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.

Friday, July 14, 2017

#BookReview: THE SUPREMES SING THE HAPPY HEARTACHE BLUES by Edward Kelsey Moore

Summary: When a late-in-life love affair blooms between Mr. Forrest Payne, the owner of the Pink Slipper Gentleman’s Club, and Miss Beatrice Jordan, famous for stationing herself outside the club and yelling warnings of eternal damnation at the departing patrons, their wedding brings a legend to town. Mr. El Walker, the great guitar bluesman, gives a command performance in Plainview, Indiana, a place he’d sworn—for good reason—he’d never set foot in again.

But El is not the only Plainview native with a hurdle to overcome. A wildly philandering husband struggles at last to prove his faithfulness to his wife. A young transwoman lights out for Chicago to escape her father’s wrath and live an authentic life.

And then there are the lifelong friends, known locally as “The Supremes,” who show up every Sunday after church for lunch at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat—Clarice, facing down her longed-for chance at a great career; Barbara Jean, grappling at last with the loss of a mother whose life humiliated both of them, and Odette, reaching for her husband through an anger of his that she does not understand.

Review: It goes without saying that the latest from Edward Kelsey Moore is a delightful read. Not since Eric Jerome Dickey burst upon the literary scene in the 90s has a male author written such well rounded, fully realized female characters. Moore's characters are thoughtful, insightful, funny women. They value friendship, family and love, and heaven help you if you mess with anyone they consider a friend or family member.

The author was in St. Louis last night to talk about his latest and he dazzled the audience with his infectious smile and sense of humor. Though I've read both of the Supremes books, the characters came to life once again through his jocular style of reading. He even managed to find the humor in a loud book store patron who didn't seem to know, or care, that he'd interrupted an artist at work.

As Moore tells it, he came later in life to writing. A professional cellist for over 30 years, he's just now starting to realize that the writing could be a thing for him. He told us the story of an aunt that attended funerals regularly, even if the deceased was just a passing acquaintance - a real life Weeping Wanda if you will. But she didn't just attend the funerals, she took him along as a child, and when she returned home, she'd call her friends and rate them on the floral arrangements, how many were in attendance, how much people cried, etc. So when his publisher called to let him know that his first book had hit the New York Times bestseller list, what was his immediate thought? My obituary is going to be fabulous! How can you not love an author like that?

I'd certainly love to see more from the Supremes and the residents of Plainview, Indiana, but I'd be just as happy with anything else he writes. And I promise that if you read just one of Moore's books, you're going to want to read the other. And then you'll be like me, sitting around waiting to see what he does next. And whatever it is, you know that just like his obituary, it's going to be fabulous!


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

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

#BookReview: GETTING IT RIGHT by Karen E. Osborne

Summary: Getting It Right is the story of Kara and Alex, half-sisters who have never met—one the product of an abusive foster-care setting, the other of dysfunctional privilege. Haunted by crippling memories, Kara falls for the wrong men, tries to help her foster-care siblings suffering from PTSD, and longs for the father and half-sister she only knows from a photograph. Alex, meanwhile, struggles to keep her younger sisters out of trouble, her mother sane, and her marketing business afloat.

Now Alex has a new responsibility: from his hospital bed, her father tasks her with finding Kara, the mixed-race child he abandoned. Alex is stunned to learn of Kara's existence but reluctantly agrees.

To make things more complicated, Kara loves a married man whom the FBI is pursuing for insider trading. When Alex eventually finds her half-sister, she becomes embroiled in Kara's dangers, which threaten to drag them both down. If Kara doesn't help the FBI, she could face prosecution and possible incarceration, and if Alex can't persuade Kara to meet their father, she will let him down during the final days of his life.

Review: Imagine growing up in foster care because your beloved mother has succumbed to cancer and your grandmother can no longer care for you and you never even knew your father existed. Imagine being subjected to abuse for so long that just the thought of your tormentor leaves you in fear even after they've died. Now imagine a world where you're a princess and your father is at your beck and call. You take care of your siblings because your mother is otherwise engaged in her own shenanigans, but still, you're daddy's princess. To say Kara and Alex have lived vastly different lives is an understatement, but both women have daddy issues.

As the oldest, Alex is the daughter that doesn't say no even when her family asks her to do the impossible. Even as it becomes clear that her parents' marriage has been a charade for years, Alex is still trying to paint a pretty picture and make things look nice. Between her youngest sister fleeing across the country with a much older musician and her middle sister quietly cracking under pressure, it's not really fair to expect Alex to carry the burdens of both her cheating father and her bigoted mother. Perhaps that's why she's so adamant about connecting with Kara.

Kara has enough issues of her own, she certainly doesn't need Alex's burdens added to her pile. Much like Alex, she's played older sister to her foster siblings for years, only to find that they blame her for much of what happened to her and them. Her daddy issues have lead her to make a lot of poor life choices, dating married men being one of them.

This isn't a book where Alex is a white savior coming to rescue Kara, though I can see how it might read that way. Alex steps in to help Kara in some ways, but Kara rescues Alex right back by being the one family member that really asks nothing of her.

