Thumper’s Picks
by Thumper

It’s been a while but I’m back with a whole new set of books that I have fallen in love with, passed around, and will sing the praises of at the drop of a hat. It’s a nice eclectic grouping of books that not only vary in subject matter but in age as well. Here you will find novels, biographies, short story collections and a few odds and ends. If you see a book that you were not aware of dive in, trust me, the water is fine.

Buy A Thirst for RainA Thirst for Rain - Roslyn Carrington
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Format: Hardcover, 208pp.
ISBN: 1575664461
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
Pub. Date: August  1999

A Thirst For Rain is a novel that takes place in Trinidad. A Thirst For Rain tells the story of Myra.  Myra, a middle age woman, and her 17 year old daughter, Odile, are both pregnant. Myra also has to deal with Slim, the young father of her unborn child; Sebastain, her senile father-who when he was told a then 17 year old Myra was pregnant threw her out of his house; Jacob, the new next door neighbor who must live in the afterglow of his glory days as a famous stick fighter; and finally Rory, the young 15 year old neighbor who is in love with Odile. Carrington weaves all of these threads together to produce a small, moving, emotionally satisfying novel. Poetic, lyrical and sure, Carrington is a welcome addition to my ever growing list, "Where’s the new book?"

Click to buy Short Stories of Langston HughesShort Stories of Langston Hughes - Langston Hughes
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Format: Hardcover, 299pp.
ISBN: 0809086581
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Incorporated
Pub. Date: August  1996

This collection of short stories by Langston Hughes includes stories from his previous collections; The Ways Of White Folks, Laughing To Keep From Crying, and Something In Common and Other Stories. What makes this collection a gem is that it features stories written by Hughes when he was in high school, in addition to stories that appeared in periodicals such as The Crisis and The Messenger. This collection is not complete. It is; however,  the best representation of Hughes fiction output. I found myself wishing that Hughes could have one more lifetime to write more stories and definitely more novels. If the opportunity presents itself for you to get your hands on this collection, take it, because mine is going under lock and key.

Buy Slapboxing with JesusSlapboxing with Jesus - Victor D. Lavalle
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Format: Paperback, 192pp.
ISBN: 0375705902
Publisher: Knopf Alfred A
Pub. Date: October  1999

If you haven’t heard of this short story collection or it’s author Victor Lavalle, I’m proud to serve the introductions. Lavalle is one of the young authors to look for in the future. There are literary diamonds in this collection, including "how I lost my inheritance", "pops", and "kids on colden street".  One of the best young voices to sing in the past year.

Buy White Boys: StoriesWhite Boys: Stories - Reginald McKnight
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Format: Paperback, 214pp.
ISBN: 0805061711
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company, Incorporated
Pub. Date: May  1999

Another short story collection that I love as well. Also, another short story collection that raised a couple of eyebrows and comments when I was reading it. *LOL* White boys was the first story collection by McKnight that I read. Wonderful. See if after reading it, if you don’t want a taste of palm wine? *smile*

Buy GlyphGlyph - Percival Everett
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Format: Hardcover, 200pp.
ISBN: 1555972969
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Pub. Date: November  1999

Personally, I think Everett is a freaking literary genius. It’s ironic that I would reach that conclusion after reading Everett’s latest novel, Glyph, which tells the story of 18 month old genius, Ralph. Ralph doesn’t consider himself a genius though because he can’t drive, or control his bodily functions yet. Ralph can; however, read books in a matter of hours, write novels, develop mathematical equations and theories. In Glyph, we see the journey Ralph takes when he is finally taken to the doctors and is kidnapped by the federal government. Glyph is perceptive, highly intelligent (almost to the point of being scary), and always humorous. An excellent book.

Buy Those Bones Are Not My ChildThose Bones Are Not My Child - Toni Cade Bambara
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Format: Hardcover, 676pp.
ISBN: 0679442618
Publisher: Random House, Incorporated
Pub. Date: September  1999

Those Bones Are Not My Child is the novel that Bambara was working on when she died several years ago. Edited by Toni Morrison and published last year, Those Bones Are Not My Child tells the story of Zala and Spence when their eldest son, Sonny disappears in 1980, Atlanta, GA. Yep, the Atlanta Child Killings. The disappearance of Sonny Spencer is Zala, Spence, and our entry into the city of Atlanta when it was gripped in hysteria over the disappearances and murders of black children. Let me tell you, Those Bones Are Not My Child is no easy win. It’s thick, small print, and 600+ pages. It is also finely researched and detailed, exhibiting Bambara’s prose that at times is so beautiful its heartbreaking. Those Bones Are Not My Child emerged, in my opinion, as the best book published in 1999.

