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!

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 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!

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 18

baublesI had only read one excerpt from Alexandre Dumas’ writing in French many years ago, but this past October and November we all had the pleasure of reading in full The Count of Monte Cristo.  I say all for those of you that joined in on my read along of this 1,276 page mammoth novel.  Full of humor, intrigue, and large doses of shadiness, The Count of Monte Cristo kept me engrossed.  So much so that I couldn’t be bothered to read very much alongside it.  Beautiful writing that eases the reader into the period, the well constructed storyline, and the marvelously developed characters symbolize top reasons why the novel is so enchanting.   It’s lovely to see how the rope of revenge tightens slowly and accurately over all the right people, at the right time, and without too much work.  That’s the beauty of fiction.

This 19th century French classic has stood and will continue to stand the test of time.  There’s something to say for a novel that uses themes that will always remain relevant – jealousy, revenge, affairs, business deals gone bad, etc., but more importantly they need
to be used in the right way.  I recommend The Count of Monte Cristo for readers who enjoy reading the classics, French classics, and stories of revenge. Not to mention, this Penguin Clothbound edition pictured below would make a wonderful Christmas gift!

I was so proud once I’d finished this huge book.  I also kept thinking about how interesting a modern retelling of this story would be.  Now that I can scratch one book off my list of books to read by Dumas, I’m looking forward to picking up The Three Muskateers next, hopefully in 2020, which is the first book in the series called The d’Artagnan Romances.  Check out the live chat below where I discuss The Count of Monte Cristo with Musical Tati and Michael Reads!  We had a great time and Loved the book.  I’d like to give a big Thank You to those of you who took the time to catch us live on YouTube and participated in the discussion.  I also urge you to go to Youtube and Count of Monte Cristocheck out these two Booktubers, who make superb videos. 🙂

 

Overview:

“Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantès is confined to the grim fortress of the Château d’If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and becomes determined not only to escape but to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration.” (The Count of Monte Cristo, Goodreads description)

 

 

The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

Publisher:  Penguin Classics

Pages:  1,296

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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24 Books to Christmas – Day 16

baublesToday’s recommendation I discovered in the spring of 2015.  Water Street was one of the first few short story collections I had read in a long time that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Fourteen connected  short stories set in Stanford, Kentucky in the black community.  I was amazed  to see how well Wilkinson linked each character and unveiled their secrets.  Water Street has that southern literary flair that I love to read.  The style of writing is through short narratives and monologues.  You’re probably thinking that this makes the short stories feel unfinished but in fact they are full of impressions and feelings that are familiar.

Crystal Wilkinson is a wonderful writer who develops her stories through her characters.  She doesn’t need an excess of pages to make the reader understand something.  I envy her capacity to shape the story with the minimum means.  It’s a gift in writing.  I strongly urge you to check out this author who should be praised more.  I also recommend three of her other works that I enjoyed just as much as Water Street, Blackberries, Blackberries (short story collection), The Birds of Opulence (short water streetnovel), and Holler (short story).

I recommend Water Street to readers who enjoy short story collections, African-American literature, and southern literature.  Check out Wilkinson in the video below talking about her writing and where her inspiration comes from.  She has quite the personality and you should follow her over on Instagram at crystalwilki.

 

Overview:

On Water Street, every person has at least two stories to tell. One story that the light of day shines on and the other that lives only in the pitch black of night, the kind of story that a person carries beneath their breastbones for safekeeping. WATER STREET examines the secret lives of neighbours and friends who live on Water Street in a small town in Kentucky. Assured and intimate, dealing with love, loss, truth and tragedy, Wilkinson weaves us in and out of the lives of Water Street’s inhabitants.

 

 

Water Street – Crystal Wilkinson

Publisher:  Toby Press

Pages:  179

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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24 Books to Christmas – Day 14

baublesContinuing on with graphic novels, today I’m suggesting the Aya de Yopougon series (Aya Yop City in English).  These graphic novels are colorful and well illustrated.  The best thing about them is that they are about people in the Ivory Coast who live in the city and are living their lives.  The series contains 6 books and is full of drama and humor.  Marguerite Abouet, the author, has based these graphic novels on some personal experiences living in the Abidjan where she’s from and that’s what makes them so authentic.