This was a quick and easy read, though it did take me a minute to get into it. I was also a bit confused about one of the scenes with Kara and her foster siblings, so I'm not sure if I missed something or if the scene just wasn't fleshed out well. Either way, it didn't take a lot away from the story, it just left me scratching my head.

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

Friday, July 7, 2017

#BookReview: CHASING DOWN A DREAM by Beverly Jenkins

Summary: There’s never a dull day in Henry Adams, Kansas.

Tamar July has never had a great relationship with certain members of her family. In fact, she’d characterize it as a “hate/hate relationship.” But when her cousin calls her with the news that she’s dying and wants Tamar to plan the funeral, she’s shocked but is willing to drop everything for her.

After a horrendous storm, Gemma finds a young boy and his little sister walking on the side of the road. She takes them in, and quickly falls in love with the orphaned siblings. But when Gemma contacts Social Services to try to become their foster mother, she’s told a white woman cannot foster African-American children.

In the midst of these trials, Jack and Rocky are trying to plan their wedding. The entire town comes together to lend a helping hand.

Though the residents of Henry Adams face seemingly insurmountable obstacles, each of them will discover that family comes in many forms, especially during the most trying of times.

Review:  A recent Instagram challenge prompted the question, what books would you like to see become a series. Immediately the Blessing series came to mind because I love the characters and I love the small town feel of Henry Adams. Beverly Jenkins has created a town that the Hallmark channel would be proud of. For the life of me, I can't understand why they haven't jumped at a chance to bring Henry Adams to life. I tune in to The Good Witch regularly for the small town living vibe that Middleton has. And I loved the unique characters found in The Gilmore Girls' Star's Hollow. If I could pack my bags and head for Henry Adams, I would, but I'd settle for just seeing this lively bunch on TV weekly. But I digress.

Jenkins' strength lies in the fact that she creates so many rich characters in her stories that any of them can take the lead and hold a story line of their own at any point. In her latest, Chasing Down a Dream, we see Gemma, a character with a lesser role in previous books, take the lead as she deals with workplace issues, pursuing college at a seasoned age, and fostering two children, in addition to raising her grandson. She has a lot going on, right? The author doesn't sugarcoat how difficult of a time Gemma is having adapting to her life, but she does give her a great support system.

The illness of a member of the July clan brings Tamar's hell raising, motorcycle riding family to town, which is predictably an adventure. It's always great to see them because they tend to bring history right along with them. And they get Tamar's hackles up, which is quite entertaining.

Some of the children we met in Bring on the Blessings and subsequent books are starting to grow up and move on. It's bittersweet to see this. As a reader, I'm happy to see these kids overcome obstacles and become thriving adults, but what if they decide to leave Henry Adams? Will Jenkins bring them back? Will she follow them on their new adventures? Can you tell how much I love Henry Adams and the Blessings' series? I can't wait to see what's next for this small town's residents.


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

Monday, July 3, 2017

New Books Coming Your Way, July 4, 2017

Chasing Down a Dream by Beverly Jenkins
336 p.; Fiction

There’s never a dull day in Henry Adams, Kansas.

Tamar July has never had a great relationship with certain members of her family. In fact, she’d characterize it as a “hate/hate relationship.” But when her cousin calls her with the news that she’s dying and wants Tamar to plan the funeral, she’s shocked but is willing to drop everything for her.

After a horrendous storm, Gemma finds a young boy and his little sister walking on the side of the road. She takes them in, and quickly falls in love with the orphaned siblings. But when Gemma contacts Social Services to try to become their foster mother, she’s told a white woman cannot foster African-American children.

In the midst of these trials, Jack and Rocky are trying to plan their wedding. The entire town comes together to lend a helping hand.

Though the residents of Henry Adams face seemingly insurmountable obstacles, each of them will discover that family comes in many forms, especially during the most trying of times.

Queen of Bebop: The Musical Lives of Sarah Vaughan
by Elaine M. Hayes
432 p.; Biography

Sarah Vaughan, a pivotal figure in the formation of bebop, influenced a broad array of singers who followed in her wake, yet the breadth and depth of her impact—not just as an artist, but also as an African-American woman—remain overlooked.

Drawing from a wealth of sources as well as on exclusive interviews with Vaughan’s friends and former colleagues, Queen of Bebop unravels the many myths and misunderstandings that have surrounded Vaughan while offering insights into this notoriously private woman, her creative process, and, ultimately, her genius. Hayes deftly traces the influence that Vaughan’s singing had on the perception and appreciation of vocalists—not to mention women—in jazz. She reveals how, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Vaughan helped desegregate American airwaves, opening doors for future African-American artists seeking mainstream success, while also setting the stage for the civil rights activism of the 1960s and 1970s. She follows Vaughan from her hometown of Newark, New Jersey, and her first performances at the Apollo, to the Waldorf Astoria and on to the world stage, breathing life into a thrilling time in American music nearly lost to us today.

Equal parts biography, criticism, and good old-fashioned American success story, Queen of Bebop is the definitive biography of a hugely influential artist. This absorbing and sensitive treatment of a singular personality updates and corrects the historical record on Vaughan and elevates her status as a jazz great.

