This month’s eNewsletter is sponsored by Jacqueline E. Luckett
Passing Love is the story of two women from two different worlds, both dealing with lost love, secrets and betrayal in the magical city of Paris. People Magazine described Luckett’s sophomore novel, Passing Love as “beautifully written and filled with vibrant scenes of Paris in its Jazz Age and today.”
Essence Magazine’s selected Searching for Tina Turner as the January 2010 book-of-the-month selection. The novel follows a divorced woman’s journey to self by way of France. What comes through for the main character is the inspiration of Tina Turner’s personal story: everything we need to move forward in our lives is already within us. Read more about Ms. Luckett.
The Power List, the quarterly compilation of best-selling books written or read by African Americans, released its Spring 2014 list today. The Power List is a joint project of AALBC.com, Cushcity.com and Mosaicbooks.com, three Web sites which have promoted African-American literature for more than 15 years. Read more about the spring bestsellers list.
Beginning in 1970, Pearl kept a detailed diary of her intimate insights about her day-to-day life. And like a lot of sisters, she had her concerns about the patriarchal attitudes of leaders which left females feeling marginalized.
For example, on March 27, 1970, she mused, “What a revolution. Stokely [Carmichael] said the place of the woman in the revolution should be prone.” So, it is no surprise that Pearl, would eventually tire of such sexist subjugation, and reject being relegated to second-class status in favor of a path of self-fulfillment. Her ensuing transformation into a feminist writer juggling marriage and motherhood is the subject of Things I Should Have Told My Daughter.
American-Nigerian author Nnedi Okorakor’s first short fiction collection, Kabu Kabu, takes the reader by surprise, with its heady mix of fantasy, science fiction elements, and regional folklore and myths. One thing the author does is to keep the culture, history and traditions of Nigeria up front, while stressing the challenges and obstacles faced by women and her people worldwide. For those who only know the classics written by the master Nigerian scribe Chinua Achebe, there is a wealth of writers from the area, such as Elechi Amadi, Sefi Atta, and two of my favorites, Buchi Emecheta and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Add Nnedi Okorafor to this esteemed group.
There are literary craftsmen who spend a lifetime writing in one particular genre, and there are others who possess a creative and literary zeal, which allows them to expand their interests and their writing styles. Robert Fleming is an author who is an esteem member of the latter group. The author has written two books, Gift of Faith, and its sequel, Gift of Truth, both Christian novels.
Any reader would do well to read Gift of Faith first, before launching into the second book in the series, Gift of Truth. In the debut novel, it explores the growing faith development of a young pastor after the traumatic loss of his wife and two children. Repeatedly, Rev. Clint Winwood’s faith is shaken as he questions God’s love and purpose for him. As the pastor offers his guidance to others overwhelmed in their own spiritual crises, readers bear witness to his stunning spiritual transformation.
Tales of a Jailhouse Librarian: Challenging the Juvenile Justice System One Book at a Time by Marybeth Zeman
Part memoir, part social commentary, Zeman addresses pertinent social issues affecting African-Americans and young people of color through their stories, which she tells in short vignettes. Like Diquan, 17, who needs comfort and direction after he learns that his 16-year-old brother was shot and killed. “The only reason Diquan had outlived him—he was in jail.”
Riveting and well written; Tales of a Jailhouse Librarian is compelling, engaging and insightful. Zeman wisely makes her point by simply telling the stories of the boys she counsels and reminding us that part of being young is making mistakes. In so doing, she makes a good argument about education instead of incarceration. “Jail isn’t always the best solution. One million dollars invested in incarceration reduces 350 crimes; one million dollars invested in education reduces 600 crimes.”
Defining racism as “prejudice plus power,” the author sees it as “largely an institutional phenomenon” based on “aggression, domination and greed.” However, he warns that it can also be observed on the individual level in a variety of everyday social “habits, nuances and traits,” like in a condescending look or a halfhearted handshake.
Nevertheless determined to eradicate the false notion of “race,” Professor El-Kati assails it as a superstition no less ridiculous than the belief in witches that once led to innocent women being burned at the stake. For, he would argue that it is patently farcical to associate a host of negative stereotypes with black skin ranging from criminality to laziness.
This is a follow up to an article Death of the Black Owned, Independent, Bookstore, we originally published in March of 2012. The article highlighted the fact the we had lost 66% of our Black owned bookstores over the previous decade. Two years later almost half of the stores still open in 2012 have closed.
If you believe in the importance of bookstores, which are dedicated to books by or about people of African descent, go out of your way to support one. Do we want to see an America where the ONLY place Black books can be purchased is from Amazon? Do we really want Amazon to have that responsibility—all by themselves?
