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AALBC.com’s Bestselling Books May/June 2015We’ve made two significant to the best sellers list this period. First, we’ve removed our dependence on the Amazon tool, by building our own database. This allows us to more easily create and maintain our best sellers lists. This change also facilitated our second enhancement, the introduction of a children’s best sellers list.
AALBC.com mourns the passing of John Alfred Williams, author of the classic, The Man Who Cried I Am, which was on our book club’s reading list back in 1998. This is how I discovered Williams’ work. Over a decade ago, Williams took an interest in AALBC.com and supported us (read: supported me) in a number of ways. That level of support from an author of his stature is exceedingly rare. I will always remember and miss him for it. Williams passed on July 3, 2015, at the age of 89, from complications due to Alzheimer’s disease.
Also check out a terrific article Williams wrote, for Ebony Magazine, covering the Black literary scene back in 1963, “Negro in Literature Today.”
AALBC.com also mourns the loss of Claudia Alexander, who lost her battle with breast cancer at the age of 56 on July 11, 2015. Alexander was a scientist on the Rosetta Project, which landed a spacecraft on a comet (67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko) in November of 2014. She just 56 years old.
Alexander also published her own children’s science-learning books and her alter-ego, E.L. Celeste is a lady astronomer, and captain of space-ready aerocraft to the planets and beyond. By night she re-imagines the universe. She has written a number of steampunk short stories and a full length elf-punk novel.
Campbell, who passed back in 2006, was the author of three New York Times best sellers: Brothers and Sisters, Singing in the Comeback Choir, and What You Owe Me, which was also a Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2001. Her other works include the novel Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and the winner of the NAACP Image Award for literature. Campbell’s titles frequently made AALBC.com bestsellers lists as well.
Campbell was also spokesperson for mental illness a condition which her daughter, actress Maia Campbell, battled.
Ursula Rucker is one of the premiere spoken word recording artists in the music industry today. As a poet and performance artist, Ursula has enchanted critics and fans across the globe with her diverse repertoire, captivating vocals and accessible poetic verse.
Since 1994, Ursula has shared her songwriting talent and mesmerizing voice with an array of recording artists and producers including King Britt, 4 Hero, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Josh Wink and The Roots. Each was drawn to the soft spoken eloquence and undeterred honesty which have become Ursula’s signature.
Kinney is a best-selling author with over 25 books published. As a published author, life coach, motivational speaker, and entrepreneur, Marita has inspired thousands of people to overcome adversity with triumph through faith and perseverance. While facing several life changing challenges herself, Marita had enough faith to conquer tribulations, coming out victorious.
She is best known for her Christian Fiction novellas and heart felt inspirational books. Loving God with her whole heart, she has vowed to live a life of transparency winning souls to Christ with the realness of her journey and the relatability of her testimony. In March of 2009 Marita published her debut book, The Unspoken Walk. Capturing the true essence of what it means to turn “lemons into lemonade”, she has taken the harsh lessons of life and developed a plan for successfully living.
Ta-Nehisi Coates garnered national attention a year ago when he published “A Case for Reparations” in the Atlantic Monthly magazine. Now, the progressive pundit is back with Between the World and Me an equally-incendiary assessment of the state of race relations in the United States.
The book is basically designed as an open letter from Ta-Nehisi to his 15 year-old only-child, Samori. The author fears the boy might suffer the same horrific fate as African-American youngsters like Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis who were killed on a whim by white men for the “crimes” of walking home while black and listening to loud music, respectively (Spiegel & Grau, July 17, 2015, debuted at #1 on the New York Times best-sellers list).
The author opens the opus with a history lesson, tracing the source of the problem back hundreds of years to the birth of “Exceptionalism” in Anglo-Saxon England. Reserved for whites, that notion enabled Caucasians to adopt the concept of “Manifest Destiny” that led to the extermination of Native Americans (relying on the rallying cry “The only good Indian is a dead Indian”) and to the wholesale subjugation of Africans as property.
She sees today’s Stand Your Ground law as a logical extension of the supremacist philosophy that sustained slavery, Jim Crow segregation, lynching and other institutionalized forms of color-coded oppression. Apparently, part and parcel of that shameful scheme was a “natural law theo-ideology” hyper-valuing whiteness while denigrating the black body as “perpetually-guilty chattel” (Orbis Books, May 10, 2015).
