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OCM Bocas Prize 2020 Longlist

Scrolling through my Instagram feed this morning I came across the announcement of the OCM Bocas Prize 2020 Longlist (9 longlist nominees), which I hadn’t heard of this prize.  This OCM Bocas Prize was first launched in 2011 and it awards Caribbean authors who hold citizenship or were born in the Caribbean.  Each category will be judged by three judges per category.  They will determine the shortlists and the final winners. I couldn’t find any information on who would be judging this year.  Here’s a list of the countries considered for this prize:

Anguilla                                               Unknown-1                                             

Antigua and Barbuda

Aruba

The Bahamas

Barbados

Belize

Bermuda

Bonaire

British Virgin Islands

Cayman Islands

Cuba

Curaçao

Dominica

Dominican Republic

French Guiana

Grenada

Guadeloupe

Guyana

Haiti

Jamaica

Martinique

Montserrat

Puerto Rico

Saba

St Barthélemy

St Kitts and Nevis

St Lucia

St Martin/Sint Maarten

St Vincent and the Grenadines Sint Eustatius

Suriname

Trinidad and Tobago

Turks and Caicos

US Virgin Islands

There are three judging categories for the Bocas Prize:  fiction, poetry, and literary non-fiction.  Under the fiction category both novels and short story collections are included.  The non-fiction category accepts a plethora of works such as essay books, biographies, autobiographies, current affairs, travel, history, etc.  Eligible books for this 2020 prize must be published in the calendar year of 2019 and be written originally in English. No translated works are accepted. So that’s a bit of a shame because that means most of the Francophone and Hispanphone authors will be left out of this prize. The overall winner of this prize will take home $10,000 and for the other categories the winners will win $3,000.  The 2020 prize longlist was just announced. The shortlist will be announced in April 2020 and the overall winner will be abounded on May 2, 2020 at the Trinidad and Tobago’s Literary Festival in Port of Spain.

Longlisted books:

POETRY

Honeyfish, by Lauren K. Alleyne (Peepal Tree Press)

Skin Can Hold, by Vahni Capildeo (Carcanet Press)

Epiphaneia, by Richard Georges (Out-spoken Press)

FICTION

The Confessions of Frannie Langton, by Sara Collins (Viking UK)

Everything Inside, by Edwidge Danticat (Knopf)

A Tall History of Sugar, by Curdella Forbes (Akashic)

NON-FICTION

Moments of Cooperation and Incorporation: African American and African Jamaican Connections, 1782–1996, by Erna Brodber (University of the West Indies Press)

Beyond Coloniality: Citizenship and Freedom in the Caribbean Intellectual Tradition, by Aaron Kamugisha (Indiana University Press)

Shame on Me: An Anatomy of Race and Belonging, by Tessa McWatt (Scribe)

I will be reading the fiction section since these three books have been on my TBR since last year. I’m particularly curious about A Tall History of Sugar published by one of my favorite independent publishing houses, Akashic Books.  Although I have high expectations for all three. Are you interested in reading any of the books on this longlist? Have you heard of this Caribbean literary prize?

 

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My Thoughts on Women’s Prize 2020 Longlist

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The Women’s Prize 2020 longlist was just announced very late in the evening few days ago.  I woke up to the news on Twitter the next day.  As disappointed as I was with the prize last year, you’re probably wondering what the heck am I doing on here posting about it this year.  I couldn’t resist checking out the longlist.  I wanted to see who they included and who they left out.  This is the Prize’s 25th year so I secretly hoped they’d get it right, but no.  They chose 16 books but as always there is at least one that makes you scratch your head and say to yourself, “What’s that doing there?”  Yes, I’m referring to Queenie, the book that the British are marketing as a black Bridget Jones Diary.  Smh… The last time I checked that book was NOT funny at all.

Of the 16 books on the longlist I’ve only read 2: Queenie ♥ and Red at the Bone ♥♥♥♥♥ (loved, beautifully written).  Despite that there are a few that I actually own and are planning to read like Girl, Woman, Other, Fleishman’s in Trouble, The Most Fun We Ever Had, and lastly The Dutch House.  I would like to eventually pick up Girl, Dominicana, and The Mirror and the Light (I haven’t read Bring Up the Bodies yet), but I don’t own these books yet.  So no pressure for me. I won’t be reading through the entire list this year, just the ones I’ve got.

Combing this list the first time I was shocked to see that Ducks Newburyport, The Parisian, The Confessions of Franny Langdon, and Patsy weren’t on the list. I was thrilled to see that The Testaments wasn’t on the list. Whew! What a relief! The judges say they are looking for something different and something that they’ll find hard to put down.  Well we’ll see the real direction they go in when they announce the shortlist on April 22.  The winner will take home a 30,000£ check and limited-edition bronze figurine called Bessie created by the artist Grizel Niven on June 3.  I’m already predicting that Queenie, The Mirror and the Light, and Actress will make it on the shortlist. Let’s see if I’m right. 😉

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As for the judges, we have:

Martha Lane Fox (The Chair of Judges): businesswoman, philanthropist, public servant

Scarlett Curtis:  writer, activist

Melanie Eusebe:  co-founder of the Black British Business Awards

Viv Groskop:  author, comedian

Paula Hawkins: international bestselling author

 

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The Last Thing You Surrender – Leonard Pitts, Jr. Live Discussion

This was a great discussion to end Black History Month.  We were also blessed to have Leonard Pitts, Jr for the second half of the discussion.  He’s really brilliant! This live discussion contains spoilers so if you haven’t finished reading you might want to wait until you do. Enjoy!

