Dear Ancestors Poems & Reflections on the African Diaspora

Poetry is not something I pick up very much but in the past 4 years I’ve had the pleasure of reading some fantastic poetry collections.  This year has started with Dear Ancestors Poems & Reflections on the African Diaspora by CP Patrick, author of the compelling novel The Truth About Awiti.  There are poems in this collection that come from The Truth About Awiti.  I strongly recommend you check it out because it is quite the story with a dash of fantasy and deals with the African diaspora and the transAtlantic slave trade.

It’s a slim collection containing only 58 pages, a short poem on each page.  To the eye that would appear to be slither to discuss such a complex subject, but believe me it’s more than enough.  From the first poem I was thrown into the African diaspora, my emotions rising within.  I could put it down and when I did I had finished and reread it a second time.

The collection is structured in 4 parts – Home, Middle Passage/Second Home, Bondage, Freedom or Something Like It.  The poems in each section are perfectly understandable.  These poems are not obscure or difficult to understand.  They are written with nuance and a perspective that will touch you before you realize it.  These poems made me reflect but also made me remember how proud I am to be black.  I come from strong people.  People that have a history that doesn’t just start with slavery.

The fact that CP Patrick begins the collection with poems from the section Home that cherishes the beginnings of black people in Africa – free with their own lives and customs, good and bad, exhibits her desire to tell our entire story.

“if but for a moment

you were

stillborn

descending from the heavens

leaving the safety of my warm womb

you saw this sad world

and changed your mind”

clairvoyant stillborn

  • CP Patrick, Dear Ancestors Poems & Reflections on the African Diaspora, p. 28

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#ReadSoulLit 2019 in Honor of Black History Month

February always gets me so excited about reading.  Black History Month always makes me want to delve deeper into the books written by black Americans and to learn more about my culture.  I feel that black literature, is getting more recognition these days although I still feel that more consideration is given to African Literature.  We have ways to go to get to the same level of recognition.

This is why I’m hoping that the photo challenge on Instagram and my videos this month on YouTube will give African-American authors the spotlight they so desperately need.  I’d love to be able to mention Bernice L. McFadden, Dolen Perkins-Vladez, Gayl Jones, and so many others and have everybody know who they are and what their writing is about.

As you can see in the picture above, this is just a fraction of one of my book shelves that contains quite a few books by African-American authors – 11 to be exact including the June Jordan novel that’s just at the edge of the picture on the right.  There are a few of these that I plan on reading this year that frankly I should have read many years before.  I’m looking forward to reading So Much Blue this month by Perceval Everett.  It will be my first attempt and I hope I’ll love it, having heard so many great things about this author and how he tells stories.  Another one on this shelf that is long overdue is Perfect Peace by Daniel Black.  So many people have recommended this one to me over the years and I’m not sure why I have continued to neglect picking it up.  Promise to myself and others that this one will get read this year.  Ann Petry’s The Street is another one that I’d like to finally read completely.  I had one failed attempt during a buddy read.  I didn’t finish because I didn’t like it. It was mostly because I was too busy to concentrate on it.  The classic The Wedding by Dorothy West has been on my list for ages and I finally picked up a copy 3 years ago but have been putting it off.  The Darkest Child I’ve been putting of because of its story.  I’ll definitely need a pallet cleanser after reading it. I’m sure it’s going to make me mad as hell.  So these are just a few books among many others that will continue my #readsoullit reading of African-American writers throughout the year.   I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing these as well as checking out a few new ones this year.  Happy Black History Month and reading!

#ReadSoulLit Tag

I created this tag so that people could get more recommendations of books by black authors.  I’m tagging all of you bloggers out there to do it and to add to the list of growing recommendations of African-American authors and their works this Black History Month.  Enjoy!

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Sag Harbor Live Discussion

Sag Harbor – Colson Whitehead, 329 pages, Anchor Books

Rating: 4,5 stars

Recommended to: Lovers of coming-of-age stories, summer read…

Particularity: Coming-of-age story by a black man

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What Truth Sounds Like – Michael Eric Dyson

Michael Eric Dyson is back with his newly released book today, What Truth Sounds Like.  What Truth Sounds Like is  Dyson’s continued discussion of race in America, carried over from his book last year called Tears We Cannot Stop A Sermon to White America.  It was a book that was written specifically to speak to white America, whereas What Truth Sounds Like is written for us all.

Dyson begins the book focused on a discussion about race in 1963 between Robert Kennedy, James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, and Lena Horne among others.  Kennedy was trying to find out their views on fighting segregation and discrimination in the north.  There weren’t any civil rights leaders there, just “well-known writers and other professional persons who have served as unofficial spokesmen for their race.”(What Truth Sounds Like, p. 14)

This historical meeting is the catalyst for Dyson to talk about race in America.  The opening chapter is an excellent beginning because it brings to light the difficulty of segregation and discrimination during one of the most critical moments in American history.  Baldwin and his friends were accusing Kennedy of not knowing anything about black life or the struggles of black people.  This is exactly the same reflection that could be made about white people today.

“Baldwin knew that America could only survive if it underwent an extraordinary social transformation-equality for all, hatred for none-that echoed the most noble ideals set out by our founding fathers.” (What Truth Sounds Like, p. 7)

As What Truth Sounds Like develops into chapters discussing the martyrs, the meeting, the politicians, the artists, the intellectuals, and the activists, Dyson goes through many of the different racial situations that have happened in the US in the past but specifically during this past 1 year and 136 days of Trumps presidency.  He also talks about specific famous people like Mohammed Ali and his activism as well a mistake he made referring to Frazier with “You seen the gorilla? From Manila?”.  He talks about President Obama – what he represented, his good points and the things that didn’t go so well.  He mentions so many people from Harry Belafonte to Chadwick Boseman, yes Black Panther and Wakanda. Yes, Wakanda Forever!