My View From The Summit is succinct and readable, and will probably be read in one sitting. Thomas’s tone is conversational, and her writing is straightforward, accessible, and uncomplicated. Although Thomas’s life has had its many ups and downs—the loss of loved ones, the dissolution of her marriage—she never looks back with regret. She sees each moment, good or bad, as a life lesson that has helped her on her journey to be the person she wants to be.
What makes My View From The Summit appealing is that, although told from a modern perspective some vignettes are filled with age-old lessons: Letting go, not taking on more than we can handle, being grateful, understanding that we can’t control everything and shouldn’t even try. These essays could help the overworked superwoman who is trying to balance being a mother, wife, sister, daughter, employee, who is constantly on the go, and doing it all. Thomas reminds us of the small marvels of life that we should be thankful for, even in the midst of our daily grind. And that, “You can lose your sense of self trying to please other people” (CreateSpace, January 20, 2014).
You’ve probably heard most of his common sense advice before in one form or another. Take, Rule #6: “I Will Fire the Announcer.” By that, the author means ignoring that distracting, negative voice in your head capable of discouraging you via a defeatist attitude. He suggests that, instead, you “Trust your heart, because you feel it.”
Robinson’s other axioms range from “I Will Determine My Habits” to “I Will Believe in Myself” to “I Am Who I Think I Am, and I Get What I Expect.” In terms of more innovative ideas, he devotes an entire chapter to the difference between the “I” (good) and “Me” (bad) mentalities (Tallfellow Press, June 22, 2015).
Brad Meltzer was born in Brooklyn, which is where Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color line when he joined for the Dodgers in 1947. But that’s not what inspired the best-selling author to write I Am Jackie Robinson. Rather, the father of a daughter and identical twin boys had grown tired of watching his children admire reality-TV stars and trash-talking pro athletes as if they were true heroes.
These attention-seeking celebrities were famous, yes. But were they worth emulating and looking up to? No. As Brad puts it, “I wanted my kids to see real heroes… and real people no different from themselves.” So, he decided to publish a series of books for young readers touching upon the real-life childhoods and achievements of such icons as Dr. Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks and Albert Einstein.
Tony’s upbringing in Boston back in the Fifties and Sixties was way worse than merely modest, given how he and his sister were raised in a rough Roxbury ghetto they were lucky to survive.
His absentee-dad was rarely around after being caught molesting his daughter, not that the heroin addicted-pimp/Mafia hit man would have made much of a role model. Consequently, Tony’s mom was totally dependent on that bi-weekly Welfare check from the government. And up until she lost her mind in 1965, the emotionally-abusive woman was fond of routinely reminding her kids that they were “black and ugly” and that nobody wanted them (Amber Communications Group, April 28, 2015).
How to Avoid the Superwoman Complex bills itself as a how-to book designed to help working females at risk of spreading themselves too thin. Unfortunately, in a classic case of bait and switch, the actual advice dispensed on its pages bears little resemblance to what’s suggested by the self-help sounding title.
Instead, this opus is filled with a lot of the sort of boiler plate medical advice you might find on pamphlets in a general practitioner’s waiting room. And the author, C. Nicole Swiner, MD, just happens to be a physician with a family practice (C.Nicole Swiner, December 29, 2014).
“Ms. Due accomplishes the hardest thing of all with deceptive ease, creating characters we care about on their most human level.”
Named one of Publishers Weekly Top 10 Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror titles for the fall! Whether weaving family life and history into dark fiction or writing speculative Afrofuturism, American Book Award winner and Essence bestselling author Tananarive Due’s work is both riveting and enlightening. In her debut collection of short fiction, Due takes us to Gracetown, a small Florida town that has both literal and figurative ghost; into future scenarios that seem all too real; and provides empathetic portraits of those whose lives are touched by Otherness. Featuring an award-winning novella and fifteen stories-one of which has never been published before-Ghost Summer: Stories, is sure to both haunt and delight. The title novella, Ghost Summer, won a Kindred Award from the Carl Brandon Society (Prime Books, September 15, 2015).
