#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge Day 1 -Recently Purchased

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Day 1 – Recent Purchase: Blues Dancing  is “a work that fuses past and present, character and place with a transfixing lyricism that shimmers in its detail.  A richly spun story of love, passion, betrayal, and redemption.  Blues Dancing grapples with the meaning of faith, forgiveness, and familial bonds, in a narrative that moves seamlessly  between the Philadelphia  of contemporary times and the city in the early 1970s.”(inside cover of Blues Dancing) I can’t wait to pick this one up,especially after reading the first chapter and that cover is everything!

Diane McKinney-Whetstone is the celebrated author of two well received novels dianeTumbling and Tempest Rising.  Tumbling was her first novel and was published in 1996.  McKinney-Whetstone was born in Philadelphia into a family of four daughters. She began writing at the age of 39 years old.  After winning a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant for a 500 page first draft, her first novel Tumbling was published soon after.  She’s written other novels such as Leaving Cecil Street, Philadelphia Blues, and Trading Dreams at Midnight.  Her novels all take place in the city of Philadelphia in the center of the black community.  Her latest historical fiction novel Lazaretto is due to be released on April 12, 2016.

My copy:  Blues Dancing, hardcover  – 307 pages

 

I’m an affiliate for The Book Depository. It would be much appreciated to click the link below if you’re interested in picking up any of my recommendations. It will help fund my incessant book buying.

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

Daughter

Have you ever read a book that evoked so much emotion that you felt it was familiar and it made you shed a tear?  That hasn’t happened to me in ages.  Daughter begins with the story of Miriam and her daughter Aya.  They are keeping things together and getting on the best they can with no other family links.  One night Aya goes out for her usual run and doesn’t come back.  She is shot down by a police officer who mistakes her for a young black male suspect in a recent robbery in the area.  Aya is IMG_1798wearing a hoodie and listening to music, so doesn’t hear the officer approaching her.  As she turns and sees the officer she reaches in her pocket to turn off her music and the officer assumes she is reaching for a gun and shoots her.  From there the story of Miriam and Aya unfolds.

Miriam is a beautiful woman who is no longer living life to the fullest.  She is overwhelmed by life’s disappointments.  It’s as if she has made a pact with God to keep her and Aya safe if she upholds the highest standards of living – work, school, and church.  This means she expects the same from her daughter.  Problem is her connection to her daughter is minimal.  Miriam doesn’t have time for the attention that her daughter so craves.  Aya on the other hand finds her mother cold without feeling.  Aya doesn’t think her mother listens to her and secretly wishes for her father’s return.  Miriam wants to speak with Aya and understand her, however she refuses to tell Aya the complete family story, specifically about her father because she wants to protect her.  Nevertheless, this has its consequences.

Daughter is a perfect story about the roles of black women and men in the family and mother-daughter relationships.  It covers the difficulty of blacks to be seen as human trying to get better jobs and support their families.  Police brutality is a constant underlying theme, along with its impact on families and the black community.  Currently, there are often stories on the news and online about unarmed black men and women who have fallen victim to unmindful police officers.  This is nothing new in the U.S..  It’s been going on for a long while now.  “Since 1990, at least 2,000 people have been killed by law enforcement in the U.S.  Most of these people were black or Latino.  Most were unarmed.” (Daughter, p. 260)  The author, Asha Bandele, writes about the fall out from police brutality, through the development of Miriam’s character.  We see her change so much – from the naive over-positive adolescent to hard-working, silenced mother to destroyed and finally redeemed.

The structure and language of Daughter help depict the emotions and reality of the story.  The utilization of italics is inner thoughts and poetic passages, while blank pages after certain sections show a shift in the story or show something important is about to happen.  Bandele’s writing style flows beautifully and paints an exact picture of what she wants the reader to see.  This could easily be based on someone’s life story because it’s told with such attention to detail that nothing seems to be out-of-place.

Asha Bandele is a journalist(editor for Essence magazine) and writer.  She wrote her first memoir in 1999 called The Prisoner’s Wife, which is about her relationship and marriage to a prisoner serving a minimum sentence of twenty years.  She also wrote short stories like The Subtle Art of Breathing and short story collections and poems, Absence in the Palm of My Hands and Other Poems.  I’m looking forward to trying any one of these just to experience the quality, relevance, and sensitivity of her writing again.  Check out the video below to hear Bandele talking about writing. It’s really pertinent.