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ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge - Days 25 & 26

Day 25 – Drink & Book(s)

Today I decided to take a picture of one of my favorite mugs (New Orleans – Bourbon St. mug) and a nice chunk of my ReadSoulLit shelves.  It always makes me very happy to drink a great cup of tea and to read a good book.  Nothing can beat that.  This last week has been colder and raining and being sick hasn’t helped.  If anything I’ve definitely got the reading in.  February is coming to a quick close and hopefully ReadSoulLit books will continue to remain in our minds for the rest of 2020.  What do you like to drink while you’re reading?

 

Day 26 – Happy Feet & a Book

I couldn’t resist. I had to take a picture of some great books, my J. California Cooper collection, and my Dr. Marten dupes.  Those books are so underrated. If you haven’t read a short story collection from Cooper, what rock have you been living under. Go out right now and get your hands on one of her brilliant short story collections.  You won’t be disappointed.  I recommend Homemade Love. It’s one of my favorites.

 

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ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge – Day 23 & 24

Day 23 – Eternally Classic 

Phenomenal Woman Four Poems Celebrating Women is definitely eternally classic….. The video below is of Maya Angelou reciting Phenomenal Woman.  It’s hard to believe she isn’t here anymore.                                                 img_2258

Phenomenal Woman

By Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

 

 

Day 24 – Starts with the First Letter of your name

img_2266Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore  is not one of the titles I hear readers speak about from Walter Mosley.  Released in 2014, its provocative cover attracted me immediately.  I was curious and even more intrigued about reading it.  Debbie a famous porn star tries to change her life, after her husband is found dead in a hot tub at their home.  The novel revolves around her attempts to change what is expected if her and how the adult industry and fans react to her change.  Mosley really tries to put himself in a woman’s shoes.  It’s an interesting exploration on life change and how difficult that can be to succeed.  This is one that flew under the radar but that was a lot better than I thought. I rated it a 3,5 stars and am anxious to read more books by Mosley with female main characters in stand alone novels. Great video below of Mosley talking about Debbie Doesn’t Do it Anymore. Excellent!

 

 

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ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge – Day 21 & 22

Day 21 –  December Wrap Up

img_6461My December 2019 ended with a bang because I was lucky enough to read The Nickel Boys, Red at the Bone, and In West Mills. All three were five-star reads for me.  The Nickel Boys was saddening but a wonderfully told story shedding light on the horrors that took place in a real reform school in Florida.  Red at the Bone explored how an unexpected pregnancy affects an entire family.  Beautifully written and slightly melancholic,  Jaqueline Woodson manages to paint a meaningful portrait of a black American family.  Lastly In West Mills is a story of community and how community can become family and how living one’s life freely can be difficult in a small town.  Short and sweet In West Mills has unforgettable characters and lively dialogue.  It’s amazing how much De’Shawn Charles Winslow says in this novel in so few pages.  I highly recommend all three books.  Check out the video below to hear what Roxane Gay’s Book club thought aboutRed as the Bone.

 

Day 22 – Single Ladies

The Blackbirds was the first novel that came to mind when I thought of single ladies.  Kwanza, Indigo, Destiny, and Ericka will have you smiling, laughing, and shaking yourimg_2250 head throughout, despite their individual troubles.  Eric Jerome Dickey doesn’t leave anything out from  a cheating ex-fiance, crushes, alias, illness, etc.  All of that is glued together with a little erotica.  This book was surprisingly longer than I’d expected – just a bit over 500 pages.  I read it and rated it five stars but found myself missing Dickey’s writing style from his older novels which I feel are written so much better.

 

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ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge – Days 19 & 20

 

Day 19 – Celebrate Good Times

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate good times other than with friend, family, great food and drink. So this cookbook Jubilee: Recipes from two centuries of African American Cooking by Toni TiptonMartin came immediately to mind. I have a thing for cookbooks. I can read them like novels. Cooking I feel is a great way to get to know someone, understand how they function on many different levels. However this post is about celebration and Jubilee is the cookbook to bring some serious flavor to the festivities. A few of the recipes I’m interested in trying out on my friends and family are the orange biscuits for a nice brunch, the braised lamb shanks with peanut sauce for Sunday lunch, and the moist rich Devil’s Food Cake for afternoon tea. Of course there are many more interesting recipes as well as some historical information through recounting all about the tradition and background of the different recipes. She even cites other cookbooks she used to do research to choose these recipes for the book. I highly recommend it. The video below Tipton-Martin discusses her first hit cookbook called The Jemima Code: two centuries of African American Cookbooks.

