Friday, October 13, 2017

New Books Coming Your Way, October 17, 2017

We're Going to Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True by Gabrielle Union
272 p.; Memoir

One month before the release of the highly anticipated film The Birth of a Nation, actress Gabrielle Union shook the world with a vulnerable and impassioned editorial in which she urged our society to have compassion for victims of sexual violence. In the wake of rape allegations made against director and actor Nate Parker, Union—a forty-four-year-old actress who launched her career with roles in iconic ’90s movies—instantly became the insightful, outspoken actress that Hollywood has been desperately awaiting. With honesty and heartbreaking wisdom she revealed her own trauma as a victim of sexual assault: “It is for you that I am speaking. This is real. We are real.”

In this moving collection of thought provoking essays infused with her unique wisdom and deep humor, Union uses that same fearlessness to tell astonishingly personal and true stories about power, color, gender, feminism, and fame. Union tackles a range of experiences, including bullying, beauty standards, and competition between women in Hollywood, growing up in white California suburbia and then spending summers with her black relatives in Nebraska, coping with crushes, puberty, and the divorce of her parents. Genuine and perceptive, Union bravely lays herself bare, uncovering a complex and courageous life of self-doubt and self-discovery with incredible poise and brutal honesty. Throughout, she compels us to be ethical and empathetic, and reminds us of the importance of confidence, self-awareness, and the power of sharing truth, laughter, and support.

Unseen: Unpublished Black History from the New York Times Photo Archives
304 p.; Photography/History

It all started with Times photo editor Darcy Eveleigh discovering dozens of these photographs. She and three colleagues, Dana Canedy, Damien Cave and Rachel L. Swarns, began exploring the history behind them, and subsequently chronicling them in a series entitled Unpublished Black History, that ran in print and online editions of The Times in February 2016. It garnered 1.7 million views on The Times website and thousands of comments from readers. This book includes those photographs and many more, among them: a 27-year-old Jesse Jackson leading an anti-discrimination rally of in Chicago, Rosa Parks arriving at a Montgomery Courthouse in Alabama a candid behind-the-scenes shot of Aretha Franklin backstage at the Apollo Theater, Ralph Ellison on the streets of his Manhattan neighborhood, the firebombed home of Malcolm X, Myrlie Evans and her children at the funeral of her slain husband , Medgar, a wheelchair-bound Roy Campanella at the razing of Ebbets Field.

Were the photos--or the people in them--not deemed newsworthy enough? Did the images not arrive in time for publication? Were they pushed aside by words at an institution long known as the Gray Lady? Eveleigh, Canedy, Cave, and Swarms explore all these questions and more in this one-of-a-kind book.

The Floating World by C. Morgan Babst
384 p.; Fiction

A dazzling debut about family, home, and grief, The Floating World takes readers into the heart of Hurricane Katrina with the story of the Boisdorés, whose roots stretch back nearly to the foundation of New Orleans. Though the storm is fast approaching the Louisiana coast, Cora, the family’s fragile elder daughter, refuses to leave the city, forcing her parents, Joe Boisdoré, an artist descended from a freed slave who became one of the city’s preeminent furniture makers, and his white “Uptown” wife, Dr. Tess Eshleman, to evacuate without her, setting off a chain of events that leaves their marriage in shambles and Cora catatonic--the victim or perpetrator of some violence mysterious even to herself.

This mystery is at the center of C. Morgan Babst’s haunting, lyrical novel. Cora’s sister, Del, returns to New Orleans from the life she has tried to build in New York City to find her hometown in ruins and her family deeply alienated from one another. As Del attempts to figure out what happened to her sister, she must also reckon with the racial history of the city, and the trauma of destruction that was not, in fact, some random act of God, but an avoidable tragedy visited upon New Orleans’s most helpless and forgotten citizens.

Where the Past Begins: A Writer's Memoir by Amy Tan
368 p.; Memoir/Writing

In Where the Past Begins, bestselling author of The Joy Luck Club and The Valley of Amazement Amy Tan is at her most intimate in revealing the truths and inspirations that underlie her extraordinary fiction. By delving into vivid memories of her traumatic childhood, confessions of self-doubt in her journals, and heartbreaking letters to and from her mother, she gives evidence to all that made it both unlikely and inevitable that she would become a writer. Through spontaneous storytelling, she shows how a fluid fictional state of mind unleashed near-forgotten memories that became the emotional nucleus of her novels.

Tan explores shocking truths uncovered by family memorabilia—the real reason behind an I.Q. test she took at age six, why her parents lied about their education, mysteries surrounding her maternal grandmother—and, for the first time publicly, writes about her complex relationship with her father, who died when she was fifteen. Supplied with candor and characteristic humor, Where the Past Begins takes readers into the idiosyncratic workings of her writer’s mind, a journey that explores memory, imagination, and truth, with fiction serving as both her divining rod and link to meaning.

River Hymns by Tyree Daye
72 p.; Poetry

Winner of the 2017 American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize, River Hymns invites the reader into the complex lineage of the values, contradictions, and secrets of a southern family. These poems reflect on the rich legacy of a young black man’s ancestry: what to use, what to leave behind, and what haunts.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

#BookReview: THE TWELVE-MILE STRAIGHT by Eleanor Henderson

Summary: Cotton County, Georgia, 1930: in a house full of secrets, two babies-one light-skinned, the other dark-are born to Elma Jesup, a white sharecropper’s daughter. Accused of her rape, field hand Genus Jackson is lynched and dragged behind a truck down the Twelve-Mile Straight, the road to the nearby town. In the aftermath, the farm’s inhabitants are forced to contend with their complicity in a series of events that left a man dead and a family irrevocably fractured.

Despite the prying eyes and curious whispers of the townspeople, Elma begins to raise her babies as best as she can, under the roof of her mercurial father, Juke, and with the help of Nan, the young black housekeeper who is as close to Elma as a sister. But soon it becomes clear that the ties that bind all of them together are more intricate than any could have ever imagined. As startling revelations mount, a web of lies begins to collapse around the family, destabilizing their precarious world and forcing all to reckon with the painful truth.

Review: So 1930's Georgia is a lot to take in, right? Like slavery ended decades before, but it just rebranded itself as sharecropping and black bodies are still subject to the abuse of white people. Slavery by any other name is still slavery.

