Great Books and more

#OwnVoices Books for Teens by Black Authors

by Ashley Bonifacio, Teen Youth Development Librarian

With the racial murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks, alongside countless racialized crimes documented on video against Black people, many across the country are opening their eyes to how racism has permeated various institutions and systems of our society. With police violence and brutality being exposed, along with recognition of the impact on the Black community as victims and survivors of that violence, there are many books that detail this portion of the Black experience.

Fighting against racial injustice and for equality is “the struggle” but being Black is not limited to only this struggle. Here is a list of books by Black authors that feature the range of their experience.




You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
A comedic, witty read about a girl who has to compete in her school’s sponsored beauty pageant to receive scholarship money for school.

Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Check out this modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in Brooklyn.

If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann
Body positivity and intersectional inclusion makes this book a refreshing read. For fans of Rainbow Rowell and Becky Albertalli.

Slay by Brittney Morris
Gaming and staying true to one’s creative voice in the midst of internet trolls. For fans of Marie Lu’s Warcross.

I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest
A roadtrip, new friendships and romance shine in this story about a girl who defies her mother’s wishes to pursue her passion for ballet.


Let Me Hear A Rhyme by Tiffany D Jackson
As story about loss, friendship and the healing power of art. Set in the 90’s, this book is an ode to hip-hop culture and music of that time.

Odd One Out by Nic Stone
Love triangles are hard when they involve your best friends. A story about how confusing the lines between friendship and love can be.

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe
Teen humor and social awkwardness at its finest in this story of a Black Canadian boy moving to Austin, Texas.

Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles
A story of the length one would go to impress and get close to their childhood crush. A funny yet insightful look at gender and breaking free of societal expectations.

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
A story about striving to attain your dreams despite life’s challenges and obstacles.


Riding Chance by Christine Kendall
A troubled boy discovers his passion for horses when he is assigned community service hours at an Equestrian program.

Black Top Series by L.J Alonge
Follow a new character and their basketball journey in each book of this humorous and honest series set in Oakland, CA

Black Enough: Stories of Being Black in America
17 coming-of-age shorts from some of the top Black YA authors in publishing.




A Blade So Black by L.L McKinney
A modern retelling of Alice in Wonderland set in Atlanta. For fans of Melissa Meyer.

War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi
Set in 2172, in a world destroyed by nuclear war and climate change, two sisters fight to survive in their homeland of Nigeria. For fans of Marie Lu and Paolo Bacigalupi.

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Set in a utopian world where violence has been eradicated, a selectively mute girl seeks to expose hidden secrets and hold accountable the town that refuses to acknowledge the true monsters that exist amongst them.

Kingdom of Souls by Rena Baron
A story of magic and power and the dangerous price that comes with them. Rooted in West African folklore.

The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow
A girl falls in love with an alien in this dystopian world where books and art are contraband and human emotion and passion are forbidden—punishable by death. For fans of Marie Lu and Veronica Roth.




Black Panther by Ta-nehisi Coates
Check out this reimagining of Black Panther and the world of Wakanda.

The Crossover Graphic Novel by Kwame Alexander
The popular poetic story about two brothers and their love for basketball is set to dynamic illustrations in this graphic novel.

Black AF: America’s Sweetheart by Kwanza Osajyefo
A new Black superhero has taken the Marvel Universe by storm as she strives to fight terrorists’ groups and quell society’s fear of Black superheroes.




You Got This: Unleash Your Awesomeness, Find Your Path, and Change Your World by Maya Penn
Teen entrepreneur and girls’ rights activist Maya S. Penn shares her wisdom in this inspirational handbook for teens.

Black Girls Rock! Owning Our Magic, Rocking Our Truth by Beverly Bond
Featuring famous Black women and self-love affirmations on being black and female.

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M Johnson
Personal essays from LGBTQIA activist George M. Johnson that examines the intersections of being Black and queer and the joy that can be found despite the toxicity of heteronormative gender expectations.

Black Joy: An Anthology of Black Boy Poems
Black boyhood and its different nuances are explored in this compilation of poetic works by young men of Oakland.

#OPLSummer Week 5: Reach Out for Pride

black trans lives matter

[Image description: The words #Black Trans Lives Matter are written in the background. A person with brown skin and long black starry hair that fades into the night sky is at the top, and a person with brown skin wearing a pastel rainbow and holding a megaphone at the front of a crowd is at the bottom, with a banner reading "Give us our roses while we're still here" in the background. Art by Ethan X Parker.]

It's Pride 2020, and this year we're celebrating by telling the stories of the protests and uprisings that brought us to the present, and that will carry us into the future. Check out our LGBTQ+ Family Pride event on Saturday, June 27, and keep reading for suggestions of queer community organizations to support, a recommended LGBTQ book list, and ways we're honoring the Stonewall rebellion this year (including links to protests to support #Blacklivesmatter).

