Wednesday, August 24, 2016

New Books Coming Your Way, August 30, 2016

Elizabeth and Michael: The Queen of Hollywood and the King of Pop—A Love Story by Donald Bogle
400 p. (Biography)

From the moment Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson met, they were hooked on each other. He peered into her violet eyes and was transfixed; she, in turn, was dazzled by his talent, intrigued by his sweet-tempered childlike personality, and moved by the stories she had already heard about his troubled early life. Soon a deep friendship blossomed, unexpectedly unlike anything either had ever experienced. Through thick and thin, through their various emotional upheavals, through the peaks and valleys of their careers, through their personal traumas and heartaches, through the unending health issues and extreme physical pain that each experienced, and through the glare of the often merciless public spotlight, their bond held them together, and their love for each other endured.

Donald Bogle skillfully recreates the moving narrative of Taylor and Jackson’s experiences together and their intense emotional connection, without shying away from the controversies that swirled around them. Through interviews with friends and acquaintances of the two stars, as well as anonymous but credible sources, Elizabeth and Michael emerges as a tender, intimate look at this famous “odd couple” and a treasure to their millions of fans.

Purchase: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

Aphrodite's Daughters: Three Modernist Poets of the Harlem Renaissance by Maureen Honey
224 p. (Poetry)

The Harlem Renaissance was a watershed moment for racial uplift, poetic innovation, sexual liberation, and female empowerment. Aphrodite’s Daughters introduces us to three amazing women who were at the forefront of all these developments, poetic iconoclasts who pioneered new and candidly erotic forms of female self-expression.

Maureen Honey paints a vivid portrait of three African American women—Angelina Weld Grimké, Gwendolyn B. Bennett, and Mae V. Cowdery—who came from very different backgrounds but converged in late 1920s Harlem to leave a major mark on the literary landscape. She examines the varied ways these poets articulated female sexual desire, ranging from Grimké’s invocation of a Sapphic goddess figure to Cowdery’s frank depiction of bisexual erotics to Bennett’s risky exploration of the borders between sexual pleasure and pain. Yet Honey also considers how they were united in their commitment to the female body as a primary source of meaning, strength, and transcendence.

The product of extensive archival research, Aphrodite’s Daughters draws from Grimké, Bennett, and Cowdery’s published and unpublished poetry, along with rare periodicals and biographical materials, to immerse us in the lives of these remarkable women and the world in which they lived. It thus not only shows us how their artistic contributions and cultural interventions were vital to their own era, but also demonstrates how the poetic heart of their work keeps on beating.

Purchase: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

The Striver's Row Spy by Jason Overstreet
448 p. (Historical fiction)

For college graduate Sidney Temple, the Roaring Twenties bring opportunities even members of his accomplished black bourgeois family couldn’t have imagined. His impulsive marriage to independent artist Loretta is a happiness he never thought he’d find. And when he’s tapped by J. Edgar Hoover to be the FBI’s first African-American agent, he sees a once-in-a-lifetime chance to secure real justice.

Instead of providing evidence against Marcus Garvey, prominent head of the “dangerously radical” back-to-Africa movement, Sidney uses his unexpected knack for deception and undercover work to thwart the Bureau’s biased investigation. And by giving renowned leader W. E. B. Du Bois insider information, Sidney gambles on change that could mean a fair destiny for all Americans…

But the higher Sidney and Loretta climb in Harlem’s most influential and glamorous circles, the more dangerous the stakes. An unexpected friendship and a wrenching personal tragedy threaten to shatter Loretta’s innocent trust in her husband—and turn his double life into a fast-closing trap. For Sidney, ultimately squeezed between the Bureau and one too many ruthless factions, the price of escape could be heartbreak and betrayal no amount of skill can help him survive.