The Sisters of Alameda Street by Lorena Hughes
368 p.; Fiction

When Malena Sevilla's tidy, carefully planned world collapses following her father’s mysterious suicide, she finds a letter—signed with an “A”—which reveals that her mother is very much alive and living in San Isidro, a quaint town tucked in the Andes Mountains. Intent on meeting her, Malena arrives at Alameda Street and meets four sisters who couldn’t be more different from one another, but who share one thing in common: all of their names begin with an A.

To avoid a scandal, Malena assumes another woman’s identity and enters their home to discover the truth. Could her mother be Amanda, the iconoclastic widow who opens the first tango nightclub in a conservative town? Ana, the ideal housewife with a less-than-ideal past? Abigail, the sickly sister in love with a forbidden man? Or Alejandra, the artistic introvert scarred by her cousin’s murder? But living a lie will bring Malena additional problems, such as falling for the wrong man and loving a family she may lose when they learn of her deceit. Worse, her arrival threatens to expose long-buried secrets and a truth that may wreck her life forever.

Set in 1960s Ecuador, The Sisters of Alameda Street is a sweeping story of how one woman’s search for the truth of her identity forces a family to confront their own past.

Man on the Run by Carl Weber
320 p.; Fiction

It was the night before his wedding, fifteen years ago, that the nightmare began for Jay Crawford--locked up for a crime he never committed. Now, he's escaped prison and wants nothing more than to clear his name and protect his family. To get justice, he'll need the help of the three best friends who have always had his back--Wil, Kyle and Allan. But a man on the run requires absolute trust...and Jay may just be setting himself up for the ultimate betrayal.


Thousand Star Hotel 
by Bao Phi
112 p.; Poetry

Thousand Star Hotel confronts the silence around racism, police brutality, and the invisibility of the Asian American urban poor.

From “with thanks to Sahra Nguyen for the refugee style slogan”:

They give the kids candy to bet.

My daughter loses the first four rounds,
she’s a quiet wire as they take her candy away, piece by piece.
When she finally wins, I ask if she wants to play again.
No! she shouts, grabbing her candy, I want to go home!
True refugee style:
take everything you got and run with it.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

#BookReview: THE CHANGELING by Victor LaValle

Summary: Apollo Kagwa has had strange dreams that have haunted him since childhood. An antiquarian book dealer with a business called Improbabilia, he is just beginning to settle into his new life as a committed and involved father, unlike his own father who abandoned him, when his wife Emma begins acting strange.

Disconnected and uninterested in their new baby boy, Emma at first seems to be exhibiting all the signs of post-partum depression, but it quickly becomes clear that her troubles go far beyond that. Before Apollo can do anything to help, Emma commits a horrific act—beyond any parent’s comprehension—and vanishes, seemingly into thin air.

Thus begins Apollo’s odyssey through a world he only thought he understood to find a wife and child who are nothing like he’d imagined. His quest begins when he meets a mysterious stranger who claims to have information about Emma’s whereabouts. Apollo then begins a journey that takes him to a forgotten island in the East River of New York City, a graveyard full of secrets, a forest in Queens where immigrant legends still live, and finally back to a place he thought he had lost forever. This dizzying tale is ultimately a story about family and the unfathomable secrets of the people we love.

Review: I was blown away when I read Victor LaValle's novella, The Ballad of Black Tom, last year. Supernatural, spooky happenings from Harlem to Queens to Brooklyn? It definitely wasn't the average read. When I saw The Changeling pop up in the publisher's catalog, I immediately added it to my list of must reads.

The latest from LaValle starts off like any other story: boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, girl snubs boy, girl eventually gives boy a chance and they live happily ever after. Well scratch that last part, they don't live happily ever after. They split up and boy disappears into the night leaving girl (now ex-wife) with a baby boy. And that baby boy becomes Apollo Kagwa, a man haunted by childhood dreams that have returned, and filled with love for his newborn son, Brian.

This seemingly everyday story starts to take twists and turns as Emma, the love of Apollo's life, begins to act strangely toward their baby. At first, he brushes it off as post-partum depression, but it's more than that. Soon the police are on the lookout for Emma and so is Apollo. This is where the adventure begins and nothing and no one are as they seem.

You know how when a book is really good, you don't want it to end? I stretched this book out for three days because I needed to comprehend everything that was going on and I was afraid of what the outcome would be. It was like watching a scary movie that you're afraid to look at with both eyes open so you hide behind your hands and peek through your fingers. Even if this isn't a genre you'd normally read and you don't think you'll enjoy it, you're going to be blown away.


