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: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 15

baublesToday I’m continuing on with another recommendation of a poignant and informative graphic novel called Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.  Told in 4 books, Persepolis was separated into 2 books:  Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, books 1 and 2 and Persepolis:  The Story of a Return, books 3 and 4.  I decided to read The Complete Persepolis.  I’ll link my earlier blog review here.  Essentially, Persepolis takes us on a discovery of the Islamic revolution in Iran through the eyes of a young precocious Marjane.  We see her grow up and evolve through the revolution.  I enjoyed reading about her character and seeing her grow into a young woman who won’t stop fighting for her rights.  She’s brilliant and snarky and you’ll be rooting for her and her family until the end.  This book is great for readers who want to learn more about the Islamic revolution in Iran and how it effected the people before and after.

 

 

 

Watch Marjane Satrapi talking about Persepolis below.

 

Watch below a few scenes from Persepolis the film.

 

The Complete Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi (translated from the French by Mattias Ripa, Blake Ferris, Anjali Singh)

Publisher:  Pantheon Books
Pages:  341
My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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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 13

baublesMy love for graphic novels began when I moved to France 29 years ago.  I have always been a fan of comic strips left over from my young days of scrambling for the the comic section every Sunday morning.  But, graphic novels have added something else a little special to my reading.  Today’s recommendation is The Arab of the Future:  A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984: A Graphic Memoir by Riad Sattouf.

So what’s a graphic novel?  It’s a story that is presented in comic-strip format and published as a book.  It’s usually lengthy in size.  The Arab of the Future is a graphic memoir, which is a comic or sequential art that tell an autobiographical story. Graphic memoirs are sub-genres of graphic novels and comics.  Examples of comics would be Black Panther and Saga.  The Arab of the Future consists of 4 volumes originally written in French, and they are translated into 21 languages.  Surprisingly, it has not been translated into Arabic because only the first volume was ordered by publishers.  Sattouf refused to accept that his graphic memoir wouldn’t be integrally published in Arabic, so it hasn’t happened.

Riad Sattouf has taken the time to recount his coming of age and family life while moving between Libya, Syria, and France.  He’s blatantly honest about his experiences and at times it can be painful to read.  This being said humor is what he does best.  Through his simplistic, but expressive drawings with colorful backgrounds each color representing a country; he takes us on an emotional rollercoaster we are not ready to forget.  It’s interesting to see culture in Syria and Libya in the late 1970s to mid 1980s.  If you start reading volume 1 make sure you have all the others so that you don’t have to stop reading.

I recommend this series of graphic novels to readers who like reading them (because this one is easy to follow), are interested in learning about culture in Syria and Libya, and enjoy graphic novels in series.  I can’t wait for the release of volume 5 (in French) which is slotted for October-November 2020!  You my have to wait a year or so for the translation into English.  Check out the video below where Riad Sattouf speaks about The Arab of the Future. 🙂

Overview:

“In striking, virtuoso graphic style that captures both the immediacy of childhood and the fervor of political idealism, Riad Sattouf recounts his nomadic childhood growing up in rural France, Gaddafi’s Libya, and Assad’s Syria–but always under the roof of his father, a Syrian Pan-Arabist who drags his family along in his pursuit of grandiose dreams for the Arab nation.” (The Arab of the Future, book cover)

 

 

The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984: A graphic Memoir – Riad Sattouf

Publisher:  Metropolitan Books

Pages:  288

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 12

baublesEpic novels are my jam.  This epic novel, I’m recommending today, I had the pleasure of reading for a second time this year.  That’s The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.   This story is told from multiple points of view – Orleanna, Nathan Price’s wife , and their four daughters.  We never hear the voice of Nathan Price, an evangelical Baptist preacher.  Novels told from multiple points of view can often be overwhelming, but as this novel goes on you won’t have any trouble distinguishing the different voices.  Kingsolver writes them seamlessly.  The rich descriptions of life in 1959 Congo add to the authenticity of the story.  Nathan Price’s evangelistic assault on a Congolese village parallels the Congo’s fight for independence from Belgium.  As the Congo is fighting for independence so do Price’s daughters.

