Tag Archives: History

Celebrating the Best in Black Literature (May 31, 2016 Newsletter)

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Books to be Published in JuneBooks to be published in June

Summer will heat up with some great new titles. Walter Mosley is back with his latest installment in the Easy Rawlins series, Charcoal Joe. Can you believe it has been 25 years since the first book in the series, Devil In A Blue Dress, was published?

We are also excited by the first novel, The Reactive, from Masande Ntshanga who is the winner of the 2013 PEN International New Voices Award, as well as a Finalist for the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing.

Bobby Brown, with help from acclaimed author Nick Chiles, reveals intimate details of his marriage to Whitney Houston, speaks about losing his daughter Bobbi Kristina, and shares insights into his amazing career in his new memoir,Every Little Step: My Story.

Also look out for new books from other AALBC.com Bestselling authors including Kimberla Lawson Roby (A Sinful Calling) and Timothy George (The Dagger). To discover these and other great soon to be released books, visit our Books Coming Soon section.


AALBC.com Bestselling Books

The publishing company founded by authors ReShonda Tate Billingsley and Victoria Christopher Murray, Brown Girls Books, dominated our bestsellers list this period, claiming the top three fiction positions. Our #1 fiction bestseller, The Ex Chronicles is an anthology where 20 writers share relationship stories. At #2 we have The Perfect Find by Tia Williams and completing the trifecta is Dirt by Teffanie Thompson.

Congratulations to Brown Girls Books and all of the bestselling authors. Check out our full list bestselling titles for fiction, nonfiction, poetry and children’s literature.


Beyond Phillis Wheatley — Important Firsts In Black Literature

Phillis Wheatley Most readers know Phillis Wheatley was the first published African-American female poet. Did you also know that George Moses Horton (ca. 1797-1883), was the only man to publish volumes of poetry while in bondage and the first African American to publish any book in the South? Were your familiar with Solomon Plaatje who was born October 9, 1876, and was the author of Mhudi which was published in 1930; making it the first novel by a black South Africa?

Jupiter Hammon, who was born on October 17, 1711, was perhaps the first Black person to be published, in 1761 before the United States was even formed.


The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain

Langston Hughes“One of the most promising of the young Negro poets said to me once, “I want to be a poet—not a Negro poet,” meaning, I believe, “I want to write like a white poet;” meaning subconsciously, “I would like to be a white poet;” meaning behind that, “I would like to be white.” And I was sorry the young man said that, for no great poet has ever been afraid of being himself. And I doubted then that, with his desire to run away spiritually from his race, this boy would ever be a great poet. But this is the mountain standing in the way of any true Negro art in America—this urge within the race toward whiteness, the desire to pour racial individuality into the mold of American standardization, and to be as little Negro and as much American as possible.“—Langston Hughes, Originally published in The Nation magazine, June 23, 1926

This ninety-year-old article could be been written yesterday; read it in its entirety.


The 2016 Black Pack Party: A Wonderful Celebration!A collage of the 2016 Black Pack party in Chicago

The 2016 Black Pack Party was a really wonderful celebration. Read my thoughts about the event. If you were able to join us in Chicago, please share your thoughts and photos in the article’s comments section.


Events Coming in June

BAM Anniversary

Summer is the busiest period for book festivals. In June the Go On Girl! Book Club will host their 25th Annual Awards Weekend. The international literary festival Calabash will kick off in Jamaica; Chris Abani, Paul Beatty, Teju Cole, Nicole Dennis-Benn, jessica Care moore, Marlon James and many other authors will be featured. The Sacramento Black Book Fair will celebrate their third year. And that is just the first week!

Also consider checking out the, AAMBC Literary Awards and the combined celebration honoring the 50th Anniversary of the Black Arts Movement and the 20th Anniversary of Cave Canem (pictured above). Learn more about these events and all the others coming in June and the rest of the year.


A Great Deal to Promote Your Books on AALBC.com

Promote Your Books with Large Book Cover Advertisement and Horizontal Ad BannersOur Large Book Cover Advertisement and Horizontal Ad Banners appear on virtually every one of the several thousand AALBC.com web pages. Plus, each author whose book is promoted with this very prominent placement also receives a free Author Profile. If you already have an Author Profile, we’ll extend your campaign by two weeks.

With this deal, your AALBC.com Author Profile will give you a permanent, high profile web presence, which is great if your only presence is social media. Plus the highly visible placement of your advertisement will expose your book to over 100,000 avid readers of African American Literature. Learn more about this terrific deal.