 

https://youtu.be/W6ZSryGTjyE

 

 

Day 20 – Published in September

I thought I was going to have to comb my shelves for ages to find a book published in September, but actually I remembered that both Bluebird, Bluebird and Heaven, My Home were both published in September. Even though I decided to look to see how long it would take me to find another book published in September and sure enough four books later I was holding Dear Haiti, Love Alaine in my hands. I received this book from a book buddy, Forsaken707, Kesha as a birthday gift. haven’t picked it up yet but can’t wait since I’ve noticed its format is epistolary, notes, emails and text. Love when authors use letters to write stories. The special thing about this book is that it’s written by two sisters who are Haitian-American. So I suspect it will contain themes about integration, immigration, Haitian culture, and race. Once I read it I’ll surely be back to let you know what I think about it. Check the video below where the authors talk about what their goals were in writing Dear Haiti, Love Alaine.

 

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ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge – Day 17 & 18

 

Day 17 – A 2010s Classic

I couldn’t resist choosing Lighthead by Terrance Hayes. This was the first collection I read. Y him which wasn’t suggested to me by Danielle from Dani! Dany! Danie! On Instagram. I was not disappointed. His poetry is meaningful, intentional, and creative. I know poetry can often times turn readers off, but Hayes’ poetry is not at difficult to understand or appreciate. Some of my favorite poems from this collection are Lighthead’s Guide to Addiction, Fish Head for Katrina, and Twenty-six Imaginary T-shirts. His poems come to life when spoken aloud. Not only do these poems have deep meaning but they also have beautiful flow and rhythm that you can appreciate in the video just below. Enjoy!

 

Day 18 – Musical Youth YA

m

I don’t often read YA novels but this category immediately made me think about On the Come Up by Angie Thomas. This second novel is even better than her first The Hate U Give. She really pulled out all the stops with characters that feel like real people, a more complex storyline, and a bit of rap to top it all off. I listened to it on audiobook and found that it was read to perfection. I highly recommend it. I can say I was genuinely invested in Bri’s story. I can’t wait to see what Angie Thomas writes next. You can check her out in the video below talking about this hit second book.

 

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ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge – Day 15 & 16

Day 15 – Cuz This Is Thriller! 

Thrillers aren’t the genre I go to the most but they are starting to be the ones that I go to to img_2143decompress from all of the serious reads I pick up.  I chose Blanche Cleans Up (The Blanche White series #3) by Barbara Neely and A Little Yellow Dog (The Easy Rawlins series #5) by Walter Mosley because these are the two mystery series that I need to finish and to get moving along on.  The Blanche White series sadly only contains four books.  Once I’m finished with book four I know I’m going to miss reading about Blanche.

Easy Rawlins is another series that is full of surprises since with each book time is passing and the secondary characters are becoming more and more fascinating and Easy is taking us along on his more and more unpredictable cases, while we follow the changes happening to him and the other prominent characters.  This series contains a total of 14 books, so I hope to be able read a bit more from this series.  Next month for #MarchMysteryMadness, these will fit in perfectly with theme being the number 5. Check out this video to hear more about it.

 

Day 16 – Last Finished

img_2155What can I say.  The last book I finished was the incredible epic ReadSoulLit Readalong novel, The Last Thing You Surrender. And I surrendered everything! Lawd! That novel took me through all kinds of emotions.  It’s a brilliant story with larger than life characters who you aren’t likely to forget.  I’m still missing reading about Thelma, Luther, and George.  If you haven’t decided yet about picking this book up there is still time to start and finish it before our live discussion on Saturday, February 29.  I highly recommend this great American masterpiece.  It’s a hidden gem that has literally not been talked about at all that was released last year.  Check out this video where Leonard Pitts, Jr. talks about something that he illustrates very well in his novel The Last Thing You Surrender. Brilliant storyteller!

 

 

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ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge – Day 13 & 14

Day 13 – Biography or Memoir

img_2118I chose the memoir by Michaela De Prince called Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina.  After hearing her story on television many years ago, I was motivated to read her story.  I haven’t yet read this one but I have a feeling it’s going to be very interesting.  After living in an orphanage in Sierre Leone where she was badly treated because she suffers from vitiligo and was called the devil’s child because she was the least favorite, she was motivated by a picture she saw in a magazine of a ballerina en pointe that she found outside the orphanage.  That picture gave her something positive to focus on.  She was eventually adopted by the De Prince family and she’s become an excellent dance with hard work and dedication.  She currently dances in a Dutch company.

I’ve always loved ballet and did ballet from age 5 to 17 years old.  Back in the day thereimg_3574 weren’t any black ballerina’s.  I would have liked to be inspired by a black ballerina, so it’s nice to see there are more of them today.  It would be nice to have even more of them, especially in the States.  The picture on the right is me in my ballet class.  I must have been about 12 years old there.  Click on the video below to see Michaela De Prince dancing.  It’s absolutely beautiful!