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

Friday, June 23, 2017

New Books Coming Your Way, June 27, 2017

The Windfall by Diksha Basu
304 p.; Fiction

A charming social satire and family drama set in the world of the modern upper class of India, The Windfall centers around Mr. and Mrs. Jha, who, having come into quite a bit of money from the sale of Mr. Jha’s website, move from the apartment complex in East Delhi where they raised their son, now studying in America, to a mansion in Gurgaon, the neighborhood that houses India’s most wealthy and most ostentatious elite. They are fish out of water in their new home, and their move sets off a chain of events that rocks their son, struggling with romantic dilemmas and questioning how his parents’ new world will affect his own life choices, their nosy neighbors (new and old), and their evolving marriage, bringing unintended consequences and forcing them to reckon with what they really care about and who they want to be.

Hilarious, rollicking, and heartfelt, The Windfall is a story of one family as they try to stay true to themselves while finding out what it means to be upwardly mobile in modern India.

Escape Velocity: A Dire Earth Novel 
by Jason M. Hough
432 p.; Science Fiction

Selected by an alien AI to save her makers, Skyler Luiken and his crew are headed deep into space…and enemy territory! With the terrifying Swarm Blockade in ruin, Skyler and company have landed on a mysterious world in need of saving…but they have been scattered! Working against a ticking clock and a violent, technologically superior foe, these brave Earthlings must bring down an alien menace if they ever wish to return to Earth.

Twelve Days by Steven Barnes
368 p.; Science Fiction

Around the world, leaders and notorious criminals alike are mysteriously dying. A terrorist group promises a series of deaths within two months. And against the backdrop of the apocalypse, the lives of a small shattered family and a broken soldier are transformed in the bustling city of Atlanta.

Olympia Dorsey is a journalist and mother, with a cynical teenage daughter and an autistic son named Hannibal, all trying to heal from a personal tragedy. Across the street, Ex–Special Forces soldier Terry Nicolas and his wartime unit have reunited Stateside to carry out a risky heist that will not only right a terrible injustice, but also set them up for life—at the cost of their honor. Terry and the family's visit to an unusual martial arts exhibition brings them into contact with Madame Gupta, a teacher of singular skill who offers not just a way for Terry to tap into mastery beyond his dreams, but also for Hannibal to transcend the limits of his condition. But to see these promises realized, Terry will need to betray those with whom he fought and bled.

Meanwhile, as the death toll gains momentum and society itself teeters on the edge of collapse, Olympia's fragile clan is placed in jeopardy, and Terry comes to understand the terrible price he must pay to prevent catastrophe.

A House Divided by Donna Hill
320 p.; Fiction

Journalist Zoie Crawford had to leave New Orleans to finally make her own life. Her grandmother, Claudia, inspired her to follow her dreams—just as her mother, Rose, held on too tight. But with Claudia’s passing, Zoie reluctantly returns home, where the past is written in the lonely corners of the bayou and the New South’s supercharged corridors of power. And there she discovers a stunning, painstakingly kept secret—one that could skyrocket her career, but destroy another woman’s—and change both their vastly different lives, for better or for much worse.

Zoie has always put the truth first. Now, as the line between the personal and professional blurs, and she tries to understand her relatives’ deception, she must face some tough questions. Is there a way to expose the truth and save those you love? And at what cost? Heartfelt, emotional, and revelatory, A House Divided is an unforgettable tale about making the hardest of choices, coming to terms with all you could lose—and finding what forgiveness and family truly mean.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

#BookReview: HUNGER by Roxane Gay

Summary: “I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.”

In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her own past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.

With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.

Review: Roxane Gay shares a lot of herself, probably more than we as readers deserve, in Hunger. She shares the story of her rape in her early years and how it propelled her toward a life long affair with food. As the summary says, she intentionally ate to become larger so that her body would became her safe place. The problem with creating this space is that it can also become your prison.

Gay talks a lot about how her weight affects not only how she sees herself, but how others see her. From the not so discreet stares of others on the airplane when they're hoping that she's not about to sit next to them to the rude stewardesses that won't let her use her own seat belt extender, insisting that she use theirs instead "for safety purposes." People are careful not to make fun of or show bias to other groups, e.g., disabled, but fat shaming seems to be par for the course in America.

Hunger is highly relatable and I found myself nodding my head along with Gay when she talked about how we try to make ourselves smaller for other people so as not to take up too much space. Or settling for relationships with people we wouldn't tolerate under different circumstances, just to be able to say that you're in a relationship and someone wants to be with you. And even putting up with verbal abuse because you think you deserve it.

At times it seemed that Gay was repetitive in her story telling, but I wonder if that was intentional. Though I complained a bit about it, by repeating the message, she drives home her points. Telling her story, writing Hunger was hard for her. I know this because she has said so in interviews, likely because it's deeply personal and her scars are put on display for all to see. I'm grateful to her for being so willing to share just a bit of herself with us.

320 p.
Published: June 2017
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher; opinions are my own.

Friday, June 16, 2017

#BookReview: MARRIAGE OF A THOUSAND LIES by SJ Sindu

Summary: Lucky and her husband, Krishna, are gay. They present an illusion of marital bliss to their conservative Sri Lankan–American families, while each dates on the side. It’s not ideal, but for Lucky, it seems to be working. She goes out dancing, she drinks a bit, she makes ends meet by doing digital art on commission. But when Lucky’s grandmother has a nasty fall, Lucky returns to her childhood home and unexpectedly reconnects with her former best friend and first lover, Nisha, who is preparing for her own arranged wedding with a man she’s never met.