In 1980s Buffalo, New York, the recession has transformed the city’s proudest African American neighborhood into a ghetto. Loretta Ford, an eccentric single mother and religious fanatic, survives for years by masquerading as the owner of a dead woman’s house. Her reclusive life is interrupted when an unlikely incident brings the mayor of Buffalo to her home in the middle of the night. Their secret meeting sets off a chain of events that will leave two families altered forever.
With all the passion of a Shakespearean tragedy and a cast of characters never to be forgotten, The Garden of Unfortunate Souls vividly depicts the consequences of violence, sex, and gender conflict in African American communities (Booktrope, April 17, 2015).
Tap dancing on sidewalks, especially in the city’s French Quarter, is a New Orleans tradition as familiar to some as Jazz, Creole and Cajun food and Mardi Gras. For generations, Black youngsters have danced for tourists on the streets of New Orleans some because they enjoy it, but many others to earn money for their families. Instead of dancing in store bought tap shoes, young boys and girls stamp and grind bottle caps into the soles of their sneakers until the bottle caps stay firmly in place at the toe. And they don’t miss a beat! Clickity-clack, Clack……tipity-tap, tap tap……tipity-tap, tap In Bottle Cap Boys Dancing on Royal Street, award-winning author Rita Williams-Garcia introduces two bottle cap dancers, brothers Randy and Rudy. Through rich and upbeat rhyme, Williams-Garcia gives voice to the dancing and the youngsters who keep this unique New Orleans tradition alive. Damian Ward’s exuberant illustrations are perfect complements to Williams Garcia’s perfectly pitched poetry (Marimba Books, October 15, 2015).
SC raised Confederate flag in 1961 to insult nine black protesters — and took it down to honor nine slain
South Carolina put Confederate flag above capitol in 1961 after 9 students held sit-in at segregated lunch counter. A peculiar historical symmetry exists between South Carolina’s decision to raise the Confederate flag in 1961.
The Friendship 9, a group of college students and activists in Rock Hill, South Carolina, claimed a rightful place in history by challenging inequality and unfair laws. In 1961, their decision to help place into motion the Jail, No Bail strategy empowered many communities (Frown-Free Publications, March 1, 2014). Watch a video of Their Story.
Janice Johnson is living every mother’s nightmare. Her seventeen-year-old son was murdered and the shooter has not been arrested. Can the DA and the police be trusted to investigate and do the right thing? Should Janice take advantage of the public outcry and join her husband alongside the angry protesters who are out for revenge?
Meredith Spencer is married to the man accused of the killing and she sees her husband and the situation with far more clarity than anyone realizes. What she knows could blow the case wide open, but what will that mean for her life and that of her son? Will she have the courage to come forward in time so justice can be done? Published by Touchstone, June 30, 2015.
When her son is in trouble, a heartbroken mother finds the courage and faith to save him, in ReShonda Tate Billingsley’s powerful family drama—a novel as timely as today’s headlines.
The breaking TV news rocks Jasper, Texas, to the core: a white police officer is fatally shot in a scuffle with three black youths—and a cellphone video captures Jamal Jones, the sixteen-year-old son of esteemed Reverend Elton Jones, escalating the tragic encounter. Now, as the national spotlight shines on a town already rife with racial tension, Jamal is a murder suspect on the run. And all of Jasper—even the Reverend’s congregation—rushes to judge the boy they thought they knew (Gallery Books, 8/30/15).
Billingsley’s, Novel Let the Church Say Amen has been adapted as a film and will debut, August 30th, on BET.
A critical reflection on the education reform movement through the personal experiences of this African-American educator. Dixon fictionalizes some of his experiences to delineate the emergence of a new educational power structure, which entails the marriage of philanthropy, federal government policy, charter school operators, new forms of teacher training and administrator training programs, the profitable testing industry, mayoral control of large school districts, among other entities. This new educational power structure not only advocates the privatization of public education, but forces it down the public’s throat. The consequence is the growing obsolescence of the public school and the public school teacher. There are massive firings and layoffs of skilled, veteran teachers and principals nationwide to make way for alternatively trained teachers and principals. Likewise there are nationwide closings of schools in minority and poor communities to make way for charter schools and special school districts (CreateSpace, September 11, 2014).
