Finally Another Update

No, I haven’t given up on this blog just yet. My boyfriend’s constant/numerous reminders that I haven’t updated sparked today’s motivation so thanks to him. And yes, I’m still reading. I feel like I read so much this semester that I just want to zone out for a little while. Fortunately, I have shelves of books (of my choosing) that are still unread so the guilt has brought about my reading at least one completed novel, a few short stories, and plenty of magazine articles. I wanted to review Black No More by George S. Schuyler, but the book is currently not at my disposal. I am also behind on reviewing a few books that I read this semester that I enjoyed. Black British literature mainly. When I get off my lazy tail, these books should include Adebayo’s Some Kind of Black, Phillips’ A Distant Shore, Selvon’s Lonely Londoners, and Kay’s Trumpet. I guess I’ll try to complete one review a day next week since I don’t have any of the books with me right now.

Next semester my coursework will include Contemporary African American Literature, Ethnography of Narrative, and Advanced Creative Writing. A few books in these courses will be re-reads for me including Mrs. Dalloway, The Metamorphosis, Push, Beloved, and Brown Girl in the Ring. I’ll blog about the rest of the titles soon enough.

It is 2008. Of course this is the time of year that various sources begin to release their “Best of…” lists. At the top of the New York Times “10 Best Books of 2007” is Michael Thomas’ Man Gone Down. Can a book be the best for 2007 if it was published in 2006? I’m curious. I guess December 2006 counts for the following year, huh?

Book Summary: Evoking the work of great American masters such as Ralph Ellison, but distinctly original, Michael Thomas’ first novel is a beautifully written, insightful, and devastating account of a young black father of three in a biracial marriage trying to claim a piece of the American Dream. On the eve of the unnamed narrator’s thirty-fifth birthday, he finds himself broke, estranged from his white Boston Brahmin wife and three children, and living in the bedroom of a friend’s six-year-old child. With only four days before he’s due in to pick up his family, he must make some sense out of his life. Alternating between his past—as an inner city child bused to the suburbs in the 1970’s—and a present where he is trying mightily to keep his children in private schools, we learn of his mother’s abuses, his father’s abandonment, and the best and worst intentions of a supposedly integrated America. This is an extraordinary debut about what it feels like to be pre-programmed to fail in life—and the urge to escape that sentence. (Check out the NYT Review or read the first chapter)

Essence also recently released their Literary Awards Finalists for 2008. Has anybody mentioned that Terry McMillan is their chose Lifetime Achievement Award winner? I wonder who else they nominated as her competition–if anybody. Unfortunately, I only own one of Essence’s nominated titles (and it remains on my “to be read” list). Here are their featured fiction selections–click the cover art for the book websites and the title for excerpts:

Red River by Lalita Tademy

In 1873 in the small southern town of Colfax, Louisiana, history tells us there was a riot.The Tademy family knows different.”1873. Wasn’t no riot like they say. It was a massacre…”The blacks are newly free, just beginning life under Reconstruction, with all its promises of equity, the right to vote, to own property and, most importantly, to decide their own future as individuals. Federal Government troops are supposed to arrive to protect the rights of the colored people–but they are not yet on the scene. In one wretched day, white supremacists destroy all the optimism and bright promise by taking Colfax back in an ugly and violent manner.The tragedy begins with the two sides: the white Democrats of Montgomery and the colored and white Republicans of Colfax in the courthouse, finally meeting face to face to discuss their differences.Then, a group of white thugs kills a colored man who was not involved in the courthouse struggle.He was home minding his business and the ugliness came and found him.The confrontation that follows results in the death of more than 100 black men, killed by white supremacists bent on denying them their voting rights and keeping in office those who uphold the status quo prior to the Civil War.The massacre is only the beginning of Tademy’s story.


Casanegra by Blair Underwood, Steven Barnes, & Tananarive Due

Casanegra follows the adventures of Tennyson Hardwick, a gorgeous, sexy actor and former gigolo, living on the fringes of the good life in Hollywood. This story, which chronicles the redemption of a prodigal son, combines the glamour of Hollywood with the seedy hopelessness of the inner city. In this hot and steamy mystery, Tennyson struggles to hang on to his acting career and redeem his sex-for-pay history, which estranged him from his family — especially his father, a decorated LAPD captain who raised Tennyson to call him “sir.” Now, in the wake of his father’s sudden stroke, Tennyson has to save himself from taking the fall for the first murder of a female rapper. In the process he discovers his hidden talents — the hard way.


The Pirate’s Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson

In 1946, a storm-wrecked boat carrying Hollywood’s most famous swashbuckler arrived dramatically in Jamaica, and the glamorous world of 1940s Hollywood converged with that of a small West Indian society. After a long and storied career on the silver screen, Errol Flynn spent much of the last years of his life on a small island off of Jamaica, throwing parties and sleeping with increasingly younger girls. Spanning two generations of women whose destinies become inextricably linked with the Hollywood star, The Pirate’s Daughter tells the provocative history of a vanished era, of uncommon kinships, compelling attachments, betrayal, and atonement in a paradisal, tropical setting. May, the illegitimate daughter of Errol Flynn, belongs neither to the emerging black nation of Jamaica nor to the white, expatriate society on the island. Her mother, Ida, romantically adventurous, dreams of a bigger more glamorous world than that of her small seaside town. For them both, trying to find the right way to live their lives is about discovering who they are and where they truly belong. As adept with Jamaican vernacular as she is at revealing the internal machinations of a fading and bloated matinee idol, in this culturally sensitive and delightful novel, Margaret Cezair-Thompson weaves a saga of a mother and daughter finding their way in a nation struggling to rise to the challenge of independence.


New England White by Stephen L. Carter

When The Emperor of Ocean Park was published, Time Out declared: “Carter does for members of the contemporary black upper class what Henry James did for Washington Square society, taking us into their drawing rooms and laying their motives bare.” Now, with the same powers of observation, and the same richness of plot and character, Stephen L. Carter returns to the New England university town of Elm Harbor, where a murder begins to crack the veneer that has hidden the racial complications of the town’s past, the secrets of a prominent family, and the most hidden bastions of African-American political influence. At the center: Lemaster Carlyle, the university president, and his wife, Julia Carlyle, a deputy dean at the divinity school—African Americans living in “the heart of whiteness.” Lemaster is an old friend of the president of the United States. Julia was the murdered man’s lover years ago. The meeting point of these connections forms the core of a mystery that deepens even as Julia closes in on the politically earth-shattering motive behind the murder.


Knots by Nuruddin Farah

A strong, self-reliant woman who was born in Somalia but brought up in North America, Cambara returns to Mogadiscio to escape a failed marriage and an overweening mother. Her journey back to her native home is a desperate attempt to find herself on her own terms-however ironically, in a country where women are expected to wear veils. And she has given herself a mission to reclaim her family’s home from the warlord who has taken it as his own. Cambara finds emotional refuge and practical support with a group of Somali women activists working to broker peace in a country that has been savagely riven by its drug-addled, power-hungry men. Farah’s novels have been famous for their unique African feminism since his debut, From a Crooked Rib (just reissued by Penguin); Knots represents his most powerful return to that legacy. Knots also presents a penetrating portrayal of Somalia’s capital city-a city that’s changed from the city Westerners saw on CNN and in ‘Black Hawk Down,’ transformed into a state of violent anarchy and psychological disrepair that has never been more important to understand. An especially intimate portrait of Mogadiscio, it’s informed by Farah’s own recent efforts to reclaim his family’s property there, as well as his experiences trying to negotiate peace among the city’s warlords.

More updates coming soon. Happy New Year’s reading, ya’ll.


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