Read Soul Lit Photo Challenge – Day 8 & Day 9

Day 8: Book with a View
Head Off & Split is my Spotlight of the day. Yes! Yes! Wow this poetry collection by the talented Nikki Finney! This poetry collection is a moving read that takes you through African American culture and history. You’ll just want to keep rereading. As a matter of fact, I’m due for another reread myself. I’m no expert on poetry but I know what I love.😍 How about you? Name a few of your favorite poetry collections.

 

Day 9: Spine Poetry

American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin
Nowhere is a Place
The Last Thing You Surrender
Erasure
Becoming
A Small Place
Lost in the City

 

If you’d like to pick up a copy of any of my recommendations or just shop for yourself please consider clicking my affiliate links for Blackwell’s or The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!

Blackwell’s Affiliate (Independent Bookstore/ Free Delivery)

https://www.blackwells.co.uk?a_aid=BrownGirlReading

The Book Depository

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

Read Soul Lit Merch

https://brown-girl-reading.myteespring.co

Read Soul Lit Photo Challenge Day 6 and Day 7

 

 

Day 6: Plant and a BookI will always mention Bedrock Faith by Eric Charles May when some ask for recommendations of Black American authors. This book is so damn underrated! I hope one day Eric Charles May decides to release another book. I’d be the first one to purchase it.Bedrock faith has everything that makes a great novel – larger than life characters, good writing, suspense, and a complex plot.
What’s it about?

“After fourteen years in prison, Gerald “Stew Pot” Reeves, age thirty-one, returns home to live with his mom in Parkland, a black middle-class neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. A frightening delinquent before being sent away (his infamies included butchering a neighbor’s cat, torching another neighbor’s garage, and terrorizing the locals with a scary pit bull named Hitler), his return sends Parkland residents into a religiously infused tailspin, which only increases when Stew Pot announces that he experienced a religious awakening in prison. Most neighbors are skeptical of this claim, with one notable exception: Mrs. Motley, a widowed retiree and the Reeves’s next-door neighbor who loans Stew Pot a Bible, which is seen by Stew Pot and many in the community as a friendly gesture.
With uncompromising fervor (and with a new pit bull named John the Baptist), Stew Pot appoints himself the moral judge of Parkland.”(Bedrock Faith, cover description)

 

Day 7: Next Read
Well I’m back to serial reading since I’m reading a huge doorstop. I don’t mind because I’m enjoying everything. The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison is a treasure trove of info on life back in the day and on writing, life, attitudes, and creativity. I’m enjoying reading about his friendship with Richard Wright and others. I started Bebe Moore Campbell’s What You Owe Me and I’m intrigued for the moment. This is an oldie but I have high hopes for it. Last but not least I’ll be picking up Song of Solomon for the second time in eons. So I’ve got my work cut out for me this week but so far so good…. What are you reading? Do you usually read more than one book at a time?

If you’d like to pick up a copy of any of my recommendations or just shop for yourself please consider clicking my affiliate links for Blackwell’s or The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!

Blackwell’s Affiliate (Independent Bookstore/ Free Delivery)

https://www.blackwells.co.uk?a_aid=BrownGirlReading

The Book Depository

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

Read Soul Lit Merch

https://brown-girl-reading.myteespring.co

Read Soul Lit photo Challenge – Day 4 & Day 5

Day 4: Young Adult

If you’ve been following me for a while you know I don’t really get into Young Adult so much. I feel like it’s written for young people so I don’t have to like it.  This being said I had to think on what I had that was different from the typical Angie Thomas and company. So I started combing my shelves and found X by Ilyasah Shabazz, Malcolmp X’s third daughter and Kekla Magoon. Haven’t read it yet because not a priority but I feel like this one would be great for YA readers.  Here’s what it’s about:

“I am Malcolm.
I am my father’s son. But to be my father’s son means that they will always come for me.

They will always come for me, and I will always succumb.

Malcolm Little’s parents have always told him that he can achieve anything, but from what he can tell, that’s nothing but a pack of lies—after all, his father’s been murdered, his mother’s been taken away, and his dreams of becoming a lawyer have gotten him laughed out of school. There’s no point in trying, he figures, and lured by the nightlife of Boston and New York, he escapes into a world of fancy suits, jazz, girls, and reefer.

But Malcolm’s efforts to leave the past behind lead him into increasingly dangerous territory when what starts as some small-time hustling quickly spins out of control. Deep down, he knows that the freedom he’s found is only an illusion—and that he can’t run forever.

