Local Lit | April’s top tips for book lovers
By Lou Fancher
Book Club: April 11 | Seed Library Kickoff: April 22 | Montclair branch of Oakland Public Library
After a pandemic-related hiatus, the Friends of Montclair Library have resumed the monthly One Village, One Book club. The one-hour event is held the second Tuesday of each month and focuses on books set in Oakland. No preregistration or commitment is required, so you can drop in any time. On April 11 from 6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., Jack London’s semi-autobiographical book “Martin Eden” will be featured. May brings on “Blues City: A Walk in Oakland,” a collection of essays by Ishmael Reed. The summer months from June to September will include “Carter Beats the Devil” by Glen David Gold; “Book Hunter” by Jason Shiga; “Listen, World!: How the Intrepid Elsie Robinson Became America’s Most-Read Woman” by Julia Scheeres; and “Nightcrawling” by Leila Mottley.
If you are more interested in bougainvillea than books, A Seed Library kickoff event & Earth Day Celebration at the Montclair Branch on April 22 offers a hands-on workshop and demonstrations about seed starting, selecting the best seed containers, and seedling care. Gardening expert Elizabeth Sommer-Reid leads the discussion and will answer questions and provide encouragement. Supplies are needed: bring your own small containers; soil will be provided.
Angie Thomas at Marcus Books | April 16
Visit the oldest Black-owned independent bookstore in the country to hear No. 1 New York Times bestselling novelist Angie Thomas (“The Hate U Give,” “On the Come Up,” “Concrete Rose,” “Find Your Voice: A Guided Journal for Writing Your Truth,” and others). Thomas will feature “Nic Blake and the Remarkables: The Manifestor Prophecy,” the first installment in a new fantasy trilogy aimed at readers ages 8-12. All Nic Blake wants is to be taught the Gift — the same supernatural powers held by her dad, a Manifestor. But when her father is imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, Nic must scramble for help to rescue him. She finds clues to guide her in the books by her favorite fantasy author, also a Manifestor. All major characters are Black, and references to African and African American folklore, mythology, and Biblical stories are found throughout the series.
Bay Area Book Festival: Prologue events | April 23 and 29
For those people unable to wait until the Bay Area Book Festival on May 6-7, prologue events are just the ticket. Among others, Survive & Thrive: A Literary Reading & Conversation brings together poet, photographer, and award-winning author Devi S. Laskar (“Atlas of Reds and Blues,” “Circa”) and writer Lucy Jane Bledsoe (“Tell the Rest,” among others). Dakar and Bledsoe will read from their new books and have a conversation about redemption, truth, and other related topics. The event takes place at Oakland Main Library, 11 a.m. to noon. Books will be available for purchase and signing courtesy of Books Inc. Alameda. Reservations appreciated but not required.
A second not-to-miss event is the Sistah Scifi Author Expo held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Oaklandia Cafe x Bakery. Black and Indigenous speculative fiction writers will spotlight their work. Expect the vibrant, playful, and seriously enthusiastic energy of Sistah Scifi’s tea parties — check them out if you’ve not done so already — and bring the whole family. The event is appropriate for readers of all ages.
A Great Good Place for Books | Leta McCollough Seletzky: April 19 at Montclair Presbyterian Church | Children’s author Dashka Slater: Apr. 30 at A Great Good Place for Books
First up is an in-person event held at Montclair Presbyterian Church with author Leta McCollough Seletzky in conversation with KQED’s Brian Watt. Walnut Creek-based Seletzky is a former litigator whose essays have appeared in The Atlantic; The New York Times; O, The Oprah Magazine; The Washington Post; and more. Her new book, “The Kneeling Man: My Father’s Life as a Black Spy Who Witnessed the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.,” tells the story of her father, a Black undercover Memphis police officer recognized as the man kneeling beside the dying King. Her father worked undercover, was a member of the activist group known as the Invaders, and went on to a career at the CIA — all elements created a secret lifestyle that Seletzky attempts in this book to unpack in search of truth.
At the end of the month, A Great Good Place for Books hosts author Dashka Slater, whose new children’s picture book, “Wild Blue: Taming a Big-Kid Bike,” is perfectly timed for summer. Cheerily illustrated by Laura Hughes in a story made distinctly vigorous and empowering by Dakar’s signature upbeat energy and prose, the bike-riding Kayla faces the move from a three-wheeled bike to a big-kid bike with just two wheels. Tumbles and bruises ensue, but the young girl’s determination results in eventual success — a gently delivered message that patience and creativity are key to overcoming life’s common challenges.