Tag Archives: Troy Johnson

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.

2015 Year End Thank You!

Coming in the New Year

newbookscreenshotThe biggest news for the new year is our website upgrade. We are redesigning AALBC.com from scratch, and we have the benefit of 18 years of content and experience, to bring you a world class website, celebrating Black culture through literature.

Without getting too technical, we are developing a customized CMS, which will allow us to present information about books and authors in a way that no other website can. Our new website is, mobile first, faster, more easily navigated, and less cluttered.

We now offer more flexible book buying options, including links to publishers (as with Just Us Books) and other independent booksellers, to bring you the best deals while offering publishers better opportunities to profit from their books. In some cases, as with the Go On Girl! Book Club’s reading list, commissions from book sales are donated to charity.

Speaking about book clubs, we are greatly increasing our coverage of book clubs, not only to help book clubs attract new members and share ideas without other clubs, but to help readers discover the great reads book clubs have researched and uncovered.

This is just the beginning; we still have a lot content to migrate and have not settled on a layout for our homepage, but you can review our progress, in real time, on our development website aalbc.org.

Our upgrade is a massive project, which we plan to complete in the spring 2016. Your ongoing support is crucial to the success of this effort, indeed to the survival of AALBC.com. Here are 5 things you can do to help:

  1. Share our content.
  2. Purchase your eNewsletter subscription.
  3. Buy books through our website.
  4. Share your thoughts in the comments on each page and join our discussion forums
  5. Keep reading!

The Power List & Huria Search Will Be Decommissioned

Decommissioned websitesHuria Search’s goal was to support and showcase independent Black owned content producers and book websites by making them more discoverable. The spirit of Huria Search will continue on AALBC.com. We have already migrated most of Huria Search’s content to AALBC.com, including our information on Black Bloggers, Black Newspapers, Black Magazines, Black Bookstores, Black Book Websites, with more to come.

The Power List was a collaborative effort to fill the void, left by Essence Magazine and Blackboard, for a bestsellers list covering African American literature. However, AALBC.com’s best selling books list, with our newly increased focus will be a suitable alternative next year. The new website design has made it possible to add a children’s bestselling books list and we will be able to produce a new list every month.

The freeing up of resources, previously dedicated to the Power List and Huria Search, will allow me to focus more intently on improving AALBC.com.

A Very Special Thanks to These AALBC.com Supporters

news-troyWhen one compiles a list like this, important people are invariably left off. To you I truly apologize. However I feel compelled to acknowledge a few people and institutions, who in 2015 lifted me spiritually, financially or through deed. Without your support AALBC.com would simply be impossible. In no particular order:

Dr. Elizabeth Nunez, Christopher D. Burns, Akashic Books, Kimberla Lawson Roby, SmileyBooks, Wade and Cheryl Hudson, The Center for Black Literature, Dr. David Colvin, Good2Go Publishing, Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati, Robin Johnson, Connie Divers Bradley, Victoria Christopher Murray, Sherrie Young, Mike Cherichetti, Fertari Netsuziy, W. Paul Coates, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Lynda Johnson, Pamela Samuels Young, Gwen Richardson, Charisse Carney-Nunes, Queens Public Library, Baruch College, Kam Williams, Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Carol Taylor, HICKSON, Google, Martha Kennerson, M. D. Williams, Robert Fleming, Rita Williams-Garcia, Tony & Yvonne Rose, Ramunda & Derrick Young, Jamie Blatman, Kalamu ya Salaam, HICKSON, Mike D’nero, Bernard Timberlake II, Cordenia Paige, HARRY BROWN, my “Bookends NYC” crew, anyone else I failed to recognize.

Finally to my wife and daughters who bear, involuntarily, the struggle I have taken on without complaint and with love. They support my effort, of celebrating Black culture through literature, simply because it is my dream.

I wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year!

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

news-black-pack-party-2013

AALBC.com Co-Hosts the Annual Black Pack Party Which will be Held in Chicago in 2016

 

Bestsellers Lists, Authors, New Books & More – June 2015

Power List Spring 2015

Multi-Title Authors Find Success on Spring 2015 Edition of the Power List of Best-Selling African-American Books More ▶

Books published by Brown Girls Books dominate AALBC.com’s Bestsellers list for the period March to April of 2015.


Authors You Should Know


J. Ivy: Hip-Hop PoetJ. Ivy: Hip-Hop Poet

J. Ivy is a hip-hop poet, musician, actor, and speaker. He received a Peabody Award for his performance on Russell Simmons’s Def Poetry, as well as a Grammy Award for his contribution with Jay-Z on Kanye West’s The College Dropout album. J. has also collaborated with John Legend, RZA, The Last Poets, The Roots, Common, Mos Def, The Black Crowes, Bob Dylan, and many more.