X follows Malcolm from his childhood to his imprisonment for theft at age twenty, when he found the faith that would lead him to forge a new path and command a voice that still resonates today.”  (X, cover)

 

Day 5:  Literary Fiction

Literary Fiction is my favorite. So I had no trouble choosing Colson Whitehead which has slowly become my book bae since I started reading him.  I really do admire his capacity to tell all sorts of important stories in different ways. I decided to go with The Intuitionist because it’s probably one of the titles by Whitehead that is the least spoken about.  This copy was a gift to me and I’m finally going to make room for it on my TBR this year, to be specific next month. Have you read The Intuitionist? What book by Colson Whitehead do you love the most?

“Lila Mae Watson, the city’s first black female inspector and a devout Intuitionist with the highest accuracy rate in the department, is at the center of the turmoil. An elevator in a new municipal building has crashed on Lila Mae’s watch, fanning the flames of the Empiticist-Intuitionist feud and compelling Lila Mae to go underground to investigate. As she endeavors to clear her name, she becomes entangled in a web of intrigue that leads her to a secret that will change her life forever.

A dead-serious and seriously funny feat of the imagination, The Intuitionist conjures a parallel universe in which latent ironies in matters of morality, politics, and race come to light, and stands as the celebrated debut of an important American writer.” (The Intuitionist, inside flap)

 

If you’d like to pick up a copy of any of my recommendations or just shop for yourself please consider clicking my affiliate links for Blackwell’s or The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!

Blackwell’s Affiliate (Independent Bookstore/ Free Delivery)

https://www.blackwells.co.uk?a_aid=BrownGirlReading

The Book Depository

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

Read Soul Lit Merch

https://brown-girl-reading.myteespring.co

Read Soul Lit Photo Challenge – Day 2 and Day 3

Day 2: The day’s prompt was Outside. I was so happy to see all the beautiful pics of books in the snow or with snowy backgrounds. Absolutely beautiful! I decided to take a picture of The Living is Easy by Dorothy West in my garden in front of the only beautiful thing left.  This was her debut novel and was reprinted last year in November with this beautiful cover. It was originally published in 1948. The Living is Easy is definitely on my TBR list of books to get to this year and I hope to follow it up with The Wedding, which seems to be the title that most people seem to be familiar with. So what’s it about:

“The Living Is Easy tells the story of Cleo Judson, daughter of Southern sharecroppers, determined to integrate into Boston’s black elite. Married to the “Black Banana King” Bart Judson, Cleo maneuvers her three sisters and their children—but not their husbands—into living with her, attempting to recreate her original family in a Bostonian mansion.” (The Living is Easy, the cover)

 

Day 3:  Shelfie was the prompt today and the pictures I’ve seen on Instagram have been inspirational. Inspirational in me trying to make my own reading room, but first I have to finish organizing my shelves.  I took  a picture of one of my favorite shelves (one of the most organized) and that’s the one which contains Bernice McFadden and J. California Cooper books.  I decided to use Dr. Morayo Da Silva as an example from the Cassava Republic published novel Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun. The main character, Dr. Dasilva arranges her books together if she thinks they could be friends. So some of my shelves are organized in this fashion.

I feel like J. California Cooper is an author that isn’t spoken about enough and that’s mostly because backlist books aren’t really popular. You can’t get better short story collections than hers. I recommend you start with Homemade Love and Family which is a novella, an uplifting story you won’t forget. Of course, Bernice McFadden is another author that you should read if you haven’t. Some of my favorites from her are Gathering of Waters, Nowhere is a Place, and The Book of Harlan.  Literally everything she writes is excellent.  You can’t go wrong no matter whatever you decide to read.

 

Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race

It was approximately five months ago that my book club was speaking about race since we were discussing Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  I found myself being the unique reference since I was the only black person in the room.  Scary. That brought home the idea that black people are not a monolith.Everybody else is white and the majority are from the UK.  Surprisingly enough, the subject of race and the UK came up as they all declared themselves disappointed with America’s outward racism since 45 being elected.  They then came to the conclusion that class was more of a divide in the UK than race.  I was surprised to hear this because the few black people I’ve known from the UK always said that race was largely the issue.  Not being able to speak knowledgeably about the UK’s race issues, I remained silent on that one, while silently suspecting that they were giving the UK a bit too much credit on the race issue.

Contrary to the title  Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race,  I find myself img_4073having to do it more frequently, since I’ve been living in France for over 20+ years.  Here nobody wants to bring up the subject of race.  The French are living in a race Disneyland in their heads.  They never question the lack of racial diversity on television, in politics, in schools, and in the hierarchy of big business.  Everything is hunky dory here.  France has quite a way to go before they begin to just scratch the surface of their race issues.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race was an engrossing and informative read touching on race in the UK.  This book was developed from a blog post Reni Eddo-Lodge had written on 22 February 2014 about her difficulty to speak about race with white people.

