’t be Budged, by Jody Nyasha Warner

When a movie theatre usher ordered African Canadian Viola Desmond to move up to the balcony. she refused to budge. Viola was being asked to move because she was black and there was an unwritten expectation that only whites could sit on the main floor of the theatre. The police arrived and took her to jail where they charged and fined her.  She never let herself be defeated, and her determination inspired her community to fight against racism and discrimination. An inspiring Canadian story that deserves to be known.

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Oscar Lives Next Door, by Bonnie Farmer, illustrated by Marie Lafrance

A fictional episode in the childhood of a famous Canadian, Oscar Peterson, who lived in the neighbourhood of St. Henri, Montreal.

Young Millie, his next door neighbour encourages Oscar to take up piano when an illness prevents him from playing trumpet. An inspiring story of one child’s eventual triumph as he went on to become one of the greatest jazz pianists in Canada and the world.

Book Cover the Music of Black Americans

Music of Black Americans: A History, by Eileen Southern

Author Eileen Southern offers a fascinating narrative about African American singers, players, and composers throughout American history.  Read about the latest developments in gospel, blues, jazz, classical, Broadway, and rap as they relate to African American music. With over 50 photographs.

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Book Cover Singing in My Soul

Singing in My Soul: Black Gospel Music, by Jerma A. Jackson

Black gospel music grew to become the leading style of sacred music in black American communities. Jerma A. Jackson tracks the music's amazing history, and profiles the careers of famous musicians. With an emphasis on women, she demonstrates the important role they played in the history of gospel.

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Book Cover The Little Piano Girl

Little Piano Girl, by Ann Ingalls

Imagine moving to a new city and having to leave your piano behind.  In this new city, you face racism because of the colour of your skin. Mary Lou Williams, the “piano girl” in this story, could play the piano at the age of four. She went on to become a professional musician at the age of eight, in spite of her challenges.  Eventually, she became one of the most famous women in jazz. This book tells the story of her childhood, when she played the piano for whomever would stay and listen.

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Book Cover Finding Yvonne

Finding Yvonne, by Brandy Colbert

Yvonne is a talented musician. Being African American presents its own set of challenges, but since she was seven years old,  Yvonne has had her trusted violin to keep her company, especially after her mother walks out on their family. With graduation just around the corner, does she feel good enough to attend a music conservatory after high school? A story about the struggles and life-changing decisions involved in becoming an adult and choosing the right path.

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More about Kid Sterling:

Sterling Crawford is a young kid living on the streets of New Orleans. It's 1906 and he's trying to support his mother who launders clothes for white people. Sterling plays trumpet, and what he'd really like is to learn from his idol, the legendary Buddy Bolden, who is playing a new kind of music that's turning New Orleans upside down.

Historically, not only is Bolden regarded as one of the founders of American jazz, but through the pages of this vivid novel, you will discover others whose genius created modern music. The beat and the strains of jazz surged into life even while African Americans struggled against deep racial divisions of the time: curfews designed to keep Black people out of the streets, a loaded justice system, and racial barriers that divided a nation.

For Sterling, life is not easy, but in the end he finds his way in this new and challenging musical world in this richly textured story of a culture that thrives against all odds.

 

 

August 10, 2020

Books mentioned in this post

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Kid Sterling

by Christine Welldon
edition: Paperback
tagged: african american

Sterling Crawford is a young kid living on the streets of New Orleans. It's 1906 and he's trying to support his mother who launders clothes for white people. Sterling plays trumpet, and what he'd really like is to learn from his idol, the legendary Buddy Bolden, who is playing a new kind of music that's turning New Orleans upside down.

Historically …

rated!
rated!

Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged!

by Jody Nyasha Warner, illustrated by Richard Rudnicki
edition: Paperback
  • age: 5 to 9
  • Grade: k to 4
tagged: women, prejudice & racism, post-confederation (1867-)

Viola Desmond was one brave woman! Now come on here, listen in close and I’ll tell you why …

In Nova Scotia, in 1946, an usher in a movie theater told Viola Desmond to move from her main floor seat up to the balcony. She refused to budge. Viola knew she was being asked to move because she was black. In no time at all, the police arrived and took …

rated!
rated!

Oscar Lives Next Door

A Story Inspired by Oscar Peterson's Childhood

by Bonnie Farmer, illustrated by Marie Lafrance
edition: Hardcover
also available: eBook
  • age: 4 to 8
  • Grade: k to 4
tagged: music, canada

Long before Oscar Peterson became a virtuoso jazz pianist, he was a boy who loved to play the trumpet. When childhood tuberculosis weakened his lungs, Oscar could no longer play his beloved instrument. He took up piano and the rest is history: Oscar went on to become an international jazz piano sensation.
Oscar Lives Next Door is a fictional story …

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