 

Day 14 – Black Love

Today is Valentine’s Day!  So I went rummaging for a title of a black love story that maybe wouldn’t come up on the Instagram feed.  Something different.  I found quite a few obvious ones like An American Marriage and Loving Donovan, but in the end I decided to go with another TBR book, a romance called Zachary’s Wings by Rosemarie Robotham.  This is the story of Zachary and Korie who have a passionate love affair despite their different upbringings.  Zachary is a social worker from a working-class family and Korie is an Ivy-league-educated reporter and Jamaican born.  Clearly there relationship will be tested but hopefully it will survive.  The story covers themes of race, class, and sexuality, so it sounds right up my alley.  This book was published in 1998 and was Robotham’s debut novel.  So let me know down below if you’ve read this one or anything else by her and what you thought of it.  It would be nice to read this one after a heavy read.

 

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ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge – Day 11 & 12

Day 11 – 2020 Newbie

As every year there are so many new releases and new authors appearing on the scene img_2113and 2020 is no different.  I decided to go with Stateway’s Garden by Jasmon Drain, gifted to me by Penguin Random House.  This debut work is a memoir of connected short stories that take the reader into a housing project on Chicago’s South Side.  For the moment I’m finding it very interesting but will be back with a review once I’m done.  Jasmon Drain grew up in Chicago in the Englewood neighborhood.  He was a Pushcart Prize Nominee in 2010 and 2011.  Having never heard of this literary prize I want to their website to find out more about the prize. The Pushcart Prize is an American literary prize which honors the best “poetry, short fiction, essays, memoirs published in the small presses over the previous year. “They welcome up to six nominations (print or online) from little magazine and small book press editors throughout the world.  They welcome translations, reprints and both traditional and experimental writing.  The nominations are accepted between October 1 – December 1.” (pushcart prize.com)

 

Day 12 – Musical Genius took me a little more effort to find a title.  I originally thought of James McBride’s Kill ‘Em and Leave:  Searching for James Brown and the American Soul, however it was impossible to find it among my books. Trying to combing throughimg_6439 when you have as many books as I do, you find forgotten treasures.  That’s when I fell upon Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which is #3 in The Century Cycle by August Wilson.  Now I really want to read all 10 plays in order but sadly I only own this one and the first play of the series called Gem of the Ocean which I read and enjoyed a few years ago.  I think I gave it 3 stars.  Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is about a legendary blues singer so fits the photo challenge perfectly.  Just from reading what this play is about I’m sure it would be fantastic to see at the theatre.  It covers themes of self-hate and racism. Check out the videos below where you can see a few scenes being performed.

 

 

 

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ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge – Day 9 & 10

Day 9 – Word

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates was the best representation of Word. img_2074 This letter written from a black father to his black son is a poignant must-read from Coates.  It was recommended by Toni Morrison, who deemed it to be required reading.  I hadn’t realized but apparently Coates is reading the audiobook.  I feel like the next time I pick this one up I’ll read and listen to it simultaneously.  Just to get an idea of this book, it begins like this, “Son, Last Sunday the host of a popular news show asked me what it meant to lose my body.” (Between the World and Me, p.5). It’s only 152 pages but you’ll be moved reading this emotional letter.

 

 

Day 10 – Heavy Read(s)

These are a few of the heavy reads I could find in my stash.  I highly recommend three of the five in the stack – Heavy by Kiese Laymon which started my 2020 reading with a bang.  Excellent!  I read Hunger and simultaneously listened to the audiobook read by its author Roxane Gay.  What a poignant read that made me feel all kind of emotions as well.  The third book on this list is Beloved.  I really remember how this book made meimg_2077 profoundly sad. These three heavy books will surely become modern classics because they take readers to raw realness.  Now The Darkest Child we already talked about, very heavy but I will definitely be checking it out, especially since a lot of my followers over on Instagram highly recommended it to me. And last but not least Medical Apartheid which was recommended to me by a friend.  This one should be a must read for everybody so they can learn about the contributions black Americans have brought to the medical field.  Despite the heaviness of this book I will be checking it out in November for Nonfiction November.  Can you think of any other heavy books that you’d like to recommend?  Let’s chat below.

 

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Read Soul Lit Photo Challenge – Day 7 & 8

Day 7 – Current Read

My current reads are keeping me glued to the pages.  The Last Thing You Surrender byimg_2064 Leonard Pitts, Jr is the Read Soul Lit 2020 Read Along pick.  It is captivating everybody.  So glad to discover another interesting black American writer that I hadn’t read before.  I’ll definitely be combing the rest of his backlist, starting with Freeman which I’ve heard a lot of good about.  It’s not too late to join us in reading and discussing it on Goodreads  It’s called ReadSoulLit Readalong 2020 – The Last Thing You Surrender. Those first fifty-five pages knocked me on my ass! The accuracy of his descriptions are downright accurate and undeniably moving.  It’s as if the reader is there.  It’s a 500-page novel that reads very quickly, so those that have difficulty reading long books you won’t have any trouble getting through this one. I’ve already started trying to cast the characters in my mind for a movie or a Netflix series.  Who do you see playing Luther?  How about Kofi Siriboe from Queen Sugar?