The Black Pack Party is an annual gathering of publishing industry professionals, and it is held during Book Expo America. This year’s party will be on May 29, 2014, in New York City.
Carol Smith-Passariello described the first Black Pack Party in an article originally published in Black Issues Book Review magazine in 2001.
Hip-Hop has been co-opted (See Macklemore) and the emcee who speaks truth to power are basically muzzled (Lupe, Talib, Pharoah Monche, Jean Grae). Speaking of Jean Grae the removal of the female voice coincided with the removal of the conscious emcees. In the late 80s early 90s, Queen Latifah dropped Unity, Ms Melody was a part of BDP and MC Lyte made strong songs that were lyrically incredible. On the West Coast Yo Yo started the IBWC movement and empowered young girls. Since then, we have Trina and Nikki Minaj. No one even knows who Jean Grae is. It’s sad and unfortunate that we allowed mainstream to do this to the music by continuing to tune in instead of tuning out and forcing change.
Videos & Interviews
Watch writers, Jeffery Renard Allen, Ayana Mathis, Leonard Pitts, Jr., Steve Cannon, David Henderson, Ishmael Reed, Askia Toure, Raquel Cepeda, Zakes Mda, Emily Raboteau, Gillian Royes, W. Paul Coates, Troy Johnson, Ayesha Pande, Latoya Smith, Dianne Glave, Tracye Lynn McQuirter, Lauret Savoy, William Jelani Cobb, Obery Hendricks, Marc Lamont Hill, and Michele Wallace discuss a variety of issues important to Black writers. Subscribe to AALBC.com’s YouTube Channel.
On the big screen, she starred in the #1 box office hit Think Like a Man, as well as in its upcoming sequel, Think Like a Man, Too. And in September, she’ll be starring opposite Idris Elba in No Good Deed.
Here, she talks about her new film, From the Rough (Open Apr 25, 2014), an inspirational biopic where she portrays Catana Starks, the African-American trailblazer who became the first female to coach an NCAA Division-1 men’s team when she accepted the reins of the golf squad at Tennessee State.
This video shows highlights of the African American Pavilion at Book Expo America (BEA) from 2006. BEA is the country’s largest trade show for the publishing industry.
The African American Pavilion at BookExpo America was founded in 2004 by Tony Rose, Niani Colom, and Adrienne Ingrum. Sadly, the African American Pavilion is no longer part of BEA.
Born in the West Indies in 1761, Dido Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) was the product of the taboo union of Mary Belle, an African slave, and John Lindsay (Matthew Goode), a British ship captain. Upon Mary’s death, the concerned father brought his 8 year-old daughter to England to see whether his well-heeled aunt and uncle might be willing to take her in.
Directed by Amma Assante, the riveting historical drama continues the recent cinematic trend of reexamining race from the black perspective, ala Django Unchained, The Retrieval and Oscar-winner 12 Years a Slave (In Theaters: May 2, 2014 Limited).
Catana Starks (Taraji P. Henson) was serving as the female swim coach at Tennessee State University (TSU), when she learned that the school’s Athletic Director, Kendrick Paulsen, Jr. (Henry Simmons), was planning to form a golf team. Since golf had always been her first love, she approached him about becoming the new squad’s head coach.
Her first hurdle, however, was convincing him that despite being female, she’d be able to field and manage an all-male squad. Second, she’d have to fill the roster with some promising prospects (In Theaters: Apr 25, 2014 Wide).
After finishing high school, Venance Ndibalema made the most of an opportunity to leave Tanzania to study physics and philosophy at the University of Miami. Now, he’s ready to visit his homeland for the first time in years, a trip likely to prove traumatic, given the changes both he and the country have undergone during the interim.
Accompanying him on the eventful return to Dar es Salaam is Kristen Kenney, a fellow Miami alumnus who’s never been to Africa. A child of privilege, she must brace herself for the culture shock involved in adjusting to modest accommodations sans most of the modern conveniences she’s always taken for granted (In Theaters: Apr 25, 2014 Limited Release).
A Haunted House, an irreverent spoof of Paranormal Activity, co-starred Marlon Wayans and Essence Atkins as Malcolm and Kisha, a couple whose home was invaded by demonic forces. Along the way, Kisha, became possessed by the devil and turned on exasperated Malcolm, despite an exorcism performed by a priest (Cedric the Entertainer).
All of the above are back for A Haunted House 2, a jaw-dropping sequel which ups the ante in terms of gratuitous gore, sexuality, nudity, profanity and use of the N-word. Nevertheless, the review-proof teensploitation flick is apt to appeal to the same folks who made the original such a runaway hit (In Theaters: Apr 18, 2014).
