Anita Hemmings, the First Black Student to Attend Vassar College

The-gilded-yearsKarin Tanabe’s gripping new historical novel, The Gilded Years (Washington Square Press, June 7, 2016) is based on the true story of Anita Hemmings, the first black student to attend Vassar College. With “spot on” dialogue and “narration reminiscent of novels of the 1890s” (Anna Jean Mayhew, author of The Dry Grass of August), Tanabe has crafted a tonally masterful yet supremely relevant narrative on race, women’s rights, and the challenges of finding one’s place in the world.

Since childhood, Anita Hemmings has longed to attend Vassar, the country’s most exclusive school for women. Now, a bright, beautiful senior in the class of 1897, she is hiding a secret that would have banned her from admission: she is the only African-American student ever to attend the college. With her olive complexion and dark hair, she has successfully passed as white for three years, but now finds herself rooming with Louise “Lottie” Taylor, the scion of one of New York’s most prominent families.

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Anita Hemmings (Archives & Special Collections, Vassar College Library)

Pulled into Lottie’s elite world, Anita learns what it’s like to be treated as a wealthy, educated white woman—the person everyone believes her to be—and even finds herself in a relationship with a moneyed Harvard man. With this closeness comes trouble, however, as Anita faces what it truly means to pass: the guilt of betraying her family, of lying to her friends, of cutting herself off from her community in exchange for an education. As Anita’s relationships with Lottie and her affluent classmates grow closer, she must make the near impossible decision of whether to choose the love of a man who can open doors she could not reach on her own, or to be true to her heritage and return home to her family after graduation, leaving the ease of white society behind in favor of a different sort of freedom.

Set against the vibrant backdrop of the Gilded Age, an era when old money traditions collided with modern ideas, Tanabe has written an unputdownable and emotionally compelling story of hope, sacrifice, and betrayal. The Gilded Years is a riveting account of how one woman dared to risk everything for the chance at a better life (Hemmings Photo Credit: Archives & Special Collections, Vassar College Library).


“An utterly captivating narrative that kept me turning pages late into the night.”–Kathleen Grissom, New York Times bestselling author ofThe Kitchen House

“Karin Tanabe limns the tensions of a young woman’s desire to participate fully in a world in which she doesn’t dare reveal her full self…Most impressive are the characters’ emotional complexity; Tanabe understands that human relations are never so simple as black and white.”
–Christina Schwarz, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“This engaging novel, set in a time of conflict between old money and new ideas, captures both the bravery and the heartbreak of Anita’s decision…Readers won’t soon forget Anita Hemmings or the choices she made.”
–BookPage

“In Anita’s captivating story, heightened by richly drawn characters, Tanabe insightfully grapples with complex and compelling issues.”
–Booklist

news-karin-tanabeKarin Tanabe is the author of the novels The List and The Price of Inheritance. The Gilded Years is her third novel. A former Politicoreporter and a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post, her work has also appeared in publications including The Washington Post,The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald,Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer and in the anthology Crush: Writers Reflect on Love, Longing and the Lasting Power of Their First Celebrity Crush. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and daughter.

Visit her web site: http://www.karintanabe.com


You may receive messages like this directly in your email-box by subscribing. It may also be read on your Kindle ebook reader, or any device by downloading a PDF version.  Enjoy our previous eNewsletters and consider sponsoring our eNewsletter or a dedicated mailing.

Enjoy,
Troy Johnson
AALBC.com’s, Founder and Webmaster

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The 2016 Black Pack Party: A Wonderful Celebration!

The 10th Black Pack Party, like all the others, was a wonderful celebration.  Hosted during Book Expo America each year, the Black Party Party is an annual celebration where Black book publishing professionals, writers, and avid readers come together to celebrate each other and have a good time.

This year’s party was held in Chicago, IL and is only the 2nd time it was held outside of Harlem, NY (the 3rd anniversary celebration was held in Los Angeles, CA).  The following are just a few highlights from the evening from my perspective.

