Wednesday, November 15, 2017

#BookReview: HAVE YOU MET NORA? by Nicole Blades

Summary: She’s blossomed from a wealthy surgeon’s beautiful daughter to elegant socialite to being the top fashion stylist in the country. And Nora Mackenzie is only days away from marrying into one of New York’s richest, most powerful families. But her fairy tale rise is rooted in an incredible deception—one scandal away from turning her perfect world to ashes…

What no one knows is that Nora is the biracial daughter of a Caribbean woman and a long-gone white father. Adopted—and abused—by her mother’s employer, then sent to an exclusive boarding school to buy her silence, Nora found that “passing” as a white woman could give her everything she never had.

Now, an ex-classmate who Nora betrayed many years ago has returned to her life to even the score. Her machinations are turning Nora’s privilege into one gilded trap after another. Running out of choices, Nora must decide how far she will go to protect a lie or give up and finally face the truth.

ReviewWhile I didn't love Nicole Blades' The Thunder Beneath Us, I can see where she's made progress in developing story lines and characters, and I can appreciate that. The story line of Have You Met Nora? is interesting in that we tend to think of passing as something done during and post-slavery, but not recently. However, a collection of essays edited by Brando Skyhorse in this year's We Wear the Mask indicates that passing is not a thing of the past and is very much alive and well.

It is somewhat understandable as to why one might pass if it affords them opportunities they might not otherwise have. But to forfeit your right to your culture and heritage and limit yourself in other ways in the future is a hefty price to pay. Nora seems willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that she is always and only seen as white.

In a recent conversation on Twitter, I noted that though others seem to accept whatever race one might present as, black people recognize other black people regardless of the shade of their skin.The most interesting character in Have You Met Nora? is the character that I would have loved more development of. That would be the black, former classmate of Nora who knew at first glance that she was passing and tormented her with that knowledge.

This wasn't an OMG or earth shattering read, but it's passable if you have some time and a few coins to spare. Blades progressively gets better with each book. My hope is that she really knocks it out of the park the next time.


320 p.
Published: October 2017

Friday, November 10, 2017

New Books Coming Your Way, November 14, 2017

The Mother of Black Hollywood by Jenifer Lewis
336 p.; Memoir

Jenifer Lewis keeps it real in this provocative and touching memoir by a mid-western girl with a dream whose journey from poverty to Hollywood will move, shock, and inspire readers.

Told in the audacious voice her fans adore, Jenifer describes a road to fame made treacherous by dysfunction and undiagnosed mental illness, including a sex addiction. Yet, supported by loving friends and strengthened by "inner soldiers," Jenifer never stopped entertaining and creating.

We watch as Jenifer develops icon status stemming from a series of legendary screen roles as the sassy, yet loveable, mama or auntie. And we watch as her emotional disturbances, culminating in a breakdown while filming The Temptations movie, launch her on a continuing search for answers, love and healing.

Written with no-holds-barred honesty and illustrated with sixteen-pages of color photos, this gripping memoir is filled with insights gained through a unique life that offers a universal message: “Love yourself so that love will not be a stranger when it comes.”

Wild Beauty: New and Selected Poems by Ntozake Shange
288 p.; Poetry

In this stirring collection of more than sixty original and selected poems in both English and Spanish, Ntozake Shange shares her utterly unique, unapologetic, and deeply emotional writing that has made her one of the most iconic literary figures of our time.

With a clear, raw, and affecting voice, Shange draws from her experience as a feminist black woman in American to craft groundbreaking poetry about pain, beauty, and color. In the bestselling tradition of Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey, Wild Beauty is more than a poetry collection; it is an exquisite call to action for a new generation of women, people of color, feminists, and activists to follow in the author’s footsteps in the pursuit of equality and understanding. As The New York Times raves, “Ntozake Shange writes with such exquisite care and beauty that anyone can relate to her message.”

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich
288 p.; Fiction

The world as we know it is ending. Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans. Thirty-two-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, adopted daughter of a pair of big-hearted, open-minded Minneapolis liberals, is as disturbed and uncertain as the rest of America around her. But for Cedar, this change is profound and deeply personal. She is four months pregnant.