I’m an affiliate for The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated to click the link below if you’re interested in picking up any of my recommendations.  It will help fund my incessant book buying.

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

A Small Place

IMG_1516Caribbean literature is something that I haven’t read very much of, but the first two Jamaica Kincaid novels I read were Annie John and Lucy and that was a little over two years ago.  I thoroughly enjoyed them.  So to continue my discovery of Kincaid I picked up A Small Place and devoured it in a few hours.

The first few pages surprised me because Kincaid immediately implements the reader in the story.  She is speaking directly to us.  Many people will feel uncomfortable and resent her accusations, but deep down inside we all know they are true.  Within this tiny  81 page book, Kincaid explains the destruction and profiteering of her home, Antigua.

The story starts with the ugliness of tourism.  This is what will make the reader uncomfortable as we can see ourselves fit into the types of descriptions made about tourists.  The beauty of Antigua, its beaches that aren’t all free to its citizens, the beautiful landscapes, marred by imposing 5 star hotels, are almost stage sets made so that tourism can progress.  The exotic is what doesn’t allow tourists to see things as they are for Antiguans.

Kincaid laments on the lack of decent education in Antigua and the refusal of all past government officials to rebuild the island’s library, which has been virtually out of commission since colonial times.  There hangs on the building a sign which says, “THIS BUILDING WAS DAMAGED IN THE EARTHQUAKE OF 1974. REPAIRS ARE PENDING.” When this book was published in 1988, the renovation had been pending already for ten years.  That library is a definite symbol of the status of the Antiguans and the island as a whole.  They are nothing more than damaged remnants of colonial rule.

Kincaid doesn’t believe that young Antiguans are as well-educated as in her day.  She was educated under British rule with the classics (read Annie John for that understanding).  She realizes that the one thing the youth have in common with her generation is their capacity to admire the people who enslaved them. i.e. The British in her time and the Americans for the young Antiguans.

I could go on and explain to you the other very serious problems on the beautiful island of Antigua but I urge you to read it for yourself.  It is absolutely mind-blowing!  If and when you do, don’t judge the book on how you feel while reading it, but concentrate on all the grave issues facing these people.  I read many reviews on Goodreads saying that Kincaid was angry and why didn’t she do something to fix the library and she obviously doesn’t care because she lives in Vermont.  I felt like the person who wrote that didn’t understand the book.  Well if I were Kincaid I’d be angry too, not that I appreciate at all that angry black woman analogy.  All of the problems she details in this little book aren’t easy to come up against, since everybody is corrupt in one way or another and as for the locals they are just trying to survive.  Endemic corruption is almost impossible to fight against.  Here’s a quote from A Small Place that explains things very well, “In a small place, people cultivate small events.  The small event is isolated, blown up, turned over and over, and then absorbed into the everyday, so that at any moment it can and will roll off the inhabitants of the small place’s tongues.  For the people in a small place, every event is a domestic event; the people in a small place cannot see themselves in a larger picture, they cannot see that they might be part ofKENNETH NOLAND Jamaica Kincaid: unique literary journey. a chain of something, anything.” (A Small Place, p. 52)

Jamaica Kincaid was born in St. John’s, Antigua in 1949,  She now lives in Vermont and teaches at a university in California.  She is a writer, a gardener, and gardening writer.  Her work is qualified as autobiographical and is criticized as being angry.  Her books contain the following themes: post colonialism, neocolonialism, British/American imperialism, adolescence, mother-daughter relationships, racism, sexuality, class, and power.  She has received many literary awards including being shortlisted for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for At the Bottom of the River in 1984 and The Autobiography of My Mother in 1997.  As for me I hope to pick up the controversial See Now Then at some point this year.  What do you think of Ms. Kincaid’s work?  Have you read any of Ms. Kincaid’s work?  If so what was your favorite?

#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge – Day 28

Day 28 – Favorite Author:

My favorite author is extremely difficult to pin down to one person.  So, I decided to site an author that I IMG_1486discovered last year that I’ve fallen head over heels in love with. J. California Cooper.  She was an incredible storyteller and sadly she died last year.  I’ve read two of the novels that are pictured here and absolutely loved them.  I don’t know how this author managed to fly completely under the radar and not get the acknowledgement she deserved.    If you haven’t picked up a book by Cooper I recommend checking out Family.  It’s short but poignant.  It will suck you in, break your heart, and leave you with lots to think about.  Here are a few other titles that you might want to have a look at too:  Homemade Love,  Life is Short But Wide, Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime , and  A Piece of Mine, among others.  Nobody knows what the J stands for in J. California Cooper.  She wanted it that way.  Could she have not gotten noticed because she was so discrete?