The Twelve-Mile Straight is a lengthy read at almost 600 pages, but not once did I ever want to give up on reading it because I was fascinated by the characters. Juke, the white overseer (for lack of a better word), is a poor man with little power, but the power that he does have he exerts over his daughter and others around him that he deems to be lower than him. He loathes blackness, yet he loves it. In this way, his daughter Elma is no better. Driven by jealousy, she easily denounces someone that's only been kind to her, resulting in his death. It's a rare moment that readers will see her remorseful for her actions.

The direct recipient of so much wrongdoing throughout the story is Nan, referred to as their housekeeper who's like a sister, but Nan is a prisoner of the Jesups. While Elma and Nan are both held captive by the lies Juke has forced upon them, Nan's mother and Elma have their own ways of keeping Nan captive. The actions of Nan's mother early on ensure Nan will never have a voice to speak for herself. And Elma's selfishness keeps Nan tethered to her with little regard for whether or not that's what Nan wants.

I spent so much of the book wanting both girls, then women, to get free, to find a piece of happiness. And it comes eventually, but it's a long time coming.

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

Friday, October 6, 2017

New Books Coming Your Way, October 10, 2017

The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao
by Martha Batalha
272 p.; Fiction

Euridice is young, beautiful and ambitious, but when her rebellious sister Guida elopes, she sets her own aspirations aside and vows to settle down as a model wife and daughter. And yet as her husband's professional success grows, so does Euridice's feeling of restlessness. She embarks on a series of secret projects from creating recipe books to becoming the most sought-after seamstress in town — but each is doomed to failure. Her tradition-loving husband is not interested in an independent wife. And then one day Guida appears at the door with her young son and a terrible story of hardship and abandonment.

As Lie Is to Grin by Simeon Marsalis
160 p.; Fiction

David, the narrator of Simeon Marsalis’s singular first novel, is a freshman at the University of Vermont who is struggling to define himself against the white backdrop of his school. He is also mourning the loss of his New York girlfriend, whose grandfather’s alma mater he has chosen to attend. When David met Melody, he lied to her about who he was and where he lived, creating a more intriguing story than his own. This lie haunts and almost unhinges him as he attempts to find his true voice and identity.

On campus in Vermont, David imagines encounters with a student from the past who might represent either Melody’s grandfather or Jean Toomer, the author of the acclaimed Harlem Renaissance novel Cane (1923). He becomes obsessed with the varieties of American architecture “upon land that was stolen,” and with the university’s past and attitudes as recorded in its newspaper, The Cynic. And he is frustrated with the way the Internet and libraries are curated, making it difficult to find the information he needs to make connections between the university’s history, African American history, and his own life.

In New York, the previous year, Melody confides a shocking secret about her grandfather’s student days at the University of Vermont. When she and her father collude with the intent to meet David’s mother in Harlem—craving what they consider an authentic experience of the black world—their plan ends explosively. The title of this impressive and emotionally powerful novel is inspired by Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “We Wear the Mask” (1896): “We wear the mask that grins and lies . . .”

We Wear the Mask: 15 True Stories of Passing in America edited by Brando Skyhorse & Lisa Page
216 p.; Social Science

For some, “passing” means opportunity, access, or safety. Others don’t willingly pass but are “passed” in specific situations by someone else. We Wear the Mask, edited by Brando Skyhorse and Lisa Page, is an illuminating and timely anthology that examines the complex reality of passing in America.

Skyhorse, a Mexican American, writes about how his mother passed him as an American Indian before he learned who he really is. Page shares how her white mother didn’t tell friends about her black ex-husband or that her children were, in fact, biracial.

The anthology includes writing from Gabrielle Bellot, who shares the disquieting truths of passing as a woman after coming out as trans, and MG Lord, who, after the murder of her female lover, embraced heterosexuality. Patrick Rosal writes of how he “accidentally” passes as a waiter at the National Book Awards ceremony, and Rafia Zakaria agonizes over her Muslim American identity while traveling through domestic and international airports. Other writers include Trey Ellis, Marc Fitten, Susan Golomb, Margo Jefferson, Achy Obejas, Clarence Page, Sergio Troncoso, Dolen Perkins-Valdez, and Teresa Wiltz.

Run For It: Stories Of Slaves Who Fought For Their Freedom by Marcelo D'Salete
180 p.; Graphic novel

Run For It — a stunning graphic novel by internationally acclaimed illustrator Marcelo d’Salete — is one of the first literary and artistic efforts to face up to Brazil’s hidden history of slavery. Originally published in Brazil — where it was nominated for three of the country’s most prestigious comics awards — Run For It has received rave reviews worldwide, including, in the U.S., The Huffington Post. These intense tales offer a tragic and gripping portrait of one of history’s darkest corners. It’s hard to look away.

Chuck D Presents This Day in Rap and Hip-Hop History by Chuck D
352 p.; Music

Based on Chuck's long-running show on Rapstation.com, this massive compendium details the most iconic moments and influential songs in the genre's recorded history, from Kurtis Blow's "Christmas Rappin'" to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill to Kendrick Lamar's ground-breaking verse on "Control." Also included are key events in hip hop history, from Grandmaster Flash's first scratch through Tupac's holographic appearance at Coachella.

Throughout, Chuck offers his insider's perspective on the chart toppers and show stoppers as he lived it. Illustrating the pages are more than 100 portraits from the talented artists specializing in hip hop.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

#BookReview: LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng

Summary: In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned—from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principal is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren- an enigmatic artist and single mother- who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family—and Mia’s.

Review:
"The firemen said there were little fires everywhere," Lexie said. "Multiple points of origin. Possible use of accelerant. Not an accident."

Little Fires Everywhere is very much a Pretty in Pink meets Sixteen Candles meets The Breakfast Club. That is to say initially it seems like a John Hughes '80s infused light-hearted story line. The Richardsons are a picture perfect family - two parents with four children: Trip the golden boy, Lexie the most popular girl in school, Moody with a name that befits him, and awkward youngest sister Izzy. And as in any John Hughes movie, their perfect lives are turned upside down when people that don't quite fit into their carefully crafted world crash into it.

Mia Warren is a rebel, a free thinker. And she's raised her daughter Pearl to be the same way, but secretly, Pearl craves the normalcy of a family like the Richardsons. As Pearl ingratiates herself with the Richardson clan, she finds a best friend in Moody, an older sister in Lexie and a crush on Trip.