“Cynique” and Troy

I’ve moderated discussion forums on AALBC.com for almost 18 years. About 12 years ago a writer using the alias “Cynique” began contributing.  She is a brilliant commentator, with a sharp wit and and insight informed by both great-grandmotherly wisdom and a new age sensibility.  She is cynical, a contrarian, and never backs down from a debate.  She is one reason I enjoy the forums.  Given the stiff competition put up by social media “Cynique” is one reason the discussion forums are still alive.   Several years ago, I renamed one of our discussion forums after her, “Cynique’s Corner.”  Well after more than 12 years of a cyber-relationship I had the pleasure of finally meeting Connie Bradley a.k.a “Cynique” for the first time!  It was like meeting a super star.

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Here I’m with Kai EL’Zabar who is the Executive Editor of The Chicago Defender. Kai, teamed up with us to co-host this year’s party she selected the venue, Norman’s Bistro on Chicago’s South Side and helped promote the event.  As executive editor of one of the most important Black owned newspapers in the country, Kai is a powerful women.  I’m looking forward to working with her more closely.  She recognizes the importance of ensuring we own platforms and continue to tell our own stories.  Kai recently published an article on The Defender’s website, “Blacks Showcase at Book Expo 2016 In Chicago.”  Her coverage of our participation at book expo is so important because it tells the world we were there, we had an impact, and what we did mattered.

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In this shot from left to right is the author Q.B. Wells; me; award winning playwright, Tsehaye Geralyn Hébert; playwright, Ilesa Duncan; and Kevin Roberts owner of Azizi Bookstore (the physical store is now closed).

This was a fun table.  I already knew Kevin and Q.B., but this was the first time I met Tsehaye and Ilesa. They were both very interesting women.  Ilesa is the Pegasus Theatre Chicago’s artistic director and is adapting Charles Johnson’s Middle Passage. As mentioned Tsehaye is an award winning playwright and serves a playwright-in-residence at Chicago State University.  She is also the recipient of the New Voices and Visions Award (Louisiana State University) among others. Prestige and accomplishments aside these were just some really cool people.

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I had the pleasure of meeting author J. Marcellus Burke (pictured) and his publisher Bennett Johnson of Path Press. Bennnet who was previously Vice President at Third World Press, recently published Marcellus’ historical novel, The Black Knights.  The novel is a fact based story about four fighter pilots who served in the German Luftwaffe (Air Force).  I’m reading Burke’s novel now.

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Here, in the white framed spectacles, is Kwame Alexander, who is the author of The Crossover, which was awarded the 2015 Newbery Medal for Most Distinguished Contribution to American Literature for Children, has done more for Black books than I can relate in a single blog post. In fact, in 1998 he hosted an historic event called 360º A Revolution of Black Poets. He put me on my first panel discussion.  Kwame has always helped elevate AALBC.com from the very beginning.

On Kwame’s left is the the writer Earl Sewell.  Earl has published about 20 books, but more importantly he constantly supports other writers.  On Sewell’s left is Earl Cox. I first met Earl in the late 90s, when AALBC.com was in its infacncy.  As an industry professional Earl taught me a lot about the publishing industry and introduced me to several key publishing professionals. As an entrepreneur he and I have worked on a number of projects and continue to do so to this day. Crouching up from is Dr. Obari Cartman. I met Obari at the party and will definitely follow his work.  His first book, Lady’s Man: Conversations for Young Black Men about Relationships and Manhood has been praised by Na’im Akbar and Jawanza Kunjufu.

go-on-girl2Here are two ladies, Maya Smart and Tiki Massie, from one of my favorite book clubs, Go On Girl! Book Club, Inc.  The clubs boasts hundreds of members in chapters across the country.  The club is hosting their 25th Annual Awards in New Orleans this week (June 2 – 5, 2016).  I also work with Go On Girl! Book Club, Inc. in variety of ways.  Currently, I donate all profits from books sold on Go On Girl! Book Club’s reading list to charities support by the book club.