As the connection between the two women is rekindled, Lucky tries to save Nisha from entering a marriage based on a lie. But does Nisha really want to be saved? And after a decade’s worth of lying, can Lucky break free of her own circumstances and build a new life? Is she willing to walk away from all that she values about her parents and community to live in a new truth? As Lucky—an outsider no matter what choices she makes—is pushed to the breaking point, Marriage of a Thousand Lies offers a vivid exploration of a life lived at a complex intersection of race, sexuality, and nationality.

Review: Lucky is a disappointment to her mother as a Sri Lankan daughter, not because she's a lesbian, but because she's just not the responsible and respectful daughter that she's expected to be. If her mother knew that she's been in love with her best friend Nisha for years, it would probably kill her. So we see Lucky hiding her identity from her mother in two ways. She's married to Kris to give the appearance of a "decent" married woman and hides her unemployment, though technically selling her art helps, but isn't a respectable career to her mother or community.

Lucky is content with playing out these lies in front of mother while frequenting bars at night with her husband to pick up women and men (women for her, men for him).But when an opportunity to be with Nisha, whom she'd lost contact with shortly before her sham of a wedding happened, presents itself, Lucky finds herself ready to kick open the closet door. What does that mean to the others around her? What does this do to Kris, whom she married partially to give her cover, but also so that he could legally stay in the country? What does this mean for Nisha whose wedding is just days away? What does it mean for Lucky's mother who has already lost one daughter because of her unwillingness to accept who she was and whom she loved?

Marriage of a Thousand Lies is what happens when culture and sexuality collide and Lucky, Nisha and Kris are sitting in the intersection trying to navigate it. This isn't a can't put down book, but it does prompt to you to think about ways in which you might have hidden aspects of yourself to make others feel comfortable or less judgmental. Is it more important that you be with happy with yourself or is it more important that your parents/family/friends/culture are happy with who they perceive you to be?


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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

#BookReview: THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Summary: Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jump start her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo gives all kinds of Elizabeth Taylor vibes. Seven husbands to Liz's seven, eight if you count her two time marriage to Eddie Fisher, puts Evelyn right up there in the big leagues of Hollywood leading ladies that loved them and left them. So when Monique is given the chance for a once in a lifetime interview with Evelyn, she jumps at it. But why does a movie star like Evelyn Hugo pick a relatively unknown black writer for her final interview? Through twists and turns, long days and nights spent with the reclusive Hugo, it's not readily apparent.

As Evelyn shares the story of her life (and her men) and the love of her life, it is almost as if she is giving Monique pointers on how to live a better life. She allows her access to her small world that very few get to see, with the exception of her house manager/assistant who gave shades of Joan Crawford's assistant, Mamacita, including the fact that she's not the white woman America has come to know her as. Does she share this secret with Monique because she's black and she thinks it'll go over better with her than one of the white writers Monique's magazine would typically send to cover Evelyn? Does she think that as a woman of color, Monique will empathize with her need to cover up who she really was for years? While all of that may have factored into her decision, the truth is Evelyn holds a secret that will change Monique's life. (No, she's not her birth mother or some other Lifetime-like twist.)

I initially resisted reading this book because I like to focus on stories about people of color. So it was a shock to find that both Monique and Evelyn were. That brought a little more comfort to my reading, but beyond that, Jenkins Reid has written a fascinating look at the life of celebrity. Even at 400 pages, it was a quick read that drew me in from the beginning and held my attention in the two days it took me to read it. If you need something lighthearted, perhaps a beach read, be sure to check this one out.

400 p.
Published: June 2017
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher; opinions are my own.

Friday, June 9, 2017

New Books Coming Your Way, June 13, 2017

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
320 p.; Memoir

“I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.”

In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her own past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.

With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.

Adua by Igiaba Scego
185 p.; Fiction

Adua, an immigrant from Somalia to Italy, has lived in Rome for nearly forty years. She came seeking freedom from a strict father and an oppressive regime, but her dreams of becoming a film star ended in shame. Now that the civil war in Somalia is over, her homeland beckons. Yet Adua has a husband who needs her, a young man, also an immigrant, who braved a dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea.

When her father, who worked as an interpreter for Mussolini’s fascist regime, dies, Adua inherits the family home. She must decide whether to make the journey back to reclaim her material inheritance, but also how to take charge of her own story and build a future.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
304 p.; Fiction

Nikki, a modern young Punjabi, lives in cosmopolitan London, where she tends bar at the local pub. The daughter of Indian immigrants, she’s spent most of her twenty-odd years distancing herself from the traditional Sikh community of her childhood, preferring a more independent (that is, Western) life. When her father’s death leaves the family financially strapped, Nikki, a law school dropout, impulsively takes a job teaching a “creative writing” course at the community center in the beating heart of London’s close-knit Punjabi community.

The proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn English, not short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of sexy stories in English and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected—and exciting—kind.