While Pearl is spending her time swooning over the Richardsons, Izzy is soaking up Mia's presence in her life. When Mia is caught up in helping Bebe Chow, a Chinese immigrant who gives birth to and abandons her baby at a fire station, only to try to reclaim her later, Izzy is a witness to the battle between Mia, her mother and the McCulloughs, the white family that plans to adopt and raise Bebe's baby as their own.

And let's talk about Elena Richardson, because if anyone is threatened by Mia's presence, it's her. It's not enough that she's given Mia and Pearl a place to stay, treated Pearl as her own child and given Mia a job. Mia's decision to side with Bebe instead of Elena and the McCulloughs is an affront to Elena and whiteness. It's unfathomable to Elena that Bebe could care for her own child and she begins digging into Mia's past in hopes of finding what? A way to push the Warrens out of her life? A way to embarrass Mia? Or is Elena simply a mean girl that doesn't know when to quit?

Battle lines are drawn, though the rest of the Richardson children are somewhat indifferent. But words mean things and if Izzy later sets little fires everywhere, Mia is the accelerant. She is the one adult that listens to Izzy and takes her seriously. So it's no wonder that when she finds her world crashing down with the threat of losing Mia, Izzy recalls her words.

Like after a prairie fire… It seems like the end of the world. The earth is all scorched and black and everything green is gone. But after the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow… People are like that too, you know. They start over. They find a way.

Was Mia telling Izzy to burn everything down and start over? Was she referencing the new starts that she and Pearl made each time they packed up and moved on to a new city? I'd say that's up to each reader's interpretation.


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

Friday, September 29, 2017

New Books Coming Your Way, October 3, 2017

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
340 p.; Science Fiction

Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She's used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly a monster, she'd be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remains of her world.

Aster lives in the low deck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship's leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer, Aster learns there may be a way to improve her lot--if she's willing to sow the seeds of civil war.

The Orphan Keeper by Camron Wright
432 p.; Fiction

Seven-year-old Chellamuthu’s life—and his destiny—is forever changed when he is kidnapped from his village in Southern India and sold to the Lincoln Home for Homeless Children. His family is desperate to find him, and Chellamuthu anxiously tells the Indian orphanage that he is not an orphan, he has a mother who loves him. But he is told not to worry, he will soon be adopted by a loving family in America.

Chellamuthu is suddenly surrounded by a foreign land and a foreign language. He can’t tell people that he already has a family and becomes consumed by a single, impossible question: How do I get home? But after more than a decade, home becomes a much more complicated idea as the Indian boy eventually sheds his past and receives a new name: Taj Khyber Rowland.

It isn’t until Taj meets an Indian family who helps him rediscover his roots, as well as marrying Priya, his wife, who helps him unveil the secrets of his past, that he begins to discover the truth he has all but forgotten. Taj is determined to return to India and begin the quest to find his birth family. But is it too late? Is it possible that his birth mother is still looking for him? And which family does he belong to now?

Moonbath by Yanick Lahens
264 p.; Fiction

After she is found washed up on shore, Cétoute Olmène Thérèse, bloody and bruised, recalls the circumstances that led her there. Her voice weaves hauntingly in and out of the narrative, as her story intertwines with those of three generations of women in her family, beginning with Olmène, her grandmother.

Olmène, barely sixteen, catches the eye of the cruel and powerful Tertulien Mésidor, despite the generations-long feud between their families which cast her ancestors into poverty. He promises her shoes, dresses, land, and children who will want for nothing…and five months after moving into her new home, she gives birth to a son. As the family struggles through political and economic turmoil, the narrative shifts between the voices of four women, their lives interwoven with magic and fraught equally with hope and despair, leading to Cétoute’s ultimate, tragic fate.

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates
400 p.; Memoir

The years between 2008 and 2016 don’t just mark two terms of a historic presidency but define a dramatic era in politics, activism, culture, and historiography that have reshaped this country and its public discourse. During this same period, Ta-Nehisi Coates, who begins the book in an unemployment office and ends it having interviewed President Obama in the Oval office, became one of the country’s most important voices through his work at The Atlantic. There he wrote a series of blockbuster, award-winning articles that changed the public conversation around race, culture and political possibility, and became, himself, an example of how the Obama era changed individual lives and opened opportunities for new voices to find a place at the center of the American story.

This important volume offers Ta-Nehisi’s most prominent and influential Atlantic articles, from “Fear of a Black President” to “The Case for Reparations” to “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration.” But the book’s daring, imaginative format—real-time journalism combined with retrospective essays that range from the personal to the historical to the analytical and create a cohesive narrative arc—is the key to its uncanny ability to offer the essential account of the Obama years, while also making a powerful, transformative argument about history, identity, and the American future.

Real American: A Memoir by Julie Lythcott-Haims
288 p.; Memoir

Bringing a poetic sensibility to her prose to stunning effect, Lythcott-Haims briskly and stirringly evokes her personal battle with the low self-esteem that American racism routinely inflicts on people of color. The only child of a marriage between an African-American father and a white British mother, she shows indelibly how so-called microaggressions in addition to blunt force insults can puncture a person's inner life with a thousand sharp cuts. Real American expresses also, through Lythcott-Haims’s path to self-acceptance, the healing power of community in overcoming the hurtful isolation of being incessantly considered "the other."

The author of the New York Times bestselling anti-helicopter parenting manifesto How to Raise an Adult, Lythcott-Haims has written a different sort of book this time out, but one that will nevertheless resonate with the legions of students, educators, and parents to whom she is now well known, by whom she is beloved, and to whom she has always provided wise and necessary counsel about how to embrace and nurture their best selves. Real American is an affecting memoir, an unforgettable cri de coeur, and a clarion call to all of us to live more wisely, generously, and fully.

Dogs at the Perimeter by Madeleine Thien
272 p.; Fiction

Set in Cambodia during the regime of the-Khmer Rouge and in present day Montreal, Dogs at the Perimeter tells the story of Janie, who as a child experiences the terrible violence carried out by the Khmer Rouge and loses everything she holds dear. Three decades later, Janie has relocated to Montreal, although the scars of her past remain visible. After abandoning her husband and son and taking refuge in the home of her friend, the scientist Hiroji Matsui, Janie and Hiroji find solace in their shared grief and pain—until Hiroji’s disappearance opens old wounds and Janie finds that she must struggle to find grace in a world overshadowed by the sorrows of her past.