I recommend The Poisonwood Bible to people who love epic novels,  are interested in learning  about the political struggle of the Congo in 1959, love reading historical fiction, enjoy reading multiple view points, and enjoy reading family stories.  Don’t be put off by the size of the book.  It is engrossing and would make an excellent book club pick. Pleasebible check out the review below from Khia Comments.  It’s extremely enlightening!

Overview:

“The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it — from garden seeds to Scripture — is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.” (The Poisonwood Bible, inside flap)

 

 

The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver

Publisher:  HarperFlamingo

Pages:  541

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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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!

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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 9

baublesPeople are always looking for epic novels that keep them engrossed throughout the the read.  Someone asked that in the live chat we had last night on The Count of Monte Cristo.  Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese is one of the books that immediately popped into my mind.  It always comes up when I talk about excellent books.

A while back I did a video on books based on the continent of Africa and I realized that North East African stories were largely missing from my book shelves.  This is one I mentioned and made a note to try to find more.

I learned lots on the political and historical situations of Ethiopia.  In addition I learned a lot about practicing medicine in a place where there isn’t very much.  The story will have you riveted from beginning to end.  I would love to read another fiction book by this author.  This would definitely make an excellent gift because it’s going to take the reader on quite the adventure while they learn some interesting things.  I recommend it to readers who are interested in Ethiopia, medical procedures (especially performed incutting places with the minimum), historical information on North East Africa.  And who can resist a book that starts with a map! Love!

First line:  “After eight months spent in the obscurity of our mother’s womb, my brother, Shiva, and I came into the world in the late afternoon of the twentieth of September in the year of grace 1954.”  (Cutting for Stone, p. 3)

Overview:

An unforgettable journey into one man’s remarkable life, and an epic story about the power, intimacy, and curious beauty of the work of healing others.

 

 

Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese

Publisher:  Vintage Book

Pages:  534

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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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!

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 7

baublesIt’s a bright and early Saturday morning as I’m writing this on day 7 of 24 Books to Christmas.  Earlier, I looked out to the garden and for the first time in 3 days the sky is clear and a light blue color, no fog in sight.  The temperature has risen by ten degrees putting us at a comfortable 8 degrees Celsius. The first book that came to mind while making tea and looking out my kitchen window was Barkskins by Annie Proulx.

I must admit the only other book I had read by Annie Proulx was 1994 Pulitzer Prize winning The Shipping News.  I didn’t care for it too much because I found it to be a bit too depressing for my taste.  In spite of that first book failure by Proulx, I decided to buddy read Barkskins with Booktuber Retired Book Nerd in 2017.  We were immediately drawn into this adventurous, epic tale.  It begins in 1693 Canada and will take you all the way to 2013.  Complete with a family tree in the back of the book, my eyes were riveted on this story for about 3 weeks between January and February.  You have to love a book with a complex family tree.

I recommend this book to people who love reading stories that develop through time, adventurous stories, family sagas, historical fiction, and books with themes that we Barkskinsdon’t see coming.  Barkskins is definitely a book full of some wonderful surprises.  It’s over 600 pages but I’d definitely read it again. Very enjoyable! Barkskins would make a great book club pick too. The discussions would definitely go deep.

Overview:

“In the late seventeenth century two penniless young Frenchmen, René Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France. Bound to a feudal lord, a “seigneur,” for three years in exchange for land, they become wood-cutters—barkskins. René suffers extraordinary hardship, oppressed by the forest he is charged with clearing. He is forced to marry a Mi’kmaw woman and their descendants live trapped between two inimical cultures. But Duquet, crafty and ruthless, runs away from the seigneur, becomes a fur trader, then sets up a timber business. Proulx tells the stories of the descendants of Sel and Duquet over three hundred years…”

I hadn’t realized but Barkskins has been turned into a series which is airing on the National Geographic channel in November 2019.  Has anybody seen it yet? If so let me know below what you think of it.

Barkskins – Annie Proulx

Publisher: 4th Estate

Pages: 713

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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