Festival America

 

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Krik? Krak!

img_2994I’d never heard the words Kirk? Krak! and wondered what they meant when I picked this book up.  Reading the back cover, I learned that storytellers say Krik? and listeners say Krak! in Haiti.  Krik? Krak! is a poetic collection of connected short stories that explores the Haitian community in the United States and in Haiti.  The tradition of storytelling is a way of passing down moeurs and is an important part of Haitian culture.  This is specifically treated in this collection – passing culture from mother to daughter.

Krik? Krak! opens with a short story of Haitian refugees that are attempting to escape the political strife and horrors of their country and are floating out to sea desperately trying to reach Miami, while shedding their personal items along the way and in some cases their lives.  Each story is told from the poignant point of view of Haitians however surprising these stories have a strong sense of universality about them as well.  Everyone has a sense of home, a sense of family, of culture, and a desire for a good life.  Danticat does a brilliant job of integrating the recurring themes of water, suffering, and hope.  Water is often portrayed as a barrier.  The barrier that surrounds the island of Haiti and separates it from the Dominican Republic.  Just as the ocean must be crossed to attain a hopeful life in the United States, water is the notion of escape along with the reminder of all the Haitians that didn’t/don’t make it.

It’s very hard to read these stories and not think about the refugees fleeing the horrors of Syria and immigrating to Europe.  Leaving one’s country and having to find the balance between acceptance into a new country and preserving the culture that was left behind.  Danticat’s writing is infectious with a dynamism of superstition and it enlightens the reader to Haitian history.  I strongly recommend reading this short story collection to learn more about Haiti and its people but mostly to experience the passionate manner in which Danticat evokes the honesty, courage, sensitivity, and authenticity of their stories.

Edwidge Danticat is a Haitian-American writer born in Port-au-Prince in 1969.  She was raised in Haiti by her aunt and uncle.  She finally joined her parens, who had left for the United States earlier, at the age of 12 in Brooklyn.  Danticat began writing at the age of 9 years old.  Her move to Brooklyn was difficult so she turned to literature for comfort.  Her first published writing in English was A Haitian-American Christmas: Cremace and Creole Theatre.   Some of the major themes that are dealt with in her writings are mother-daughter relationships, national identity, and Haitian diaspora.

She has been decorated with  countless literary awards and honorary degrees.  Having earned a Masters of Fine Arts from Brown University, Danticat has gone on to write many well-known titled books such as The Farming of the Bones, The Dew Breaker, and her latest novel Claire of the Sea Light.  On a high note, a young director named Easmanie Michel fell in love with Krik? Krak! and is working diligently to bring Edwidge Danticat’s short story Caroline’s Wedding to the big screen.  She believes that Danticat’s work will translate well on-screen and she has been entrusted to make it happen.  If you’re interested in keeping up with the new developments on this film project head over and check out Easmanie Michel’s Facebook page Caroline’s Wedding.

 

My Copy:  Krik? Krak!, paperback 224 pages

Rating: *****

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The Fire This Time

The Fire This Time.  Police brutality and systemic racism are plaguing the United States as if we hadn’t gone through the Civil Rights movement.  I living in France, a country without worry or anxiety when I go out, don’t have to face so much overt racism, nor too many microagressions, sit and listethe fire this timen to the countless horrific cases of police brutality ending in fatality.  I am almost fifty years old and am proud to have seen a black president and hopefully a female one.  However the hate crimes, police brutality, and systemic racism I fear I won’t see an end before my death.

Jesmyn Ward compiled a series of poignant essays called, The Fire This Time, that each explore the difficulty that black Americans are having today concerning race.  Some Americans may not even be aware of these difficulties that are well known to black Americans.  The subjects in this collection range from the  role of the black father, to Phillis Wheatly, to preserving our dead, to to simply walking. Each essay is just as important as the other.  There are important lessons to be learned through this read by ALL Americans.  It is a must read.  We can all learn something from The Fire this Time.  For example, I hadn’t heard about the Know Your Rights murals informing citizens of their rights when confronted with the police.  I also hadn’t heard about the remains of slaves found in the New England area that have been conveniently paved over and left to be forgotten.