Queer community resources & organizations

We're lucky to have many fantastic organizations in the Bay Area. Whether you're looking for a camp, a conference, midwifery or doula help to grow your family, or a support group, you can almost certainly find what you need. Many of these groups have moved their services online to support you from home during this unprecedented time.

Click here to check out our Bay Area resource list, full of links for adults and kids. Some kid- and family-friendly highlights: Our Family Coalition, The Unicorn ProjectGender Spectrum, and the Oakland LGBTQ Center are great places to start!

Book & media recommendations 

Check out our digital book list of titles available on Hoopla or Overdrive. We've got picture books, graphic novels, and middle grade fiction—and the first season of Steven Universe is available, too, if you're looking for something to watch!

they call me mx image of a silhouette and a rainbow

Now that our libraries are open again for sidewalk pickup, you can also put anything from our catalog on hold and have it sent to one of the locations near you. Did you like the thumbnail art of the silhouette with the rainbow behind it? It's from They call me Mix / Me llaman Maestrewritten by Lourdes Rivas, a nonbinary Oakland teacher, and you can put it on hold now!

Did you know you can also search by tags in our catalog? Check out our queer crushes tag for middle grade fiction and graphic novels and our gender diversity tag for picture books and middle grade fiction with trans and gender non-conforming protagonists.

Let us know if you want more recommendations—you can submit a request through Book Me!, or email us with other questions at If you'd prefer, you can leave a voicemail with your full name and details at 510-238-3134. And for even more ebooks, eaudiobooks, and more, you can browse OverdriveHooplaTumblebookRB Digital, and all of our other online resources! 

Get involved

Finally, check out our list of resources for Working Towards Racial Justice to support #Blacklivesmatter, and keep an eye on SF Funcheap's regularly updated list of protests for family-friendly ways to get out and get involved! 

How are you celebrating Pride this year?

#OPL Summer Week 1: Read, Watch, & Listen: Summer Media List

Join the fun online this summer with OPL!

Welcome to our first summer reading media list! OPL children's librarians have selected some titles (available both online and, once our branches reopen, in person) for you to read with us during this first week of summer. Looking for something to read or watch on your own or as a family to get your summer started off? Let us know if you want more recommendations—you can submit a request through Book Me!, or email us with other questions at If you'd prefer, you can leave a voice mail with your full name and details at 510-238-3134. And for even more ebooks, eaudiobooks, and more, you can browse Overdrive, Hoopla, Tumblebook, RB Digital, and all of our other online resources! 


Picture Books

Kitten's Summer coverWaiting coverMama is it summer yet coverPerfect Season for Dreaming coverSummer at the Seashore book cover

Kitten's Summer, by Eugenie Fernandes: Animals in the wild and on the farm scramble to avoid the rain. Will the kitten make it home before it is soaked? Read it on Hooplaread it on Overdrive, or check it out at your library when you can.

Waiting, by Kevin Henkes: An owl, puppy, bear, bunny, and pig wait for marvelous things to happen. Read it on Hoopla, or check it out at your library when you can.

Mama, Is It Summer Yet?, by Nikki McClure: As spring slowly turns to summer, a little boy builds a fort and plants a garden in impatient anticipation. Read it on Hoopla, or check it out at your library when you can.

Perfect Season for Dreaming / Un tiempo perfecto para soñar, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, illustrated by Esau Andrade Valencia: Ninety-two-year-old Octavio Rivera has been visited by some very interesting dreams—dreams about piñatas that spill their treasures before him, revealing kissing turtles, winged pigs, and hitchhiking armadillos! Octavio doesn't tell anyone about his dreams except his young granddaughter Regina, because she alone understands beautiful and fantastic dreams... Read it on Hoopla, or check it out at your library when you can.

Taking a Walk: Summer at the Seashore, by Sue Tarsky, illustrated by Claire London: Join the fun of finding and counting all the animals, flowers, and insects, as more and more appear on a walk along the seashore during the summertime. Read it on Hoopla, or check it out at your library when you can.


Chapter Books

forget me not summer coverunusual chickens coverevery soul a star coversummer we saved the bees coverone crazy summer cover

The Forget-Me-Not Summer, by Leila Howland: When their parents, a screenwriter and a film editor, go off on summer projects, Marigold, twelve, Zinnia, eleven, and Lily, five, must visit their Great Aunt Sunny in Cape Cod, where they learn much about themselves and each other and grow closer than ever. Read it on Hoopla, or check it out at your library when you can.

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer, by Kelly Jones, illustrated by Katie Kath: Through a series of letters, Sophie Brown, age twelve, tells of her family's move to her Great Uncle Jim's farm, where she begins taking care of some unusual chickens with help from neighbors and friends. A great family readaloud! Read it on Overdrive, or check it out at your library when you can.