The second book I’ve just started is called Seeds of Deception by Arlene L. Walker.  This book came across my Instagram timeline last year and its cover attracted me immediately.  With it’s striking cover and storyline pitch I was sure this one would be for me.  I’ve only just started but it’s promising first line has got me very curious.  “If poverty was slavery, then wisdom was wealth.” (Seeds of Deception, p. 1). This book contains a family secret, Cherokee Indians and their former African slaves, and a protagonist called Spit Louie McClendon.  Sounds like a winner to me.  Will keep you posted on what I think about this one.  Check out the video below of Leonard Pitts, Jr talking about race and The Last Thing You Surrender.

 

Day 8 – Delightful Dish & Book

img_2069Today’s book post was Tar Baby by the Queen Toni Morrison who I still can’t believe is gone.  Tar Baby was one of the first few novels I read by Morrison and one that I remember sparked much conversation in my college course on black women writers.  Tar Baby was our 2018 ReadSoulLit Readalong.  And our live discussion was lit.  We had so many ideas about the ending, discussing the characters, the setting, etc. For such a short book Tar Baby is dense with ideas and meaning.  One of the best scenes in this novel is the dinner scene.  Morrison really said a lot in that scene and it’s one I could read over and over.  As for the food in the picture, it’s a simplistic meal, a bit of grilled chicken and some Swiss chard and mushrooms cooked in garlic and olive oil – a sain meal low in calories.  I’m trying to eat healthier in 2020 and beyond…..

 

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ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge – Day 5 & 6

Day 5 – It’s a family affair!  

I have quite a few possibilities on my shelves with this theme but the book that came to my mind first was The Darkest Child by Delores Phillips.  Now to be honest, this book3ebb6c26-a471-4606-b63b-0b93d6b555e1 has been sitting on my shelves for over 2 years. Why? Because I’m not sure I can bear reading the abuse that I imagine it contains and that my followers on Instagram have subsequently confirmed.  However, every single person has said they loved the book and that I should read it, even though it’s emotionally challenging.  So that gives you an idea on whether you should pick it up if you haven’t already.

The author of this book Delores Phillips passed away suddenly in 2014.  This special edition pictured contains an introduction by Tayari Jones and an excerpt from the author’s unfinished sequel called Stumbling Blocks.  So I recommend Deloresyou pick up this edition (ISBN: 9781616958725).  The Darkest Child also won the Black Caucus of the ALA Award and was a nominee for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award.  An interesting tidbit about The Darkest Child is its beginnings, a long form poem written over a four-year period.  In the end, Phillips decided to make it into a novel seeing that it counted several hundred pages.

Day 6 – Author on the Come Up

C.P. Patrick is definitely the author on the come up!  I was introduced to her writing when I picked up her debut novel called The Truth About Awiti.  What a creative, CPoriginal fashion to recount a slave narrative.  I highly recommend this one to people who have given up on reading about slavery.  This story has just the right amount of spirituality to keep the reader engrossed until the end.  With its mysterious cover, The Truth About Awiti definitely follows in the footsteps of the great Octavia E. Butler.

Patrick has also written Dear Ancestors: poems and reflections on the Arican Diaspora which is a piece written in verse about the Middle Passage.  It too recounts the img_2059history of slavery in all its emotion and accuracy.  Each word has been chosen carefully to convey particular images and meaning.  It’s brilliant and surprisingly celebratory!  It weighs in only at 75 pages so you can read it in one sitting or even twice in a row like I did.

Patrick is also working on series of children’s books the first telling the important stories of our history(Each book features an important person from history like Harriet Tubman and Joan of Arc) and the second series is called Ana & Andrew.  She’s been touring elementary schools talking about history.  If you’re interested in learning more about her writing for children, go to her Instagram page, @afrominimalist to follow more of her writing journey. 

 

If you’d like to pick up a copy of any of my recommendations or just shop for yourself please consider clicking my affiliate link for The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!

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ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge – Day 3 & 4

img_2010Day 3 – Roots and Books made me start looking deeply into my shelves.  Having started this year with the powerful memoir, Heavy by Kiese Laymon.  I felt like roots had to be taken figuratively and literally.  Combing my shelves I fell upon How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America.  I forgot I had that one. This is a collection of essays by Laymon where he covers race, family, coming of age in Mississippi, violence, etc.  I’m sure this is going to be another powerful read that will continue on from the depth of Heavy.  So if I manage to get through my hefty TBR this month I’ll be adding this one to round off my Black History Month reading.  Have you read this one?  Frankly I’ve seen no one talk about it.  I’m so tempted to throw something off my TBR just so that I can read it.  I can’t really do that because the Booktube Prize books are calling. I’ll just be watching a lot less Netflix this month, in hopes that that will give me the ample time necessary to finish this massive TBR.  Check out this video with Kiese Laymon discussing How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America and Long Division.