As more women are drawn to the class, Nikki warns her students to keep their work secret from the Brotherhood, a group of highly conservative young men who have appointed themselves the community’s “moral police.” But when the widows’ gossip offer shocking insights into the death of a young wife—a modern woman like Nikki—and some of the class erotica is shared among friends, it sparks a scandal that threatens them all.

Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu
288 p.; Fiction

Lucky and her husband, Krishna, are gay. They present an illusion of marital bliss to their conservative Sri Lankan–American families, while each dates on the side. It’s not ideal, but for Lucky, it seems to be working. She goes out dancing, she drinks a bit, she makes ends meet by doing digital art on commission. But when Lucky’s grandmother has a nasty fall, Lucky returns to her childhood home and unexpectedly reconnects with her former best friend and first lover, Nisha, who is preparing for her own arranged wedding with a man she’s never met.

As the connection between the two women is rekindled, Lucky tries to save Nisha from entering a marriage based on a lie. But does Nisha really want to be saved? And after a decade’s worth of lying, can Lucky break free of her own circumstances and build a new life? Is she willing to walk away from all that she values about her parents and community to live in a new truth? As Lucky—an outsider no matter what choices she makes—is pushed to the breaking point, Marriage of a Thousand Lies offers a vivid exploration of a life lived at a complex intersection of race, sexuality, and nationality. The result is a profoundly American debut novel shot through with humor and loss, a story of love, family, and the truths that define us all.

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir
by Sherman Alexie
464 p.; Memoir

Family relationships are never simple. But Sherman Alexie's bond with his mother Lillian was more complex than most. She plunged her family into chaos with a drinking habit, but shed her addiction when it was on the brink of costing her everything. She survived a violent past, but created an elaborate facade to hide the truth. She selflessly cared for strangers, but was often incapable of showering her children with the affection that they so desperately craved. She wanted a better life for her son, but it was only by leaving her behind that he could hope to achieve it. It's these contradictions that made Lillian Alexie a beautiful, mercurial, abusive, intelligent, complicated, and very human woman.

When she passed away, the incongruities that defined his mother shook Sherman and his remembrance of her. Grappling with the haunting ghosts of the past in the wake of loss, he responded the only way he knew how: he wrote. The result is a stunning memoir filled with raw, angry, funny, profane, tender memories of a childhood few can imagine, much less survive. An unflinching and unforgettable remembrance, You Don't Have To Say You Love Me is a powerful, deeply felt account of a complicated relationship.

Since I Laid My Burden Down by Brontez Purnell
208 p.; Fiction

DeShawn lives a high, creative, and promiscuous life in San Francisco. But when he’s called back to his cramped Alabama hometown for his uncle’s funeral, he’s hit by flashbacks of handsome, doomed neighbors and sweltering Sunday services. Amidst prickly reminders of his childhood, DeShawn ponders family, church, and the men in his life, prompting the question: Who deserves love?

A raw, funny, and uninhibited stumble down memory lane, Brontez Purnell’s debut novel explores how one man’s early sexual and artistic escapades grow into a life.

The Changeling by Victor LaValle
448 p.; Fiction

Apollo Kagwa has had strange dreams that have haunted him since childhood. An antiquarian book dealer with a business called Improbabilia, he is just beginning to settle into his new life as a committed and involved father, unlike his own father who abandoned him, when his wife Emma begins acting strange. Disconnected and uninterested in their new baby boy, Emma at first seems to be exhibiting all the signs of post-partum depression, but it quickly becomes clear that her troubles go far beyond that. Before Apollo can do anything to help, Emma commits a horrific act—beyond any parent’s comprehension—and vanishes, seemingly into thin air.

Thus begins Apollo’s odyssey through a world he only thought he understood to find a wife and child who are nothing like he’d imagined. His quest begins when he meets a mysterious stranger who claims to have information about Emma’s whereabouts. Apollo then begins a journey that takes him to a forgotten island in the East River of New York City, a graveyard full of secrets, a forest in Queens where immigrant legends still live, and finally back to a place he thought he had lost forever. This dizzying tale is ultimately a story about family and the unfathomable secrets of the people we love.

Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me
by Janet Mock
256 p.; Biography

The journey begins a few months before her twentieth birthday. Janet Mock is adjusting to her days as a first-generation college student at the University of Hawaii and her nights as a dancer at a strip club. Finally content in her body, she vacillates between flaunting and concealing herself as she navigates dating and disclosure, sex and intimacy, and most important, letting herself be truly seen. Under the neon lights of Club Nu, Janet meets Troy, a yeoman stationed at Pearl Harbor naval base, who becomes her first. The pleasures and perils of their union serve as a backdrop for Janet’s progression through her early twenties with all the universal growing pains—falling in and out of love, living away from home, and figuring out what she wants to do with her life.

Despite her disadvantages, fueled by her dreams and inimitable drive, Janet makes her way through New York City while holding her truth close. She builds a career in the highly competitive world of magazine publishing—within the unique context of being trans, a woman, and a person of color.