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,

AALBC.com celebrates 18 years!Authors and publishers, here is a great way to support AALBC.com without spending a dime: Use our affiliate code when sending readers to Amazon to purchase your book.

The vast majority of the time when links to Amazon are shared with me, no affiliate code is a used. This means money is being left on the table. Why forego that revenue?

Here is the format for the link:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/1617737984/ref=nosim?tag=aalbccom-20
Simply replace you book’s ISBN10 or ASIN with the boldface number in the URL above. It is that easy!

As always, thanks for reading!

Peace & Love,
Troy Johnson


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.

AALBC.com eNewsletter – May 31, 2016 – Issue #234

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.

news-Anita-Hemmings-small

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

Our Future is Cyberspace

Black Issues Book Review Nov-Dec 1999 cover“Outsiders” have often dictated the trends of African American Culture, sometimes doing the job themselves, sometimes using what authors John A. Williams called “surrogates.”  Both W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington accused each other of being manipulated by outsiders.

With the introduction of cyberspace, younger writers have the ability to reach audiences unheard of during the sixties when African American writers produced broadsides and saddle-stitched chapbooks.  As access to cyberspace becomes less expensive, more voices will be heard and this period, the most prolific in the history of African American Literature, will rise to worldwide prominence, no longer having to obey the tastes of the outsiders in power or the dictates of the establishment-manufactured Talented Tenth.
Ishmael Reed (Black Issues Book Review; November-December 1999)

During the period Ishmael Reed wrote this I would have agreed with him.  A year earlier, I’d started AALBC.com with just that belief in mind.  But I was naive, and today I strongly disagree with the statement.  I wonder if Ishmael disagrees with it now too.  I will reach out to him, and see if he is willing to share his thoughts here.  He is active on Facebook so…

“Cyberspace,” or the World Wide Web, as it is more commonly known today, has actually made it easier for “Outsiders” to dictate the trends of African American Culture. Nothing has changed indeed it has gotten much worse for us.

Market forces drive us to conform to the dictates of the “Outsiders” referred to by Reed. The most popular “Black” websites are not owned by Black people.  The ones that are owned by Black folks take their marching orders from the white owned sites they minick, in an attempt to attract visitors.  Anyone who has been online for 5 minutes knows about the-celebrity-scandal-click-bait content that drives our most popular, so called, Black sites.

Sure there may be more Black writers with the potential to reach more people, but they are finding it increasingly difficult to be heard, unless of course they are cosigned by one of the massive sites run by “outsiders”; which then of course requires conforming to their dictates.

Despite all of this virtually free access to the web and numerous tools to publish content, we do not drive the narrative, rather the “outsiders” created narrative drives us.  Anyone attempting to do something other than what the “outsiders” have prescribed will fail or struggle miserably.

I often read old magazines for a historical perspective.  I subscribed to Black Issues Book Review (BIBR) for it’s entire run.  The issue from where I transcribed Ishmael’s quote was brilliant.  I’m unaware of any other magazine that comes close to producing the content  Black Issues Book Review did during it’s prime.  Both the magazine and the associated website are long gone.

Part of the problem is the we simply do not work in our own self interest.  Sure there are some great exceptions, but not enough to really make a difference.  When I was a corporate employee, this was not apparent to me, but the minute I became a business owner it became very obvious. It is very sad.

For example, I would listen to Black writers give Black Issue Book Review, a lot of grief for not paying them enough, or fast enough, for the articles they wrote.  Of course if you say you are going to pay someone, you need to pay them.  But I also observed some of these very same writers proudly write for the Huffington Post for free!  Just the idea of having a HuffPost byline was enough compensation. There was never as much pride in having a BIBR byline.

Today we have fewer websites dedicated to Black books.  One would think there would be an uproar, but media, like a BIBR, who would report on this problem, no longer exists.  I’d image the general public has no idea a problem even exists.  Even saying there are few Black book websites, would not mean much absent a historical context.  Meanwhile, the “outsider” has sold us on the idea popularity on their platforms is the only meaningful measure of success.

Sites like AALBC.com who are inclined to report on this issue, an issue that does not conform to the “dictated the trend,” defined by the “outsiders,” have to fight to be heard. Trust me; it is a fight. Social media is pay to play, and search results skew away from Black independent websites.  But most importantly, our people will not sacrifice to support, no invest, in our own platforms.  Paying a bit more or clicking away from a massive social media site is apparently too much of a sacrifice for us to make, to control our own narrative.

Black websites certainly don’t matter to the massive corporations who control the World Wide Web, but based upon our behavior they don’t matter to us either.

Our future may be cyberspace, but that future looks pretty bleak.  I hope to tell a very different story in 15 years.