ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge – Day 13 & 14

Day 13 – Biography or Memoir

img_2118I chose the memoir by Michaela De Prince called Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina.  After hearing her story on television many years ago, I was motivated to read her story.  I haven’t yet read this one but I have a feeling it’s going to be very interesting.  After living in an orphanage in Sierre Leone where she was badly treated because she suffers from vitiligo and was called the devil’s child because she was the least favorite, she was motivated by a picture she saw in a magazine of a ballerina en pointe that she found outside the orphanage.  That picture gave her something positive to focus on.  She was eventually adopted by the De Prince family and she’s become an excellent dance with hard work and dedication.  She currently dances in a Dutch company.

I’ve always loved ballet and did ballet from age 5 to 17 years old.  Back in the day thereimg_3574 weren’t any black ballerina’s.  I would have liked to be inspired by a black ballerina, so it’s nice to see there are more of them today.  It would be nice to have even more of them, especially in the States.  The picture on the right is me in my ballet class.  I must have been about 12 years old there.  Click on the video below to see Michaela De Prince dancing.  It’s absolutely beautiful!

 

Day 14 – Black Love

Today is Valentine’s Day!  So I went rummaging for a title of a black love story that maybe wouldn’t come up on the Instagram feed.  Something different.  I found quite a few obvious ones like An American Marriage and Loving Donovan, but in the end I decided to go with another TBR book, a romance called Zachary’s Wings by Rosemarie Robotham.  This is the story of Zachary and Korie who have a passionate love affair despite their different upbringings.  Zachary is a social worker from a working-class family and Korie is an Ivy-league-educated reporter and Jamaican born.  Clearly there relationship will be tested but hopefully it will survive.  The story covers themes of race, class, and sexuality, so it sounds right up my alley.  This book was published in 1998 and was Robotham’s debut novel.  So let me know down below if you’ve read this one or anything else by her and what you thought of it.  It would be nice to read this one after a heavy read.

 

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ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge 2020: Day 1 & 2

Black History Month is finally here and has taken off with a blast!  Here’s where the photo challenge is at the moment for me:

Day 1: ReadSoulLit TBR

I’m a Booktube Prize judge this year and will be judging the first round which is happening this month.  This won’t deter me from picking up these three novels I’ve chosen to honor reading black American authors during Black History Month.  The Last Thing You Surrender is by seasoned writer Leonard Pitts, Jr.  This is the ReadSoulLit Readalong pick for February.  This is the first book I’ll be reading by Pitts, Jr.  I’m really looking forward to it.   This time period (the 1940s specifically World War II era) is one I find most interesting to read about in fiction novels.  If you’re still interested in joining the read along group on Goodreads click this link to join us.  It’s not too late.  I’m sure the reading is going to be engrossing and the discussions thought-provoking.

The second book on my TBR is a debut called Stateway’s Garden by Jasmon Drain. IMG_1989 Gifted to me by Penguin Random House, whom I thank graciously, I look forward to seeing how this memoir compares to the poignant, unforgettable, and brilliantly written Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon that was my first read of 2020.  Stateway’s Garden takes place in a housing project on the south side of Chicago.  It’s set in the mid-eighties and is a collection of linked short stories.

The third book in my stack is called Seeds of Deception by Arlene L. Walker.  This is another debut novel which was released last summer.  I don’t remember hearing a thing about it but after I caught a glimpse of the cover on the author’s Instagram page I was immediately interested.  “A clash between Cherokee Indians and their former African slaves come to a head in the tribal town of Feather Falls.” (back cover Seeds of Deception).  How could I pass on a story like this.  I’ll be keeping you informed once I’m finished on what I think about Seeds of Deception in an upcoming review.

 

Day 2:  Sci-fi High

If you’ve been following me for a while you all know that me and sci-fi just don’t get along when it comes to reading. I’m fine with it if it’s a film but for some reason I have IMG_2002-1trouble absorbing all the world building that goes along with the enjoyment of complex sci-fi stories.  In spite of this, last year I had the pleasure of reading the Xenogenesis series by Octavia E. Butler and really enjoyed it.  In particular I enjoyed Dawn which is the first book of the trilogy.  Dawn was mysterious, psychological, and sociological with just the right amount of science fiction to keep me interested throughout.  Lilith is a character that the reader can immediately relate to and root for.  The mystery in Dawn is at an all time high and will keep you riveted to the pages.  I highly recommend it.  Check out the video below of N.K. Jemisin talking about Dawn and her reactions to reading it for the first 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 link for The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!

