#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 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 4 – Sign of the Times (Non-Fic)

I decided to go with Another Day in the Death of America because it’s on my 2018 TBR.  It’d a book hat I’m hesitant about reading because of the tragedy it contains.  However, I realize and accept that these stories need to be told. Sadly, gun control is something we still can’t seem to tackle properly in the US. Let’s hope we won’t wait until the number of dead rises far beyond its current number.  “Saturday, 23 November 2013, ten children and teens were shot dead.  The youngest was nine; the oldest was nineteen.  White, black, and Latino, they fell in suburbs, hamlets, and ghettos.  None made the national news. There was no outrage about their passing.  It was just another day in the death of America, where on average seven children and teens are killed by guns daily.” (Inside flap of Another Day in the Death of America) “24 hours. 8 states. 10 young lives lost to gun violence.”

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#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge Day 1 – #ReadSoulLit TBR

I don’t usually make TBRs because I have a lot of trouble following them.  Remember I’m Fickle Fred. I’m totally capable of quitting a book for no apparent reason, sometimes even when I’m enjoying it.  I know strange. So my TBR list for February is eclectic but interesting – Tar Baby by Toni Morrison, A Red Death by Walter Mosley, Buffalo Dance The journey of York and When Winter Come  The Ascension of York by Frank X Walker, The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis, Halsey Street by Naima Coster, and Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore by Walter Mosley.  There is one debut novel, one Middle Grade, 2 Poetry books, 1 detective novel, and a great American Classic, which is a reread.  I feel like if I can manage to get through all of these then I can maybe work in a 400+ page book towards the end of the month. Big plans! Let’s see if I can keep my eyes on the books I’ve chosen. I’m mostly looking forward to rereading Tar Baby.  It’s been a long while since I picked it up.  I remember it sparking some lively discussions in college.  I hope it will do the same during our discussions on Goodreads. So what are you picking up this month?  Will you be exclusively reading African-American authors?  Are you joining me in reading Tar Baby?

 

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Book to Movie Review – Devil in a Blue Dress

Book to movie adaptations never seem to be quite right.  In spite of the great idea to adapt the book because the story is good, it seems as if all the good points about the book get literally lost in cinematography translation.  I know you’re probably thinking, you can’t expect the same thing from a movie that you get from a book and rightfully so, but I still can’t help comparing them and being disappointed most of the time.

After my second reading of Devil in a Blue Dress I was so happy to have reconnected with Easy Rawlins.  My memory of the story is even more vivid.  He is an all around good guy that revels in his freedom.  He owns his own house, has no wife, and kids and is as free as the time period will let him be.  In the beginning of the story he loses his job and has no way to pay his mortgage.  He is then enticed into a job working for a white man called Dewitt Albright, who hires Easy for $100, to find a white woman who hangs out in predominantly black bars.  The setting is Los Angeles 1948.  From there the story takes off on a criss-cross of events leading Easy down dangerous paths.

So, I decided to check out the movie which I watched late on a Saturday night on my computer.  Devil in a Blue Dress was released in 1995 staring Denzel Washington as Easy and Jennifer Beals as Daphne Monet.  Firstly I was happy with Denzel being Easy because he seemed to fit the part perfectly.   The other character that was really good was Lisa Nicole Carson as Coretta James.  She was flirtatious, while being evasive about what she knew.  However, Jennifer Beals as Daphne Monet absolutely didn’t work.  I couldn’t understand the choice.  Daphne Monet is described as being a very beautiful blond, sultry woman.  She’s supposed to be the kind of woman who can tun the head of any man.  So no, Jennifer Beals didn’t exude sexy nor mysterious.  She looked more aloof and absent on-screen than crafty and sultry.

Another character that didn’t work for me was Tom Sizemore as Dewitt Albright.  He looked like a typical Italian mafia type and that wasn’t at all how I pictured him.  Albright’s character in the book is cold, calculating, and unpredictable.  I pictured him blond, tall, and slim – a man who could pass as a businessman.  Instead the Albright character was played as a mafia type like what we’d see in a New York city gangster movie.  Another character that didn’t work was Mouse played by Don Cheadie.  His character seemed to appear out of nowhere and was too crazy in the film.  I think I preferred Mouse in the book because his presence was more believable.  His character was explained, so he didn’t appear in the story like a bull in a china shop.  I felt as if Cheadie took away from Washington when they were on-screen together.  I believe that was because Mouse’s character seemed to have the upper hand in every scene they were together, not to mention we aren’t in Easy’s head as much as we are in the book.