Beautifully realized, deeply affecting, Dogs at the Perimeter evokes the injustice of tyranny through the eyes of a young girl and draws a remarkable map of the mind’s battle with memory, loss, and the horrors of war. It confirms Madeleine Thien as one of the most gifted and powerful novelists writing today.

The Writers' Retreat by Indu Balachandran
296 p.; Fiction
Amby Balan has had enough of the corporate life in a multinational bank in India. On a reckless whim, she quits her job and becomes a Tweet Writer for Krish Kumaar, the hunky new Kollywood superstar. Despite her glamorous new job (and the opportunity to ogle her gorgeous boss all day long) Amby still longs to fulfil her dream of becoming a writer.

She comes across an exciting ad for a Writers’ Workshop in Greece and cannot pack her bags soon enough. On the way to Crete and Santorini, she meets Mini Cherian, a bestselling children's book author who fantasizes about writing erotic novels; and Bobby Varma, who left behind the advertising world to become a travel writer.

Together, they embark on an unforgettable adventure to discover their true selves and find love in impossibly romantic Greek islands.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

#BookReview: TO FUNK AND DIE IN LA by Nelson George

Summary: To Funk and Die in LA, the fourth book in the D Hunter crime-fiction series, brings the ex-bodyguard to the City of Angels on a very dark mission when his grandfather, businessman Daniel "Big Danny" Hunter, is shot dead in a drive-by. Why would someone execute a grocery store owner? D soon finds there was more to Big Danny's life than selling loaves of bread. The old man, it turns out, was deeply involved with Dr. Funk, a legendary musical innovator who has become a mysterious recluse.

Most of the novel takes place in the LA neighborhoods of Crenshaw, Koreatown, and Pico-Union--areas where black, Asian, and Latino cultures intersect away from the glamour of Hollywood--and echoes of the 1992 riots play a significant role in D's investigation. In the tradition of Raymond Chandler and Walter Mosley, D Hunter rides through the mean streets of Los Angeles seeking truth and not always finding justice.

Review: I haven't read the previous books in the D Hunter series, but Nelson George gives enough background story for readers to understand who the main players are and what pushes their buttons. While I wasn't overly impressed by the main character, I did like the mission he was on and the cast that surrounded him. Digging into his recently deceased grandfather's background brings out people from all walks of life and it's interesting to watch D put the pieces together to see how they fit.

I couldn't help but to be reminded of the elusive Sly Stone in the form of Dr. Funk. Much like Stone, he prefers to stay hidden from the public, wrapped up in his music and his memories. The scenes featuring him and his story line tend to be the most memorable.

D Hunter is no Easy Rawlins or Socrates Fortlaw, but Nelson George is no Walter Mosley. In this instance, he doesn't have to be. As Mosley recreated a 1950s and 1960s Los Angeles for readers, George presents us with a modern day LA that I'm definitely interested in exploring more.

225 p.
Published: September 2017
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are mine.

Friday, September 22, 2017

New Books Coming Your Way, September 26, 2017

Unforgivable Love: A Retelling of Dangerous Liaisons by Sophfronia Scott
528 p.; Historical fiction

In this vivid reimagining of the French classic Les Liaisons Dangereuses, it’s the summer when Jackie Robinson breaks Major League Baseball’s color barrier and a sweltering stretch has Harlem’s elite fleeing the city for Westchester County’s breezier climes, two predators stalk amidst the manicured gardens and fine old homes

Heiress Mae Malveaux rules society with an angel’s smile and a heart of stone. She made up her mind long ago that nobody would decide her fate. To have the pleasure she craves, control is paramount, especially control of the men Mae attracts like moths to a flame.

Valiant Jackson always gets what he wants—and he’s wanted Mae for years. The door finally opens for him when Mae strikes a bargain: seduce her virginal young cousin, Cecily, who is engaged to Frank Washington. Frank values her innocence above all else. If successful, Val’s reward will be a night with Mae.

But Val secretly seeks another prize. Elizabeth Townsend is fiercely loyal to her church and her civil rights attorney husband. Certain there is something redeemable in Mr. Jackson. Little does she know that her worst mistake will be Val’s greatest triumph.

bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward
160 p.; Poetry

Bone. Visceral. Close to. Stark.

The poems in Yrsa Daley-Ward’s collection bone are exactly that: reflections on a particular life honed to their essence—so clear and pared-down, they become universal.

From navigating the oft competing worlds of religion and desire, to balancing society’s expectations with the raw experience of being a woman in the world; from detailing the experiences of growing up as a first generation black British woman, to working through situations of dependence and abuse; from finding solace in the echoing caverns of depression and loss, to exploring the vulnerability and redemption in falling in love, each of the raw and immediate poems in Daley-Ward’s bone resonate to the core of what it means to be human.

Five-Carat Soul by James McBride
320 p.; Short stories

The stories in Five-Carat Soul—none of them ever published before—spring from the place where identity, humanity, and history converge. They’re funny and poignant, insightful and unpredictable, imaginative and authentic—all told with McBride’s unrivaled storytelling skill and meticulous eye for character and detail. McBride explores the ways we learn from the world and the people around us. An antiques dealer discovers that a legendary toy commissioned by Civil War General Robert E. Lee now sits in the home of a black minister in Queens. Five strangers find themselves thrown together and face unexpected judgment. An American president draws inspiration from a conversation he overhears in a stable. And members of The Five-Carat Soul Bottom Bone Band recount stories from their own messy and hilarious lives.

Passage: A Novel by Khary Lazarre-White
192 p.; Fiction

Passage tells the story of Warrior, a young black man navigating the snowy winter streets of Harlem and Brooklyn in 1993. Warrior is surrounded by deep family love and a sustaining connection to his history, bonds that arm him as he confronts the urban forces that surround him—both supernatural and human—including some that seek his very destruction.

For Warrior and his peers, the reminders that they, as black men, aren’t meant to be fully free, are everywhere. The high schools are filled with teachers who aren’t qualified and don’t care as much about their students’ welfare as that they pass the state exams. Getting from point A to point B usually means eluding violence, and possibly death, at the hands of the “blue soldiers” and your own brothers. Making it home means accepting that you may open the door to find that someone you love did not have the same good fortune.

Warrior isn’t even safe in his own mind. He’s haunted by the spirits of ancestors and of the demons of the system of oppression. Though the story told in Passage takes place in 1993, there is a striking parallel between Warrior’s experience and the experiences of black male youth today, since nothing has really changed. Every memory in the novel is the memory of thousands of black families. Every conversation is a message both to those still in their youth and those who left their youth behind long ago. Passage is a novel for then and now.

