Day 11 – 2020 Newbie
As every year there are so many new releases and new authors appearing on the scene and 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 through 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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Day 5 – Favorite Play – I’ve had to put two recommendations for this challenge. I’m strongly recommending August Wilson’s The Century Cycle series. I haven’t read all of them yet but woking on it. Here’s my copy of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone which I’ll be reading this month. It’s the second play in the ten-play series set in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, which covers the development of African-Americans over the 20th century. These plays are great American classics and literary award winning – Pulitzer Prize for Drama Fences in 1987 and Piano Lessons in 1990. Joe Turner’s Come and Gone was winner of The New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play in 1988.
Joe Turner’s Come and Gone – “When Herald Loomis arrives at a black Pittsburgh boardinghouse after seven years’ impressed labor on Joe Turner’s chain gang, he is a free man-in body.
But the scars of his enslavement and a sense of inescapable alienation oppress his spirit still, and the seemingly hospitable rooming house seethes with tension and distrust in the presence of this tormented stranger. Loomis is looking for the wife he left behind, believing that she can help him reclaim his old identity. But through his encounters with the other residents he begins to realize that what he really seeks is his rightful place in a new world – and it will take more then the skills of the local “People Finder” to discover it… “(Goodreads description)
My second recommendation is Topdog/Underdog by the underrated and hardly spoken about Suzan-Lori Parks. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for Topdog/Underdog, which is believed to be her magnum opus. I’m in the middle of reading it and I’m loving it. Parks is a playwright and screenwriter. She was born in 1963 in Fort Knox, Kentucky. She soon moved to Western Germany because her father was stationed there as a career officer in the United States Army. Those years studying in Germany in middle school and high school taught her about what it means to be considered foreign. Parks is also known for writing a debut novel called Getting Mother’s Body, for which she was a nominee for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award in 2004 for Debut Fiction. Girl 6 was her first screenplay for Spike Lee in 1996 and later she worked on the screenplays of Their Eyes Were Watching God in 2005 and The Great Debaters in 2007. Parks had the opportunity to study under the phenomenal writer, James Baldwin who encouraged her to pursue writing plays. She apparently had a habit of acting out her characters when presenting them in class.
Topdog/Underdog – “A darkly comic fable of brotherly love and family identity is Suzan-Lori Parks latest riff on the way we are defined by history. The play tells the story of Lincoln and Booth, two brothers whose names were given to them as a joke, foretelling a lifetime of sibling rivalry and resentment. Haunted by the past, the brothers are forced to confront the shattering reality of their future.” (Goodreads description)
My copies: Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, paperback – 94 pages
Topdog/Underdog, paperback – 112 pages
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