“I’m no longer engaging with white people on the topic of race.  Not all white people, just the vast majority who refuse to accept the legitimacy of structural racism and its symptoms.  I can no longer engage with the gulf of an emotional disconnect that white people display when a person of colour articulates their experience.  You can see their eyes shut down and harden.  It’s like treacle is poured into their ears, blocking up their ear canals.  It’s like they can no longer hear us.” (Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, p. ix) White people not being interested in hearing about race problems was very similar to what Michael Eric Dyson described in Tears We Cannot Cry:  A Sermon to White America.

This book is her detailed extension of that blog post.  It reminds the reader that black American story has taken over and become the story that is learned in the UK, while the black British story being neglected.  So neglected that the average British person probably isn’t aware of how blacks really got to Britain nor how much race as also shaped the UK.  It opens with a powerful preface, introducing you to Eddo-Lodge’s voice –  insightful and punctilious.   The book is separated into seven chapters, Chapter 1 beginning with the history of Britain – colonialism and slavery.  The other chapters cover the system, white privilege, mixed race people, feminism, and finally race and class.  The very last chapter is uplifting and gives both white and black people ideas on how to deal with discussions about race.  Basically, we have to choose our battles carefully.

“Racism does not go both ways.  There are unique forms of discrimination that are backed up by entitlement, assertion and, most importantly, supported by structural power strong enough to scare you into complying with the demands of the status quo.  We have to recognize this.” (Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Racep. 98)

If you’re still not sure about reading Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, click the video below and listen to Reni Eddo-Lodge talking about it.  It’ll give you an even better overview of the topics she covers.

My copy:  Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race,  paperback, 224 pages

My rating:  * * * * *

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, reading, and reviewing.
http://www.bookdepository.com/?a_aid=browngirlreading

 

Confused Spice Live Show

 

Confused Spice – Mathis Bailey (paperback 262 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

 

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

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

 

 

Behold the Dreamers

snapseedThe immigrant story has been the central theme to quite a lot of contemporary novels these past few years.  The release of Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers may have first been perceived as another typical immigrant story to join all the others, but actually it’s much more.

I was sent a Net Galley uncorrected proof in exchange for an honest review, so I opted to listen to the audiobook while reading simultaneously.  The experience was very interesting because I got to see what was edited and how the change of a few words can give a passage a totally different feel. The general story of Behold the Dreamers is a family from Cameroon united after some time. We the reader follow their ups and downs to remain in the United States and to hopefully obtain the proper paper work.

The story begins with Jende who is going through an interview with Clark Edwards to become his chauffeur.  Happily, Jende gets the job and Behold the Dreamers evolves and explores the dynamic relationship between the Edwards, the rich American family and the Jongas, the Cameroonian immigrant family.  Honestly, this juxtaposition between the two families is brilliant.  Mbue tells this story while favoring none of the characters.  What works the best in this novel is that the characters feel as if they could be real people.  They aren’t all good or all bad. They are characters that have all the possibilities of making wrong and right decisions.  Despite the wrong things these characters do, the reader will automatically find at least one of them sympathetic.  You’ll even be able to understand why they do and why they do things, even when you won’t necessarily agree with them.  That made this immigrant story an extremely refreshing and fair retelling.

From the beginning, the growing relationship between these two families seems promising.  They add to each other’s lives while still remaining at a comfortable distance.  Following their connections with each other is as fragile as the American economy.  There  is a constant nagging feeling of dread that haunts the reader.  What will happen next?

The Edwards family have everything and from outward appearances things are perfect, and  the Jongas are a struggling family trying to maneuver the difficulties from everyday day life, education, family issues, immigration bureaucracy, and money problems.  The funny thing is that both families have similar problems and are both affected by the financial market crash.  The question is which family will fall perfectly on their feet?  Or will both? Or neither?  Mbue uses the market crash of 2008 to show that it was an equalizer of sorts when it came to the damage that Americans and immigrants felt – losing their jobs, their homes, and even family.

Mbue’s writing is direct yet, you will be surprised by where it leads you.  It’s amazing to read this debut novel from a young writer who has come into her gift without loads of  practice.  True passion and well written.  I’ll link the video below where she talks about how Behold the Dreamers came about.  It goes to show you that the simplest idea came become an interesting book.  They just need to be developed.  So, if  you haven’t read this book I strongly encourage you to pick it up or even listen to the audiobook, which was brilliantly read.  The accents were perfect and really added another dimension to the story as opposed to just reading the book, especially if you’re not familiar with Cameroonian accents.

Behold the Dreamer, 380 pages – Random House, March 2016

My Rating:  4 stars

Recommended to:  Readers who enjoy immigrant stories.

