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New Books Worth Checking Out – July 2013

At least once a month, on my Blog, I will share information about new books that I think you will enjoy.   If you subscribe to my blog, via your Kindle or through an RSS reader, you will be able to easily access these book recommendations anywhere including your mobile device.

These lists will come in handy when you are not near a cool indy bookstore and have to settle for one of those humongous stores where you’ll be lucky to find anyone, who is familiar with fine books that will be recommended here.

These recommendations are intended to extend our coverage of books, beyond what is highlighted in our eNewsletter or in reviews we’ve published.   I’ll also do my best not to include books that are currently being advertised on, on a current bestsellers list, recommended by Oprah, or already garnering a lot of attention in the mass media.  The goal, as always, is to help you discover those hidden gems. Enjoy!


The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey MooreThe Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat
by Edward Kelsey Moore

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 3/12/2013

Meet Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean in the New York Times best-selling novel . . .

Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat is home away from home for this inseparable Plainview, Indiana, trio.  Dubbed “the Supremes” by high school pals in the tumultuous 1960s, they weather life’s storms together for the next four decades. Now, during their mo st challenging year yet, dutiful, proud, and talented Clarice must struggle to keep up appearances as she deals with her husband’s humiliating infidelities. Beautiful, fragile Barbara Jean is rocked by the tragic reverberations of a youthful love affair. And fearless Odette engages in the most terrifying battle of her life while contending with the idea that she has inherited more than her broad frame from her notorious pot-smoking mother, Dora.

Through marriage, children, happiness, and the blues, these strong, funny women gather each Sundayat the same table at Earl’s diner for delicious food, juicy gossip, occasional tears, and uproarious banter.

With wit and love, style and sublime talent, Edward Kelsey Moore brings together four intertwined love stories, three devoted allies, and two sprightly earthbound spirits in a big-hearted debut novel that embraces the lives of people you will never forget.


Golden Boy by Tara SullivanGolden Boy
by Tara Sullivan

Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 6/27/2013
Age range: 12 years

Thirteen-year-old Habo has always been different—light eyes, yellow hair and white skin. Not the good brown skin his family has and not the white skin of tourists. Habo is strange and alone. His father, unable to accept Habo, abandons the family; his mother can scarcely look at him. His brothers are cruel and the other children never invite him to play. Only his sister Asu loves him well. But even Asu can’t take the sting away when the family is forced from their small Tanzanian village, and Habo knows he is to blame.

Seeking refuge in Mwanza, Habo and his family journey across the Serengeti. His aunt is glad to open her home until she sees Habo for the first time, and then she is only afraid. Suddenly, Habo has a new word for himself: Albino. But they hunt Albinos in Mwanza because Albino body parts are thought to bring good luck. And soon Habo is being hunted by a fearsome man with a machete. To survive, Habo must not only run, but find a way to love and accept himself.


Black Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril among the Black Middle Class by Mary PattilloBlack Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril among the Black Middle Class
by Mary Pattillo

Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 7/5/2013

First published in 1999, Mary Pattillo’s Black Picket Fences explores an American demographic group too often ignored by both scholars and the media: the black middle class. Nearly fifteen years later, this book remains a groundbreaking study of a group still underrepresented in the academic and public spheres. The result of living for three years in “Groveland,” a black middle-class neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, Black Picket Fences explored both the advantages the black middle class has and the boundaries they still face. Despite arguments that race no longer matters, Pattillo showed a different reality, one where black and white middle classes remain separate and unequal.

Stark, moving, and still timely, the book is updated for this edition with a new epilogue by the author that details how the neighborhood and its residents fared in the recession of 2008, as well as new interviews with many of the same neighborhood residents featured in the original. Also  included is a new foreword by acclaimed University of Pennsylvania sociologist Annette Lareau.


Hidden in the Mix: The African American Presence in Country Music by Diane PecknoldHidden in the Mix: The African American Presence in Country Music
by Diane Pecknold

Publisher: Duke University Press
Publication date: 6/10/2013

Country music’s debt to African American music has long been recognized. Black musicians have helped to shape the styles of many of the most important performers in the country canon. The partnership between Lesley Riddle and A. P. Carter produced much of the Carter Family’s repertoire; the street musician Tee Tot Payne taught a young Hank Williams Sr.; the guitar playing of Arnold Schultz influenced western Kentuckians, including Bill Monroe and Ike Everly. Yet attention to how these and other African Americans enriched the music played by whites has obscured the achievements of black country-music performers and the enjoyment of black listeners.