He supports his community through his Write to Live Academy and the Dear Father Initiative, which encourages young people to explore careers in the arts. If you know a young man, or even an older, one troubled by a lack of a relationship with their father, share J. Ivy’s work with them. Check out our video of J. Ivy, at work, uplifting Black youth here ▶


Jaz Johnson: 21-Year-Old-NovelistJaz Johnson: 21-Year-Old-Novelist

Jasmine “Jaz” Johnson was born on December 13th, 1993 in Bridgeport, Connecticut and has been writing as long as she can remember. Jaz’s passions include art, writing, and graphic design. Her first novel, Sibling Secrets, was published in 2010.

This young writer is so very impressive. At 21, she has already published novels in several genres including, science fiction, and romance (or borderline erotica as she describes it). Readers of any age will enjoy her work. Writers of any age can draw inspiration from her example. She has a life goal of owning a bookshelf of her own books, and being surrounded by the lives and worlds she’s created. I’m sure she will realize that dream. More ▶


Regine L. Sawyer: Creator of Black ComicsRegine L. Sawyer: Creator of Black Comics

Sawyer is the founder of Lockett Down Productions and coordinator of Women in Comics NYC/International. We’ve published a video of Regine describing both her work and publications. She spoke with AALBC.com during the Bronx Book Fair. More ▶


Dr. Condoleezza RiceDr. Condoleezza Rice

Rice has authored and co-authored several books, including Germany Unified and Europe Transformed: A Study in Statecraft, with Philip Zelikow; The Gorbachev Era, with Alexander Dallin,Uncertain Allegiance: The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak Army and Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family, which we reviewed back in 2010.

Unfortunately many in the Black community have marginalized Dr. Rice’s remarkable, often unprecedented, accomplishments. A few weeks ago she spoke at my daughter’s college graduation. It was a excellent speech and an inspiration to many. While  ainstream media gushed over Steve Jobs graduation speech a few years ago,
Condi’s speech, arguably more impressive, was overlooked by the media. You may watch the speech here ▶.


Banke Awopetu-McCulloughBanke Awopetu-McCullough

Banke is a native of Rochester, NY. She holds a Bachelors of Arts in Drama and African and African-American Studies from the University of Virginia and a Masters in Adolescent Education from Roberts Wesleyan. McCullough’s literary style has most been influenced by hip hop music and classic African-American literature.

Her latest novel, Always Want More (Mill City Press, October 2014), tells the story of Tracy Mitchell whose rise in the hip-hop journalism world was swift and fierce. Having secured a position at her dream publication, Real, she hopes to write stories that make an impact. You’ll also enjoy the book’s trailer and book club discussion video. More ▶


Book Reviews


Child, Please: How Mama’s Old-School Lessons Helped Me Check Myself Before I Wrecked MyselfChild, Please: How Mama’s Old-School Lessons Helped Me Check
Myself Before I Wrecked Myself

Toya Graham was at home watching TV coverage of the recent Baltimore riots when she spotted her only son, Michael, in an unruly crowd of kids taunting and throwing objects at the police. Without giving it a second thought, the shocked, single-mother of six sprang into action and rushed right down to the scene to retrieve her misbehaving 16 year-old. Cell phone cameras caught Toya lecturing and slapping Michael silly as she dragged him away…

In Child, Please (Tarcher, May 5, 2015) author, Ylonda Gault Caviness, has belatedly come to embrace more of her mom’s supposedly-antiquated approach after becoming exasperated by the challenge of rearing her own three daughters. “Any fool could see, Mama had the whole motherhood thing down to a science,” she concedes. “Now, in my forties, I finally get it.” More ▶


Book Recommendations


The Ultimate Betrayal by Kimberla Lawson RobyThe Ultimate Betrayal by Kimberla Lawson Roby

AALBC.com, Power List and New York Times bestselling author Kimberla Lawson Roby is back with the 12th book in the Reverend Curtis Black Series, The Ultimate Betrayal (Grand Central Publishing, June 9, 2015)

It’s been four years since twenty-eight-year old Alicia Black, daughter of Reverend Curtis Black, divorced her second husband, the most womanizing and corrupt man she has ever known. Since then, Alicia has been dating her first husband, Phillip Sullivan, a wonderfully kind and true man of God whom she’d hurt terribly by cheating on him. Alicia has worked hard to prove herself worthy of his trust once more, and when he asks her to marry him again, she couldn’t be happier. Until Sunday 21st only, buy The Ultimate Betrayal for 33% off (less than Amazon)..


Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi CoatesBetween the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

In the one hundred fifty years since the end of the Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, the story of race and America has remained a brutally simple one, written on flesh: It is the story of the black body, exploited to create the country’s foundational wealth, violently segregated to unite a nation after a civil war, and, today, still disproportionately threatened, locked up, and killed in our streets. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all—regardless of race—honestly reckon with our country’s fraught racial history and free ourselves from its burden?

Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau, September 8, 2015) is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer those questions, presented in the form of a letter to his adolescent son. More ▶


Michelle Obama: A Life by by Peter SlevinMichelle Obama: A Life by by Peter Slevin

Michelle Obama has been catching a lot of flak again, this time for her remarks during a recent commencement address at Tuskegee University [another brilliant speech]. The First Lady has been under the gun ever since the 2008 presidential campaign, when her detractors playing “gotcha politics” quoted something she said out of context to suggest that she hates the United States.

But Michelle was making more complicated points than the simplistic sound bites she’s been reduced to. For that reason, it is appropriate that her biography opens with an in-depth analysis of a very emotional speech she delivered to Anacostia High’s graduating class of 2010. More ▶


Grant Park by Leonard Pitts Jr.Grant Park by Leonard Pitts Jr.

Grant Park (Agate Bolden, October 13, 2015) is a page-turning and provocative look at black and white relations in contemporary America, blending the absurd and the poignant in a powerfully well-crafted narrative that showcases Pitts’s gift for telling emotionally wrenching stories.

Grant Park begins in 1968, with Martin Luther King’s final days in Memphis. The story then moves to the eve of the 2008 election, and cuts between the two eras as it unfolds. Disillusioned columnist Malcolm Toussaint, fueled by yet another report of unarmed black men killed by police, hacks into his newspaper’s server to post an incendiary column that had been rejected by his editors. Toussaint then disappears, and his longtime editor, Bob Carson, is summarily fired within hours of the column’s publication. More ▶


$$ The Twenty Million Dollar Race $$ by Vincent Armstrong$$ The Twenty Million Dollar Race $$ by Vincent Armstrong

The kidnapping of a precious six-year-old girl by the Mafia leads to an outrageous ransom demand of twenty million dollars. With only six weeks to deliver the high price ransom and save the girl’s life, an unprecedented race to attain the money by the abducted girl’s family quickly ensues. As the days tick down to the deadline for the ransom to be paid, a vicious crime spree on an unimaginable scope and level evolves as the entire country becomes glued and riveted to this mega media story (Magic Rainbow, April 19, 2015). More ▶


Events


9th National Conference of African American Librarians - August 5-7, 2015 - St. Louis, MO9th National Conference of African American Librarians – August 5-7, 2015 – St. Louis, MO

The Black Caucus of the American Library Association is excited to return NCAAL to it’s original biennial conference schedule. New to NCAAL 2015, is a Wednesday through Saturday schedule, allowing conference goers to take advantage of lower transportation rates typically available on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The new schedule also provides a wonderful opportunity for attendees to stay over and explore the city of Saint Louis once the conference concludes Saturday afternoon.

Exhibitors are invited to participate in the 9th National Conference. The association continues to work to make its conferences relevant and enjoyable for the hundreds of librarians who attend Learn more about their biennial conference ▶


Wade HudsonIn Search of Diverse Book Buyers Panel Discussion at Book Expo
America

You may watch the video of the “In Search of Diverse Book Buyers” panel discussion, which was held during Book Expo America. The panel took place, May 28, 2015, in New York City, and was recorded by Clyde Davis of Fathers and Sonns.

The panel participants were Wade Hudson of Just Us Books; Marva Allen of Hueman Books; Troy Johnson, webmaster of AALBC.com; and Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati of the The African-American Children’s Book Project. Lloyd-Sgambati, who organized this panel, has also launched the Preserve a legacy, buy a book! campaign. More ▶


Film Reviews


Bass Clef Bliss (★★★★)Bass Clef Bliss (★★★★)

Directed by Patrick Scott, Bass Clef Bliss is an alternately heartrending and uplifting biopic chronicling the tight bond between a mother and son as together they confront an assortment of daunting challenges associated with autism. Scott makes a most impressive debut here, as he oh so delicately balances the access he was afforded to his subjects ‘daily lives with their plausible concerns about personal privacy.

Besides focusing on Terrence and Therese’s trials, tribulations and ultimate triumphs, this informative documentary features a cornucopia of facts and figures about autism, courtesy of both experts and anecdotal evidence. Did you know that in 1985, 1 in 2,500 babies developed the disorder, and that today the number is about 1 in 68? More ▶


Watch the full movie; “Finding The Funk,” a Film by Nelson George, Narrated by QuestloveWatch the full movie; “Finding The Funk,” a Film by Nelson George, Narrated by Questlove

Did you miss Finding The Funk’s network debut? You can now stream Nelson George’s exploration of the funk bloodline for free via VH1.