Audiobook:  Excellent

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

 

 

 

 

Here Comes the Sun

Nicole Dennis-Benn’s debut novel explores living on the island of Jamaica.  Masquerading img_3150behind a jovial gay cover in bright orange, yellow, and green, Here Comes the Sun, starts gently and insidiously goes places we aren’t prepared for.  The novel revolves around three unlikable main characters – Delores, Margot, and Thandi, who form an unforgettable trio.  Delores is a mother preoccupied with money and not enough to the real well-being of her daughters.  Margot her oldest daughter is motivated to work in the hotel and she gets to the point of selling her body to hotel guests to earn enough money to pay for Thandi’s education and the family’s house expenses.  Thandi, Delores’ youngest daughter, is 15 years younger than Margot.  She’s brilliant in school and is searching to be loved and accepted.  All the family’s desires of escaping poverty in River Bank are tied up in the hopes of Thandi succeeding at school and eventually going to medical school to become a doctor.

The setting of this novel is River Bank a quiet little village situated near a resort hotel, where cruise ships make frequent stops with nonchalant tourists.  Life in poverty on an island can make people do things they would have never thought of doing to survive.  The way Dennis-Benn uses light and darkness to convey the moods of the characters and to set a scene is masterly.  Told with luscious language and poignant analogies, she accurately paints the picture of the horrific situations facing Jamaicans in little sleepy towns near luxurious high-rise resorts.  As I was reading this novel, it made me think of A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid and the rage that ran through the novel.

“The darkness claims her, encircles her with black walls that eventually open up into a path for her to walk through.  She takes a few steps, aware of the one foot in front of the other; of the strangeness creeping up her spine, wrapping itself around her belly, shooting up into her chest, The scent of the bougainvilleas that line the fence is like a sweet embrace. The darkness becomes a friendly accomplice. Yet, the familiar apprehension ambushes her: Can she be seen?  She looks over her shoulder  and contemplates the distance it would take for her to walk to her house from here.  A good mile.  She stands in front of the bright pink house that emerges from the shadows.  It seems to gloss in the dark….”(Here Comes the Sun, pp. 15-16)

Here Comes the Sun is a novel that mixes a good plot with excellent character development. It’s obvious that Dennis-Benn set out to depict a story showing the sociological implications of the difficulties people on the island face, while balancing the plot with pertinent themes such as homosexuality, mother/daughter relationships, colorism, sexism, class, race, missing fathers and of course the long-lasting effects of colonialism on the thoughts and behavior of the island people.  You’re probably thinking that this sounds like a lot to put in a 345 page book, but it’s brilliantly balanced, paced, and speaks clearly to the reader.

Having four generations living under the same roof was Dennis-Benn’s way of having the reader follow and understand the difficulties of each character.  Dolores is a horrible mother but her discourse is obviously that of the after effects of colonialism.  Money is the only thing that she believes will get them out of where they are.  She would subscribe to the expression – You gotta do what you gotta do.  Delores’ voice and a few of the other secondary characters like Charles, Miss Ruby, and Maxi are always in Jamaican dialect which roots the reader into the tradition of life in River Bank.  The dialect isn’t hard to understand.  Saying the lines out loud can help you understand the meaning better if you struggle with reading dialect.  Margot hiding her homosexuality, her deep hatred for her mother, and her desire to earn enough money to leave River Bank and set up elsewhere drive her throughout the story and the lengths she goes to make this happen are mind-blowing.  Thandi who has the weight on her shoulders to succeed in school to save her family from poverty and at the same time doesn’t feel accepted in her school;  has seemed to take in all the derogatory things she hears about dark skin.  “Tsk, tsk. Well, God played a cruel joke on you.  Because, chile, if yuh skin was as pretty as yuh hair, you’d be one gorgeous woman.” (Here Comes the Sun, p. 25)  Sadly, she is so sure that she’ll be accepted if her skin is lighter.

You’ll be glued from the moment you begin to read this story, anxious to find out what’s going to happen next, shocked as you’re pulled through all the twists and turns.  All the secondary characters are just as memorable as Delores, Margot, and Thandi.  The only real problem I had with Here Comes the Sun was the ending, to be exact the last chapter.  I was really disappointed to not get the closure I was hoping for once the novel was finished.  I wanted to know what happened to the characters.  Chapter 40 left me dissatisfied.  I really enjoyed all the other parts of the novel and felt they were perfect.  Unfortunately, the outcomes of the characters are left hanging and inferred.  It felt like she had no idea how to finish this book or maybe she was reluctant to end the book with all the loose ends perfectly tied up.  Could she have felt that ending the book this way shows that life goes on, as if we the readers were just witnesses to a part of these characters’ lives?  I’m wondering if maybe she plans on using these characters for another book.  That would make a great second book. 😉  So, have you read this one and if not are you interested in trying it?

My copy:   Here Comes the Sun, 345 pages

Rating: ****

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