Every Soul a Star, by Wendy Mass: Ally, Bree, and Jack meet at the one place the Great Eclipse can be seen in totality, each carrying the burden of different personal problems, which become dim when compared to the task they embark upon and the friendship they find. Read it on RB Digital, listen to the audiobook on RB Digital, or check it out at your library when you can.

The Summer We Saved the Bees, by Robin Stevenson: Wolf's mother is obsessed with saving the world's honeybees, but Wolf and his siblings all have their own reasons to not want to take her Save the Bees show on the road in their beat-up van. Wolf doesn't want to miss weeks of class, his teenage stepsister doesn't want to leave her boyfriend, and one of his little half sisters has stopped talking altogether. But it isn't until the kids take some drastic action of their own that their mother finally realizes something big is going on with her family. Read it on Hoopla.

One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams Garcia: In the summer of 1968, after traveling from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to spend a month with the mother they barely know, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters arrive to a cold welcome as they discover that their mother, a dedicated poet and printer, is resentful of the intrusion of their visit and wants them to attend a nearby Black Panther summer camp. Read it on Hoopla, listen to the audiobook on RB Digital, or check it out at your library when you can.


Graphic Novels

all summer long cover 

All Summer Long, by Hope Larson: Thirteen-year-old Bina faces her first summer without her best friend, Austin, who has left for soccer camp. Read it on Overdrive, or check it out at your library when you can.



all the world coverlittle bird and caterpillar cover

All the World, by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee, film by Weston Woods: Follow a circle of family and friends through the course of a day from morning till night as they discover the importance of all things great and small in our world, from the tiniest shell on the beach, to warm family connections, to the widest sunset sky. Watch the animated video on Kanopy, or check it out at your library when you can.

The Little Bird and the Caterpillar, a Magnet Film: It’s summer. High above in a tree the little Bird cherishes and nurtures the green leaves of his home. Suddenly a hungry caterpillar sets out to eat the appetizing leaves. The little Bird manages to lure away the glutton and an adventurous journey begins. Watch the video on Kanopy.

What are you reading or watching this summer? Let us know in the comments!

Earth Day Electronic Resources for Teens and Others

By Ashley Bonifacio, Teen Services Youth Development Librarian

With the world at home sheltering in place, a correlation between the decrease in daily human activity and the environment has been a topic of interest in the media these last few weeks. Talks about the decrease in air pollution in countries with high carbon emissions like India, as well as sightings of rare wildlife in urban streets, has encouraged humanity to think about its impact on the natural world.

With Earth Day on Wednesday April 22nd, what better way to think about the Earth and the impact we have on the environment than to check out the electronic resources we have on the subject. Whether you are a passionate environmentalist or someone just wanting to learn a little more, these resources will help you find your voice on various environmental issues.

You can browse all our databases by typing the title into our catalog or by selecting “Online Research and Learning”, under “Online Services”

You'll need your library card to access most of them, but don't worry. If you don't have a card, or can't find your card, or forget your PIN, even while closed, we can help you out.  If you don't have a card, please complete an online application and email to set up your account or resolve any account issues.  You can also use that address to resolve any issues with your card if you do have one.

Not sure where you stand? Get a complete view of differing perspectives by visiting Gale’s in Context: Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing Viewpoints contains primary and secondary resources that range from viewpoint articles and topic interviews in addition to videos, podcasts, statistics and full-text magazine and news articles. This database is especially good if you are writing an opinion piece or position assignment for school.

Just by browsing the issues, you can see find many relevant topics including the Flint Water Crisis, Food Waste, Sustainability, Renewable Energy, Green Cities, and so much more.

Similar to Opposing Viewpoints, Gale’s in Context: High School database is a great way to introduce yourself to the different resources available on environmental studies. The interface is very user-friendly where you can browse by issue or type an issue of interest in the search box. From there you can narrow down a subject further by selecting your content type.

Want to learn more about Earth Day and top environmental issues? Check out the World Environment Earth Day section in Newsbank: Hot Topics. Newsbank provides information on a variety of hot topic issues and also provides access to full-text articles from the Oakland Tribune. You can browse articles, videos and can also get connected to other reputable websites. Newsbank also gives you the flexibility to browse by subject so you can narrow down your search by location (if you’re interested in environmental issues by geography), specific environmental issues such as “global water shortages” and so on.

OPL also subscribes to various magazines that you can check out online on RB Digital. All you need is your library card number. ID (Ideas & Discoveries) Magazine is a science and nature magazine and May’s issue focuses on climate change. Check it out online by clicking here.

If you simply want to look at beautiful pictures and read some articles about the world and its wildlife, check out National Geographic’s magazine here.