It has been turned into a movie which you can watch below, although I wasn’t able to find it in English.  Even though it’s in French you can get a sense of the liveliness of the characters and story.  I recommend Aya to readers who like to read stories set in Africa and enjoy reading graphic novels with light themes.

 

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Overview:

“Ivory Coast, 1978. Family and friends gather at Aya’s house every evening to watch the country’s first television ad campaign promoting the fortifying effects of Solibra, “the strong man’s beer.” It’s a golden time, and the nation, too–an oasis of affluence and stability in West Africa–seems fueled by something wondrous.  Who’s to know that the Ivorian miracle is nearing its end? In the sun-warmed streets of working-class Yopougon, aka Yop City, holidays are around the corner, the open-air bars and discos are starting to fill up, and trouble of a different kind is about to raise eyebrows. At night, an empty table in the market square under the stars is all the privacy young lovers can hope for, and what happens there is soon everybody’s business.” (Aya – Aya #1, back cover)

 

 

Aya (Aya #1) – Marguerite Abouet, Clément Oubrerie (artist)

Publisher:  Drawn and Quarterly

Pages:  112

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

24 Books to Christmas – Day 11

baublesThe first James Baldwin novel I read was Giovanni’s Room and I really enjoyed it. I marveled over his ability to write a novel with so many layered themes. I also was wondering why it had taken me so long to finally read one of his novels.

I notice that this is often the first novel that readers online seem to flock to by Baldwin and then they don’t pick anything else up by him and if they do they’ll read The Fire Next Time but not any of his other novels.  So my recommendation today is Another Country.  This is hands down my favorite Baldwin novel so far.  It is a must read.  However, I haven’t got to Just Above My Head yet, but it’s on my 2020 TBR list.

Another Country is a story that is beautifully written and full of complexity.  It’s starts innocently but slowly the story confronts the reader with the difficulties for blacks and whites to coexist.  The themes of white liberalism and sexual freedom are both prevalent subjects as well today.  Another Country will make readers contemplate current and past US race relations.  You’ll definitely want to speak to someone about it once you’re done.  It would be great for a book club discussion.  I recommend Another Country to readers who enjoy Baldwin’s writing, like reading books with heavy themes on race relations in the US, and enjoy reading books set in 1950s New York.  Check out my review video below.

Overview:

“Set in Greenwich Village, Harlem, and France, among other locales, Another Country isanother country a novel of passions–sexual, racial, political, artistic–that is stunning for its emotional intensity and haunting sensuality, depicting men and women, blacks and whites, stripped of their masks of gender and race by love and hatred at the most elemental and sublime. In a small set of friends, Baldwin imbues the best and worst intentions of liberal America in the early 1970s.” (Another Country, back cover)

 

 

Another Country – James Baldwin

Publisher:  Penguin Classics

Pages:  448

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!

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

 

24 Books to Christmas – Day 10

baublesToday’s recommendation is one of our ReadSoulLit read along books from a few years ago called Some Sing, Some Cry.  This epic multi-generational family saga written in tandem by two sisters Ntozake Shange and Ifa Bayeza tells the story of an African- American family of women from Reconstruction to just before the beginning of the 21st century.  Strong characters and great pacing, Some Sing, Some Cry is full of rich language and will keep readers engrossed. The Mayfield family sees it all. It’s very hard to put this book down.  It’s just over 500 pages but really you won’t even notice its size.  The only thing this book is missing is a family tree.  Although I have a sneaky suspicion it was left out on purpose to maintain an element of surprise.  It was also really cool having real life people being mixed into the story with made up characters.  That added an excellent authentic touch and an excellent way to instruct readers who may not be familiar with them.

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy reading multi-generational stories, stories that contain music, stories that contain amazing characters, and historical fiction.img_4688

Overview:

Opening dramatically at  Sweet Tamarind, a rice and cotton plantation on an island off South Carolina’s coast, we watch as recently emancipated Bette Mayfield says her goodbyes before fleeing for the mainland. With her granddaughter, Eudora, in tow, she heads to Charleston. There, they carve out lives for themselves as fortune-teller and seamstress. Dora will marry, the Mayfield line will grow, and we will follow them on a journey through the watershed events of America’s troubled, vibrant history—from Reconstruction to both World Wars, from the Harlem Renaissance to Vietnam and the modern day.