The Perfect Present by Rochelle Alers, Cheris Hodges & Pamela Yaye
352 p.; Romance

A CHRISTMAS LAYOVER by Rochelle Alers
When Navy SEAL Captain Noah Crawford and elementary school teacher Sierra Nelson meet on a plane headed east from San Diego, they’re glad to pass the time in friendly conversation. But when a freak storm grounds them, Sierra offers Noah a place to spend the night—with her extended family, all of whom assume they’re a couple. And as the holiday spirit infuses every moment they spend together, they both begin to wonder if a relationship is a special gift they didn’t expect…

THE CHRISTMAS LESSON by Cheris Hodges
Kayla Matthews isn’t looking forward to heading home this Christmas. Divorced and struggling, nothing has turned out the way she expected—including her childhood friend, DeShawn Carter. Now the high school principal, he’s also the kind of man she’s always dreamed about. But before the holidays are over, Kayla has a chance to reclaim everything she once thought she wanted—or prove to DeShawn that they have a second chance worth celebrating…

CHRISTMAS WITH YOU by Pamela Yaye
Celebrity stylist Maya Malone can’t find anything joyous about the season, not since her ex-fiancé left her on Christmas Eve. But one look at suave, sexy sports agent Marc Cunningham is almost enough to change her mind. Their instant attraction feels like the best sort of present, except for one very large obstacle—Maya’s NFL star big brother, Marc’s new client. It will take more than holiday spirit to convince everyone involved that Marc and Maya’s connection will make the angels sing…


Friday, September 15, 2017

New Books Coming Your Way, September 19, 2017

Encyclopedia of Black Comics by Sheena C. Howard
280 p.; Comics & Graphic Novels

The Encyclopedia of Black Comics, focuses on people of African descent who have published significant works in the United States or have worked across various aspects of the comics industry. The book focuses on creators in the field of comics: inkers, illustrators, artists, writers, editors, Black comic historians, Black comic convention creators, website creators, archivists and academics—as well as individuals who may not fit into any category but have made notable achievements within and/or across Black comic culture.


A Short Life of Pushkin by Robert Chandler
112 p.; Biography

In Robert Chandler’s exquisite biography, literary giant Alexander Pushkin, lauded as the Russian Shakespeare, is examined as writer, lover and public figure. Chandler explores his relationship to politics and provides a fascinating glimpse of the turbulent history Pushkin lived through. The book acts as a succinct guide to anybody trying to understand Russia’s most celebrated literary figure and also illuminates the wider historical and political context of early nineteenth-century Russia.

We're On: A June Jordan Reader edited by Christoph Keller & Jan Heller Levi
500 p.; Literary collection

Poet, activist, and essayist June Jordan is a prolific, significant American writer who pushed the limits of political vision and moral witness, traversing a career of over forty years. With poetry, prose, letters, and more, this reader is a key resource for understanding the scope, complexity, and novelty of this pioneering Black American writer.




From "Poem about Police Violence":

Tell me something
what you think would happen if
everytime they kill a black boy
then we kill a cop
everytime they kill a black man
then we kill a cop
you think the accident rate would lower
subsequently?
 . . .
 I lose consciousness of ugly bestial rabid
and repetitive affront as when they tell me
18 cops in order to subdue one man
18 strangled him to death in the ensuing scuffle (don't
you idolize the diction of the powerful: subdue and
scuffle my oh my) and that the murder
that the killing of Arthur Miller on a Brooklyn
street was just a "justifiable accident" again
(again)
 
People been having accidents all over the globe
so long like that I reckon that the only
suitable insurance is a gun

My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem
300 p.; Psychology

The body is where our instincts reside and where we fight, flee, or freeze, and it endures the trauma inflicted by the ills that plague society. In this groundbreaking work, therapist Resmaa Menakem examines the damage caused by racism in America from the perspective of body-centered psychology. He argues this destruction will continue until Americans learn to heal the generational anguish of white supremacy, which is deeply embedded in all our bodies. Our collective agony doesn't just affect African Americans. White Americans suffer their own secondary trauma as well. So do blue Americans—our police.

My Grandmother's Hands is a call to action for all of us to recognize that racism is not about the head, but about the body, and introduces an alternative view of what we can do to grow beyond our entrenched racialized divide.
  • Paves the way for a new, body-centered understanding of white supremacy—how it is literally in our blood and our nervous system.
  • Offers a step-by-step solution—a healing process—in addition to incisive social commentary.

The Autobiography of Gucci Mane by Gucci Mane & Neil Martinez-Belkin
304 p.; Autobiography

For the first time Gucci Mane tells his story in his own words. It is the captivating life of an artist who forged an unlikely path to stardom and personal rebirth. Gucci Mane began writing his memoir in a maximum-security federal prison. Released in 2016, he emerged radically transformed. He was sober, smiling, focused, and positive—a far cry from the Gucci Mane of years past.

Born in rural Bessemer, Alabama, Radric Delantic Davis became Gucci Mane in East Atlanta, where the rap scene is as vibrant as the dope game. His name was made as a drug dealer first, rapper second. His influential mixtapes and street anthems pioneered the sound of trap music. He inspired and mentored a new generation of artists and producers: Migos, Young Thug, Nicki Minaj, Zaytoven, Mike Will Made-It, Metro Boomin.

Yet every success was followed by setback. Too often, his erratic behavior threatened to end it all. Incarceration, violence, rap beefs, drug addiction. But Gucci Mane has changed, and he’s decided to tell his story.

In his extraordinary autobiography, the legend takes us to his roots in Alabama, the streets of East Atlanta, the trap house, and the studio where he found his voice as a peerless rapper. He reflects on his inimitable career and in the process confronts his dark past—years behind bars, the murder charge, drug addiction, career highs and lows—the making of a trap god. It is one of the greatest comeback stories in the history of music.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

#BookReview: LESLIE'S CURL & DYE by D.L. White

Summary: Leslie Baker, owner of Potter Lake’s original hometown beauty shop, the Curl & Dye, has a problem. Her problem isn’t her dwindling customer base. And it’s not the shifty, shady mayor of the idyllic lakeside town. Her problem is a muscular, handsome, 6’4” former basketball superstar with a solid physique and colorful sleeve tattoos. Kade “KC” Cavanaugh is back in Potter Lake following his NBA retirement and the business he’s opened, a slick and shiny co-ed salon, directly competes with Curl & Dye.