Happy Earth Day!

Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants

Does your child want to write about Beyoncé, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson or LeBron James for their Black History homework assignment? Are you a bit dismayed about this? If you are, the librarians of OPL want to reassure you not to worry. Many present day Black icons in American Culture are living history!

For example:

The Rock won his first undisputed WWF (not WWE yet) Championship on February 13, 1997, 23 years ago. He won his seventh and final championship on July 21, 2002, just 18 years ago. Beyoncé’s first solo album was released June 24, 2003, almost 17 years ago, and LeBron James was drafted to the Cleveland Cavilers that same year! Relatively speaking, 20 years ago is a long time ago for a kid, so consider allowing them to study those who inspires them.

Of course we understand many parents are not convinced children should be studying current celebrities for Black History month. Appreciating this perspective, allow us to recommend some pioneers in Black History who paved the way for those we enjoy today.



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Women's History Month

Girl Power Film Festival 2020Girl Power floral

Celebrate Women's History Month with a series of four films chronicling inspiring and trailblazing women!

  • 3/2 - What's Love Got to Do With It
    This autobiographical film is centered on the life of Tina Turner; her rise to fame and her fall from the idyllic American marriage.
  • 3/16 - Frida
    Salma Hayek stars as Mexican surrealist artist Frida Kahlo in this biopic, which chronicles her turbulent marriage to Diego Rivera, her political activism, and the severe pain she experienced following a bus accident.
  • 3/23 - On the Basis of Sex
    Future Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg launches her career fighting for gender equality by proving discrimination "on the basis of sex" is unconstitutional.
  • 3/30 - Harriet
    The incredible true story of Harriet Tubman, and her quest to lead hundreds of slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad.

Mondays in March @ Eastmont Branch
Keywords: adults, films, movies, East Oakland


Women Bike Book ClubBook cover for the "the Mechanical Horse"

Let's explore the history of women in American cycling with Margaret Guroff's The Mechanical Horse: How the Bicycle Reshaped American LifeLearn how "women shed their cumbersome Victorian dresses—as well as their restricted gender roles—so they could ride. [...] Margaret Guroff demonstrates that the bicycle's story is really the story of a more mobile America—one in which physical mobility has opened wider horizons of thought and new opportunities for people in all avenues of life."

Thursday, 3/5 - 6pm-7:30pm @ Golden Gate Branch
Keywords: bikes, The Mechanical Horse, book club, Women Bike Book Club, North Oakland



Intro to Female Persian PoetsPersian Poetry

To celebrate Women's History Month, and to expand answer that was asked in our first session on Persian Poets, what about Persian female poets? In this session female poets, female feminist poets, modern feminism, and ancient Persia will be discussed.

Saturday, March 7 - 1pm-2:30pm @ Piedmont Avenue Branch 
Keywords: poetry, Persian, Persian poets, Persian authors, feminism, North Oakland, Piedmont

Button and Bookmark Making for Women's History MonthWomen's History Month graphic

Come make bookmarks and buttons featuring important and inspiring women. Use our artwork or create your own tribute to the important women in your life!

Saturday, March 7 - 1pm-4pm @ West Oakland Branch
Keywords: poetry, Persian, Persian poets, Persian authors, feminism, North Oakland, Piedmont

Black Women: Their Presence in the City of LightTomb of Josephine Baker

Journey with Oakland native Riki Stevenson, whose slide-illustrated presentation—Black Women: Their Presence in the City of Light—takes us across the landscapes of Paris, France. We explore places where African and African American females studied, created art, forged socio-political alliances, opened businesses, and at times made the famed City of Light their home. (This program is organized by Stevenson’s European-based company Black Paris Tours.)

Saturday, March 7 - 2pm-5pm @ African American Museum & Library at Oakland
Keywords: Black women, history, Black History, African American Women, African American history, culture, art, Paris, presentation, AAMLO

Women's History Trivia Nightvintage and outdated drawing of the female brain

Come test your trivia prowess and celebrate Women's History Month at a women's history-themed trivia night. Play solo or with a team. 6 people max per team. Eat snacks, learn, win prizes! Door at 5:30, trivia starts at 6pm. 

Tuesday, March 10 - 6pm-8pm @ Main Library
Keywords: trivia, women's history, games, adults, teens, Downtown Oakland, Lake Merritt



Meet Saadia Faruqi, author of the Yasmin! book series, & book giveawayBook cover for Yasmin! children

Come meet Saadia Faruqi, author of the popular Yasmin! series. Attendees will learn about the Yasmin! series in this fun, interactive presentation. Author, Saadia Faruqi, will also share her experiences growing up in Pakistan and talk about her journey as a writer. Pizza and refreshments will be served at 5:30. Presentation will begin at 6:00. FREE books will be signed and given away at the end of the presentation.  *Limited quantities of the books are available and are intended only for children in attendance at the program. One copy per child, please. First-come, first serve.  

