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Marcus Books at 60, the Oldest Black Bookstore in the U.S.

You can check out the titles they have in stock by visiting https://www.marcusbooks.com/ The store is open Monday-Saturday from 10:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m. and Sundays from 12:00-4:00 p.m.

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Image provided from Marcus Book Store Facebook page

Marcus Books is a Black-owned bookstore located at 3900 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Oakland, CA 94609. Named for United Negro Improvement leader and author Marcus Garvey, the store was founded by Tuskegee College graduates Julian and Rae Richardson in 1960. In the ensuing decades they have sold books produced by Black, independent publishers, authors, poets, and artists and hosted talks by a who’s who of Black writers ranging from the late Toni Morrison, to Michael Eric Dyson and Sistah Soldier. There is a substantial collection of books for children as well. Online shopping is also available. You can check out the titles they have in stock by visiting https://www.marcusbooks.com/ The store is open Monday-Saturday from 10:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m. and Sundays from 12:00-4:00 p.m.

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Black History

George Robert Carruthers: Revealing the Mysteries of Space

During a 1992 oral history interview with the American Institute of Physics, George Robert Carruthers (1939–2020) shared: “When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I got a Buck Rogers comic book from my grandmother, and that was, of course, long before there was any such thing as a space program. Since it was science fiction, nobody took space flight seriously in those days, back in the late ’40s, early ’50s.”

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The Cincinnati-born George Carruthers (center) constructed his first telescope using cardboard tubing and mail-order lenses he bought with money he earned as a delivery boy.
The Cincinnati-born George Carruthers (center) constructed his first telescope using cardboard tubing and mail-order lenses he bought with money he earned as a delivery boy.

By Tamara Shiloh

At a time when only a few Black high school students were entering projects in Chicago science fairs, George Robert Carruthers (1939–2020) presented the telescope he’d designed and built. He won three awards, including first prize.

He later graduated (1957) from Chicago’s Englewood High School and earned his Ph.D. in aeronautical and astronautical engineering at the University of Illinois (1964). But his deep interest in space started much earlier.

The Cincinnati-born Carruthers constructed his first telescope using cardboard tubing and mail-order lenses he bought with money he earned as a delivery boy. He was 10 at the time and found everything about space fascinating. Although the first human journey around Earth did not take place until 1961, George’s dream was to become a part of the “unknown” being explored.

During a 1992 oral history interview with the American Institute of Physics, Carruthers shared: “When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I got a Buck Rogers comic book from my grandmother, and that was, of course, long before there was any such thing as a space program. Since it was science fiction, nobody took space flight seriously in those days, back in the late ’40s, early ’50s.”

What was then considered an interest in so-called science fiction would lead Carruthers to a successful career as an astrophysicist and engineer and his 1970 telescopic design that had been sent into space on an unmanned rocket from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, proving the existence of molecular hydrogen between stars and galaxies.

He also created an advanced telescopic device used during the 1972 Apollo 16 mission to produce ultraviolet photographs of Earth’s outermost atmosphere, stars, nebulae, and galaxies. This discovery enabled scientists to examine Earth’s atmosphere for concentrations of pollutants. For his work on the project, Carruthers was awarded NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal.

Throughout his career, Carruthers would design several telescopes that flew aboard NASA spacecraft. In the 1980s, one of his inventions captured an ultraviolet image of Halley’s Comet. In 1991, he invented a camera used in the Space Shuttle Mission.

A supporter of education, Carruthers was instrumental in creating the Science & Engineers Apprentice Program that offered high school students an opportunity to work at the Naval Research Laboratory. In 1996 and 1997, he taught a course in Earth and Space Science for Wash., D.C., Public Schools science teachers. In 2002, he taught an Earth and Space Science course at Howard University.

In 2003, Carruthers was inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame for his work in science and engineering.

Charles F. Bolden Jr., a NASA administrator, said about Carruthers: “He has helped us look at our universe in a new way by his scientific work and has helped us as a nation see ourselves anew as well.”

Carruthers, described as “a slight, reserved man who often rode his bicycle to work,” died in 2020. He was 81.

Learn more about Carruthers and other Black inventors in Susan K. Henderson’s “African-American Inventors II.”

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Activism

Misty Copeland’s New Memoir “The Wind at My Back” Pays Homage to Another Black Ballerina

Misty Copeland, somewhat of a pathfinder herself, weaves the story of her career in with Raven Wilkinson’s, whose work had been hidden in plain sight for decades. In telling Wilkinson’s story, loudly and publicly, Copeland also writes of the friendship the two women had, and how Wilkinson pushed Copeland to soar to greater heights, career-wise and in Copeland’s personal life. This gives the book an intimate feel, sometimes uncomfortably so, but the sense of gratitude and absolute love for a woman who didn’t hear the word “no” when society repeated it overpowers any squirm you might feel.

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Cover of “The Wind at My Back” pictures Raven Wilkinson, left, and Misty Copeland, right.
Cover of “The Wind at My Back” pictures Raven Wilkinson, left, and Misty Copeland, right.

You don’t belong here.

It’s a declaration that seems confusing, at first. Who says? Who’s in charge here? You don’t belong because…why? The answer is almost always as rude and hurtful as the statement itself, almost as unthinkable now as it was 70 years ago. But in “The Wind at My Back: Resilience, Grace, and Other Gifts from My Mentor, Raven Wilkinson” by Misty Copeland with Susan Fales-Hill, those are four words that strengthen resolve.

Copeland’s first memoir, “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina,” was published in 2014, before her unprecedented 2015 promotion making her the first African American Principal Female Dancer in the American Ballet Theater’s 75-year history.