KC is all too eager to to pick things up where they left off fifteen years ago, but Leslie can’t forget how KC pushed her away after an intimate encounter, then dropped out of Healy University and left her behind for the bright lights of professional ball. . But although she won’t admit it, time and maturity have eaten away at her anger and her long-buried attraction to Kade Cavanaugh has resurfaced.
With a vengeance.

Now there is a larger problem: Leslie and KC find themselves in the center of a city wide drama, and with both sides of Potter Lake at war and their livelihoods at stake, the two have to stop sniping at each other and start working together. And maybe, in the process, forget the past and revive a budding romance that was very special...a very long time ago.

ReviewI love romantic stories set in small towns, so D.L. White scores huge points with me for creating the fictional town of Potter Lake and its cast of characters. Much like the towns Beverly Jenkins created in her Blessings series and Farrah Rochon with her Bayou Dreams and Moments in Maplesville series, I just want to pack up my bags and move there.

While the main characters and their story lines are predictable, in introducing so many townspeople, there's potential to turn this initial story line into a broader series. The playful banter between KC and his twin sister, TC, reminded me of the relationship Cam and his sister Mary Charles have on Survivor's Remorse. It's light and playful on the surface but both would do anything for their siblings. I'd like to see TC get a little more shine. There's more to her than just running KC's business and living next door to him. Leslie's best friend, Tamera, seems to have a story of her own to tell as well. What was she doing back in Potter Lake when Leslie was living it up in Chicago? Miss Earline who gets her hair done at the salon and continues to slay in her golden years definitely has a story. There are so many tales to be told.

I won't pressure the author to churn out another book. I won't bother her about creating a series from this. (I'm lying, yes I will.) I know that good things come to those who wait. It may take time before the rest of the characters start talking to her like they talked to me, but whenever she's ready to go back to Potter Lake, I'll be there waiting.

Published: September 2017
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from author, opinions are my own.

Friday, September 8, 2017

New Books Coming Your Way, September 12, 2017

 The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson
560 p.; Fiction

Cotton County, Georgia, 1930: in a house full of secrets, two babies-one light-skinned, the other dark-are born to Elma Jesup, a white sharecropper’s daughter. Accused of her rape, field hand Genus Jackson is lynched and dragged behind a truck down the Twelve-Mile Straight, the road to the nearby town. In the aftermath, the farm’s inhabitants are forced to contend with their complicity in a series of events that left a man dead and a family irrevocably fractured.

Despite the prying eyes and curious whispers of the townspeople, Elma begins to raise her babies as best as she can, under the roof of her mercurial father, Juke, and with the help of Nan, the young black housekeeper who is as close to Elma as a sister. But soon it becomes clear that the ties that bind all of them together are more intricate than any could have ever imagined. As startling revelations mount, a web of lies begins to collapse around the family, destabilizing their precarious world and forcing all to reckon with the painful truth.

 Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
320 p.; Mystery

When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules--a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about growing up black in the lone star state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home.

When his allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders--a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman--have stirred up a hornet's nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes--and save himself in the process--before Lark's long-simmering racial fault lines erupt. A rural noir suffused with the unique music, color, and nuance of East Texas, Bluebird, Bluebird is an exhilarating, timely novel about the collision of race and justice in America.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
352 p.; Fiction

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned—from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principal is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren- an enigmatic artist and single mother- who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family—and Mia’s.

 A Beautiful Ghetto by Devin Allen
128 p.; Photography

On April 18, 2015, the city of Baltimore erupted in mass protests in response to the brutal murder of Freddie Gray by police. Devin Allen was there, and his iconic photos of the Baltimore uprising became a viral sensation.

In these stunning photographs, Allen documents the uprising as he strives to capture the life of his city and the people who live there. Each photo reveals the personality, beauty, and spirit of Baltimore and its people, as his camera complicates popular ideas about the "ghetto."

Allen's camera finds hope and beauty doing battle against a system that sows desperation and fear, and above all, resistance, to the unrelenting pressures of racism and poverty in a twenty-first-century American city.

Electric Arches by Eve L. Ewing
120 p.; Literary collection

Electric Arches is an imaginative exploration of Black girlhood and womanhood through poetry, visual art, and narrative prose.

Blending stark realism with the surreal and fantastic, Eve L. Ewing’s narrative takes us from the streets of 1990s Chicago to an unspecified future, deftly navigating the boundaries of space, time, and reality. Ewing imagines familiar figures in magical circumstances—blues legend Koko Taylor is a tall-tale hero; LeBron James travels through time and encounters his teenage self. She identifies everyday objects—hair moisturizer, a spiral notebook—as precious icons.

Her visual art is spare, playful, and poignant—a cereal box decoder ring that allows the wearer to understand what Black girls are saying; a teacher’s angry, subversive message scrawled on the chalkboard. Electric Arches invites fresh conversations about race, gender, the city, identity, and the joy and pain of growing up.

 To Funk and Die in L.A. by Nelson George
224 p.; Mystery

To Funk and Die in LA, the fourth book in the D Hunter crime-fiction series, brings the ex-bodyguard to the City of Angels on a very dark mission when his grandfather, businessman Daniel "Big Danny" Hunter, is shot dead in a drive-by. Why would someone execute a grocery store owner? D soon finds there was more to Big Danny's life than selling loaves of bread. The old man, it turns out, was deeply involved with Dr. Funk, a legendary musical innovator who has become a mysterious recluse.

Most of the novel takes place in the LA neighborhoods of Crenshaw, Koreatown, and Pico-Union--areas where black, Asian, and Latino cultures intersect away from the glamour of Hollywood--and echoes of the 1992 riots play a significant role in D's investigation. In the tradition of Raymond Chandler and Walter Mosley, D Hunter rides through the mean streets of Los Angeles seeking truth and not always finding justice.

 The Lazarus Effect by H.J. Golakai
358 p.; Mystery

Voinjama Johnson is a woman on the brink of a dark, downward spiral. Suffering from misfortunes past and present, all Vee has is her work as an investigative journalist to hang on to. Now her career, like her sanity, is under fire. A revenant haunts Vee’s steps – during her blackouts, the ghost of a strange teenage girl in a red woollen hat keeps reaching out to her. Desperate for answers, she and her new assistant Chlöe Bishop plunge into the disappearance of seventeen-year-old Jacqueline Paulsen.

