Another Overdue Book Posting

Back to give you more books I should have posted already.

Something Like Beautiful by Asha Bandele

When Asha Bandele, a young poet, fell in love with a prisoner serving a twenty-to-life sentence and became pregnant with his daughter, she had reason to hope they would live together as a family. Rashid was a model prisoner, and expected to be paroled soon. But soon after Nisa was born, Asha’s dreams were shattered. Rashid was denied parole, and told he’d be deported to his native Guyana once released. Asha became a statistic: a single, black mother in New York City. On the outside, Asha kept it together. She had a great job at a high-profile magazine and a beautiful daughter whom she adored. But inside, she was falling apart. She began drinking and smoking and eventually stumbled into another relationship, one that opened new wounds. This lyrical, astonishingly honest memoir tells of her descent into depression when her life should have been filled with love and joy. Something Like Beautiful is not only Asha’s story, but the story of thousands of women who struggle daily with little help and much against them, and who believe they have no right to acknowledge their pain. Ultimately, drawing inspiration from her daughter, Asha takes account of her life and envisions for herself what she believes is possible for all mothers who thought there was no way out–and then discovered there was.

Opening Lines: “This is a book about love and this is a book about rage. This is a book about those opposing emotions and what happens to a woman, a mother, when, with equal weight, they occupy the seat of your heart.”

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Passing Strange by Martha Sandweiss

Clarence King is a hero of nineteenth century western history; a brilliant scientist and witty conversationalist, best-selling author and architect of the great surveys that mapped the West after the Civil War. Secretary of State John Hay named King “the best and brightest of his generation.” But King hid a secret from his Gilded Age cohorts and prominent family in Newport: for thirteen years he lived a double life—as the celebrated white explorer, geologist and writer Clarence King and as a black Pullman porter and steel worker named James Todd. The fair blue-eyed son of a wealthy China trader passed across the color line, revealing his secret to his black common- law wife, Ada Copeland, only on his deathbed. King lied because he wanted to and he lied because he had to. To marry his wife in a public way – as the white man known as Clarence King – would have created a scandal and destroyed his career. At a moment when many mixed-race Americans concealed their African heritage to seize the privileges of white America, King falsely presented himself as a black man in order to marry the woman he loved. Noted historian of the American West Martha Sandweiss is the first writer to uncover the life that King tried so hard to conceal from the public eye. She reveals the complexity of a man who while publicly espousing a personal dream of a uniquely American “race,” an amalgam of white and black, hid his love for his wife, Ada, and their five biracial children. Passing Strange tells the dramatic tale of a family built along the fault lines of celebrity, class, and race—from the “Todd’s” wedding in 1888, to the 1964 death of Ada King, one of the last surviving Americans born into slavery.

Opening Lines: “Edward V. Brown, the census taker, moved slowly down North Prince Street, knocking on each and every door in this Flushing neighborhood of Queens, New York. It was June 5, 1900, a mild and sunny day in the first spring of a new century. And as federal census agents had done once a decade for more than a hundred years, he was counting Americans, compiling a mosaic portrait of the nation.”

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The Air Between Us by Deborah Johnson

Revere, Mississippi, with its population of “20,000 and sinking,” is not unlike most Southern towns in the 1960s. Blacks live on one side of town and whites on the other. The two rarely mix. Or so everyone believes. But the truth is brought to the forefront when Critter, who is only ten, black and barely tall enough to see over the dashboard, drives Billy Ray—wounded in a suspicious hunting accident—to the segregated Doctor’s Hospital. Dr. Cooper Connelly, the town’s most high-profile resident, assures Billy Ray’s family he’ll be fine. He dies, however, and most people assume it is just a typical hunting accident—until the sheriff orders an investigation. Suddenly the connections between white and black are revealed to be deeper than anyone expects, which makes the town’s struggle with integration that much more complicated and consuming. Dr. Connelly takes an unexpectedly progressive view toward integration; the esteemed Dr. Reese Jackson, who is so prominent that even Ebony has profiled him, tries to stay above the fray. At times, it seems the town’s only distraction is the racially ambiguous Madame Melba, a fortune-teller and “voyeur” with a past.

Opening Lines: “The battered 1952 Ford Pickup jolted against the curb, bouncing the driver just high enough so you could see the tip of his head, making him look for all the world like a teeny ghost, a low-riding specter. The sight froze the two men—Charlie Symonds and Butter Bob Latham, standing at the coloreds-only emergency-room entrance to Doctors Hospital—stock-still.”

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Triangular Road by Paule Marshall

In Triangular Road, famed novelist Paule Marshall tells the story of her years as a fledgling young writer in the 1960s. A memoir of self-discovery, it also offers an affectionate tribute to the inimitable Langston Hughes, who entered Marshall’s life during a crucial phase and introduced her to the world of European letters during a whirlwind tour of the continent funded by the State Department. In the course of her journeys to Europe, Barbados, and eventually Africa, Marshall comes to comprehend the historical enormity of the African diaspora, an understanding that fortifies her sense of purpose as a writer. In this unflinchingly honest memoir, Paule Marshall offers an indelible portrait of a young black woman coming of age as a novelist in a literary world dominated by white men.