Her career at ABT started in the ballet corps in 2001, later becoming a soloist in 2007 when she was quite often the only Black dancer on the stage. She got used to it, but never got comfortable with it. Racism is common in dance and most Black dancers in American history were encouraged to stick with “modern” performances.

That wasn’t the kind of dance Copeland had always dreamed of.

Still, she persevered. Just being with the ABT kept her in place for what the future might bring and besides, she felt like she was representing. Her presence there was encouraging to Black girls who were told they’d never be ballerinas.

And then Copeland met Raven Wilkinson, one of several women of color who paved the way in dance.

Wilkinson (1935-2018) was born to educated, upper-crust Black parents and had set her sights on ballet when she was 5 years old, having experienced the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. She cried then at the emotion in the ballet, and she knew that she wanted to dance. Her parents enrolled her in the School of American Ballet and later, she was trained by Madame Swoboda, one of the Bolshoi Theatre’s premiere ballerinas.

On the cusp of realizing her dream, however, Wilkinson was told that it was “never going to happen” because she was “colored.”

And yet, she, too, persevered and she began touring with a professional troupe which took her to the American South where she fought for her dignity, and she endured threats on her life. Still, she danced, a pioneer, a professional, and a “first.” And when she met Copeland, she became a supportive, loving, wise, thoughtful, powerful mentor.

While it sure looks like a book and it feels like a book, “The Wind at My Back” isn’t really a book. No, it’s a love letter to an elder trailblazer with grace, both inside and out.

Copeland, somewhat of a pathfinder herself, weaves the story of her career in with Wilkinson’s, whose work had been hidden in plain sight for decades. In telling Wilkinson’s story, loudly and publicly, Copeland also writes of the friendship the two women had, and how Wilkinson pushed Copeland to soar to greater heights, career-wise and in Copeland’s personal life. This gives the book an intimate feel, sometimes uncomfortably so, but the sense of gratitude and absolute love for a woman who didn’t hear the word “no” when society repeated it overpowers any squirm you might feel.

A working knowledge of ballet will enhance your enjoyment of this book, but it’s not an absolute necessity. If you (or your teen!) merely love a good double-biography, “The Wind at My Back” belongs on your bookshelf.

“The Wind at My Back” by Misty Copeland with Susan Fales-Hill, c.2022, Grand Central Publishing, $29.00, 240 pages

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Advice

Michelle Obama’s New Book Gives Advice on Managing Difficult Times

Author Michelle Obama is a true storyteller, and she uses a “show, not tell” method of writing. Readers are lulled into an entertaining story of life in the White House, or a gossipy snip of Obama’s married life, or a shared memory from her childhood and BAM! the words seamlessly roll over to an easy, do-able tip to survive in hard times. Nice surprise.

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Life and children's games are alike in this way: as in the new book “The Light We Carry” by Michelle Obama, the only way to win is to keep playing.
Life and children's games are alike in this way: as in the new book “The Light We Carry” by Michelle Obama, the only way to win is to keep playing.

By Terri Schlichenmeyer | The Bookworm Sez

Your entire life is like a gigantic game of “Chutes and Ladders.”

Shake the dice, move two steps ahead, and you hit a ladder that takes you to higher places on the game board. Three more squares, and you hit a chute that sends you back to the bottom.

Life and children’s games are alike in this way: as in the new book “The Light We Carry” by Michelle Obama, the only way to win is to keep playing.

Pandemic, recession, political divide, market volatility. For many months, you’ve wondered every morning what fresh chaos you’ll deal with that day. So, what keeps you going? How do we overcome feelings of being “wobbly and unsettled?”

Michelle Obama says she ponders this “a lot.” She thinks about the things she uses to keep her “balanced and confident…moving forward even during times of high anxiety and stress.” She calls them her “personal toolbox” and she shares them in this book.

Most recently, she says, the pandemic taught her the value of having a hobby to relax into, to let her hands work, “my mind trailing behind.” Her early life taught her the value of seeing the difference between real fear and fear of newness and change, the latter of which is surprisingly easy to overcome. Newness offers us “chances to grow.”

“I’ve come to understand,” she says, “that sometimes the big stuff becomes easier to handle when you deliberately put something small alongside it.”

Listen to your body, Obama says, and “pay attention to how you’re feeling.” Collect small boosts and learn to look at yourself in a more positive way. Love your differences and be kind to yourself because it’s “everything.” Be open to connections with others; cultivate friendships you can count on. “Know your own light,” Obama says, and “Share it with another person.”

Be authentic.

And finally, she says, “Tell the truth, do your best by others, keep perspective, stay tough. That’s basically been our recipe for getting by.”

Chances are that at some point in the past nearly three years, you got out of bed one morning and you weren’t even sure why. It’s been a long haul and you’re tired but “The Light We Carry” can get you to the next goal, then the next.

At first glance, it doesn’t look like that kind of a book, though.

Author Michelle Obama is a true storyteller, and she uses a “show, not tell” method of writing. Readers are lulled into an entertaining story of life in the White House, or a gossipy snip of Obama’s married life, or a shared memory from her childhood and BAM! the words seamlessly roll over to an easy, do-able tip to survive in hard times. Nice surprise.

Readers will be further glad to know that this isn’t a cheerleading book. Instead of U-Rah-Rah, it’s U Can Do This, told in a calm, knowing manner. And if that’s what you need in this time of turmoil, let “The Light We Carry” help you back onto the ladder.

“The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times” by Michelle Obama

c.2022, Crown, $32.50, 319 pages.

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