Who’s your favorite author?

#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge – Day 24

Day 24 – Children’s Book:

There are so many excellent ones out there but I had to go with this four-time literary winner (Scott O’DellIMG_1469 for Historic Fiction, Newberry Honor, National Book Award Finalist, and the Coretta Scott King Award – One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. Check out my review here of it. I really liked it and could see children enjoying the story.  It is definitely worth giving as a gift or to borrow from the library.

“In the summer of 1968, after travelling from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to spend a month with the mother they barely know, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters arrive to a cold welcome as they discover that their mother, a dedicated poet and printer, is resentful of the intrusion of their visit and wants them to attend a nearby Black Panther summer camp.

In a humorous and breakout book by Williams-Garcia, the Penderwicks meet the Black Panthers.” (One Crazy Summer, Goodreads description)

What children’s book do you recommend today?

#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge – Day 16


Day 16 – As Good as Chocolate:  

Today’s recommendation is the eclectic Sassafrass, Cypress, & Indigo by Ntozake Shange…..

“Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo is the story of three “colored girls,” three sisters and their mama from Charleston, South Carolina: Sassafrass, the oldest, a poet and a weaver like her mother, gone north to IMG_1427college, living with other artists in Los Angeles and trying to weave a life out of her work, her man, her memories and dreams; Cypress, the dancer,who leaves home to find new ways of moving and easing the contractions of her soul; Indigo, the youngest, still a child of Charleston—”too much of the south in her”—who lives in poetry, can talk to her dolls, and has a great gift of seeing the obvious magic of the world.”(Description from Goodreads)

Loving Donovan

IMG_1392Loving Donovan is the third novel I’ve picked up from Bernice L. McFadden.  And I surely won’t wait so long to pick up another.  I previously read Glorious and then Gathering of Waters.  I really enjoyed both of these books.  In light of Loving Donovan being re-released this year with a modern fresh new cover, I was enticed to pick it up.  Loving Donovan, as all of McFadden’s work, shares some unique characteristics that define particularities in her writing style.  She manages to balance character development and plot to a fault, particularly in this one.  The two principal characters Campbell and Donovan are developed from childhood to adulthood.  We are given the chance to know them integrally. The book is split into 3 main sections:  Her, Him, and Them.  Through Campbell’s and Donovan’s development, the story develops too, while we are introduced to a myriad of spirited characters and some thought-provoking situations.

McFadden is clearly adept in keeping the reader entertained, captivated, and on our toes to try to figure out what’s going to happen next.  The rich characters, life situations, and language all wrapped up in such a small book and saying so much is a feat.  You will laugh. You will be profoundly saddened and you will be rooting for love the entire time.  This book is about love of all types – family, friendship, romantic.  It’s also about how one becomes who they become and how family and unexpected encounters shape a big part of who they become and how they can change one’s life profoundly.  It is part coming of age story and part love story.  I think that’s what makes it so special.  I do feel that if you haven’t read any of McFadden’s work you should definitely give this one a try.  She is a contemporary African-American writer that I feel should be getting a lot more press.  I’ll surely continue to read through her many treasures to discover more of her touching memorable characters.  As a matter of fact, next month I’ll probably be picking up Sugar and This Bitter Earth, a two-part story about a young African-American prostitute called Sugar Lacey who moves to Arkansas to start a new life.

#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge – Day 12

Day 12 – Most Expensive Book:

I’m back again today with another Toni Morrison.  Beloved and Song of Solomon are my most expensive
books.  They are both from the Everyman’s Library collection.  Beautifully made and they look great on myIMG_1411 shelves.  Now the thing that really stumped me is this.  When I first looked into getting these editions I was so thrilled and was plotting where I’d display them on my shelves.  Unfortunately, when I finally went to order them I realized that Everyman’s Library only had Beloved and Song of Solomon. I couldn’t believe it. I was so disappointed and spent the rest of the time trying to figure how they could justify only have 2 of Toni Morrison’s books in their collection.  Two years later and I till can’t figure it out.  But, don’t you just love the great picture of Morrison on the cover?  What expressive eyes!   What’s your most expensive book?