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

#ReadSoulLit 2019 in Honor of Black History Month

February always gets me so excited about reading.  Black History Month always makes me want to delve deeper into the books written by black Americans and to learn more about my culture.  I feel that black literature, is getting more recognition these days although I still feel that more consideration is given to African Literature.  We have ways to go to get to the same level of recognition.

This is why I’m hoping that the photo challenge on Instagram and my videos this month on YouTube will give African-American authors the spotlight they so desperately need.  I’d love to be able to mention Bernice L. McFadden, Dolen Perkins-Vladez, Gayl Jones, and so many others and have everybody know who they are and what their writing is about.

As you can see in the picture above, this is just a fraction of one of my book shelves that contains quite a few books by African-American authors – 11 to be exact including the June Jordan novel that’s just at the edge of the picture on the right.  There are a few of these that I plan on reading this year that frankly I should have read many years before.  I’m looking forward to reading So Much Blue this month by Perceval Everett.  It will be my first attempt and I hope I’ll love it, having heard so many great things about this author and how he tells stories.  Another one on this shelf that is long overdue is Perfect Peace by Daniel Black.  So many people have recommended this one to me over the years and I’m not sure why I have continued to neglect picking it up.  Promise to myself and others that this one will get read this year.  Ann Petry’s The Street is another one that I’d like to finally read completely.  I had one failed attempt during a buddy read.  I didn’t finish because I didn’t like it. It was mostly because I was too busy to concentrate on it.  The classic The Wedding by Dorothy West has been on my list for ages and I finally picked up a copy 3 years ago but have been putting it off.  The Darkest Child I’ve been putting of because of its story.  I’ll definitely need a pallet cleanser after reading it. I’m sure it’s going to make me mad as hell.  So these are just a few books among many others that will continue my #readsoullit reading of African-American writers throughout the year.   I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing these as well as checking out a few new ones this year.  Happy Black History Month and reading!

April Wrap Up 2018

April was a successful month of reading. Why, you ask?  Duh, I read a five-star book!  The last book I finished in April was read on the 28th and it really rocked my literary fiction world.  Slave Old Man by Patrick Chamoiseau is 152 pages of pure literary genius.  It’s a must read for all of you lovers of literary fiction.  Having only read excerpts of Texaco in French, another great book by Chamoiseau, I’m anxious to buddy read it this month with Claire from Word by Word and Leslie from Folklore & Literacy.  I’m excited to extend my journey through Caribbean literature with two awesome reading buddies.

Slave Old Man explores the escape of a slave.  He escapes as if it’s something he was always planning to do.  There was no inner struggle, no people in particular left behind, and no fear.  He just decides one day that that’s the day and he walks calmly right off the plantation and is gone for quite a bit before anyone notices.

Quickly, savage nature impresses him as it does to the master and the mastiff that are searching with much difficulty for the old slave man’s trail. I suggest you pick up this well written novel filled with beautiful descriptions. You won’t want to miss this novella which was newly released on May 1st by The New Press.  As for the other books I read, I’m going to start from the four-star books and work my way down to the two-stars ones.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi was the book club pick for April.  It was a re-read for me.   Two years later and I still felt the same way about it.  It was a powerful generational story of slavery and how it affects families.  Each characters’ story was interesting however, I wish we could have learned more about the characters.  Gyasi is brilliant with writing male characters because they seemed to be more memorable than some of the female characters.  I’d say this book felt like reading a linked short story collection more than a real novel.  The characters have to share the pages since the voice changes every twenty or so pages.  I still found myself having to look back at the family tree to remember the names.  This being said it is well worth the read and sparked some passionate conversation at my book club.  We could all agree that we could see how she was trying to make the family history go round 360° to give it depth and more historical meaning.

The next four-star book I read was a poetry collection by Nicole Sealey called Ordinary Beast.  I don’t read poetry as much as I should but this collection was a real surprise.  Sealey’s poems are odes to life the real things we’re feeling and won’t necessarily want to say aloud.  Her poems are unapologetically real, from the words chosen to how they are printed on the page.  She’s telling us about race, gender, beauty, death and more.  It may not be the best collection for debuting poetry readers, being that it’s slightly experimental in its wording and structure, but for those who love poetry that touches you deeply and makes you think, Ordinary Beast is ideal.