Buy Zachary’s WingsZachary’s Wings - Rosemarie Robotham
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Format: Paperback, 288pp.
ISBN: 0684857367
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Trade
Pub. Date: October  1999

In a time when it may seem that there are no positive black male characters in African-American literature, Zachary’s Wings is a book that counters that sentiment. Zachary’s Wings is the story of Zachary, a thirty-something, black social worker. Zachary,  the middle child in a family of 5, is the caretaker, the rock, and the keeper of secrets. We watch Zachary take care of his family, and help a girlfriend from spiraling into madness. That said, Zachary is no pushover, or Dudley Do-Right. He’s real. Robotham wrote a very good novel with a solid black man dealing with the world and the people he loves. I don’t know why Oprah hasn’t picked up on Zachary yet, but don’t let that stop you.

Buy Plenty Good RoomPlenty Good Room - Teresa McClain-Watson
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Format: Paperback, 272pp.
ISBN: 0940242745
Publisher: Fjord Press
Pub. Date: November  1997

13 year old Bay Dawson is sent to Jacksonville, Florida to live with his father, Tom Bach, after his older brother, Joe Nathan, is killed in Harlem. Well, see, the story gets sticky here because Tom Bach is married to another woman. The same woman he had been married to when he slept with, and conceived two children out of wedlock with Bay’s mother. Not only does Bay have to deal with the loss of his brother, he must now adapt to his new living environment which includes half-brothers, a hateful wife and Tom Bach. Insightful, funny, dramatic, and tragic; Plenty Good Room is a book that will capture your heart.

Buy Another CountryAnother Country- James Baldwin
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Format: Paperback, 436pp.
ISBN: 0679744711
Publisher: Vintage Books
Pub. Date: January  1993

Bold. Strong. Poetic. Dastardly wicked. Complete. Another Country is a novel of relationships. Relations between the races, the sexes, man and country. Another Country is also a novel of ripples. Rufus, a black jazz pianist, falls for Lenora, a young white woman from the south. Their interracial relationship, which ends in Lenora locked away in a mental hospital and Rufus’ suicide, is the stone that causes ripples through time, people, and space. A seemingly large order to fill and Baldwin does it beautifully.

Buy If Beale Street Could TalkIf Beale Street Could Talk - James Baldwin
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Format: Mass Market Paperback, 213pp.
ISBN: 0440340608
Publisher: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group
Pub. Date: November  1985

A powerful novel that tells the story of Fonny, a young artist who is unjustly arrested, and his girlfriend Tish, who is determined to free him. Of course nothing is that simple with Baldwin, for he peels away the surface of Fonny and Tish, their love story, and their families. I highly recommend this one.

Buy The IntuitionistThe Intuitionist - Colson Whitehead
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Format: Paperback, 272pp.
ISBN: 0385493002
Publisher: Doubleday & Company, Incorporated
Pub. Date: January  2000

The Intuitionist is a tale of race, mystery and suspense in a time and place that is similar to ours. Lila Mae Watson is the first black elevator inspector. When an elevator in the new government building, that Lila Mae inspected, falls, it is up to Lila Mae to discover what happened. Whitehead is another author that I have my eye on. The Intuitionist is a gem.

Buy Blood BrothersBlood Brothers - Steven Barnes
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Format: Mass Market Paperback, 384pp.
ISBN: 0812548078
Publisher: Tor Books
Pub. Date: September  1997
Edition Desc: REPRINT

For all of you who are waiting, patiently or not, for the next Tananarive Due novel, check out Steven Barnes in the meantime. As I was saying on the discussion board recently, Barnes has to be the best well kept secret as far as AA thriller/horror/suspense/mystery genre is concerned. Austin Tucker is a white ex-Green Beret who is in prison for the murders of his family that he did not commit. Derek Waites is a black computer programmer, who served time for computer hacking. On the surface it would seem that these two men have nothing in common. Ah, but, still waters run deep. These two men are tied to each other by blood. The tie surfaced with the attempted kidnapping of Derek’s son and his daughter being possessed by the spirit of an ancestor that both Austin and Derek’s children share. Blood can carry history, it can also carry death. Excellent, exciting novel. I couldn’t put it down. I doubt that you will be able to as well.

Buy A Taste of Heritage: The New African-American CuisineA Taste of Heritage: The New African-American Cuisine - Chef Joe Randall & Toni Tipton-Martin
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Format: Hardcover, 352pp.
ISBN: 0028603826
Publisher: Macmillan Publishing Company, Incorporated
Pub. Date: January  1998

Yep, it’s a cookbook. But, boy, what a cookbook. I love it. A Taste of Heritage has just about everything you can imagine in African-American Cuisine. The recipes ranges from the green tomatoes-cabbage chutney (we call it cha-cha in my family) that is perfect with greens or beans to deep dish peach cobbler (seasoned perfectly) to stewed chicken with herb dumpling (trust me…da bomb). The cookbook also contains two excellent, EXCELLENT rolls recipes, the cornmeal yeast rolls and fist rolls. I’m tryin’ to tell ya, it’s here. Some of the recipes are for a group, made to serve 6 to 8 or 10, so you’re set for those family gatherings and all. I love this book. All of the recipes are from the leading black chefs of the country. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. Now, I realize that everybody is tryin’ to lose weight and all, keep your figure, and all that stuff, if you are, just skip right past this selection. I’m tellin’ you now, if there are days when you swear you are hearing some lips smackin’, it’s me!