Though she wants to tell the adoptive parents who raised her from infancy, Cedar first feels compelled to find her birth mother, Mary Potts, an Ojibwe living on the reservation, to understand both her and her baby’s origins. As Cedar goes back to her own biological beginnings, society around her begins to disintegrate, fueled by a swelling panic about the end of humanity.

There are rumors of martial law, of Congress confining pregnant women. Of a registry, and rewards for those who turn these wanted women in. Flickering through the chaos are signs of increasing repression: a shaken Cedar witnesses a family wrenched apart when police violently drag a mother from her husband and child in a parking lot. The streets of her neighborhood have been renamed with Bible verses. A stranger answers the phone when she calls her adoptive parents, who have vanished without a trace. It will take all Cedar has to avoid the prying eyes of potential informants and keep her baby safe.

The Annotated African American Folktales edited by Henry Louis Gates
752 p.; Literary collection

Opening with two introductory essays and twenty seminal African tales as historical background, Gates and Tatar present nearly 150 African American stories, among them familiar Brer Rabbit classics, but also stories like “The Talking Skull” and “Witches Who Ride,” as well as out-of-print tales from the 1890s’ Southern Workman. Beginning with the figure of Anansi, the African trickster, master of improvisation—a spider who plots and weaves in scandalous ways—The Annotated African American Folktales then goes on to draw Caribbean and Creole tales into the orbit of the folkloric canon. It retrieves stories not seen since the Harlem Renaissance and brings back archival tales of “Negro folklore” that Booker T. Washington proclaimed had emanated from a “grapevine” that existed even before the American Revolution, stories brought over by slaves who had survived the Middle Passage. Furthermore, Gates and Tatar’s volume not only defines a new canon but reveals how these folktales were hijacked and misappropriated in previous incarnations, egregiously by Joel Chandler Harris, a Southern newspaperman, as well as by Walt Disney, who cannibalized and capitalized on Harris’s volumes by creating cartoon characters drawn from this African American lore.

Nobody Checks the Time When They're Happy by Heekyung Eun
190 p.; Short stories

No One Checks the Time When They're Happy is a collection of stories, by turns sad and funny, about the thwarted expectations of the young as they grow older. Eun Heeyung's characters are misfits who, by virtue of their bodies or their lack of social status, are left to dream of momentous changes that will never come. Unsatisfied with work, with family, and with friends, they lose themselves in diets, books, and blogs. Her work humorously but humanely depicts the loneliness and monotony found in many modern lives.

Mother of All Pigs by Malu Halasa
266 p.; Fiction

Hussein's illegal pork business has started to cause some headaches, and not just because of his permanent hangovers-- the town is tired of the smell, a mujahid has arrived on his doorstep, his American niece is visiting, and his sister has joined the Syrian rebel cause, but worst of all, his sow is severely depressed

The Sabas family lives in a small Jordanian town that for centuries has been descended upon by all manner of invader, the latest a scourge of disconcerting Evangelical tourists. The border town relies on a blackmarket trade of clothes, trinkets , and appliances — the quality of which depends entirely on who’s fighting — but the conflict in nearby Syria has the place even more on edge than usual.

Meanwhile, the Sabas home is ruled by women — Mother Fadhma, Laila, Samira, and now, Muna, a niece visiting from America for the first time — and it is brimming with regrets and desires. Clandestine pasts in love, politics, even espionage, threaten the delicate balance of order in the household, as generations clash. The family’s ostensible patriarch — Laila’s husband Hussein — enjoys no such secrets, not in his family or in town, where Hussein is known as the Levant’s only pig butcher, dealing in chops, sausages, and hams, much to the chagrin of his observant neighbors.

When a long-lost soldier from Hussein's military past arrives, the Sabas clan must decide whether to protect or expose him, bringing long-simmering rivalries and injustices to the surface. Enchanting and fearless, Halasa's prose intertwines the lives of three generations of women as they navigate the often stifling, sometimes absurd realities of everyday life in the Middle East.