Michelle Duster is the great-granddaughter of her subject, Ida B. the Queen: The Extraordinary Life and Legacy of Ida B. Wells. Her family preserves the legacy of this important woman. They deserve sincere kudos for keeping her memory alive because it’s inspiring to read about the grit and gumption she exhibits.
After reading Vanguard by Martha S. Jones, I wanted to dig into more about Ida B. Wells. Her name pops up often in other books about racial justice as well. However, Ida B the Queen left me still wanting more. Instead of doubling down on Wells’s life, Duster adds many illustrations and sidebar content about other folks in the fight for equality and rights. All important information, but I just wanted more Ida!
Nevertheless, I learned about the events that made Wells who she was, from her early life, work to honor military men of color and her longtime fight against lynching. In the near future, I plan to read another of the biographies focused entirely on her life, including perhaps the one by the author’s grandmother.
Beyond the content, Duster’s narrative organization felt haphazard to me. I understand the value of a timeline to clarify events in Wells’s life. But inserting it smack in the middle of the book didn’t make sense to me.
Duster writes in a way that suggests this is a book for students. But as I investigated, there’s no evidence of this intention. It’s categorized in adult books. Given that, the writing and content were disappointingly simplistic. However, if the audience was intended to be middle school or elementary students, this is a good introduction to Wells’s life.
No matter the structure or style, it is vital that we tell stories of strong women of color. Ida B. Wells is a perfect example of this because she overcame tremendous difficulties and yet accomplished so much. Duster and her family absolutely should keep Wells’s legacy alive for all of us, young and old.
Pair with Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All, mentioned above. Or try The Truths We Hold by Vice President Kamala Harris, who’s one of the groundbreaking women mentioned in Duster’s book.