Wednesday, March 11 - 5:30pm-7pm @ Main Library (Children's Room)
Keywords: children, kids, books, Pakistan, Yasmin!, food, free books, Children's books, family, Downtown Oakland, Lake Merritt



Shifting Culture Conversation Series: Race, Gender and Leadership with Shaana RahmanShifting Culture Conversation Series @ Main Library 

Shaana Rahman is a bicycle personal injury lawyer who runs her own firm, and is dedicated to tearing down barriers to women leading in business and succeeding in their careers. Hear Shaana's story and then join a guided discussion group on topics of race, gender, leadership in the workplace, and leadership in the bicycling movement. The Shifting Culture Conversation Series is presented in collaboration with Bike East Bay.  Bike East Bay promotes healthy, sustainable communities by making bicycling safe, fun and accessible.

Wednesday, March 11 - 6pm @ Main Library
Keywords: Shifting Culture, series, bikes, bicycles, business, professional, leadership, Bike East Bay, Downtown Oakland, Lake Merritt


Women and the Art of Meditationgraphic of dark head profile outline with a tree and roots within it

Learn how to rejuvenate yourself in our workshop, Women and the Art of Meditation. Part of AAMLO’s ongoing Festival of Knowledge, the session conducted by Josie Santiago focuses on “chair” yoga, relaxation techniques, aromatherapy, stress free music, and more.

Saturday, March 14 - 2pm-4pm @ African American Museum & Library at Oakland
Keywords: meditation, Festival of Knowledge, mindfulness, relaxation, health, adults, AAMLO, West Oakland, Downtown Oakland


The Girls in the Bandvintage black & white photograph of Black women with instruments

When the world told them they couldn't play, they did it anyway! They wiggled, they jiggled, they wore low cut gowns and short shorts, they kow-towed to the club owners and smiled at the customers…and they did it all, just to play the music they loved. THE GIRLS IN THE BAND tells the poignant, untold stories of female jazz and big band instrumentalists and their fascinating, groundbreaking journeys from the late 1920s to the present day. These incredibly talented women endured sexism, racism and diminished opportunities for decades, yet continue today to persevere, inspire and elevate their talents in a field that seldom welcomed them. This 2013 documentary is 88 minutes long. 

Tuesday, March 17 - 6pm-7:30pm @ Golden Gate Branch
Keywords: music, history, music history, women's history, Black history, African American history, arts, culture, jazz, documentary, North Oakland, Emeryville, South Berkeley

Shirley Chisolm: Unbought and Unbossed Film Screening

Recalling a watershed event in US politics, this Peabody Award-winning documentary takes an in-depth look at the 1972 presidential campaign of Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress and the first to seek nomination for the highest office in the land. Shunned by the political establishment and the media, this longtime champion of marginalized Americans asked for support from people of color, women, gays, and young people newly empowered to vote at the age of 18. Chisholm's bid for an equal place on the presidential dais generated strong, even racist opposition. Yet her challenge to the status quo and her message about exercising the right to vote struck many as progressive and positive. Official Selection at the Sundance International Film Festival and the SXSW Film Festival"A refreshing antidote to the opportunism and cynicism that rules the political roost inspiring tale of someone who made a difference." - James Greenberg, Hollywood Reporter

Tuesday, March 17 - 6pm-8pm @ Temescal Branch
Keywords: women's history, Black history, African American history, American politics, Black politicans, Women Politicians, documentary, North Oakland, Emeryville

Documentary Film Series: She's Beautiful When She's AngryFilm poster for "She's Beautiful When She's Angry"

Join us at the Dimond Branch for a series of documentary films on Wednesday evenings. Snacks will be provided and a brief discussion will follow each film. March's film is She's Beautiful When She's Angry, a documentary about the birth of the Women's Liberation Movement in the 1960's.

Wednesday, March 18 - 6pm-8pm @ Dimond Branch
Keywords: women's history, Women's Liberation Movement, 1960s, documentary, feminism, films, Dimond District, Fruitvale, East Oakland

In Praise of Our Mothers and GrandmothersBlack Female Project poster

Join AAMLO for a community discussion, In Praise of Our Mothers and Grandmothersorganized by BlackFemaleProjectThe discussion will include topics such as: kinship roles, mentorship, workplace dynamics, and community leadership. 

Saturday, March 21 - 2pm-4pm @ African American Museum & Library at Oakland
Keywords: Black Female Project, mothers, grandmothers, community, leadership, adults, AAMLO, West Oakland, Downtown Oakland


Women's History Month Film: A League of their OwnA League of their Own movie poster

Come celebrate Women's History month with us by watching the true story of two sisters who join the first female professional baseball league. Snacks will be provided but feel free to bring something to share!