 

Day 4 – Black Book Stack was easy to choose for the photograph. I grabbed all the black books I had in my reach.  What did I find?  Of course three Octavia E. Butler novels (Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Talents, and Fledgling), the second J. California IMG_2050Cooper I read A Piece of Mine, and a few others.  I can solidly recommend A Piece of Mine and Water Street.  If you’ve never picked up books by J. California Cooper or by Crystal Wilkinson you don’t know what you’re missing.  Both of these short
story collections are soulful gems and must reads.  A Piece of Mine draws on a common theme which plays on the collection’s title. You can check out my review here.  Water Street is one of the extraordinary backlist short story collections from a black author writing from Appalachia. I highly recommend you check out my review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge 2020: Day 1 & 2

Black History Month is finally here and has taken off with a blast!  Here’s where the photo challenge is at the moment for me:

Day 1: ReadSoulLit TBR

I’m a Booktube Prize judge this year and will be judging the first round which is happening this month.  This won’t deter me from picking up these three novels I’ve chosen to honor reading black American authors during Black History Month.  The Last Thing You Surrender is by seasoned writer Leonard Pitts, Jr.  This is the ReadSoulLit Readalong pick for February.  This is the first book I’ll be reading by Pitts, Jr.  I’m really looking forward to it.   This time period (the 1940s specifically World War II era) is one I find most interesting to read about in fiction novels.  If you’re still interested in joining the read along group on Goodreads click this link to join us.  It’s not too late.  I’m sure the reading is going to be engrossing and the discussions thought-provoking.

The second book on my TBR is a debut called Stateway’s Garden by Jasmon Drain. IMG_1989 Gifted to me by Penguin Random House, whom I thank graciously, I look forward to seeing how this memoir compares to the poignant, unforgettable, and brilliantly written Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon that was my first read of 2020.  Stateway’s Garden takes place in a housing project on the south side of Chicago.  It’s set in the mid-eighties and is a collection of linked short stories.

The third book in my stack is called Seeds of Deception by Arlene L. Walker.  This is another debut novel which was released last summer.  I don’t remember hearing a thing about it but after I caught a glimpse of the cover on the author’s Instagram page I was immediately interested.  “A clash between Cherokee Indians and their former African slaves come to a head in the tribal town of Feather Falls.” (back cover Seeds of Deception).  How could I pass on a story like this.  I’ll be keeping you informed once I’m finished on what I think about Seeds of Deception in an upcoming review.

 

Day 2:  Sci-fi High

If you’ve been following me for a while you all know that me and sci-fi just don’t get along when it comes to reading. I’m fine with it if it’s a film but for some reason I have IMG_2002-1trouble absorbing all the world building that goes along with the enjoyment of complex sci-fi stories.  In spite of this, last year I had the pleasure of reading the Xenogenesis series by Octavia E. Butler and really enjoyed it.  In particular I enjoyed Dawn which is the first book of the trilogy.  Dawn was mysterious, psychological, and sociological with just the right amount of science fiction to keep me interested throughout.  Lilith is a character that the reader can immediately relate to and root for.  The mystery in Dawn is at an all time high and will keep you riveted to the pages.  I highly recommend it.  Check out the video below of N.K. Jemisin talking about Dawn and her reactions to reading it for the first time.

 

If you’d like to pick up a copy of any of my recommendations or just shop for yourself please consider clicking my affiliate link for The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!

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ReadSoulLit 2020

Black History month is nearing and I’m writing today to let you know about what I have planned to celebrate it literarily.  Of course I’ll be hosting the 2020 #ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge over on Instagram.  Get your books and picture ideas ready.  This is one of the best moments to get book recommendations of black American authors.  It’s a blast and it promises to be very Lit!  Check out the monthly challenge below.  If you don’t have Instagram don’t worry you can follow what I post over there here on the blog as well.

 

ReadSoulLit2020

 

Next I want to mention the ReadSoulLit 2020 Readalong.  This February we’ll have the honor of reading The Last Thing I Surrender by Leonard Pitts, Jr.  I can’t wait!  I’ve wanted to check out a book by this author for a while now.  It’s great giving attention to an author that seems to have been unnoticed by the book blogger community.   the lastHopefully this read along will get people interested in Leonard Pitts, Jr’s backlist.  If you’re interested in reading with us you can join the Goodreads reading group, under the rubric Community, called ReadSoulLit Readalong 2020 – The Last Thing You Surrender.  You just have to request to join and I’ll confirm you.

There’s also another group you can join over on Goodreads called ReadSoulLit 2020.  This group operates all year long where people can exchange over books from the diaspora. #ReadSoulLit focuses on black American authors in February, black British writers in October, and the entire diaspora the rest of the year.

Hopefully this February you’ll enjoy the videos, photo challenge, and discussions in the reading groups on books by African-American authors.  There will surely be more surprises so I urge to follow me closely on here, on YouTube, and Instagram.   Let’s have fun!

 

 

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Overview: My reading in 2019

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Quote:  “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…. The man who never reads only lives one.” 

                                                                                                  – George R.R. Martin

2020 has rolled in with a bang and I hope it’s going to be a good one and an excellent start to a new decade.  I thought I’d take this time to reflect over my year of reading.  That’s the best way to get rid of what isn’t working and to introduce some new things to refresh.  For starters, my reading last year could best be described as “catch up reading”.  I was doing fine last year until I fell down the stairs and broke my malleolus bone in June. That’s when everything went to pot.  I wasn’t reading and nor was I journaling.  My broken ankle took up all of my energy.