As Vee and Chlöe enter the maze of a case full of dead ends, the life of their intrepid missing girl reveals a family at odds – a dead half-brother, an ambitious father running from his past and the two women he has loved and ruined, a clutch of siblings with lies in their midst. How could a young girl leave home to play tennis one bright Saturday and never be seen again, and what do the dysfunctional circle of people she knew have to hide? Every thread Vee pulls in Jacqueline’s tight weave of intrigue brings her closer to redemption and an unravelling more dangerous than she bargained for.

In compelling and witty prose, The Lazarus Effect is an evocative tale of the underbelly and otherworld of love, murder and madness in a Cape Town that visitors seldom see.

Sky Country by Christine Kitano
104 p.; Poetry

Christine Kitano's second poetry collection elicits a sense of hunger—an intense longing for home and an ache for human connection. Channeling both real and imagined immigration experiences of her own family—her grandmothers, who fled Korea and Japan; and her father, a Japanese American who was incarcerated during WWII—Kitano's ambitious poetry speaks for those who have been historically silenced and displaced.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

#BookReview (And Giveaway!): THE TALENTED RIBKINS by Ladee Hubbard

Summary: At seventy-two, Johnny Ribkins shouldn’t have such problems: He’s got one week to come up with the money he stole from his mobster boss or it’s curtains.

What may or may not be useful to Johnny as he flees is that he comes from an African-American family that has been gifted with super powers that are a bit, well, odd. Okay, very odd. For example, Johnny’s father could see colors no one else could see. His brother could scale perfectly flat walls. His cousin belches fire. And Johnny himself can make precise maps of any space you name, whether he’s been there or not.

In the old days, the Ribkins family tried to apply their gifts to the civil rights effort, calling themselves The Justice Committee. But when their, eh, superpowers proved insufficient, the group fell apart. Out of frustration Johnny and his brother used their talents to stage a series of burglaries, each more daring than the last.

Fast forward a couple decades and Johnny’s on a race against the clock to dig up loot he’s stashed all over Florida. His brother is gone, but he has an unexpected sidekick: his brother’s daughter, Eloise, who has a special superpower of her own.

Inspired by W. E. B. Du Bois’s famous essay “The Talented Tenth” and fuelled by Ladee Hubbard’s marvelously original imagination, The Talented Ribkins is a big-hearted debut novel about race, class, politics, and the unique gifts that, while they may cause some problems from time to time, bind a family together.

Review: In the words of an unnamed urban philosopher, "there's levels to this," and Ladee Hubbard ascends all of them in presenting the talented Johnny Ribkins and his merry cast of characters. If you know a 72 year old black man who's lived through Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement, you already know he's not here for foolishness. Johnny is no exception. He's on a mission to recover money he's buried around the state so he can pay off a loan shark and get back to living his quiet life, but there are a few road blocks along the way.

Back in the day, Johnny and his crew tried to use their powers for good during the movement. When that didn't pan out, the crew disbanded and Johnny took his map making skills and his brother's talent for climbing and turned them into a profitable venture. Franklin was much younger than Johnny, almost like a son to him. But a disagreement between the two left them estranged, so Johnny never knew that his brother had a daughter. Now that he's shown up at his deceased brother's door, the first stop on reclaiming his money, he's struck by the talent of the niece he never knew. After a bit of argument, Johnny agrees to take Eloise on the road with him and what follows is a series of adventures.

Johnny is a bit of a curmudgeon, which doesn't seem to bother Eloise at first. She's built up a wall around her just as sturdy as the ones her father used to climb. As they travel around the state, followed by Reg and Clyde, Melvin the loan shark's henchmen, the two learn a lot about each and themselves. When Johnny introduces Eloise to his old crew, including the uncle that can imitate anyone and the cousin that shoots fireworks out of his mouth, you see Eloise gain just a little more confidence. Yes, she has an interesting talent, but that doesn't make her weird, it makes her special. This is most driven home by a visit to the Hammer, the loan female member of The Justice Committee. By the end of the Ribkins' journey, Eloise and Johnny's future as a family looks hopeful.

This debut from Hubbard is quirky at times and I'm convinced that parts of it went over my head, so going back and reading this again is not an option, it's a must. A willing suspension of disbelief is necessary when reading The Talented Ribkins. If you can't get past that, then this probably isn't the book for you. But if you like reading about everyday heroes among us, The Talented Ribkins is the book you need.

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


Enter to win your own copy of The Talented Ribkins below. Contest ends at midnight, Friday, September 15.


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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

#BookReview A KIND OF FREEDOM by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

Summary: Evelyn is a Creole woman who comes of age in New Orleans at the height of World War II. Her family inhabits the upper echelon of Black society, and when she falls for no-account Renard, she is forced to choose between her life of privilege and the man she loves.

In 1982, Evelyn’s daughter, Jackie, is a frazzled single mother grappling with her absent husband’s drug addiction. Just as she comes to terms with his abandoning the family, he returns, ready to resume their old life.

Jackie’s son, T.C., loves the creative process of growing marijuana more than the weed itself. He was a square before Hurricane Katrina, but the New Orleans he knew didn't survive the storm. Fresh out of a four-month stint for drug charges, T.C. decides to start over—until an old friend convinces him to stake his new beginning on one last deal.

Review: Early into A Kind of Freedom, I was struck by the setting, the domineering father, the generations explored and the era. It immediately reminded me of Eleni N. Gage's The Ladies of Managua. And though the books have those factors in common, that is where the similarities end.

As the daughters of a respected doctor, as Creoles, Evelyn and her sister Ruby are expected to conduct themselves as proper ladies. For Evelyn, that has never been a problem, but Ruby likes pushing boundaries. It comes as a surprise then that Evelyn is the one that marries Renard, not quite the man her parents would have chosen for her. While we get glimpses into Ruby's life, the main focus of the book is Evelyn and her progeny.

We see Evelyn's daughter, Jackie, fall in love with a functional addict right as crack swept the country. And we see the affect that has on Jackie's son, T.C., fresh out of jail and already plotting and planning. I really love how the author focuses on the effect the previous generation has on the present generation, as well as how their environment affects them. It's interesting to read and realize that while Evelyn, Ruby and their parents lived through the Jim Crow South, financially and class wise, they're better off than their future generations. Isn't it the dream of every parent to see their child do better than them? Can that happen in an unstable environment? Can they succeed against all odds?