Powerful, informative, and moving The Fire this Time will make you think and sadden your heart.  It will make you wonder why and where have we gone wrong and why do some Americans not feel that there’s anything wrong about all these recent events which have been going on for longer than a few years. “What Baldwin understood is that to be black in America is to have the demand for dignity be at absolute odds with the national anthem.”(The Fire This Time, )

Another important essay is by Garnett Cadoan. Since when is it a crime to walk. Apparently only if one is black is it a problem.  As a matter of fact a black man running, walking, and waiting on street corners for friends can get him into trouble and in some cases killed. “Walking while black restricts the experience of walking, renders in accessible the classic Romantic experience of walking alone.”(The Fire This Time, Black and blue by Garnette Cadogan)

If you don’t pick up Between the World and Me, I get it, but definitely check out this 5-star collection containing essays from important writers such as Edwidge Danticat, Jesmyn Ward, Mitchell S. Jackson, Claudia Rankine, Isabel Wilkerson, and many more.

My copy: The Fire This Time, ebook 240 pages

Rating: *****

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My Book Club Shortlist 2016-2017

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The Blackbirds

The Blackbirds is the latest release from Eric Jerome Dickey, known for writing contemporary novels about African-American life.  Naughtier than Nice, the sequel to Naughty or Nice and One Night, a standalone were the last two novels he published in 2015.  For me, It’s been a while since I’ve read anything from him so I sort of knew what I was going to be getting into with this one.  Exquisite cover, 400 plus pages, this is that “girlfriend book” that everybody has been anticipating this 2016.

img_2867Four best friends as close as sisters, Kwanzaa, Ericka, Destiny, and Indigo are all trying to find love and solutions to their personal quandaries.  The novel is plot driven like only Dickey knows how to do.  He has his writing formula down to a science.  It’s funny, zany, sexy, over the top, heartbreaking, and explanatory.  Dickey has found a way to balance what would be considered a typical urban erotica novel, while packing it with loads of social commentary.  He makes references to all sorts of incidents from police brutality to political to social media, etc.  The Blackbirds is brimful of urban expressions and millennial lingo, so if you’re not hip to the groove I suggest you read it with the urban dictionary open.

The themes seem to be typical of what Dickey writes – sexuality, homosexuality, male/female – mother/daughter – father/daughter relationships, cheating, female friendships, illness, etc.  It touches on just about everything. The thing that surprised me the most was the quantity of sex in the novel.  I knew it would contain sex but not to that extent.  Sex scenes took over the story in the second and third parts of the novel.  So if you have a problem with reading erotica, this won’t be the book for you.  Surprisingly, there is no mention on the stunning cover about the novel being erotica, but when you look on the inside flap it’s written at the top in red.  Now this has intrigued me because when books are written by white authors they always put some kind of trigger warning that it contains copious amounts of sex, etc.  So I’m wondering how is it that this novel has no mention of it on the front cover.  Could it be that Dutton thought that the way the book was going to be marketed that only black readers would be interested in it?  Or is it that Dutton assumed that black readers like reading about sex so no need to point out the obvious?  Or maybe it’s just that Dutton doesn’t think that white readers will go for this one anyway because essentially it will be in the black interests section in Barnes & Noble, so no need?

To exacerbate my previous questions, I saw a comment made in the review section of Goodreads where a white man said he was disappointed by The Blackbirds.  “He said he had to quit before he plucked out his eyes and that it was dreadful.  He then commented that he was obviously not the the target audience and moreover he thought Dickey’s talent would shine through. Alas!”  (Goodreads user)  I didn’t realize the reader had to be the target audience to enjoy a book.  That’s a new one for me.  Granted, Dickey’s book isn’t 5-star in my opinion, but it isn’t totally bad either.  If anything he’s guilty of, it is of sensationalizing his book with too much sex and trying to develop too many story lines at once; which I believe is always a trap when there are several main characters.  For instance, there are a few story lines which are thrown together quickly to end the book just over 500 pages.  Those story lines should have been treated with more care, but instead their development was bypassed for some juicy sex scenes, which made the last 200 pages feel rushed.