However, I did get through a few audiobooks, Queenie ♥ and On the Come Up ♥♥♥♥♥ and a quarter of A Book of American Martys which I hope to be rereading and finishing at some point this year.  Once I could go back to work in September, that’s when things became hectic.  Rescheduling and planning classes became the highlight of my day.  It took a few weeks to get used to my schedule alongside physical therapy visits twice a week.

In October and November, I spearheaded a read along of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.  What a pleasure that was!  This was a fantastic read that I highly recommend and that I will surely reread one day.  My Penguin Clothbound edition comes in at 1,276 pages, making it the longest book I read this year.  November announced Nonfiction November, which is when I try to read at least 3 nonfiction novels.  That was a fail, I only read one but an excellent one, The Word: Black Writers Talk About the Transformative Power of Reading and Writing ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ by Marita Golden.  At the end of November I had the honor of attending a joint literary event in Paris with La Cene Littéraire and Book and Brunch.  The event was in honor of Elanthan John winning Le Prix les Afriques for Born on a Tuesday.  I was there to help with translation and it was a wonderful time.  Elnathan John was very interesting and gave us all food for thought
on discussing why he writes in English among other topics.

From there the 3rd of December was the book launch of the anthology,  Where We Started:  Stories of Living Between Worlds edited by Alecia McKenzie and Anna-MariaBamberger, where you can find my first published short story called Sanctuary.IMG_1782  We were five writers present at The Red Wheelbarrow Bookstore in the 6th arrondisement of Paris and four reading an excerpt from our short stories.  That was aproud moment for me.  If you’re interested in reading this short story collection you can click here to purchase an ebook.  From there December finished fairly quickly.  Here’s where the catch up reading took place, from December 21 – December 28th, I found myself reading 6 books to finish the year.  I had to take advantage that I could lie around reading most of the day.  It was cold and there was no wifi so what’s left to do but read because French tv sucks!  So I finished my year with Before We Were Yours ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ which really surprised me. I was sure I wouldn’t like it and I actually found it really quite good.  I then went on to The Girl with the Hazel Eyes ♥ ♥ ♥ ∨, debut Caribbean writer, The Nickel Boys ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥, Red at the Bone ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥, In West Mill  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥, and finally Happy Parents ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (a much needed comic by Zep).  I couldn’t have ended my year of reading on a better note.

My reading stats according to Goodreads:

The Longest Book:

The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

The Shortest Book:

Princess Arabella is a Big SisterMylo Freeman

Average length:

273 pages (This number needs to be higher!)

My average rating:

3.7 stars

Highest rated book I read on Goodreads:

Dear ancestors: Poems and Reflections on the African Diaspora ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Books read: (Pledged to read 50):

59

Pages Read: (This number needs to be higher too!)

16,113

So what’s the plan for my reading in 2020?  Well I’m trying to keep things simple and tie up loose ends.

  1.  Read books on my shelves!
  2.  Read #backlistbooksbliss ♥
  3. Finish up series if possible
  4. Finish up fiction books from Toni Morisson – Love and Paradise and reread Sula, Roxane Gay – An Untamed State, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie – Purple Hibiscus and The thing Around Your Neck
  5. Read 100 books! This one is going to be quite the challenge. I’m not sure I’m going to make it, but I figure I need the push to see if I can do it.  If I don’t oh well. I’ll try again next year.
  6. Continue reading Caribbean Lit

What are your reading plans for 2020?

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year!  Thank you for supporting the blog! 🙂

 

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 24

baublesToday’s my last day of recommendations before Christmas and for the year 2019!  Bravo! If you’ve stuck with me until the end.  I really appreciate it.  My last recommendation is another really big favorite and it’s by one of my favorite authors too.  I’m going to be talking briefly about Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat.

Krik? Krak! is a short story collection exploring life on the island of Haiti and what happens to be people when they try to immigrate to other places. Each short story is told with such authenticity readers won’t be able to put the book down. Danticat’s rich writing and relatable stories remind us of the difficulty of life, being an immigrant, being a woman, and being left behind.  Krik? Krak! will give you a lot of food for thought.  This book would make an excellent book club pick and would be a great place to start reading Danticat’s works.  I recommend Krik? Krak! to first time readers of Danicat, die hard fans of Danticat, lovers of short story collections, and readers searching for Caribbean lit titles.  Check out the video below where they are trying to make a film adaptation of the short story, Caroline’s wedding, in Krik? Krak!.Krik  I’m going to also link their website here where they are tying to get donations to be able to finally finish the film.