Saturday, March 21 - 3pm @ Lakeview Branch
Keywords: movie, true stories, sports, baseball, women's baseball, film, women's history, Lake Merritt, Grand Lake






Lunch Hour with the DivasMaya Angelou receiving medal of honor from ex-President Obama

Take a break for Lunch Hour with the Divas. Selected documentary film screenings explore Black women in the arts and the struggle for freedom. 

  • Monday 3/23 & Tuesday 3/24 - Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise
  • Wednesday 3/25 & Thursday 3/26: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice 

Monday, March 23 - Thursday, March 26  @ African American Museum & Library at Oakland
Keywords: movies, documentaries, Civil Rights, films, lunch time, AAMLO




Trailblazing Journalist Delilah Beasley & California's African American Historyblack & white portrait of Delilah Beasley

Join Liam O’Donoghue, host and producer of the East Bay Yesterday podcast, as he interviews writers Dana Johnson and Ana Cecilia Alvarez, authors of the new book, “Trailblazer : Delilah Beasley’s California.” Dana Johnson is a professor of English at the University of Southern California and author of the short story collection, "In the Not Quite Dark." Ana Cecilia Alvarez is a professor at California Institute of the Arts and serves as the Development and Communications Manager at Clockshop, a Los Angeles-based arts collective.

Tuesday, March 24 - 6pm-8pm @ Main Library
Keywords: Delilah Beasley, East Bay Yesterday, East Bay history, Black history, women's history, African American history,Dana Johnson, Ana Cecilia Alvarez, journalism


Women's History Month Craftdrawing of Mae Jemison, first black woman in space

Create your own refrigerator magnets featuring famous women from history! Best for ages 3 and up.

Wednesday, March 25 - 3:30pm @ Dimond Branch
Keywords: crafts, DIY, arts, creative, programs, Dimond, East Oakland, Fruitvale


Shifting Culture Conversation Series: Intersectional Issues in Biking With Childrentwo young children pose in front of a bike

Parents are uniquely focused on the next generation. A panel of parents will explore the intersectional issues faced by people biking with children or while pregnant. Then we'll engage in discussion that turns to these leaders for safer streets and more people-focused infrastructure. The Shifting Culture Conversation Series is presented in collaboration with Bike East Bay.  Bike East Bay promotes healthy, sustainable communities by making bicycling safe, fun and accessible.

Wednesday, March 25 - 6pm-8pm @ Main Library
Keywords: intersectional, bikes, cycling, bicycles, biking, children, pregnancy, motherhood, Bike East Bay, Downtown Oakland, Lake Merritt



Before I Was a Critic I Was a Human BeingBook cover for "Before I Was a Critic I was a Human Being"

Join us in March for our monthly book club featuring titles from Small Press Distribution. Pick up a free copy of our March book at the February Book Club meeting (2/26), or at the Main Library Reference desk starting on February 27 while supplies last. MARCH’S BOOK CLUB PICK: Before I Was a Critic I Was a Human Being by Amy Fung. Literary Nonfiction. Asian & Asian American Studies. Native American Studies. Women's Studies. BEFORE I WAS A CRITIC I WAS A HUMAN BEING is the debut collection of essays by Amy Fung. In it, Fung takes a closer examination at Canada's mythologies of multiculturalism, settler colonialism, and identity through the lens of a national art critic. Following the tangents of a foreign-born perspective and the complexities and complicities in participating in ongoing acts of colonial violence, the book as a whole takes the form of a very long land acknowledgment. Taken individually, each piece roots itself in the learning and unlearning process of a first-generation settler immigrant as she unfurls each region's sense of place and identity. 

Wednesday, March 25 - 5pm @ Main Library
Keywords: Amy Fung, Small Press Distribution, books, Asian studies, Native studies, women's studies, conversation, book club, Downtown Oakland, Lake Merritt



Berkeley Rep Talk: School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girlsstill image from School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls play

By Jocelyn Bioh
Directed by Awoye Timpo
Main Season · Roda Theatre
March 19–May 3, 2020

“Modeling. That’s the plan after I graduate you know. Become the next Iman. College is cute, but I’m thinking about my future realistically.” Paulina, the reigning queen bee at Ghana’s most exclusive boarding school, has her sights set on the Miss Universe pageant and the glamorous life that’s sure to follow. But her plans and even her very reputation are shaken up when Ericka, a new student who’s strikingly beautiful and talented, captures the attention of the pageant recruiter—and Paulina’s hive-minded friends. Winner of the 2018 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play and the Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award, School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play is a biting comedy that tackles the universal issues of beauty and self-worth that face teenage girls across the globe.