If Dyson does anything, he portrays the complexity of race in America and how the country has systematically refused to deal with the problem at all.   White people believed because President Obama was elected twice that there was no racism in America.  How naive is that thought?   One thing is for sure that Dyson says is that racism will have to be fought by both black and white people.  What Truth Sounds Like breaks down the good, the bad and the ugly and even tries to give solutions to some issues.   His style of writing is clear and detailed.  The masses of information he writes about is backed up with notes found in the back of the book.

I highly recommend both What Truth Sounds Like and Tears We Cannot Speak.  Moreover, if you prefer, get the audiobook which  is being read by Dyson, who has a powerful, rich voice that will have you captivated.  I urge you to watch the clip below of Michael Eric Dyson on The View, especially if you don’t know who he is.  He’s highly intelligent and doesn’t sugar coat.  He gives me life!

* I’d like to thank St. Martin’s Press for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

What Truth Sounds Like, 304 pages, St. Martin’s Press

Rating: 5 stars

Recommended to:  Readers interested in reading about race relations in the United States

 

 

#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge Day 10 Book Spine Poetry

Buffalo Dance The Journey of York – Frank X Walker

Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime J. California Cooper

He Never Came HomeRegina R. Robertson

Lost in the CityEdward P. Jones

Drinking Coffee ElsewhereZZ Packer

Nowhere is a PlaceBernice L. McFadden

A Kind of FreedomMargaret Wilkerson Sexton

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#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge Day 9 Want to Reread

There are so many novels that I’d like to reread but the one that comes to mind from an African-American author is Native Son.  I first read Native Son in college for a third year literary course.  I was blown away by the precision in Richard Wright’s writing style.  You will literally go through all emotions while reading this tragic and infuriating novel, which show cases Bigger Thomas one of the most intriguing main characters in an American modern classic.  Native son has to be one of the greatest American classics and should be read by all.  Have you read it?  Were you blown away by it?

Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Wright’s powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America.” (Native Son, description from Goodreads)

Native Son – Richard Wright, paperback, 454 pages (Vintage Classics)

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#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge Day 8 – Short Story Collection

The late great writer and poet, Henry Dumas, has been on my TBR for ages. However I didn’t have any of his books until last year when I purchased this short story collection from Coffee House Press. Note that his work isn’t easy to find these days.  His writing has been deemed brilliant and influential. Through his work he developed themes of the Black Aesthetic Movement which was eminent in the 1960s and early 1970s. He was also influenced by Moms Mabley, gospel, jazz, blues, and spirituals. Sadly Dumas was shot to death in 1968 by a New York City Transit Police officer, while waiting on a subway platform. It is believed that his death was a case of mistaken identity, although there is no proof of that. I can’t wait to get into this one!  Here is his brief and exceptional bibliography:

Poetry for My People (1970) (poetry)

Ark of Bones and Other Stories (1974) (short stories)

Play Ebony, Play Ivory (1974) (poetry)

Jonah and the Green Stone (1976) (novel)

Rope of Wind and Other Stories (1979) (short stories)

Goodbye, Sweetwater: New and Selected Stories (1988) (short stories)

Knees of a Natural Man: The Selected Poetry of Henry Dumas (1989) (poetry)

Echo Tree: The Collected Short Fiction of Henry Dumas (Coffee House Press, 2003) (short stories)

Quote: (Themes in this quote = slavery, freedom, capitalism, greed, america…)

“If an eagle be imprisoned
on the back of a coin,
and the coin tossed
into the sky,
the coin will spin,
the coin will flutter,
but the eagle will never fly.”
Henry Dumas

 

Echo Tree The Collected Short Fiction of Henry Dumas – Henry Dumas, paperback, 381 pages (Coffee House Press)

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#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge Day 6 – A Modern Classic

This is one of the few vintage Signet editions left from my family’s book collection. It reminds me of my Uncle Lawrence. RIP.  He talked a lot about Claude Brown and this book. I’m due for a reread of Manchild in the Promised Land. I read it the year I graduated from high school and was completely blown away by it.  I then understood a lot better some of the things my uncle was always talking about.  Poignant and inspiring with plenty of lessons to be learned by all, it’s a must read!

“Claude Brown is a black man who made it out of the ghetto who pulled himself up from Harlem, from the gang wars, the crime, the dope pushing to become a law student at one of America’s leading universities.  Mantled in the Promised Land is his story.  It is one of the most extraordinary autobiographies of our time.”  (back of paperback, Manchild in the Promised Land)

Manchild in the Promised Land – Claude Brown, paperback, 429 pages (A Signet Book)

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#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge Day 5: Historical Fiction

 

I read this one a few years ago when it came out. Very interesting story that is written with a lot of creativity. This was my first book by James McBride and it certainly won’t be my last. I think I might even think about rereading this one. “Henry Shackleford is a slave boy in Kansas Territory in 1856, when the region is a battleground between anti- and pro-slavery forced. When the legendary abolitionist John Brown arrives in the area, an argument between Brown and Henry’s master quickly turns violent. Henry is forced to leave town-with Brown, who believes he’s a girl.” (Inside flap of The Good Lord Bird) .

The Good Lord Bird, hardcover, 417 pages (Riverhead Books)

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