Buy Clifford’s BluesClifford’s Blues - John A. Williams
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Format: Paperback, 1st ed., 309pp.
ISBN: 1566890802
Publisher: Coffee House Press
Pub. Date: April  1999

Clifford’s Blues is the first novel by John A. Williams in a number of years. What a book to come back with! Clifford’s Blues is a novel that consists of journal entry by Clifford Pepperidge, a black gay jazz musician being held in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. Williams Blew Me AWAY!  It never would have occurred to me that there would have been African-Americans in Nazi concentration camps. Williams put me there. Clifford is unforgettable. Williams is at the top of his game. Definitely one of the best books of 1999!

Buy Black No MoreBlack No More - George S. Schuyler
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Format: Paperback, 224pp.
ISBN: 037575380X
Publisher: Random House, Incorporated
Pub. Date: June  1999
Edition Desc: 1999 Modern

Schuyler was a writer back in the days of the Harlem Renaissance. I had not heard of Schuyler until someone on the board asked about his books. Last year, Black No More by George S. Schuyler was reissued by Random House. Boy am I glad, and after you read it, you’ll be glad right along with me. Black No More is the novel that shows the state of the US if, nationwide, there were clinics that could turn African-Americans white. White skin color, straight blonde hair, blue eyes…straight up white. The genetic makeup doesn’t change, the offsprings are still black (not once the baby is taken or born in one of the many clinics). Smart, intelligent, sharp cutting wit, I amen-ed, hee-haw-ed, all through this book! One of the few books that tells the truth on racism and being black and living in America, and at the same time is loaded with humor. There are not too many books that I’ve read that can make this claim, with the exception of dem by William Melvin Kelley. Black No More is a classic. Check it out, you’ll love it.

Buy Iron ShadowsIron Shadows - Steven Barnes
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Format: Mass Market Paperback, 320pp.
ISBN: 0812548086
Publisher: Tor Books
Pub. Date: January  2000

Another Steven Barnes novel. This outing follows two detectives Cat Juvell and Jax Carpenter and their search for a missing heiress, who is suspected of being in a cult lead by bi- racial twins. Iron Shadows confirmed that my growing admiration of Barnes was not being misplaced. I love his style, his eye for detail, and his creation of what could be one of the best, most fascinating anti-hero being written today, The African. If you read Blood Brothers first, you will know all about The African. Check it out. I’m going to have to see if anymore Steven Barnes novels are available.

Buy The Good NegressThe Good Negress - A.J. Verdelle
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Format: Paperback, 298pp.
ISBN: 0060976837
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers, Incorporated
Pub. Date: March  1996

I still hate the title, but I adore the book. In 1963, Denise is sent to live with her grandmother in Virginia after her father dies. When Denise is 14 years old, her mother sends for her to come back, since the mother is now re-married and pregnant. The Good Negress is a coming of age story that beauty lies in it’s soft subtle, yet strong voice. You will be moved by this book. I was.

Buy Something’s Wrong with Your ScaleSomething’s Wrong with Your Scale -Van Whitfield
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Format: Paperback, 304pp.
ISBN: 0385489366
Publisher: Doubleday & Company, Incorporated
Pub. Date: January  2000

Van Whitfield is an author that if I was in the position, I would pester him constantly. I would stand over his shoulder, saying, "Dang, can’t you write fasta’. Shoot." In Whitfield’s latest book, we have Sonny Walker, a young man who has picked up some weight. Even as his girlfriend is breaking up with him, all Sonny can think about is the pie she just baked. Sonny realizes that he has to loose the weight. On Sonny’s journey he meets Kayla at a weight loss center. Filled with episodes that really shouldn’t be funny, but I laughed anyway, Something’s Wrong With Your Scale is a wonderful read. Well, Van, can you write fasta or what? *LOL*

So Long A LeterSo Long A Letter - Mariama Ba
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This book appears to be out of print

I can not remember how I came across the title of So Long A Letter. I believe it was on one of the on-line bookstore sites under a "customers who bought this title also purchased these books". Also, I must confess that I’m a straight up "Title" person. If I’m intrigued by the title of a book, I’ll buy it. I’ve read a good number of books because of their titles; Their Eyes Were Watching God and And Then We Heard Thunder, to name a few. I fell for the title first, So Long A Letter, later, I fell for the book. So Long A Letter is a letter to one friend , Ramatoulaye, to another Aissatou. In Ramatoulaye’s letter are memories of her childhood, married life, and surviving widowhood in the Senegalese tradition. A wonderful story that open my eyes and expanded my horizons a little bit for So Long A Letter gave me a glimpse of a world outside of mine. I fell under Ba’s spell, happily. I’m sure you will as well.