The documentary film, Finding the Funk (2013), is narrated by ?uestlove and features words from D’Angelo, George Clinton, Sly Stone, Bootsy Collins, Nile Rodgers and scholar Michael Eric Dyson, and many other visionaries and performers who help us navigate through the tangled bloodlines of musicians and showmen which have defined the lineage. More ▶


Related Articles & News


Pros and Cons of Mainstream and Self-Publishing by C. Liegh McInnisPros and Cons of Mainstream and Self-Publishing by C. Liegh
McInnis

There are two basic routes to getting published, mainstream and self-publishing. Mainstream is when one submits one’s work to journals/magazines and publishing companies to be published. Self-publishing is when one decides to publish one’s own books. They both can be equally effective although the mainstream manner is the most respected because it allows one to reach a larger audience more quickly and it has an aura or illusion of validation. Although self-publishing does not offer the validation from the establishment, it offers a satisfaction of artistic and economic control of one’s work. Yet, the most effective manner of publishing is to use various aspects of mainstream and self-publishing simultaneously. More ▶


Cynique's Corner - Culture, Race & Economy Discussion ForumCynique’s Corner – Culture, Race & Economy Discussion Forum

“Screw all these dysfunctional, self-absorbed, narcissistic, exhibitionist idiots who make up the freak show carnival of celebrity.”

For daring to share with the world her angst about being a woman trapped in a man’s body, “Bruclyn” has become the anathema of the Religious Right, the poster child for the LGBT community and an enigma for ex-wife Kris Kardashian. But, since “she” had the money to remedy this mix-up via plastic surgery and hormones, she has earned the honor of appearing on the cover of Vanity Fair, flaunting her new identity, all glamorous and feminine, skillfully made-up, sporting long hair extensions, implanted boobs, not to mention her big feet and the tucked-in penis she couldn’t bear to part with… Cynique is just getting warmed up. Read more and join the discussion ▶


Our African-American Literature Discussion Forum is Now Mobile!Our African-American Literature Discussion Forum is Now Mobile!

Join the conversation and talk about books you’ve written, or books you’ve read. You may exchange views with authors, avid readers and those who wish to learn more about Black literature and publishing. You can also share rich media content without worrying about being bombarded with ads, having your privacy invaded, or having what you see be determined by efforts to maximize revenue.

Thumper’s Corner, the name of our African-American literature discussion forum, was started in 1998 and has been continuously running ever since. Historically, Thumper’s Corner has been a very special and popular area of our web site. In recent years however, participation has waned as social media gained in prominence. I hope this recent upgrade to our platform will encourage more participation. Join Us ▶


An On-line Advertising Primer for AuthorsAn On-line Advertising Primer for Authors

For a book, several factors determines the effectiveness of a online advertising campaign; (1) the reputation and name recognition of the author; (2) the quality of the book cover or banner and; (3) the potential reader’s interest in the subject. In general, an advertisement for a book with an ugly cover, by an unknown author writing about a subject no one cares about will perform worse than a book with an attractive cover, by a well known author writing in a popular and timely genre or subject.

Notice I did not mention anything about quality of writing. One can not determine the quality of a book’s writing solely from the banner or book cover. That information is best conveyed on the landing page; where readers who click the advertisement are sent. More ▶


A Tribe Called NewsA Tribe Called News

A Tribe Called News was founded on Howard University’s campus and seeks to be the voice of millennials of color.

They cover everything from culture to feminism. They believe the voices of millennials are timely and valuable to the conversations happening in communities of color. To contribute please emailatribecallednews@gmail.com.


Obama’s BookshelfObama’s Bookshelf


Waiting to Exhale
 by Terry McMillan, Richard Wright’sBlack Boy, and W. E. B. Du Bois: A Reader is on President Obama’s Bookshelf. What’s on your bookshelf? ▶

DMessage from AALBC.com Founder Troy Johnsonear Reader,

As always, I encourage feedback on our eNewsletter. Most months I experiment with different types of content in an effort to better serve you. This month I’ve recommended a couple of books, from brilliant writers, that do not come out until the fall. Does notification of books, that far in advance, interest you? Let me know what you think about that, or anything else, by emailing me or posting a comment on our discussion forum.

As always, remember to show your support for the writers and institutions we cover, with your paid subscription to our newsletter.

Peace & Love,

AALBC.com eNewsletter – June 9, 2015 – Issue #226