December 2023

The New Brownies’ Book

By Karida L. Brown
Review by
This treasury inspired by W.E.B. Du Bois acknowledges the past while celebrating modern times with illustrations throughout that are eye-catching in color, theme and style.
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In homage to a children’s periodical started by scholar and activist W.E.B. Du Bois in 1920, Karida L. Brown, a professor of sociology at Emory University Sociology, and artist Charly Palmer—a husband-and-wife team—have curated an astounding collection celebrating Black joy and creativity. The New Brownies’ Book: A Love Letter to Black Families (Chronicle, $40, 9781797216829) is a large-format treasury of art, short stories, poetry, essays, plays and more, which the authors hope will become “a fixture in the homes of every Black family” and serve “as a strong expression of inspiration, recognition, love, laughter, reflection, and celebration of what we mean to one another.”

The illustrations throughout are eye-catching in color, theme and style, starting with Tokie Rome-Taylor’s mesmerizing cover photograph, Child of God, featuring a young girl dressed in lace and feathers. Chapters are devoted to subjects like family, school, “She’roes” (notable women), living and dying; there is also a section focused on Langston Hughes, who published his first work in the original Brownies’ Book at age 20.

“I feel like his spirit as our ancestor is all over this thing.” Charly Palmer and Karida L. Brown brought together Black creators young and old to create The New Brownies’ Book

While many anthologies of this sort tend to focus on young audiences, The New Brownies’ Book is designed to appeal to all ages, from elementary students to adults. The collection does an exceptional job of celebrating both new and old artistic visions by putting them in conversation. For example, one of Langston’s short poems, “Fairies,” is paired with a vibrant illustration from Palmer showing a young Black boy in a shimmering forest, tilting his face upward in a look of profound wonder. The New Brownies’ Book contains numerous homages to the original magazine—including reproductions of early pages and a July 1920 cover—but it also overflows with inspiration from modern sources, such as a bold, energetic portrait of a young man painted by Tyrone Geter.

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The New Brownies’ Book

The New Brownies’ Book

By Karida L. Brown
ISBN 9781797216829

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