 

Some Sing, Some Cry – Ntozake Shange and Ifa Bayeza

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

Pages:  558

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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24 Books to Christmas – Day 8

baublesStarting our second week already and I’ll be talking about another one of my favorite books that I rave about all the time and that’s Jam on the Vine.  Jam on the Vine is LaShonda Katrice Barnett’s 2015 debut novel.  This is another novel that literally flew right under the radar at its release.  People I don’t understand why!  This book has everything that could interest avid readers like us.

Walking in the footsteps of storytellers like Toni Morrison and Alice Walker, Barnett’s writing is rich and full of life.  She isn’t just telling us a story; she’s bringing us along with her characters.  This passionate story follows the lives of two African-American women journalists at the beginning of the twentieth century and of the existence of African-American newspapers.  I was immediately wrapped up in the how and what of black American newspapers and its importance at this time period.  Barnett doesn’t just woo us with a good story, she gives us information about this traumatic period in America of Jim Crow and depicts the importance and difficulty for blacks to be journalists and to print newspapers.  Jam on the Vine made me want to read The Defender How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America by Ethan Michaeli.  I haven’t read it yetjam but it’s definitely on my nonfiction must reads list, even though it’s a little over 500 pages.  It will be a challenging read but one of necessity to know more about black American history.

I recommend this book to readers who appreciate excellent writing, a bit of sensuality, great food descriptions, historical fiction novels, interesting characters, and stories set in the beginning of the twentieth century.

Overview:

“Ivoe Williams, the precocious daughter of a Muslim cook and a metalsmith from central-east Texas, first ignites her lifelong obsession with journalism when she steals a newspaper from her mother’s white employer. Living in the poor, segregated quarter of Little Tunis, Ivoe immerses herself in printed matter as an escape from her dour surroundings. She earns a scholarship to the prestigious Willetson College in Austin, only to return over-qualified to the menial labor offered by her hometown’s racially-biased employers.” (Jam on the Vine, inside flap)

 

 

Jam on the Vine – La Shonda Katrice Barnett

Publisher:  Grove Press

Pages:  316

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!

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

24 Books to Christmas – Day 5

baublesThis year I chose this next 24 Books to Christmas book for the February ReadSoulLit Readalong in honor of Black history Month – Unforgivable Love by Sophfronia Scott.  Wow! This was such an interesting modern retelling of the 18th century French classic novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos.

Scott did an excellent job by placing this modern day retelling in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance with all black characters.  As the original classic is written in epistolary format, Scott chose to write it in prose/novel format.  That was not an easy feat but she managed to develop all the characters well and to tell the story while choosing the most import scenes to highlight .

Most of the readers who participated in this readalong loved the messiness between the characters.  It made us shake our heads, laugh out loud and gasp.  Scott’s astute fashion writing dialogues was that fine line between humor and seriousness at times.  The readers who didn’t like the book felt that the characters were being mean just to be mean and that wasn’t interesting to them. This being said it is a retelling so Scott can’t change the story.  It just wasn’t for those few readers.

Overview:

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

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

But Val secretly seeks another prize. Elizabeth Townsend is fiercely loyal to her church and her civil rights attorney husband. Certain there is something redeemable in Mr. Jackson. Little does she know that her most unforgivable mistake will be Val’s greatest triumph.” (Unforgivable Love, back cover)

I’m linking below the Unforgivable Love Live discussion for anyone who may have missed it but has read the book. this video is full of spoilers so if you’re concerned about that don’t watch until you’ve read the book.  However don’t miss out on this discussion because it was very lively and full of a lot of insight. Moreover, Sophronia Scott joined in on the live where we had the pleasure of discussing the book, talking about creative writing, and Scott working on a black modern version of Jane Eyre. I can’t wait!

 

Unforgivable Love – Sophronia Scott

Publisher:  Harper Collins – William Morrow

Pages: 506

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!

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