Nevertheless, The Blackbirds is a nice escape read that titillates, amuses,  makes you smile, makes the head shake, and the mind say Amen (at times). It’s loud, hysterical, ratchet, violent, sexy, etc.  It’s a story that reads quickly, plot developing as well as characters growing.  It’s definitely worth picking up if you want erotica with a bit more real storyline.  EL James could take a few pointers from Eric Jerome Dickey.  I’m just sayin’ y’all. 😉

My copy:  The Blackbirds – hardcover, 508 pages

Rating:  ***

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To New Release or Not

If you’re an avid reader like me, your worst nightmare is standing in front of your bookcase (insert picture of bookcase overflowing with different sized books with colorful enticing spines and a few stacks on the floor because there’s no more room on the shelves) and trying to find the next book to rock your world. We all want to find a book that’s a knock it out of the park 5-stars. However, the number one problem is that we can’t help but be convinced to read some of the many new books released every month instead. Frankly, new releases can be a real dilemma. How does one choose from the plethora of newbies out there.

Well If you’re the kind of person that reads all the new books because you feel automatically left out of the literary conversation if you don’t, then this post is for you. If you’re dying to get to some lesser known but hopefully interesting reads you’re in the right place. I’m going to to share with you some of my anticipated new releases this year. Some of them you can already find in the shops and a few I’ve already read. Moreover the particularity of this list is that they are all diverse authors:

lazarettoLazaretto is Diane McKinney-Whetstone’s sixth novel. She is especially known for writing her successful bestselling contemporary novel Tumbling. One of the dominant aspects to McKinney-Whetstone’s novels is that they are set in her hometown Philadelphia. This is equally the case of Lazaretto which explores the arrival of immigrants whose first stop is the Lazaretto quarantine hospital. The Philadelphia Lazaretto was the first quarantine hospital, built in 1799, in the Untied States. Henceforth, this novel of historical fiction, plays out the story of the black community of Lazaretto, set in the aftermath of the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Fans of McKinney-Whetstone, I’m sure will be impatient to read Lazaretto which was released on the 12th of April. Her last novel was published in 2005, called Trading Dreams at Midnight.
in other wordsIn Other Words was released earlier this year in February and it is one that I personally can’t wait to peruse. Jhumpa Lahiri moved to Rome with her family in 2012 with the intention of immersing herself in Italian culture and language. Writing daily in her journal in Italian, her goal was to master the Italian language. Through the pages of this autobiographical novel, we see how Lahiri deals with a journey into new words, writing, learning, and being understood. For all of those who have ever had to live in a country while learning the language, In Other Words should be a relevant read. Lahiri wrote In Other Words in Italian; so that is inspiration to all language learners.

I had the pleasure of already reading and enjoying the next two books that I’m recommending The Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFadden and The Birds of Opulence bythe book of harlan Crystal Wilkinson. The Book of Harlan spans six decades and turns around Harlan the main character. The setting goes from Harlem Renaissance to Paris jazz clubs in Montmartre, Paris to the dark, horrific Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Just check out my review to hear more about it.

The Birds of Opulence develops a story in a small Kentucky town called Opulence. Four generations of women living under the same roof can make the birds of opulencefor a lot toes being stepped on. However, the stronger mothers love their daughters the more difficult relationships seem to be. Wilkinson explores major themes such as mother/daughter relationships, male/female relationships, community, race, and coming of age. Characters found in Wilkinson’s previous short story collect called Water Street appear in The Birds of Opulence. It’s a little book that packs a punch. Check out my review here.
The Blackbirds is the latest Eric Jerome Dickey release, April 19th. I haven’t had a chance the blackbirdsto read it yet, but it’s on my TBR for this month. It’s a chick-lit or as I would like to refer to it as a “girlfriend book”. The blackbirds are four young women Kwanzaa, Indigo, Destiny, and Ericka, friends but close enough to be sisters. Of course they are all looking for something in particular – love, health, etc., however it’s their friendship that they value the most or do they.

Last but not least I recommend The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter the castlereleased at the end of January this year, which is an epic historical fiction covering 1941 to the twenty-first century. It is written by The Wire tv writer and playwright Kia Northern and has been highly anticipated. Two white brothers growing up in rural Alabama and two black brothers growing up in a small town in Maryland whose families will encounter and conflict. Obviously not a simple story but an enticingly captivating one told in 800 pages. I’m looking forward to encountering all the various historical references; definitely a read to keep us engrossed and pondering. Personally, I can’t wait to get to it. It’s on my TBR this month.

I wrote this post as a guest on Callaloo Soup.  Thanks for inviting me!  Check out Francine’s creative simplicity, inspirations and resources blog.  You’ll find everything from journaling, scrapbooking, reading recs,  and plenty of other great ideas to lead your wholesome slow living life.

 

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.
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