Opening Lines: “New York. Early May, 1965. The return address on the official-looking letter I retrieved from my mailbox read “United States Department of State, 301 Fourth Street, SW, Washington, D.C. 20547.” Frankly, I registered only the words ‘department’ and ‘state,’ ‘State Department,’ and instantly panicked, anticipating the worst.”
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Cooked: My Journey from the Streets to the Stove by Jeff Henderson

Jeff Henderson was just another inner-city black kid born into a world of poverty and limited options, where crime seemed to provide the only way to get out. Raised mostly by his single mother, who struggled just to keep food on the table, Jeff dreamed big. He had to get out and he soon did by turning to what so many in his community did: dealing drugs. But Jeff was no ordinary drug dealer; by twenty-one, he was one of the top cocaine dealers in San Diego, making up to $35,000 a week. Two years later he was indicted on federal drug trafficking charges and sentenced to almost twenty years in prison. Before he knew what had hit him, he was looking at spending most of his life behind bars. The street life had been the only one he’d ever known and even incarcerated he was too hardheaded to realize that no good would come of it. That is, until he was assigned to one of the least desirable prison jobs: washing dishes. That job helped turn his whole life around. It gave him access to the prison kitchen and he became fascinated watching his fellow prisoners cook for the thousands of other inmates and prison officials. Henderson learned to cook in prison. Not cocaine, but food. And his dream was born: Once outside, he would become a chef . . .

Opening Lines: “By the time I showed up in Las Vegas, I’d been looking for work for more than a month. I had busted my ass in the five years since my prison release, rising from dishwasher at a small restaurant to sous-chef at one of the most prestigious kitchens in L.A. I was on track toward running my own restaurant when a political kitchen battle suddenly left me begging for someone to give me a chance to start over.”

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The Other Side of Paradise by Staceyann Chin

No one knew Staceyann’s mother was pregnant until a dangerously small baby was born on the floor of her grandmother’s house in Lottery, Jamaica, on Christmas Day. Staceyann’s mother did not want her, and her father was not present. No one, except her grandmother, thought Staceyann would survive. It was her grandmother who nurtured and protected and provided for Staceyann and her older brother in the early years. But when the three were separated, Staceyann was thrust, alone, into an unfamiliar and dysfunctional home in Paradise, Jamaica. There, she faced far greater troubles than absent parents. So, armed with a fierce determination and uncommon intelligence, she discovered a way to break out of this harshly unforgiving world.Staceyann Chin, acclaimed and iconic performance artist, now brings her extraordinary talents to the page in a brave, lyrical, and fiercely candid memoir about growing up in Jamaica. She plumbs tender and unsettling memories as she writes about drifting from one home to the next, coming out as a lesbian, and finding the man she believes to be her father and ultimately her voice. Hers is an unforgettable story told with grace, humor, and courage.

Opening Lines: “Everything good always happens to my big brother, Delano. He starts school for the first time tomorrow. He is the one with the father in Montego Bay. He is the one who is a boy. And he is the one who gets to wear a full suit of khaki tomorrow morning.”
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Conception by Kalisha Buckhanon

In the same vein as her critically acclaimed debut novel, Upstate, Kalisha Buckhanon again shares an emotionally beautiful story about today’s youth that magnifies the unforgettable power of hope and the human spirit. Buckhanon takes us to Chicago, 1992, and into the life of fifteen-year old Shivana Montgomery, who believes all Black women wind up the same: single and raising children alone, like her mother. Until the sudden visit of her beautiful and free spirited Aunt Jewel, Shivana spends her days desperately struggling to understand life and confront the challenges she faces growing up in a tough environment. When she accidentally becomes pregnant by an older man and must decide what to do, she begins a journey toward adulthood with only a mysterious voice inside to guide her. Then, when she falls in love with Rasul, a teenager with problems of his own, together they fight to rise above the circumstances and move toward a more positive future. Through a narrative that sweeps from slavery onward, Buckhanon unveils Shivana’s connection to a past filled with tragedy, courage, and wisdom.

Opening Lines: “Whenever me and Ma fought, she always went for my hair. When she was younger, everybody talked about her long, black, silky, Indian in the family hair. My hair’s bright rusty red color is one of the few things my father ever gave me, but I wished I had taken after my mother when it comes to texture and length.”
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I suppose that’s all for now. Happy reading, y’all.

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7 thoughts on “Another Overdue Book Posting

  1. You and me both. I started Half of Yellow Sun and got distracted. I’m always reading and looking for new reads for the community of girls I serve. I love Adichie’s work. I did read and love, Purple Hibiscus.

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  2. oh, loving this! Thank you. I’ve been so focus on YA, I’ve been missing out on literary works and memoirs. Will be adding these to our wish list. No you’re busy and all, but would you consider allowing me to republish some of your reviews at Color Online when they are archived. I realize this might sound strange but if you take a look, you might better appreciate the request. I’m a one woman show trying to mentor a village. 🙂

    Glad you’re back. Thank you.

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  3. Susan, thank you for stroking my ego. I asked a friend of mine if she ever feels the pressures of being an English major. You know, that feeling that your writing is good–but it ain’t what it should be since you’re an English major. I never thought my reviews were that great, but if you want them…we shall talk. 🙂

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