troy-and-lisaGo On Girl! was not the only book club present; Sistahs On The Reading Edge from Antioch, CA was there as well. The general public may know this club as the group who filed a racial discrimination lawsuit for damages as a result of an August 2015 incident in which the women were accused, of being too loud and removed from the train. But I know this group as a cohesive group of women who can be found at literary events across the country.  The club’s president and co-founder, Lisa Renee Johnson (pictured) is also a published author whose debut novel Dangerous Consequences was published in 2011. Lisa also actively works to help writers and entrepreneurs succeed.

Of course there were many more terrific book people at the event.  For example, author Asadah Kirkland, who runs The Soulful Chicago Book Fair (coming July 16, 2016), danced as if no one was watching.  Author and publisher Ivy Valentine Pate was there with her mom, Gwen Valentine. Publicist, Laini Brown whose clients include Bishop T.D. Jakes were among many others who enjoyed the festivities.

Most years we take a group photograph, but we skipped it this year. Without the benefit of photographer Marcia Wilson, who has taken all of the previous group shots, coordinating effort would have been more complicated and broken the flow of the evening. Hopefully others, who attended, will share their photos or post links, in the comments section below, and let us know how they enjoyed the event.

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Finally, I’d like to thank the other hosts of this year’s gathering, The African American Children’s Book Project (Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati), The Chicago Defender (Kai EL’Zabar), Linda Duggins, Mosaic (Ron Kavanaugh), Say It Loud! Readers & Writers (Patrick Oliver), and Written Magazine (Michelle Gipson).  You are all warriors in your respective fields.

Next year’s the party will be held in New York City.  The date will be Wednesday, May 31, 2017.  I hope to see you there!

Terrific Books Coming in May, Beyond Adichie, and More!

Terrific New Books Coming in May

news-may-bookFormer U.S. Poet Laureate, Rita Dove will publish a collection of her poetry from the 30 year period, 1974 to 2004. There are also new novels from AALBC.com bestselling authors, Bernice McFadden and J.D. Mason, and from critically acclaimed authors Kalisha Buckhanon and Yvvette Edwards.

On the nonfiction side, look for Murray Talks Music: Albert Murray on Jazz and Blues by Albert Murray, and The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir by D. Watkins. What a great year it has been so far in the world of Black literature; the variety and depth of what is available should keep you quite busy.


Beyond Adichie: Nigerian Writers Produce Great Literature

news-nigeriansChigozie Obioma has been called “…the heir to Chinua Achebe.” His novel The Fishermen won the NAACP Image Award for Debut Author, and was selected by the Go On Girl! Book Club for their 2016 reading list. Sarah Ladipo Manyika’s new novel, Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun, from Cassava Republic Press has already received a great deal of critical acclaim. As a novelist, Teju Cole has won many awards including the PEN/Hemingway Award and the New York City Book Award. His first book of essays, Known and Strange Things is eagerly anticipated. Nnedi Okorafor is a novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism, and winner of the World Fantasy Award and Wole Soyinka prize.

Learn about these brilliant writers and many others of Nigerian descent including Ben Okri, Helen Oyeyemi, Chinelo Okparanta, Uzodinma Iweala, Uwem Akpan, and Chris Abani.


Folktales’ Black Women’s Literary Society — Reading List

news-folk-talesFolktales’ Black Women’s Literary Society has shared their reading list with AALBC.com. Shonda Rhimes book, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person, makes their list and is a popular read among book clubs this year. Mat Johnson, Darryl Pinckney, Dr. Damon Tweedy, and Sister Souljah also made the cut and round out a nice selection of titles across genres. Let Folktales’ Black Women’s Literary Society and the other book clubs we follow help you discover your next great read.


NAACP Image Awards for Literature — Winners and Nominees

news-naacp-imageEach year 40 titles are nominated for NAACP Image Award in 8 different categories, Biography/Auto Biography, Children, Debut Author, Fiction, Instructional, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Youth/Teens. The 2016 Image Awards were presented on Feb. 5th.