Book & Film Recommendations
Mengestu, is a recipient of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 award, The New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 award, and a 2012 MacArthur Foundation genius grant.
All Our Names is the story of two young men who come of age during an African revolution, drawn from the safe confines of the university campus into the intensifying clamor of the streets outside. But as the line between idealism and violence becomes increasingly blurred, the friends are driven apart—one into the deepest peril, as the movement gathers inexorable force, and the other into the safety of exile in the American Midwest. There, pretending to be an exchange student, he falls in love with a social worker and settles into small-town life. Yet this idyll is inescapably darkened by the secrets of his past: the acts he committed and the work he left unfinished. Most of all, he is haunted by the beloved friend he left behind, the charismatic leader who first guided him to revolution and then sacrificed everything to ensure his freedom (Knopf, March 4, 2014).
A glorious and moving multi-generational, multicultural saga that begins in the 1940s and sweeps through the 1960’s in Trinidad and the United States
Lauren Francis-Sharma’s ‘Til the Well Runs Dry opens in a seaside village in the north of Trinidad where young Marcia Garcia, a gifted and smart-mouthed 16-year-old seamstress, lives alone, raising two small boys and guarding a family secret. When she meets Farouk Karam, an ambitious young policeman (so taken with Marcia that he elicits the help of a tea-brewing obeah woman to guarantee her ardor), the risks and rewards in Marcia’s life amplify forever (Henry Holt and Co., April 22, 2014)
Team Seven is an autobiographically tinged coming-of-age family drama with an undeniably authentic feel for place, language, and character.
As Andre Battel, a native of Milton, a town south of Boston, ages from age eight through his teenage years, he grows away from his Jamaican family, discovers genuine prowess on the basketball court, and eventually falls into dealing drugs for the local street gang, Team Seven. But when Andre and his crew fall behind on payments, dire and violent consequences await. The story is told primarily through Andre’s voice, but we also see the point of view of his mother, Ruby, a hardworking medical secretary; his older sister, Nina; his mostly-not-there and typically drunk-and-high father, Eddy, a halfhearted reggae musician; and Reggie and Smoke, the kingpin of competing drug crews (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, April 8, 2014).
In 1848, an educated slave girl faces an inconceivable choice — between bondage and freedom, family and love.
On one side of the Mason-Dixon Line lives fifteen-year-old Willow, her master’s favorite servant. She’s been taught to read and has learned to write. She believes her master is good to her and fears the rebel slave runaways. On the other side of the line is seventeen-year-old Cato, a black man, free born. It’s his personal mission to sneak as many fugitive slaves to freedom as he can. Willow’s and Cato’s lives are about to intersect, with life-changing consequences for both of them. Tonya Cherie Hegamin’s moving coming-of-age story is a poignant meditation on the many ways a person can be enslaved, and the force of will needed to be truly emancipated (Candlewick Press, February 11, 2014).
Detroit, 1974 to become the King, you have to take the crown. It won’t be given up lightly. Heroin kingpin, Willis McDaniel, has been wearing that particular piece of jewelry for far too long, and youngblood, Lennie Jack, thinks it would really good on his head. When a junkie tells Jack about a big delivery, the young Vietnam vet makes his move. Feeling his empire crumble, McDaniel puts the word out to find whoever’s responsible. The hunt is on, the battle is engaged, and the streets of Detroit run red with blood.
In 1974 Vern E. Smith debut novel, The Jones Men, was heralded as “a large accomplishment in the art of fiction” by the New York Times, The Jones Men went on to be nominated for an Edgar Award and became a New York Times Notable Book (Rosarium Publishing, May 5, 2014).
The latest book in the Reverend Curtis Black series. After dropping out of Harvard to be with his girlfriend Racquel and their new baby, Matthew Black discovers that fatherhood isn’t what he expected. His relationship with Racquel has become strained, and while he wants to be a good husband, he soon finds himself attracted to another woman.
Meanwhile, Curtis and Charlotte are having their own problems. Curtis’s long-lost-son Dillon has settled into their household and Charlotte feels he’s trying to take Matthew’s place in Curtis’s heart. She is determined to get Dillon out of the house, but doing so won’t be as easy as she thinks. Dillon quickly figures out what Charlotte is up to and launches his own plan to turn Curtis against her (Grand Central Publishing, May 13, 2014).
The twenty-first novel from New York Times bestselling author Eric Jerome Dickey, a steamy thriller set in tropical Barbados
She is a woman of a thousand faces, an assassin who could be anyone, anywhere. The Trinidad contract was supposed to be simple: to make a living man become a dead man. When the job goes bad under the watchful eye of a bank security camera, there is nowhere for agent MX-401, known as Reaper, to hide from the fearsome local warlords, the Laventille Killers (Dutton Adult, April 15, 2014).
