Friday, July 21, 2017

New Books Coming Your Way, July 25, 2017

The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers
656 p.; Fiction

The Portable Nineteenth Century Black Women Writers
is the most comprehensive anthology of its kind—an extraordinary range of voices offering the expressions of black American women in print before, during, and after the Civil War. Edited by Hollis Robbins and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., this collection comprises work from forty-nine writers arranged into sections of memoir, poetry, and essays on feminism, education, and the legacy of black women writers. Many of these pieces engage with social movements like abolition, women’s suffrage, temperance, and civil rights, but the thematic center is black womens’ intellect and personal ambition.

The diverse selection includes well-known writers like Sojourner Truth, Hannah Crafts, and Harriet Jacobs, as well as lesser-known writers like Ella Sheppard, who offers a firsthand account of life in a world-famous singing group. Taken together, these incredible works insist that the writing of black women writers be read, remembered, and addressed.

Chester B. Himes: A Biography by Lawrence P. Jackson
624 p.; Biography

Chester B. Himes has been called “one of the towering figures of the black literary tradition” (Henry Louis Gates Jr.), “the best writer of mayhem yarns since Raymond Chandler” (San Francisco Chronicle), and “a quirky American genius” (Walter Mosely). He was the twentieth century’s most prolific black writer, captured the spirit of his times expertly, and left a distinctive mark on American literature. Yet today he stands largely forgotten.

In this definitive biography of Chester B. Himes (1909–1984), Lawrence P. Jackson uses exclusive interviews and unrestricted access to Himes’s full archives to portray a controversial American writer whose novels unflinchingly confront sex, racism, and black identity. Himes brutally rendered racial politics in the best-selling novel If He Hollers Let Him Go, but he became famous for his Harlem detective series, including Cotton Comes to Harlem. A serious literary tastemaker in his day, Himes had friendships—sometimes uneasy—with such luminaries as Ralph Ellison, Carl Van Vechten, and Richard Wright.

Jackson’s scholarship and astute commentary illuminates Himes’s improbable life—his middle-class origins, his eight years in prison, his painful odyssey as a black World War II–era artist, and his escape to Europe for success. More than ten years in the writing, Jackson’s biography restores the legacy of a fascinating maverick caught between his aspirations for commercial success and his disturbing, vivid portraits of the United States.

Talon of God by Wesley Snipes
368 p.; Fantasy

Set in the mean streets of Chicago, Talon of God is the action-packed adventure centered around the Lauryn Jefferson, a beautiful young doctor who is dragged into a seemingly impossible battle against the invisible forces of Satan’s army and their human agents that are bent on enslaving humanity in a mission to establish the kingdom of hell on Earth.

But Lauryn is a skeptic, and it’s only as she sees a diabolical drug sweep her city and begins to train in the ways of a spirit warrior by the legendary man of God, Talon Hunter, that she discovers her true nature and inner strength. Facing dangerous trials and tests, it’s a true baptism by fire. And if they fail, millions could die. And rivers of blood would flow throughout the land.

Imagine such horror. Such pain. And imagine what it would take to fight against it. For only the strongest and most faithful will survive?

Get ready. Armageddon approaches quickly.

The Body Where I Was Born by Guadalupe Nettel
176 p.; Fiction

From a psychoanalyst’s couch, the narrator looks back on her bizarre childhood—in which she was born with a birth defect into a family intent on fixing it—having somehow survived the emotional havoc she went through. And survive she did, but not unscathed. This intimate narrative echoes the voice of the narrator’s younger self: a sharp, sensitive girl who is keen to life’s gifts and hardships.

With bare language and smart humor, both delicate and unafraid, the narrator strings a strand of touching moments together to create a portrait of an unconventional childhood that crushed her, scarred her, mended her, tore her apart, and ultimately made her whole.

Atlanta Noir edited by Tayari Jones
280 p.; Short stories

Brand-new stories by: Tananarive Due, Kenji Jasper, Tayari Jones, Dallas Hudgens, Jim Grimsley, Brandon Massey, Jennifer Harlow, Sheri Joseph, Alesia Parker, Gillian Royes, Anthony Grooms, John Holman, Daniel Black, and David James Poissant.

From the introduction by Tayari Jones:

Atlanta itself is a crime scene. After all, Georgia was founded as a de facto penal colony and in 1864, Sherman burned the city to the ground. We might argue about whether the arson was the crime or the response to the crime, but this is indisputable: Atlanta is a city sewn from the ashes and everything that grows here is at once fertilized and corrupted by the past...

These stories do not necessarily conform to the traditional expectations of noir...However, they all share the quality of exposing the rot underneath the scent of magnolia and pine. Noir, in my opinion, is more a question of tone than content. The moral universe of the story is as significant as the physical space. Noir is a realm where the good guys seldom win; perhaps they hardly exist at all. Few bad deeds go unrewarded, and good intentions are not the road to hell, but are hell itself...Welcome to Atlanta Noir. Come sit on the veranda, or the terrace of a high-rise condo. Pour yourself a glass of sweet tea, and fortify it with a slug of bourbon. Put your feet up. Enjoy these stories, and watch your back.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

#BookReview: THE ALMOST SISTERS by Joshilyn Jackson

Summary: Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her bar stool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.

It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy-an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.

Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.

Review: Right about now you're probably wondering why a blog about characters of color or authors of color is reviewing a Joshilyn Jackson book. Well first and foremost, Joshilyn Jackson is a writing ass writer. Out of her nine published novels & novellas, only one has left me even slightly disappointed. Another reason I'm reviewing The Almost Sisters is because Jackson tackles race in her most recent work in a nice, nasty way that only a woman of the South can.

Jackson's characters aren't perfect, as a matter of fact, they're downright messy. From outward appearances this doesn't seem to be the case, but scratching the surface reveals a whole layer of hidden dirt. And that's what The Almost Sisters revolves around.

Leia is the sister that doesn't have her shit together. While her stepsister Rachel lives a perfect, almost Stepford Wives existence, Leia is a mess. A one-night stand at a comic book convention has left her pregnant by a man she barely remembers. Messy, right? But the facade that covers Rachel's messiness begins to crack too. In addition to that, Leia's beloved grandmother is losing it down in Alabama, saying things in public that no proper southern lady should ever say. So Leia to the rescue, but how do you rescue two old ladies who have more secrets between them than one would think possible?

As Leia tries to save her beloved Birchie and Wattie from themselves, she discovers (with the help of her nosy niece) that she's a lot stronger than she thought. It's interesting to read her take on dealing with race and racism from a thoughtful white woman's point of view. She exposes the dual reality that towns split by race live with and the fear that every mother, but especially the soon to be mother of a black child, confronts upon realizing that their child will have to deal with racism in a way that she may not have. With weird and quirky characters that we've all come to know and appreciate from Jackson, she tells this story of old southern women, race and family in a way that only she could.

352 p.
Published: July 2017
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.