I’ll be counting Ordinary Beast as part of my Caribbean literature challenge since Nicole Sealey was born in St. Thomas, although she was raised in Florida.  Just so you can get a taste of her poetry here’s one of my favorites:

unframed

Handle this body. Spoil

it with oils.  Let the

residue corrode, ruin it.

I have no finish, no

fragile edge.  (On what

scrap of me have we

not made desire paths,

so tried as to bury

ourselves therein?)  I

beg:  spare me gloved

hands, monuments to

nothing. I mean to die a

relief against every wall.

  Nicole Sealey, Ordinary Beast, p. 58

Black Betty is Walter Mosley’s fourth book in the Easy Rawlins series. I won’t be able to talk much about it because I don’t want to give anything away if you’re reading it too.  I rated it three stars because It wasn’t as good as Devil in a Blue Dress and White Butterfly but it was surely better than A Red Death.  Black Betty is great with setting the scene and story because it’s 1961 and Easy has some changes to his household.  Mouse and Mofass are back and of course there is a wide range of new characters.  There are a few new twists and turns to the novel but not enough happens to warrant it more stars unfortunately.  I’m still enjoying this series and can’t wait to pick up A Little Yellow Dog this month.

The next two books were both rated two stars.  Oh well everything you read can’t be wonderful.  Vernon Subutex by Virgine Despentes has been nominated on the shortlist of the Man Book International prize.  So, I decided to pick it up knowing already a bit about Despentes and what she likes to write about.  I also looked at it as a chance to try something new but also to read at least one of the books on the Man Booker International shortlist before the winner is announced.  I even read this one in French.  Now I’m curious to read a bit of the English version to see how the translator made out with all the French slang.  As for the story it wasn’t really for me.  The first 150 pages had me engaged with its critical, pessimistic view on society, the economy, and everything else having to do with adulting and living in the world.  Vernon Subutex is ignoble, lazy, and misogynous.  He used to own a record store called Revolver that went out of business.  So in the beginning of the book he is being evicted from his apartment.  He has to accept some generosity from past friends and eventually winds up having to live on the streets of Paris.  Since he was a good friend with a famous rock star called Alex Bleach and possesses a last recording from him, everyone is trying to get their hands on it.   Sounds intriguing right? However, past page 200 I checked out mentally and became bored with the  all of the off the wall characters and the incessant rants (Virginie Descents’ rants). Vernon Subtext could win the prize though.  It has all the right characteristics – being different from what’s expected, it critiques society heavily, and its divisiveness.  There are 3 other books in the Vernon Subutex series and that idea alone tires me out just thinking about it.

Lastly, I read Bad Men and Wicked Women by Eric Jerome Dickey to review for Dutton Books.  I’m always willing to try out  a new Eric Jerome Dickey novel because I have fond memories of reading his earlier works.  I didn’t love this one.  I feel like he’s abandoned the good story writing he used to do in exchange for trying to impress millennials to read his books these days.  Bad Men and Wicked Women contains a ton of bad Men  and only one true “wicked” woman.  So the title needs to be reviewed.

Ken Swift is the main character  and he is a strong-arm for a big gangster called San Bernadino.  Swift makes his money roughing up customers to get them to pay up.  At the beginning of the novel,  Swift has a meeting with his daughter who he hasn’t seen since she was a child.  This storyline is supposed to depict the more sensitive side and family life that he had in the past.  Then Swift and his partner are sent off to rough up somebody that owes money to San Bernadino and from that incident the story begins.  Problems? Yes.   Nothing really happens during the first three-quarters of the book.  The dialogue doesn’t come off naturally and all of the action takes place within the last quarter of the novel.   The action can best be described as Tarantinoesque.   I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re a die hard fan of Eric Jerome Dickey and don’t mind the lack of plot.

So, as a whole reading in April turned out to be unexceptional, except for Slave Old Man.  My month’s reading was an overall average rating of three stars.  I read 6 books which at least keeps me on track for my goal of reading 60 books by the end of the year. In fact, I’m ahead of schedule by five books.  Unfortunately, I’ve only read 1,690 pages this month.  I was hoping to read over 2,000 pages.  I’m going to have to step up on reading bigger books because I’m already behind on the Big Book Challenge by 2 books.   I pledged to read 12 books over 400+ pages this year and I’ve actually only read two.  But, I’m going to end this on a positive note. I’m keeping up with my reviewing and that’s great and I’m basically reading what I want to while not being too influenced by what others are reading.  So, how did reading go for you in the month of April?  Are you hitting your reading goals?

 

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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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