The contributors to Hidden in the Mix examine how country music became “white,” how that fictive racialization has been maintained, and how African American artists and fans have used country music to elaborate their own identities. They investigate topics as diverse as the role of race in shaping old-time record catalogues, the transracial West of the hick-hopper Cowboy Troy, and the place of U.S. country music in postcolonial debates about race and resistance. Revealing how music mediates both the ideology and the lived experience of race, Hidden in the Mix challenges the status of country music as “the white man’s blues.”


Mo' Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove by  Ahmir "Questlove" ThompsonMo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove
by  Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson

ISBN-13: 9781455501359
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 6/18/2013

Mo’ Meta Blues is a punch-drunk memoir in which Everyone’s Favorite Questlove tells his own story while tackling some of the lates, the greats, the fakes, the philosophers, the heavyweights, and the true originals of the music world. He digs deep into the album cuts of his life and unearths some pivotal moments in black art, hip hop, and pop culture.

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson is many things: virtuoso drummer, producer, arranger, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon bandleader, DJ, composer, and tireless Tweeter. He is one of our most ubiquitous cultural tastemakers, and in this, his first book, he reveals his own formative experiences–from growing up in 1970s West Philly as the son of a 1950s doo-wop singer, to finding his own way through the music world and ultimately co-founding and rising up with the Roots, a.k.a., the last hip hop band on Earth. Mo’ Meta Blues also has some (many) random (or not) musings about the state of hip hop, the state of music criticism, the state of statements, as well as a plethora of run-ins with celebrities, idols, and fellow artists, from Stevie Wonder to KISS to D’Angelo to Jay-Z to Dave Chappelle to…you ever seen Prince roller-skate?!?

But Mo’ Meta Blues isn’t just a memoir. It’s a dialogue about the nature of memory and the idea of a post-modern black man saddled with some post-modern blues. It’s a book that questions what a book like Mo’ Meta Blues really is. It’s the side wind of a one-of-a-kind mind.


The Other Side of Divine by Vanessa Davis GriggsThe Other Side of Divine
by Vanessa Davis Griggs

Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
Publication date: 7/30/2013

Griggs is one of my mother’s favorite writers — which saying a lot ’cause Ms. Johnson is picky emoticon-love

Paris Simmons-Holyfield is finally pregnant with the baby she’s dreamed of for so long. There’s just one complication: she’s not sure who the father is. Apparently, after a night of drinking with her ex-coworker and ally Darius Connors, it could be him. Considering her husband’s track record, chances are it is. Still, Paris prays it’s not Darius, and decides to keep quiet about her worries. Especially because Darius isn’t ready to give up on his crumbling marriage…

Meanwhile, after a battle to keep her adopted daughter and an ugly confrontation with Paris’s family, Gabrielle Mercedes has finally found love and happiness. But when her father shows up, paroled from prison, she fears she’s in for another round of trouble. As all three navigate the path from sin to redemption, can they forgive their way to the other side?

And a Title I Missed

Despite winning the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, being selected as one of the Best Books of 2012 by Mosaic Literary Magazine and accumulating many more accolades, I completely overlooked this book in 2012.  I’ll blame it on the cover.  It is so nondescript it is almost rendered invisible.  Nonetheless, this book comes with so many strong recommendations from avid readers, I doubt you’ll go wrong with this selection of short stories


We are Taking Only What We Need
by Stephanie Powell Watts

Publisher: BkMk Press at the University of Missouri-Kansas City
Publication date: 11/30/2011

African American women protagonists lose and find love, confront sanity and craziness, and strive to make sense of their lives in North Carolina. A Jehovah’s Witness girl goes door-to-door with an expert field-service partner from up north. At a call center, operator Sheila fields a caller’s uncomfortable questions under a ruthless supervisor’s eye.  Forty-something Aunt Ginny surprises the family by finding a husband, but soon she gives them more to talk about.

Pulitzer-Prize winner Edward P. Jones writes “Watts offers an impressive debut that promises only wonderful work to come.” Fiction writer Marly Swick agrees: “Each story seems, at the same time, to be a breath of fresh air and an instant classic.” Author Alyce Miller notes that “Watts writes with a penetrating eye for the extraordinary moments in the lives of ordinary people. As I read, I found myself holding my breath.”


If you would like to recommend a new book share information about it in the comments section.  To discover other new books recently published or coming out in the next few months visit:



Troy D. Johnson is the President, founder and webmaster of, LLC (The African American Literature Book Club). Launched in March of 1998, has grown to become the largest and most frequently visited website dedicated to books and films by and about people of African descent.