There's so much covered in just 256 pages, so many questions still to be answered. I would love to see another book that covers a more developed story line for Ruby. And I'd be open to reading more about their parents before Evelyn and Ruby came along. Honestly, I'm open to reading whatever comes next from this author.

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

Friday, September 1, 2017

New Books Coming Your Way, September 5, 2017

Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A. by Danielle Allen
Memoir, 256 p.

Cuz means both “cousin” and “because.” In this searing memoir, Allen unfurls a "new American story" about a world tragically transformed by the sudden availability of narcotics and the rise of street gangs—a collision, followed by a reactionary War on Drugs, that would devastate not only South Central L.A. but virtually every urban center in the nation. At thirteen, sensitive, talkative Michael Allen was suddenly tossed into this cauldron, a violent world where he would be tried at fifteen as an adult for an attempted carjacking, and where he would be sent, along with an entire generation, cascading into the spiral of the Los Angeles prison system.

Throughout her cousin Michael’s eleven years in prison, Danielle Allen—who became a dean at the University of Chicago at the age of thirty-two—remained psychically bonded to her self-appointed charge, visiting Michael in prison and corresponding with him regularly. When she finally welcomed her baby cousin home, she adopted the role of "cousin on duty," devotedly supporting Michael’s fresh start while juggling the demands of her own academic career.

As Cuz heartbreakingly reveals, even Allen’s devotion, as unwavering as it was, could not save Michael from the brutal realities encountered by newly released young men navigating the streets of South Central. The corrosive entanglements of gang warfare, combined with a star-crossed love for a gorgeous woman driving a gold Mercedes, would ultimately be Michael’s undoing.

In this Ellisonian story of a young African American man’s coming-of-age in late twentieth-century America, and of the family who will always love Michael, we learn how we lost an entire generation.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Literary fiction; 304 p.

Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.

Sing, Unburied, Sing grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations, of the bonds of family. Rich with Ward’s distinctive, musical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an essential contribution to American literature.

Picturing Prince: An Intimate Portrait by Steve Parke
Non-fiction; 240 p.

Picturing Prince sees the late icon's former art director, Steve Parke, revealing stunning intimate photographs of the singer from his time working at Paisley Park. At least half of the images in the book are exclusively published here for the first time; most other images in the book are rare to the public eye.

This edition also includes 16 pages of lost photographs, all of which have recently been uncovered by the author from within his extensive archive.

Alongside these remarkable images are fifty engaging, poignant and often funny written vignettes by Parke, which reveal the very human man behind the reclusive superstar: from shooting hoops to renting out movie theatres at 4am; from midnight requests for camels to meaningful conversations that shed light on Prince as a man and artist.

Steve Parke started working with Prince in 1988, after a mutual friend showed Prince some of Steve's photorealistic paintings. He designed everything from album covers and merchandise to sets for Prince's tours and videos. Somewhere in all of this, he became Paisley Park's official art director. He began photographing Prince at the request of the star himself, and continued to do so for the next several years. The images in this book are the arresting result of this collaboration.

Silencer by Marcus Wicker
Poetry; 96 p.

A suburban park, church, a good job, a cocktail party for the literati: to many, these sound like safe places, but for a young black man these insular spaces don’t keep out the news—and the actual threat—of gun violence and police brutality, or the biases that keeps body, property, and hope in the crosshairs. Continuing conversations begun by Citizen and Between the World and Me, Silencer sings out the dangers of unspoken taboos present on quiet Midwestern cul-de-sacs and in stifling professional settings, the dangers in closing the window on “a rainbow coalition of cops doing calisthenics around/a six-foot, three-hundred-fifty-pound man, choked back into the earth for what/looked a lot, to me, like sport.”

Here, the language and cadences of hip-hop and academia meet prayer—these poems are crucibles, from which emerge profound allegories and subtle elegies, sharp humor and incisive critiques.

Take the Lid Off: Trust God, Release the Pressure, and Find the Life He Wants for You by Smokie Norful
Religion; 224 p.

According to Smokie Norful, sometimes our lives feel like a pot of rice in his grandmother's kitchen: hissing, boiling over, about to explode and create panic. The only way to avoid an explosion is to take the lid off--that is, to stop being trapped inside ourselves and instead look to God and his grace to make us all he intends us to be. Taking the lid off, Norful argues, entails four actions: look inward, experiencing the cleansing of forgiveness and the power of the Holy Spirit; look outward, seeking for others to experience the joy of living for God and have the best God has to offer; look upward and marvel at God's love and strength to accomplish his purposes; and move onward, devising a strategy to accomplish all God has put in our hearts to do.

When we take the lid off by taking these four steps, the pressure goes down, we gain peace and perception, and things work out much better in the end. When we finally take the lid off, we can become the people God has created us to be and do what we were intended to do. We get in touch with the unlimited power of his Spirit, we're directed by the challenge of his purposes, and we experience the joy of seeing him use us to change lives. All of us need help in taking the lid off in order to trust God, take action, and reach our full potential.

Defining Moments in Black History: Reading Between the Lies by Dick Gregory
History; 256 p.

A friend of luminaries including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Medgar Evers, and the forebear of today’s popular black comics, including Larry Wilmore, W. Kamau Bell, Damon Young, and Trevor Noah, Dick Gregory has been a provocative and incisive cultural force for more than fifty years. As an entertainer, he has always kept it indisputably real about race issues in America, fearlessly lacing laughter with hard truths. As a leading activist against injustice, he marched at Selma during the Civil Rights movement, organized student rallies to protest the Vietnam War; sat in at rallies for Native American and feminist rights; fought apartheid in South Africa; and participated in hunger strikes in support of Black Lives Matter.

In this collection of thoughtful, provocative essays, Gregory charts the complex and often obscured history of the African American experience. In his unapologetically candid voice, he moves from African ancestry and surviving the Middle Passage to the creation of the Jheri Curl, the enjoyment of bacon and everything pig, the headline-making shootings of black men, and the Black Lives Matter movement. A captivating journey through time, The Most Defining Moments in Black History According to Dick Gregory explores historical movements such as The Great Migration and the Harlem Renaissance, as well as cultural touchstones such as Sidney Poitier winning the Best Actor Oscar for Lilies in the Field and Billie Holiday releasing Strange Fruit.

An engaging look at black life that offers insightful commentary on the intricate history of the African American people, The Most Defining Moments in Black History According to Dick Gregory is an essential, no-holds-bar history lesson that will provoke, enlighten, and entertain.