Saturday, March 28 - 1pm-2pm @ Piedmont Avenue Branch
Keywords: Berkeley Rep, School Girls, plays, Ghana, African, Piedmont, Emeryville, North Oakland



Women's History Month Film: Queen of Katwe Queen of Katwe film poster

Come celebrate Women's History Month with us by watching the incredible true story of a Ugandan girl who sees her world rapidly change after being introduced to the game of chess in the Queen of Katwe. Snacks will be provided but feel free to bring something to share!

Saturday, March 28 - 3pm @ Lakeview Branch
Keywords: Queen of Katwe, true stories, chess, movies, films, Uganda, Lake Merritt, Grand Lake



Winter Reads!

Winter break is short and sweet; and it is nothing like a cold winter's day that makes you want to curl up in you favorite fuzzy socks, with a good book, while enjoying the seasonal festivities.  The biggest question is, what can you read that is quick and enjoyable?  Using our winter bingo card as a guide, we have some books for you to consider:

Remember that we want to you enjoy the break, it doesn't matter what you do. So if you enjoy

writing poems, 

telling jokes for big belly laughs,

or building with Legos

while singing and dancing,

 making magic,


or spashing in puddles,

We wish you all a fun and restful winter break and a happy new year! 

Children's Books about Ramadan and those featuring Muslims

Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, began this week, making it a good time to highlight recently published books about Ramadan and those that feature Muslims.

My wonderful colleague, Erica, wrote a great post in 2015 about books that feature Muslim characters.

In the few years since her post was published, the representation of Muslims in children’s books has increased.

Here is a list of some of those books.


Books about Ramadan:

Ramadan: the Holy Month of Fasting by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Amal’s Ramadan by Amy Maranville

Ramadan by Hannah Eliot

It’s Ramadan, Curious George by Hena Khan

Drummer Girl by Hiba Masood

A Moon for Mo and Moe by Jane Breskin Zalben

It’s Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr by Richard Sebra


Additional children's book titles about Ramadan can be found here.



Picture Books:

Under my Hijab by Hena Khan (on order)

Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets by Hena Khan

Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Yo Soy Muslim by Mark Gonzales



Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga (on order)

The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi

Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai

Museum Mysteries featuring Amal Farah by Steven Brezenoff


Early Readers: (Fiction for beginning readers)

Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream by Hena Khan


Moving Up: (Fiction at about the 2nd - 4th grade levels)

Yasmin series by Saadia Faruqi



Proud: Young Readers Edition by Ibtihaj Muhammad

Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court by Kareem Abdul-Jabaar

Malala: Activist for Girls' Education by Raphaële Frier


Father's Day Books that Aren't Hop on Pop

For Kids


Franny's father is a feminist by Rhonda Leet

Daddies who are feminist allies are just the best.

Oh, oh, baby boy! by Janine Macbeth

A loving celebration of brown dads and babies.

My daddy rules the world : poems about dads by Hope Anita Smith

Poems about all kinds of dads.

Harriet gets carried away by Jessie Sima

Harriet's daddies have lost her to a crew of penguins! Will she make it to her birthday party?

Two white rabbits, by Jairo Buitrago

The journey from Central America to the United States through the eyes of a child traveling with her father.

My dad used to be cool by Keith Negley

Dad used to be in a band, get tattoos... why did he stop being so cool?!

For Grownups


Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

What does it mean to be a Black man in America? A personal and historical exploration of race that takes the form of a letter from father to son.

Fairyland: A Memoir of my Father by Alysia Abbott

A tribute to Abbott’s father, who was a devoted single dad, creative force and gay man who raised her in 1970s and 80s San Francisco.

Goodbye Vitamin by Rachel Khong

Ruth Young decides to move home to be with her father Howard, a history professor falling under the grip of Alzheimer’s disease. A novel that is tender, funny and poignant.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies: a novel by John Boyne

The story of Cyril Avery, born in post-World War II Dublin to an unmarried teenager and adopted by well-off but unusually aloof parents. Cyril comes of age and tries to come to terms with being gay in an extremely repressive society, finding love, family and unconventional fatherhood in a story that is loaded with both pain and humor.

Pops by Michael Chabon

A brand-spanking-new collection of essays from the local acclaimed author with reflections about his father and being a parent to four children.

Rad Dad: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Fatherhood edited by Tomas Moniz and Jeremy Adam Smith

Essays by authors, musicians and other thinkers selected from among the best from Rad Dad Magazine and the Daddy Dialectic blog.

Wonder how a book ends up on the shelf? Let me tell ya.

Child choosing a book off the shelfHave you ever wondered how books end up on the shelves in your library? There’s a whole process behind how librarians select books, and it’s not even a secret!