The setting and the costumes were perfect.  These two things are visually necessary in making the story come full circle,  since the time period is the late 40s.  The prominent scenes in the book seemed to be played out far too quickly in the film, therefore losing the ongoing tension of the story.  Throughout the book the reader has an on-going fear that something tragic is going to happen to Easy from the police, Albright, Frank Green, passing cars,… Mosley paints a picture of a black person living in the late 40s in a very realistic manner.  The simple act of walking down the street can be dangerous.  The book makes the threat against black people an ongoing fear throughout the mystery.  This adds supplementary tension to the story.  That aspect is lost a bit and seems to focus more on the storyline which slightly changes the last third of the book.  I think that is what disappointed me the most.  Seeing that the movie was produced in 1995, I should have expected these changes.

So should you watch it?  I guess I’d say yes if you don’t ever plan on reading the book.  Having said that, if you read the book first the movie adaptation won’t bring you anything more than a watered down version that you’ll be disappointed watching.

 

Devil in a Blue Dress (Easy Rawlins #1) – Walter Mosley (hardcover)

Washington Square Press

263 pages

Rating – 4 stars

 

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Born on a Tuesday

Born on a Tuesday opens following a gang of street boys, who are hanging in the streets and getting up to no good. They spend time smoking wee wee, pillaging, committing random acts of violence and even murder. We are introduced to the main character, Dantala, “born on a Tuesday”, alias Ahmad. His poignant first person voice recounts his coming of age story in northern Nigeria.

This poignant novel takes us through friendships, political strife, islamic extremism, and death. We as readers learn more about the real life difficulties of growing up a boy in northern Nigeria. Dantala is a boy who has seen a lot already from the beginning of the novel. In spite of this, he is still not enough street smart. He is away from his home and is supposed to be studying the Koran, Arabic, Hausa, and Math. He’s an excellent student but a horrific incident sends him running for his life from Bayan Layi. We have no idea how old he is but it’s quite clear he can’t be more than 15 years old. He finds himself weak and sick in a town called Sokoto. This is where the growth of Dantala and Born on a Tuesday continues.

I have to say I was excited to buddy read this novel with The African Book Addict. We both owned Born on a Tuesday and were anxious to get to it.  This book touches on many typical themes as most coming of age stories but this one goes much further. It explores political power, religion, and how religious extremism starts and can envelop a community and the innocent.  This novel depicts all the complexities that we can’t think of.  The writing style and the author’s capacity to make the reader feel so many different emotions in so few pages are the best things about Born on a Tuesday.  I was engrossed immediately and liked Dantala’s personality. At times I found myself mentally rooting for him and urging him not to make bad choices.

The structure of the novel was cleverly done.  It is separated into five parts ranging from 2003-2010. Part 3 begins with a chapter called Words. It’s from here where we read Dantala’s English word journal. These sections, written in italics, explore words that he had learned in English and through his journal we go deeper into his thoughts about what is going on in his life through them.  It is a diary of sorts disguised as a simple word journal. Some of the words he writes about are obsess, anthropology, terrify, discovery shrug, etc.  These passages are some of the more vulnerable moments of Dantala’s thoughts. It’s a clever device that Elnathan John uses for us to see what Dantala really thinks and feels about things.  Despite this being a first person narrative, we are immediately sucked in and believe everything he recounts. He’s a pretty reliable narrator too since he doesn’t try to lie about his feelings or actions when he is embarrassed (and there are quite a few embarrassing moments) or wrong.  I know usually readers feel first person narratives get a little too close for comfort but I can’t explain exactly why but this one could only work in that point of view.

This is the first novel I’ve read by Elnathan John and I can’t wait to get to another one. His writing is unfaltering and informative. Born on a Tuesday was shortlisted for the NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2016. After reading this one I’d like to know which title won.  Elnathan John is a writer and novelist and is one of Nigeria’s most well-known satirist.  If you’d like to read more of Elnathan John’s writing check out his blog Elnathan’s Dark Corner.