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Dark Work: The Business of Slavery in Rhode Island by Christy Clark-Pujara
224 p. (Non-fiction; history)

Historians have written expansively about the slave economy and its vital role in early American economic life. In Dark Work, Christy Clark-Pujara tells the story of one state in particular whose role was outsized: Rhode Island. Like their northern neighbors, Rhode Islanders bought and sold slaves and supplies that sustained plantations throughout the Americas; however, nowhere else was this business so important. During the colonial period trade with West Indian planters provided Rhode Islanders with molasses, the key ingredient for their number one export: rum. More than 60 percent of all the slave ships that left North America left from Rhode Island. During the antebellum period Rhode Islanders were the leading producers of “negro cloth,” a coarse wool-cotton material made especially for enslaved blacks in the American South.

Clark-Pujara draws on the documents of the state, the business, organizational, and personal records of their enslavers, and the few first-hand accounts left by enslaved and free black Rhode Islanders to reconstruct their lived experiences. The business of slavery encouraged slaveholding, slowed emancipation and led to circumscribed black freedom. Enslaved and free black people pushed back against their bondage and the restrictions placed on their freedom. It is convenient, especially for northerners, to think of slavery as southern institution. The erasure or marginalization of the northern black experience and the centrality of the business of slavery to the northern economy allows for a dangerous fiction—that North has no history of racism to overcome. But we cannot afford such a delusion if we are to truly reconcile with our past.

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The Full Tank Life: Fuel Your Dreams, Ignite Your Destiny by Ben Tankard
208 p. (Religion)

As a pastor, pilot, motivational speaker, bestselling Gospel/Jazz musician, and reality TV star, Tankard has a lot of experience with both success and failure. He has learned that our greatest opportunities often come from our greatest disappointments. Today, he is doing what he was born to do, and he knows it didn't happen by accident. Tankard encourages readers to examine seven key elements-Dreams, Environment, Subconscious, Time, Inspiration, Network, and You, sharing his life-tested secrets to help readers find their own way. Including fresh insights on familiar Bible passages, wisdom from Tankard's own setbacks, and laugh-out-loud stories, Tankard shows readers that they too can have a "full tank" life.

Purchase: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

Friday, August 19, 2016

#BookReview: THE SUMMER THAT MELTED EVERYTHING by Tiffany McDaniel

It's said that you should be careful what you wish for because you just may get it. It's the summer of 1984 and Autopsy Bliss places a full page ad in the local newspaper inviting the devil to the small town of Breathed, Ohio. Autopsy, from the word autopsia which in Greek means "to see for oneself," when asked why he would do such a fool thing as invite the devil to town simply responds that he wanted to see for himself.

Breathed sits in the southern part of Ohio near the Appalachian Mountains. Even in 1984 it's a town without paved roads, a town where time seems to have stood still. It's full of small town values, small town ideas and small-minded people.

When Fielding Bliss, son of Autopsy, first lays eyes on Sal, he just sees another 13 year old. But Fielding is looking through innocent eyes. He doesn't see a black boy, he just sees a new friend.

Though nowhere in the book does it say that there are no black people in town, it's understood by the response of the townspeople that the sight of anyone non-white is a rare occurrence. Grayson Elohim has the most visceral reaction to the appearance of the brown boy with green irises. Time for Mr. Elohim stopped in 1956 when he lost his fiance. Perhaps that's why he's so taken aback by the sight of a black boy, lost in his memories of a time when black people, especially black boys and men, knew their place and stayed in it.

Indeed, Sal is a bit strange, but no stranger than anyone else in Fielding's family or in Breathed. Wise for his years, he offers counsel to Fielding and the rest of the Bliss family as they embrace him and take them in as one of their own. And he needs their embrace and their acceptance as strange things start to happen around town. It's unbearably hot and the townspeople are starting to behave in inexplicable ways. Secret meetings around town regarding the town's 13 year old visitor hearkens back to Klan meetings. Seemingly reasonable people are pulled into the rantings and ravings of Elohim and worked into an unforgettable and unforgivable frenzy based on his bigoted beliefs.

As the story unfolds, neither Fielding nor the rest of his family believe that Sal is anything other than a child, and I think that may have been the author's goal. Sal is charming and though he does bring out the worst in some people, he brings out the best in others. Did he arrive in Breathed for the sole purpose of exposing the evil lurking in the hearts of men and women? Is Sal really devil or just a very wise boy? I'll leave it up to you to decide.


320 p.
Published: July 2016
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from author, opinions are my own.

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