Buy I, Tituba, Black Witch of SalemI, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem - Maryse Conde
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Format: Paperback, 225pp.
ISBN: 0345384202
Publisher: Random House, Incorporated
Pub. Date: December  1993
Edition Desc: REPRINT

I was told about this book from one of the regulars of the discussion page. I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem is also the first book that I read written by Maryse Conde. I’m a big fan of Conde’s now. Conde is so smooth. I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem is based on the true fact of a black woman slave, named Tituba, who was one of the first women accused of and prosecuted as being a witch in America. Conde took me through a fictional account of Tituba injecting historical facts whenever possible. Conde is a wonderful storyteller. You’ll love the story of a little know historical fact. Then again, if we all know about Tituba, she can’t be little for long.

Buy Fragments That RemainFragments That Remain - Steven Corbin
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Format: Paperback, 317pp.
ISBN: 1555832741
Publisher: Alyson Publications, Inc.
Pub. Date: February  1995
Edition Desc: REPRINT

Another book that I can’t recall how I initially became aware of it, but I’m glad that I did. Fragments That Remains is a family drama that gets to the nitty gritty and stays there. Corbin goes into intra-racism, homophobia, and all of the other messy stuff that goes into being a family. Hell to live through, exciting to read. The novel opens with Skylar, the newest black male movie star whose white lover, Evan, is leaving him. At the same time, Sky’s father, Howard is lying in a hospital bed dying. Howard’s marriage to Althea, Sky’s mother, has been rocky to non-existent for years due to lies and abuse. Kendall, Sky’s brother, is a drug addict and going through his own hell. Around Howard’s sick bed, memories floods the family as their story unfolds. Oh, baby. It gets hairy. Fragments That Remains is tight. Corbin develops three dimensional characters, has an uncanny insight into the dynamics of this family. There are no missteps here. Fragments That Remains is an all-nighter. Once you start the book, you will not put it down until you are finished. I passed my copy around to my reading buddies one Monday and got it back that next Monday. Fragments The Remains passed through 3 people in 7 days. Yep, it’s that good.

Buy JuneteenthJuneteenth - Ralph Ellison
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Format: Hardcover, 354pp.
ISBN: 0394464575
Publisher: Random House of Canada, Limited
Pub. Date: May  1999

Controversy surrounds this book. Not only was Juneteenth, the novel Ellison had been working on for over 30 years, published after his death, it hadn’t been edited in Ellison’s lifetime. Juneteenth emerged as a novel that many felt wasn’t a novel at all, but a collected mess that had no sense of continuity. I strongly disagree. I will be the first to admit, Juneteenth is the literary equivalent of a quilt that has no pattern to behold. Juneteenth is; however, a quilt that serves its purpose. Extraordinarily so. I didn’t look at the quilt as a whole, I focused on the squares instead, for therein lies the magic and wonderment of Juneteenth. Juneteenth opens in the 1950s with the assassination attempt on Senator Adam Sunraider. On his deathbed, the senator asked for Reverend Hickman, an old black man. From this meeting comes the flashbacks of the past that ties these two together. There are chapters, squares, in Juneteenth that stands as some of the best literature that has been produce in the past 30 years.

Buy Rocking the BabiesRocking the Babies - Linda Raymond
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Format: Paperback, 260pp.
ISBN: 0140232540
Publisher: Viking Penguin
Pub. Date: October  1995

A neonatal intensive care unit is the place the stories of this book, Rocking The Babies, are spun. Martha Howard is a prim, middle-class, older woman who volunteers at her local hospital in the special care infant unit. Nettie Lee Johnson, a fat, low-class woman also volunteers in the neonatal unit as a "grandmother". The two women initially clash, but then while rocking their little wards, both begin to tell the stories of their past. Both coming to the realization that they have more in common the either one believed. I flipped over this book. Simply loved it, and you well too.

Buy The Temple of My FamiliarThe Temple of My Familiar - Alice Walker
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Format: Paperback, 417pp.
ISBN: 0671003763
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Trade
Pub. Date: December  1996

I know it appears to be shaky to recommend a book that I can’t fully explain, but I am. The Temple of My Familiar covers centuries, philosophies, lives, continents, hurts, and blood of two souls that finds and love each other. Walker performed a minor miracle with Temple Of My Familiar. Walker manages to expound hard truths, and hard lessons of love, while staying true to the remarkable love story.