Call Number is a “library-inspired monthly book box that celebrates contemporary Black literature and authors.” It costs $35.00 a month and includes one book and an assortment of bookish goodies. Perfect! Sign me up! Or don’t, because I’m already signed up! Check out all my Call Number reviews if you’d like.
Once again, there were a bunch of fun things in this box. Really, if you’re looking for something that’s very thoughtfully curated then this is it. So many bookish subscription boxes pick great books but just kind of throw the rest together. Not this one.
First up is this pin from The Black Market titled “Revolutionary Girl.” I love pins and I love this one in particular. This girl is clearly a badass, with her natural hair and her huge glasses and her raised fist. It also tied in well with the book because the protagonist, who was a teenage girl, was slowly gaining confidence in herself and teaching herself that it was okay to be proud of where she came from and who she was, even if a lot of the adults in the book didn’t agree.
I have a purse that has all my pins on it and this gal is now hanging out next to my “READ HARDER” and “READ MORE BOOKS” pins and I like to think she’s raising her fist in agreement.
Next up was a print by a Baltimore Artist, Merlinde Jean-Gilles, titled “Girl with the Big Afro.” This is such a lovely print and, once again, it ties in so well to the book: The protagonist is an artist generally, but a collage artist specifically. After poking around a while on Ms. Jean-Gilles website, it’s clear that the fictional character and the real-life artist would have a lot to talk about. I’m not sure whether I’ll hang this or pass it on to an artist friend who also works in collage. I guess it depends on how selfish I’m feeling the next time I see her. Oh, wait – I just realized that I actually got two prints in my box! Rejoice! These are photo-quality prints with lots of shine to them.
There was also a York sticker with #RememberYork. The curator describes the reasons for its inclusion thusly,
“The custom York sticker came about as a way to continue the narrative of a person who, because of his status as an enslaved African, has long been overlooked in American history. Jade explores the history behind York as a way of understanding herself and the things she must tackle head on as an African American young woman having to deal with race (among other things) in America on a daily basis. Join me in celebrating him this Black History Month with #RememberYork.”
York is brought up in the book, as she mentions, and I’d love to tell you that I’d ever heard of him before this but I hadn’t. It’s a good reminder that I have a lot to learn.
Then we have a custom library-checkout-inspired bookmark that’s fantastic! In fact, everything on the Penny Ann Designs site is amazing. This particular design was made exclusively for this box and features the title, author, and a few other extras on it. Such a thoughtful, relevant item. I’m telling you, this curator knocks it out of the park!
There’s also a poem by Langston Hughes: “The Dream Keeper”.
Bring me all of your dreams,
Bring me all your
That I may wrap them
In a blue-cloud cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers
Of the world.
Not only is this a lovely poem, but it’s printed on heavy card stock. It’s worthy of being hung and it will be within the week. I really love this.
There were a couple of other fun extras, like a signed bookplate from Renee Watson, which will go on the sticker section of my desk (though I think you’re supposed to put the signature into the book? They seem to come pretty often with books), a print-out with details on why everything was chosen and a place on the back to take notes about the book, a thoughtful letter from the author, another “I Support Black Literature,” bookmark, the call number card and numbers for the spine, business cards from the companies used this month, plus some teasers on next month’s box.
In case you haven’t noticed yet, I SUPER LOVE THIS BOX.
But the book, right? The book this month was a young adult novel, Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson, and I just loved this book so much. The story is that of Jade, a teenage black girl in Portland, who lives in a poor neighborhood. She gets a scholarship to attend a school across town, in a wealthy neighborhood, full of wealthy students, most of whom are white. The book travels with her for about a year as she learns to navigate this new world and begins to see how others view the world she comes from.
It deals with all the things you’d think it would deal with, like the fact that her new best friend, who is white, downplays a situation in which Jade is racially profiled, and how uncomfortable she feels in a school with mostly white faces.
But it goes so much deeper into the complicated world this girl lives in. One of the best examples is one of the main plot points, which deals with Jade being assigned a mentor because apparently everyone assumes that since she’s from a poor neighborhood, she needs all the help she can get. Jade doesn’t really understand this, and as she begins to understand what other people mean by it, she becomes understandably insulted and annoyed. She loves her community and her friends and her family, and she doesn’t feel like she needs to be “fixed” as everyone around her keeps implying.
This a complex story that deals with a lot of other issues, including food instability, class dynamics between poor and rich people of color, racial dynamics between white people and people of color, a host of socioeconomic issues, police brutality, #blackslivematter, and just so many relevant issues. I’ve never read anything quite like this and I’m so glad I did. I hope that it reaches an audience both far and wide because there are a lot of people who need to read this, including people who can relate to Jade and don’t often find themselves portrayed in books, as well as people who can’t relate at all and need their eyes opened. A+ from me.
Recommended for: Young adult fans, artistic teenage black kids, clueless white kids, all kids, all adults, all procupines – all the people.
Does it pass the Bechdel–Wallace test? Yes
Author of color / main character of color / female author / female main character: Yes / yes / yes / yes (firing on all cylinders, wahoo!)