AALBC.com is working to compile a list of all the nominees and winners since the award’s inception. We’ve already updated our website with the titles from the last 5 years and have information going back to 2005. If anyone knows when the NAACP Awards for Literature started please email me; troy@aalbc.com.


New Videos

Is Michael Eric Dyson Right? (Or Have Black Intellectuals Lost Their Minds?)

news-mike-on-obamaDr. Michael Eric Dyson was recorded in conversation with Dr. Khalil Muhammad on April 3, 2016, during the 13th National Black Writers Conference, which is run by the center for Black literature at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York. Dyson discussed the Obama Presidency which is also the subject of his latest book, The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America. Dyson pulled no punches, as he took President Obama to task during this 90 minute conversation.

AALBC.com captured just a small portion of this biannual conference. In addition the conversation with Dr. Dyson, we videoed poetry readings by Rita Dove, Afaa Michael Weaver, and Rowan Ricardo Phillips.

If you enjoy any of these videos please support AALBC.com by sharing them with others and subscribing to our YouTube channel.


Zane is a 213 Time AALBC.com Bestselling Author!

news-zaneWith 34 different titles, Zane has made AALBC.com’s bestsellers list an astounding 213 times—no other author comes close.

Here are the top 30 bestselling authors (89 counting ties) on AALBC.com over the past 18 years with links to those very popular books.

While Zane is our most prolific author, she did not write our all time bestselling book. That honor goes to another title… and you’ll probably never guess which one it is; click here to find out.


Shirley Gale Thinks Outside the Box to Promote Literacy

news-shirley“Literacy on the Go! If you spot my Armada (you really can’t miss it) and you can tell me the day, time, and location where I’m driving, you can be entered to win one of my awesome books for FREE! Just enter your email contact information on my website. It’s that easy! I will contact you when you win.

I’m going to be driving from Texas to Virginia to Washington D. C. starting late June 2016. I am also planning a road trip to Chicago to visit libraries, schools, and community centers in the Fall of 2016. Look for me. I’m coming to talk about literacy and the lack thereof (read more).”


Events Coming in May

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There are several book festivals taking place this weekend including the; PEN World Voices Festival in New York City; Bocas Lit Fest in Trinidad & Tobago; Greater St. Louis Book Fair in St. Louis, Missouri; Dallas Book Festival in Dallas, Texas; Yallwest Santa Monica Book Festival in Santa Monica, California; and Dayton Book Expo in Dayton, Ohio. Discover these and other great book festivals coming up the rest of the year.

Also, learn how easy it is to add our automatically updated, book festival calendar to your website or blog. Help promote and support these book festivals and provide great information for your website too.


A Great Deals to Promote Your Book on AALBC.com

news-large-coverOur Large Book Cover Advertisement (or ad banner) appears on virtually every AALBC.com webpage. Each author whose book is promoted also receives a free Author Profile.

Also consider Sponsoring our Monthly Newsletter. This is a great way to reach readers of Black literature. All of our mailings are permanently archived on our website.


Dear Reader,

news-aalbc-18In addition to hand picking all of the books that are placed on the site, we are collect, share, and archive information that even major corporations, with vastly greater resources choose not to. There simply is not enough revenue to justify the activity for these entities.

Fortunately revenue is not our sole motivator; we are a mission driven website and are motivated by sharing the wealth of stories by people of African descent. Will you help us do this? Please click this link to purchase your subscription to our newsletter. Your financial support is needed to help AALBC.com grow and become an even better source for information on these important books.

I also hope to see some of you at the 10th anniversary celebration of our Black Pack Party in Chicago #blackpackparty

As always, thanks for reading!

Peace & Love,
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Troy Johnson,
Founder & Webmaster, AALBC.com


AALBC.com eNewsletter – April 29, 2016 – Issue #233