Anybody’s Daughter, won the 2014 NAACP Image Award for Fiction.
Thirteen-year-old Brianna Walker is ecstatic. She’s about to sneak off to meet her first real boyfriend–a boyfriend she met on Facebook. But Brianna is in for a horrifying surprise because her boyfriend doesn’t exist. Instead, she’s hurled her into the shocking world of human sex trafficking. Brianna’s Uncle Dre, a man with his own criminal past, is not content to rely on police to bring his niece home. He scours the dark corners of Los Angeles determined to end this nightmare. The woman he loves, attorney Angela Evans, knows the dangers faced by sexually exploited children because she represents them. Angela lends both her moral support and professional resources, but Dre ultimately comes up with a daring plan that puts many lives in danger, including his own. But will he find Brianna before it’s too late? Goldman House Publishing (October 27, 2013)
Sanfoka is a 1993 film by Haile Gerima that was a best-selling DVD on AALBC.com for 2013.
Sanfoka tells the story of Mona, a contemporary model, who is possessed by spirits lingering in the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana and travels to the past, where, as a house servant called Shola she is constantly abused by the slave master. Nunu, an African-born field hand, and Shango, Sholas West Indian Lover, continuously rebel against the slave system. For Nunu this means direct conflict with her son, a mulatto who benefits from the system as a head slave. Inspired by Nunu and Shangos determination to defy the system, Shola finally takes her fate into her own hands.
It is fascinating, though not surprising, with all the talk about Steve McQueen’s adaptation Solomon Northup’s memoir, there was virtually no mention of Gordon Parks 1984 adaption.
Park’s made for TV version originally aired on PBS in 1984. His version was made with a completely different sensibility. Rather than a stark display of sheer brutality, seen in McQueen’s film. Park’s version, thought less true to the book was was really about the power of love, and in many was was a superior adaptation. If you have seen the 2013 version of Twelve Years a Slave but have not seen the 1984 version, or read the book, I strong recommend you do both.
Up Coming Events
For the fifth consecutive year, hundreds of book lovers will convene at the Dayton Book Expo. The all-day event includes panel discussions for aspiring authors, activities for children in the Kidz Zone and book signings!
The Featured Author is William Fredrick Cooper
The event is free and open to public.
Authors Charlotte L. Brown, LaTonya Branham and Valerie J. Lewis Coleman founded the Dayton Book Expo in 2009 to connect avid book lovers with local and national bestselling authors.
The First Annual Sacramento Black Book Festival takes place June 6 – 8, 2014 at the Historic Center of Oak Park. The featured authors include Dr. Maulana Karenga, the creator of Kwanzaa; Victoria Rowell, actress on The Young and the Restless; Professor Eugene B. Redmond, author/editor of 25 volumes of poetry, Denise Nicholas, primarily know for starring in the TV sitcom, Room 222; Paul Carter Harrison, Obie award-winning playwright; Carlos Moore, biographer of Fela Kuti; and William Strickland founder of the Institute of the Black world a Black think tank. There will be over 80 other authors participating as well. Visit sacramentoblackbookfair.com for more information.
The mission of the Calabash International Literary Festival Trust is to transform the literary arts in the Caribbean by being the region’s best-managed producer of workshops, seminars and performances. We will achieve these goals by focusing on our audiences, managing our budget, creating a community of supporters in the media, government, business, the performing arts, philanthropic organizations and publishing, and by becoming the festival of choice for the world’s most gifted authors.
Blogger Week™ 2014 is a multicultural festival of bloggers, journalists and social media mavens hosted by Black Bloggers Connect. Coming April 28th – May 3rd, Blogger Week™ features four days of online festivities and two days of in-person events including: Twitter parties, Google Hangouts, workshops, panels, and networking events. The Blogger Week UnConference will feature hot-topic discussions and breakout sessions to promote innovation, creativity and success for bloggers and social media mavens.
Check out the Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books? panel which will be held, Saturday, May 31, 10:00 am – 11:00 am.
Join Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati, founder of The African American Children’s Book Project, who will lead a conversation where industry professional’s will share their insight and knowledge of The State of African American Children’s Books its past, and present and solutions to its future. Join in this deep dive with: Patrik Henry Bass, author & Book Editor Essence Magazine; Tonya Bolden, author of many books, including, Searching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America; Regina Brooks, author, and Literary Agent, at Serendipity Literary Agency; Bernette Ford, author and CEO of Color-Bridge, LLC; Wade Hudson, President, Just Us Books; Troy Johnson, Founder of AALBC.Com; and Harlyn Pacheco, CEo of Qlovi
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