Black Is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy, illustrated by Ekua Holmes
Black Is a Rainbow Color
Review Copy from Roaring Brook Press
Black Is a Rainbow Color is both an excellent first black history book as well as a joyful celebration of black culture. A box of crayons and a rainbow in the sky sends a thoughtful girl, coloring on her stoop, on a journey that leads her to realize that, while black may not be a color in the rainbow, being black is as meaningful, beautiful and layered as a rainbow. Joy's writing is poetic and melodic:
Black are the braids in my best friend's hair.
Black are the bottoms of my summertime feet.
Black are the soft circles that spin-nnn down the street.
My color is black.
Joy's words and evocations of things that are black, from the "side-walking in spit shined shoes," that allude to the bus boycott in Montgomery, AL and the "robe on Thurgood's back," carry the text as it flows through time. In one powerful passage, Joy calls on Langston Hughes and playwright Loraine Hansberry, inspired by Hughes' poem, with the "Black dreams and raisins . . . left out in the sun to die." Black Is a Rainbow Color is powerful, painful, joyful and undefeated:
Black is history. Black is family.
Black is memory. Black is community.
Black is the love that lives inside of me.
My color is Black.
Joy's back matter includes a playlist of songs and poems by Langston Hughes and Paul Laurence Dunbar, as well as an author's note, historical information rooted in the text. And, the final pages are devoted to something I am especially grateful for and fascinated by, "A Timeline of Black Ethnonyms in America," ending with 2020 where, "Common standards of writing practice call for the use of a lowercase b when referring to Black people and their interests. In the spirit of the W.E.B. Dubois campaign, the B in 'Black' has been capitalized herein."