The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden
400 p.; Fiction/Fantasy

In South Africa, the future looks promising. Personal robots are making life easier for the working class. The government is harnessing renewable energy to provide infrastructure for the poor. And in the bustling coastal town of Port Elizabeth, the economy is booming thanks to the genetic engineering industry which has found a welcome home there. Yes—the days to come are looking very good for South Africans. That is, if they can survive the present challenges:

A new hallucinogenic drug sweeping the country . . .

An emerging AI uprising . . .

And an ancient demigoddess hellbent on regaining her former status by preying on the blood and sweat (but mostly blood) of every human she encounters.


It’s up to a young Zulu girl powerful enough to destroy her entire township, a queer teen plagued with the ability to control minds, a pop diva with serious daddy issues, and a politician with even more serious mommy issues to band together to ensure there’s a future left to worry about.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
400 p.; Fiction

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

#BookReview: EVERYBODY'S SON by Thrity Umrigar

Summary: During a terrible heatwave in 1991—the worst in a decade—ten-year old Anton has been locked in an apartment in the projects, alone, for seven days, without air conditioning or a fan. With no electricity, the refrigerator and lights do not work. Hot, hungry, and desperate, Anton shatters a window and climbs out. Cutting his leg on the broken glass, he is covered in blood when the police find him. Juanita, his mother, is discovered in a crack house less than three blocks away, nearly unconscious and half-naked. When she comes to, she repeatedly asks for her baby boy. She never meant to leave Anton—she went out for a quick hit and was headed right back, until her drug dealer raped her and kept her high. Though the bond between mother and son is extremely strong, Anton is placed with child services while Juanita goes to jail.

The Harvard-educated son of a U. S. senator, Judge David Coleman is a scion of northeastern white privilege. Desperate to have a child in the house again after the tragic death of his teenage son, David uses his power and connections to keep his new foster son, Anton, with him and his wife, Delores—actions that will have devastating consequences in the years to come. Following in his adopted family’s footsteps, Anton, too, rises within the establishment. But when he discovers the truth about his life, his birth mother, and his adopted parents, this man of the law must come to terms with the moral complexities of crimes committed by the people he loves most.

Review: Thrity Umrigar most recently approached race relations in her 2014 novel, The Story Hour. After dipping her toe in the water with that, she fully wades in with her latest, Everybody's Son. Much like Shanthi Sekaran did in Lucky Boy, she explores the topic of who deserves to be a parent. Is is the person best able to care for a child financially or emotionally?

Umrigar tells the story from the perspective of the adoptive parents and Anton. So much of who the parents are is tied to their wealth and their legacy, which already gives them a one up on Anton's biological mother. While they seemingly start off with good intentions, and no doubt believe that their intentions are good from start to end, their selfishness and arrogance are their undoing, at least in my eyes. In their attempts to give him a "good" life, they strip him of kinship with other African-Americans and, at the core, who he is as a black boy and man in America.

Early on, Anton struggles with who is his in the lily white world of the Colemans, but eventually dwells in and thrives in the sunken place. It's no surprise that it's a shock to his system when he meets a black woman in college who challenges his belief system, as instilled in him by the Colemans, and forces him to open his eyes to how his adoptive parents have manipulated him and his mother.

Umrigar tackles a lot in her latest and does it well. Is it fair to remove a child completely from his environment and/or his culture? Are you doing more harm than good? I think every case would have to be viewed individually. Anton is a smart character and may well have thrived had he stayed with his mother. In moving him away from what he was familiar with, the Colemans give him a better chance at success, but at what price? There's a lot to unpack and think about in just 352 pages. I can't wait to see what Thrity Umrigar takes on next.



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

Friday, June 2, 2017

New Books Coming Your Way, June 6, 2017

Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou
208 p.; Fiction

It’s not easy being Tokumisa Nzambe po Mose yamoyindo abotami namboka ya Bakoko. There’s that long name of his for a start, which means, "Let us thank God, the black Moses is born on the lands of the ancestors." Most people just call him Moses. Then there’s the orphanage where he lives, run by a malicious political stooge, Dieudonn√© Ngoulmoumako, and where he’s terrorized by two fellow orphans—the twins Songi-Songi and Tala-Tala.

But after Moses exacts revenge on the twins by lacing their food with hot pepper, the twins take Moses under their wing, escape the orphanage, and move to the bustling port town of Pointe-Noire, where they form a gang that survives on petty theft. What follows is a funny, moving, larger-than-life tale that chronicles

Everybody's Son by Thrity Umrigar
352 p.; Fiction

During a terrible heatwave in 1991—the worst in a decade—ten-year old Anton has been locked in an apartment in the projects, alone, for seven days, without air conditioning or a fan. With no electricity, the refrigerator and lights do not work. Hot, hungry, and desperate, Anton shatters a window and climbs out. Cutting his leg on the broken glass, he is covered in blood when the police find him. Juanita, his mother, is discovered in a crack house less than three blocks away, nearly unconscious and half-naked. When she comes to, she repeatedly asks for her baby boy. She never meant to leave Anton—she went out for a quick hit and was headed right back, until her drug dealer raped her and kept her high. Though the bond between mother and son is extremely strong, Anton is placed with child services while Juanita goes to jail.

