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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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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!

 

 

Overview: My reading in 2019

cropped-IMG_0185-2.jpg

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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24 Books to Christmas – Day 21

baublesWhen I came to live in France one of the historical events that I didn’t know very much about was the tragic destruction of Cambodia, otherwise known as the killing fields.  I started to hear more about it and my curiosity led me to pick up In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner.  I don’t flock so easily to nonfiction although in the past three years I have to say I’m reading more of it.  This being said I decided to read this novel a few years back with a book club. You can read my blog review here and check out my video review here.  I hope to get to Music of the Ghosts in 2020, which is a continuation of In the Shadow of the Banyan.

I highly recommend In the Shadow of the Banyan to readers who are interested in a fictional account(based on the author’s life) of the Khmer Rouge take over of Cambodia and reading a novel with beautiful writing.

 

Overview:

“Displaying the author’s extraordinary gift for language, In the Shadow of the Banyan is testament to the transcendent power of narrative and a brilliantly wrought tale of 13057939human resilience.

For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus…” (In the Shadow of the Banyan, inside cover)

 

 

In the Shadow of the Banyan – Vaddey Ratner

Publisher:  Simon and Schuster

Pages:  322

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 20

baublesI often hear people say that they no longer care to read fiction novels about slavery.  I personally don’t have a problem with that, especially if I can read one that’s really good.  Today’s recommendation is Family by J. California Cooper.  This is a novel you should definitely put on your 2020 TBR if you haven’t read it yet.

Family explores slavery through the generations while stressing how each generation survives and flourishes in spite of difficulty.  Family is more than a story of slavery, it is one of hope and the unfolding of the generations to come. That’s all I’m going to say because I don’t want to give anything away.

One of the best things about Family is the emotion it provoked in me. It had been a while since I felt so overwhelmed by a book.  It actually almost made me cry and that’s saying something because I don’t cry easily when reading.  If you haven’t read J. California Cooper yet you might want to start with this full length short novel.  Furthermore, she wrote many short story collections which are full of lively language and inspiring stories about everyday people.  Her short stories are optimistic and enjoyable.  You might want to try one of my favorites called Homemade Love.  I recommend FamilyFamily to new readers of J. California Cooper, readers who don’t mind reading slave narratives, and readers looking for a short novel that packs a punch.

Overview:

“In this wise, beguiling, beautiful novel set in the era of the Civil War, an award-winning playwright and author paints a haunting portrait of a woman named Always, born a slave, and four generations of her African-American family.” (Family, back cover)

 

 

Family – J California Cooper

Publisher:  Anchor

Pages:  240

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!

http://www.bookdepository.com/?a_aid=browngirlreading

24 Books to Christmas – Day 19

baublesToday’s recommendation is a book by Philip Roth, the prolific 20th century American author who died last year in the month of May.  Now I’m sure some of you might be ready to sign off my post, since you’ve seen I’m plugging a book by Roth.  I beg of you to stay with me and hear me out.  The book I’m plugging today is The Plot Against America.  I read it in 2017 as a buddy read with a few Booktubers I enjoy reading with: mementomori, Mel’s Bookland Adventure, Britta Böhler, Garden Scriptorium. Go check them out! We really enjoyed it. So much so that we continued on a buddy read in October of the same year of American Pastoral.  Sadly I hated it, but The Plot Against America was so intriguing and its  storyline was ingeniously written. It’s one that also gave us vibes of Trump’s America. Scary.  I was happy to be introduced to Roth’s writing through The Plot Against America.  It’s not sexually provocative like some of the other novels he’s known for which put readers off.  Even though I didn’t like American Pastoral, which is the first book in the the American trilogy, we continued on and read book two called I Married a Communist this year in March.  So we only have The Human Stain left to finish the trilogy.

Roth often wrote from a semi-autobiographical stand point, which is the case for The Plot Against America.  It’s historical fiction turned on its ear. We’re following the story from a  young boy’s (Roth) point of view.  It’s a story about a Jewish American family in an America being led by a white supremacist, Lindbergh.

Roth carefully maps out the before and after Lindbergh’s arrival as president.  The storythe plot becomes more and more sinister and will continue to remind the reader of what can happen when a country becomes totalitarian – how do people treat each other, how do people live life and react to the political changes that are affecting their friends, family, neighborhood, country.   I won’t give away any more but the book is brilliant and will make you think about a lot of things.  We had great discussions while reading this one.  For me the story didn’t falter at all.  It was well told and I loved the voice of the young boy throughout.  I recommend The Plot Against America to readers who have never read a Roth novel before (great place to start), love reading Philip Roth novels and historical fiction (with an alternate history base).  Check out the video below where Roth gives some interesting answers to Katy Couric’s questions.  Have you read any Roth novels? It so, which one(s)?  What did you think of it/them?

Overview:

“In an astonishing feat of narrative invention, our most ambitious novelist imagines an alternate version of American history. In 1940 Charles A. Lindbergh, heroic aviator and rabid isolationist, is elected President. Shortly thereafter, he negotiates a cordial “understanding” with Adolf Hitler, while the new government embarks on a program of folksy anti-Semitism.

For one boy growing up in Newark, Lindbergh’s election is the first in a series of ruptures that threatens to destroy his small, safe corner of America – and with it, his mother, his father, and his older brother.” (The Plot Against America, back cover)

 

 

The Plot Against America – Philip Roth

Publisher:  First Vintage International

Pages:  391

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

If you’d like to pick up a copy of any of my 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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