Overview:

“When Haitians tell a story, they say “Krik?” and the eager listeners answer “Krak!” In Krik? Krak! Danticat establishes herself as the latest heir to that narrative tradition with nine stories that encompass both the cruelties and the high ideals of Haitian life. They tell of women who continue loving behind prison walls and in the face of unfathomable loss; of a people who resist the brutality of their rulers through the powers of imagination. The result is a collection that outrages, saddens, and transports the reader with its sheer beauty.” (Krik? Krak!, Back cover)

 

 

 

Krik? Krak! – Edwidge Danticat

Publisher:  Vintage

Pages:  224

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

If you’d like to pick up a copy of No Place To Call Home or any of my other recommendations please consider clicking my affiliate link for The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 23

baublesIt’s day 23 and we’re almost at the end of my 24 days of recommendations before.  Today I’ve decided to talk about Guy Delisle’s graphic novel Jerusalem:  Chronicles from the Holy City.  Now this was the first graphic novel I read by Guy Delisle.  His wife works for Médecins Sans Frontière, so they were sent to live in Jerusalem.  There Delisle discovered the complexities and difficulties of trying to live and raise his children in Jerusalem.

The graphic novel is very easy to follow and to relate to. Delisle has a nice illustrative style and he has a knack for telling stories about living abroad.  This would be a great place to start with graphic novels if you’ve not tried any or you haven’t been able to find any you enjoy.  I recommend Jerusalem:  Chronicles from the Holy City for those who love reading graphic novels, travel/expat stories, and stories that take place in Israel.  I also recommend Delisle’s other graphic novels in case you’ve already read this one, for example Hostage which is poignant and Burma Chronicles.  Check out the video belowJerusalem where he talks a lot about his experiences in Israel.

Overview:

“…In Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City, Delisle explores the complexities of a city that represents so much to so many. He eloquently examines the impact of the conflict on the lives of people on both sides of the wall while drolly recounting the quotidian: checkpoints, traffic jams, and holidays.

When observing the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim populations that call Jerusalem home, Delisle’s drawn line is both sensitive and fair, assuming nothing and drawing everything. Jerusalemshowcases once more Delisle’s mastery of the travelogue.” (Jerusalem:  Chronicles from the Holy City, back cover)

 

 

Jerusalem:  Chronicles from the Holy City – Guy Delisle

Publisher:  Drawn and Quarterly

Pages:  336

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

If you’d like to pick up a copy of No Place To Call Home or any of my other recommendations please consider clicking my affiliate link for The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 22

baublesI fell upon The White Tiger in 2008 when it won the Booker Prize.   Of all the books on that shortlist, it stuck out to me the most.  I really enjoy reading about Indian culture.  I feel like with every book I read I learn something new about their culture.  That’s really stimulating.

This novel thrusts us into a story following a character whose name we don’t know at first, but that doesn’t matter because we are immediately interested in finding out who this person is.  Eventually something will happen that will alter this character’s view of his situation.  We will see him search for freedom.  Freedom from all different things and situations.  Life isn’t easy and there aren’t thousands of solutions either which this character wrestles with constantly.

The best thing about this story is the manner in which it’s told. I promise midway through you’ll be rooting for the protagonist and you’ll hate everything that’s impeding his possibilities of progress.  Written with originality, The White Tiger is a book that will make you reflect on life and your place in it.  I recommend it to readers who enjoy books by Indian writers, literary fiction, by Booker Prize winners.

Overview:

“Balram Halwai is a complicated man. Servant. Philosopher. Entrepreneur. Murderer. Over the course of seven nights, by the scattered light of a preposterous chandelier, Balram tells us the terrible and transfixing story of how he came to be a success in life—having nothing but his own wits to help him along.

Born in the dark heart of India, Balram gets a break when he is hired as a driver for his village’s wealthiest man, two house Pomeranians (Puddles and Cuddles), and the rich man’s (very unlucky) son. From behind the wheel of their Honda City car, Balram’s newB0015DWLD0 world is a revelation. While his peers flip through the pages of Murder Weekly (“Love — Rape — Revenge!”), barter for girls, drink liquor (Thunderbolt), and perpetuate the Great Rooster Coop of Indian society, Balram watches his employers bribe foreign ministers for tax breaks, barter for girls, drink liquor (single-malt whiskey), and play their own role in the Rooster Coop. Balram learns how to siphon gas, deal with corrupt mechanics, and refill and resell Johnnie Walker Black Label bottles (all but one). He also finds a way out of the Coop that no one else inside it can perceive.

Balram’s eyes penetrate India as few outsiders can: the cockroaches and the call centers; the prostitutes and the worshippers; the ancient and Internet cultures; the water buffalo and, trapped in so many kinds of cages that escape is (almost) impossible, the white tiger. And with a charisma as undeniable as it is unexpected, Balram teaches us that religion doesn’t create virtue, and money doesn’t solve every problem — but decency can still be found in a corrupt world, and you can get what you want out of life if you eavesdrop on the right conversations.

The White Tiger recalls The Death of Vishnu and Bangkok 8 in ambition, scope, and narrative genius, with a mischief and personality all its own. Amoral, irreverent, deeply endearing, and utterly contemporary, this novel is an international publishing sensation —and a startling, provocative debut.” (The White Tiger, inside flap)

 

 

 

The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga

Publisher:  Free Press

Pages:  320

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

If you’d like to pick up a copy of No Place To Call Home or any of my other recommendations please consider clicking my affiliate link for The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!

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