The Harvard-educated son of a U. S. senator, Judge David Coleman is a scion of northeastern white privilege. Desperate to have a child in the house again after the tragic death of his teenage son, David uses his power and connections to keep his new foster son, Anton, with him and his wife, Delores—actions that will have devastating consequences in the years to come. Following in his adopted family’s footsteps, Anton, too, rises within the establishment. But when he discovers the truth about his life, his birth mother, and his adopted parents, this man of the law must come to terms with the moral complexities of crimes committed by the people he loves most.

The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami
224 p.; Fiction

Objects for sale at the Nakano Thrift Shop appear as commonplace as the staff and customers that handle them. But like those same customers and staff, they hold many secrets. If examined carefully, they show the signs of innumerable extravagancies, of immeasurable pleasure and pain, and of the deep mysteries of the human heart.

Hitomi, the inexperienced young woman who works the register at Mr. Nakano’s thrift shop, has fallen for her coworker, the oddly reserved Takeo. Unsure of how to attract his attention, she seeks advice from her employer’s sister, Masayo, whose sentimental entanglements make her a somewhat unconventional guide. But thanks in part to Masayo, Hitomi will come to realize that love, desire, and intimacy require acceptance not only of idiosyncrasies but also of the delicate waltz between open and hidden secrets.

Making Rent in Bed-Stuy: A Memoir of Trying to Make It in New York City by Brandon Harris
320 p.; Biography

Making Rent in Bed-Stuy explores the history and socio-cultural importance of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn’s largest historically black community, through the lens of a coming-of-age young African-American artist, living at the dawn of an era in which urban class warfare is politely referred to as gentrification. Bookended by accounts of two different breakups, a roommate and a lover, both who come from the white American elite, the book oscillates between chapters of urban bildungsroman and historical examination of some of Bed-Stuy’s most salient aesthetic and political legacies.

Filled with personal stories and a vibrant cast of iconoclastic characters—friends and acquaintances such as Spike Lee, Lena Dunham, and Paul McCloud, who makes a living charging $5 for a tour of his extensive Elvis collection—Making Rent in Bed-Stuy poignantly captures what happens when youthful idealism clashes head on with adult reality.

James Baldwin: The FBI File by William J. Maxwell
440 p.; History

Decades before Black Lives Matter returned James Baldwin to prominence, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI considered the Harlem-born author the most powerful broker between black art and black power. Baldwin’s 1,884-page FBI file, covering the period from 1958 to 1974, was the largest compiled on any African American artist of the Civil Rights era. This collection of once-secret documents, never before published in book form, captures the FBI’s anxious tracking of Baldwin’s writings, phone conversations, and sexual habits—and Baldwin’s defiant efforts to spy back at Hoover and his G-men.

James Baldwin: The FBI File reproduces over one hundred original FBI records, selected by the noted literary historian whose award-winning book, F.B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover’s Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature, brought renewed attention to bureau surveillance. William J. Maxwell also provides an introduction exploring Baldwin's enduring relevance in the time of Black Lives Matter along with running commentaries that orient the reader and offer historical context, making this book a revealing look at a crucial slice of the American past—and present.


Getting It Right by Karen E. Osborne
280 p.; Fiction

Getting It Right is the story of Kara and Alex, half-sisters who have never met--one the product of an abusive foster-care setting, the other of dysfunctional privilege. Haunted by crippling memories, Kara falls for the wrong men, tries to help her foster-care siblings suffering from PTSD, and longs for the father and half-sister she only knows from a photograph. Alex, meanwhile, struggles to keep her younger sisters out of trouble, her mother sane, and her marketing business afloat.

Now Alex has a new responsibility: from his hospital bed, her father tasks her with finding Kara, the mixed-race child he abandoned. Alex is stunned to learn of Kara's existence but reluctantly agrees.

To make things more complicated, Kara loves a married man whom the FBI is pursuing for insider trading. When Alex eventually finds her half-sister, she becomes embroiled in Kara's dangers, which threaten to drag them both down. If Kara doesn't help the FBI, she could face prosecution and possible incarceration, and if Alex can't persuade Kara to meet their father, she will let him down during the final days of his life.

Dear Cyborgs by Eugene Lim
176 p.; Fiction

In a small Midwestern town, two Asian American boys bond over their outcast status and a mutual love of comic books. Meanwhile, in an alternative or perhaps future universe, a team of superheroes ponders modern society during their time off. Between black-ops missions and rescuing hostages, they swap stories of artistic malaise and muse on the seemingly inescapable grip of market economics.

Gleefully toying with the conventions of the novel, Dear Cyborgs weaves together the story of a friendship’s dissolution with a provocative and lively meditation on protest. Through a series of linked monologues, a surprising cast of characters explores narratives of resistance—protest art, eco-terrorists, Occupy squatters, pyromaniacal militants—and the extent to which any of these can truly withstand the pragmatic demands of contemporary capitalism. All the while, a mysterious cybernetic book of clairvoyance beckons, and trusted allies start to disappear.