Black Was the Ink

Lee & Low/Tu Bks. Sept. 2021. 400p. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9781643794310.
Gr 6 Up–During the summer before his junior year in high school, Malcolm’s mom decides she wants him to spend time with his late father’s family in Mississippi. While he initially is not a fan of farm work, he finds the diary of Cedric, a man who worked in Washington, DC, during Reconstruction, in the attic. He starts hearing Cedric’s voice and periodically gets pulled back in time, from 2015 to the post–Civil War era, to live snippets of Cedric’s life. This allows Malcolm to see first-hand a period when African American politicians were serving in the U.S. Congress and making positive civil rights legislation before the emergence of Jim Crow laws in the deep south. Coles adeptly creates a character that readers will care about. However, it can be difficult to use dialogue to convey history, since people don’t often provide enough context to give the uninitiated adequate insight, and such is the case with many of the historical conversations in this book; it can be distracting to readers. 
VERDICT Despite some narrative issues, this is a unique and readable look at a historical period that is not often covered in teen literature.

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