My copy:  Born on a Tuesday, Elnathan John (Cassava Republic), paperback 261 pages

My rating:  * * * * *

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Confused Spice Live Show

 

Confused Spice – Mathis Bailey (paperback 262 pages)

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Bedrock Faith Live Show Discussion

 

Bedrock Faith by Eric Charles May – 432 pages – Akashic Books

Rating – 4,5 stars

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Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America

The inauguration of the newly elected president of America is upon us. Racism has shownimg_3313 to be very alive and well  in the United States, contrary to popular belief. People are all questioning how we could go from President Barak Obama to what was elected on November 7, 2016.  Deep down I think we all know why and aren’t really surprised, but in essence most of us don’t want to admit what the problem really is.  Tears We Cannot Stop : A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson delves profoundly and with precision into the murky racist history America keeps holding on to, as it seems, for dear life.   Do YOU really want to know what the problem is? Or, do you prefer to keep pretending you don’t see color and that racism doesn’t exist?

Dyson opens Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America showing the reader that we are all different, living and seeing the world from our own points of view.  However similar that is, black people’s experiences are being minimized and ignored.   The realization that black people are still viewed today as inferior and the struggle for white people to acknowledge their white privilege are only two of the many problems Dyson analyzes in Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America.  Dyson chose to structure this novel to resemble a church service, henceforth giving the book a very heart-felt, sincere tone.  Instead of being separated into simple numbered chapters, they are each labeled with a part of a full church service, Chapter I. Call to Worship, Chapter II. Hymns of Praise, Chapter III.  Invocation,  Chapter IV. Scripture Reading, Chapter V. Sermon, VI. Benediction, VII. Offering Plate, and finally VIII. Closing Prayer.

Written in only 188 pages, Dyson incisively takes “beloved” (white people) through the 360° lesson on race and understanding it from a black person’s point of view.  He leaves no stone unturned.  He demystifies whiteness in exactitude and with unflinching truth.  Yes it’s uncomfortable, which he states right from the beginning, but it’s necessary.  Dyson utilizes pop culture, expressions, lyrics, tv shows, famous people, and most of all real examples from his own life.  He uses all of this to demonstrate white America’s inability  to accept their part in racism still exiting so strongly today.  Despite sounding negative, Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America is not all gloom and doom.

I don’t want to give anything more away, but EVERYONE white, black, hispanic, asian, or other NEEDS to read this book, as well as those of you who aren’t American but want to understand America’s race struggle better.  Dyson’s writing is truthful and informative, while being equally interesting.  It will be hard to avoid understanding some of the problems of racism in America today, after reading this book.  Those who read it won’t have any excuses.  This book isn’t a cry for help or a plea for pity, it’s a demand for REAL respect, understanding, and action.

You may not know who Michael Eric Dyson is but every black American does and you should too.  He is an author, radio host, and professor of Sociology.  He teaches Sociology at Georgetown University.  He became an ordained Baptist minister at 19.  He’s obtained various degrees from Knoxville College, Carson-Newman College, and Princeton University. Dyson definitely has his finger on the pulse of America’s race problem because  he’s written many books discussing race and related topics, such as Why I Love Black WomenKnow What I Mean? Reflections On Hip Hop,   Debating Race: with Michael Eric DysonHoller If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur, among many others and Tears  We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America  is his nineteenth.

*I was sent this book for an honest review from St. Martin’s Press.

Tears We Cannot Stop A Sermon to White America, 188 pages  – St. Martin’s Press

My rating: 5 stars

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

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#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge – Day 16 Book You Want to Own

The CotillionDay 16Book You Want to Own  The book I’d love to own is John Oliver Killens’s The Cotillion One Good Bull is Half the Herd.  I’ve always been interested in reading and owning this book, as well as his others Youngblood, And Then We Heard the Thunder, and Sippi.  I’ll have to save up for this one because it’s a little pricey in the old 1970s edition I want with the dust jacket.  One day….

“Beautiful, high-stepping Yoruba of Harlem is invited to the annual cotillion thrown by African American high society of Queens. Caught between the indifference of her father, the excitement of her social-climbing mother, and her prodigal boyfriend’s militancy, Yoruba persuades her sister debutantes to challenge the aging doyennes in one of the most sidesplitting scenes in American literature.john olliver killens

Nominated for a Pulitzer in 1972, Killens’s uproarious satire captures the conflicts within black society in the 1960s. The Cotillion is the fourth title in Coffee House Press’s acclaimed Black Arts Movement series.”(The Cotillion, Goodreads description)

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