The Oakland Public Library spends approximately $2,000,000 on materials each year, which includes about 50,000 books. While libraries’ capacity for knowledge, information, and creativity is limitless, our buildings and shelf space are not. Every library practices regular weeding of collections for the simple reason that one can’t put new books on the shelves if there is no room.

I’d like to share with you a great example of how we keep our collection updated. 

A book on Fannie Lou Hamer was withdrawn from Elmhurst Branch. Here’s how that decision was made: The children’s librarian worked closely with classes coming in from neighborhood schools, and realized that the children asking for biographies were younger than the intended audience for some of the biographies she had on her shelf. The book that was withdrawn was a chapter book for readers in middle school, and she was fielding biography requests primarily from third to fifth graders. The children’s librarian had just purchased a phenomenal new title: Voice of Freedom, Fannie Lou Hamer, spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Ekua Holmes. Published in 2015, Voice of Freedom was a Caldecott Honor book, a Robert F. Sibert Honor book, and the winner of the John Steptoe Award for New Talent in Illustration

cover of voice of freedom by carole boston weatherford

Both the author and illustrator are African-American, one a longstanding author of high esteem among African-American writers of children’s books, the other a breathtaking newcomer who has since published another book--Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets, written by Kwame Alexander—and contributed art to the book Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy by Tony Medina. (Both of these books are widely held at OPL, and both are available from the Elmhurst Branch.)

cover of out of wonder by kwame alexander  cover of thirteen ways of looking at a black boy by tony medina

The Fannie Lou Hamer book that was discarded was of a different reading level than the children seeking biographies at Elmhurst, and was part of a corporate-issued educational series on history, written by David Rubel, a White author.

A large branch, for example, might keep multiple books on historical figures. Elmhurst, however, is one of OPL’s smallest branches, a tiny building that resembles a house nestled in the Elmhurst community. The Elmhurst children’s collection is about 1/7 the size of that of the Main Library Children’s Room. With such a small size and excellent new books coming in continuously, there’s generally only room for books that are in current demand. The Elmhurst children’s librarian determined that Voices of Freedom was a better fit for the children at Elmhurst seeking to learn about Fannie Lou Hamer than the book that was discarded. However, for those who do wish to read this book, it is currently available at the Brookfield Branch, Rockridge Branch, and there are three copies at the Main Library Children’s Room.

At OPL, children’s, teen, and adult librarians in each branch select the books for their communities. That means that the person choosing children’s books at every site is also the person who talks with neighbors, welcomes classrooms full of children, visits schools, researches books for local teachers, and sings songs with neighborhood toddlers. Librarians get to know their community as part of their job, and are the best people in the library system to choose the books for their site.

I train all our children’s librarians on selection, and build carts of titles for them to choose from each month. I consider every single children’s book being published each month, reading reviews and other information about the books on the site we order from. I divide them up by sections like the ones we use at OPL—board books, graphic novels, picture books, etc. Then I look for “highlights,” books that are special and our librarians should strongly consider purchasing. I highlight each and every title that features characters who are people of color, and I note when those titles have authors or illustrators who are people of color (we call these books “own voices” in children’s literature). I do a monthly presentation and printed list for children’s librarians of books I think are especially important to order, and this always includes titles that represent diversity. After orders are submitted, I go through each cart and make sure we are buying every excellent book that represents diversity--if not, I add them.

Woman reading a poetry book to children

OPL maintains bibliographies of recommended children’s books, and in the last couple years, we have created new lists of titles for a range of young readers: Great African-American, Asian-American, Latino, LGBTQ, Differently Abled, Multiracial, and Native American and First Nations Books for Children. When we update these lists, we also do a bulk order of titles on them so every branch can make sure they have the diverse books we recommend to kids. When we make bibliographies that are not centered in race and identity, such as Books for Third and Fourth Graders, we put physical copies of the books together and look at them in person to make sure we’re including primarily books with diverse authorship.

Even if Oakland were not among the most diverse cities in America, diversity would be a priority in our collections. Children’s librarians are trained to meet the standards set in the Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries, a set of guidelines published by ALSC, the Association of Library Service to Children. The first two tenets of these guidelines are:
1. Demonstrates respect for diversity and inclusion of cultural values, and continually develops cultural awareness and understanding of self and others.
2. Recognizes racism, ethnocentrism, classism, heterosexism, genderism, ableism, and other systems of discrimination and exclusion in the community and its institutions, including the library, and interrupts them by way of culturally competent services.

We talk often about the idea by Rudine Sims Bishop that children need “mirrors and windows” in books, and we strive to purchase books by people of color, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and Native and First Nations people as much as possible.

And most importantly--we love getting suggestions! Does OPL not yet have your favorite book? Since the person who buys books for your local branch also works at that branch, you can suggest it the next time you visit, or Suggest a Purchase online. Let us know what we can buy for you!