From one of the nation’s top after school programs, an acclaimed collection of poetry and prose showcasing the voices of young women and their mentors in a powerful exploration of the theme of Voice to Voice. Distinguished twice by the White House as one of the top after-school arts and cultural organizations in the nation, and recently honored by Newsweek in their article on “After school programs that make a difference,” Girls Write Now works to empower underserved teen girls in New York City by pairing them with professional writing mentors (Girls Write Now, May 19, 2015).
One mother’s journey: her successes, trials, and errors, in raising her three boys, in a society that glorifies thug-life. Author, Patricia Joseph, who successfully navigated the lives of her three sons, through the ever so present negative influences in society, felt compelled to write about her experience in raising thugless sons. Patricia credits much of her success to just “good, ole-fashion child rearing.”
In her book, Patricia provides simple anecdotes and tips, to help mothers faced with the challenges of raising Black boys. Patricia cleverly sprinkles humor throughout the book, and provides laughter to the role of parenting. The book is a short, quick-read, which can be read in a few hours. At the end of each chapter, Patricia provides “Mom Tips,” which are little nuggets of information, for moms to reference long after reading the book (BookBaby, December 5, 2014).
The unique memoir of one man’s fight to save his identity from extinction
Still a Pygmy is a story of love, pride and prejudice that traces the journey of BaTembo Pygmy Isaac Bacirongo from the forests of Central Africa, through the brutality of dictatorship and war, to arrival and settlement in Australia’s melting pot. Isaac’s inimitable style and voice draw readers into the heart of this memoir, his relationship with his wife, who survived his mother’s attempts to kill her to help Isaac through experiences of appalling violence. It is full of warmth, wit and wise insights about life (Finch Publishing, July 1, 2015).
The Black Caucus of the American Library Association is excited to return NCAAL to its 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. Black Caucus of the American Library Association 9th Conference Program is available
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.
Bound opens with a folk tale about two loving brothers, born in the land of warm waters, Africa. Suddenly one brother is torn from the other never to be seen again. The one brother waits at the water’s edge all his life then charges his son to do the same. This goes on for generations until several hundred years later, in the land of cold winters, America, when the daughter of one brother walks towards the daughter of the other brother and with every step they get closer until they walk past each other, one never noticing the other.
How did these descendants of two loving brothers become so isolated? The journey to the answer begins with Africans and African Americans recounting personal, hurtful experiences with each other. It immediately identifies the media as the source of the negative perceptions we have of each other. Throughout its young history, celluloid has depicted people of African descent as childlike, stupid and violent, pretty much how we have come to view each other.
The word “tango” mean “sun” in Congolese. Given that derivation, it comes as no surprise that the dance thought of as South American might be traced back to Africa.
That explains the mission of Tango Negro, a labor of love marking the writing and directorial debut of Dom Pedro. What makes the project of educational value is the fact that Argentina, the country most closely associated with Tango, has generally been averse to admitting its African heritage.
Related Articles & News
The Authors Guild, the American Booksellers Association, the Association of Authors’ Representatives and Authors United said in letters and statements being sent this week to the Justice Department that “Amazon has used its dominance in ways that we believe harm the interests of America’s readers, impoverish the book industry as a whole, damage the careers of (and generate fear among) many authors, and impede the free flow of ideas in our society.”
Troy Johnson asks, do you think it would be possible for another Black owned media conglomerate, like BET, to emerge in today’s environment?
Robert L. Johnson: It’s definitely possible, but it would be very difficult to do in this environment. It was difficult when I started BET. Today, the internet makes it possible for a lot of African-American content to flow freely to the consumers since there are no gatekeepers, and it is global in terms of its accessibility. We at RLJ Entertainment are laying the foundation to be sort of a BET in the Digital Age by creating the distribution platform of the Urban Movie Channel, by licensing content from independent producers of urban content, by helping them produce that content, and by promoting the awareness of it. We believe that as a first mover in this space, RLJ Entertainment has the potential to become a success story like BET and, obviously, I have a lot of experience in making that happen.
The Black Caucus of the ALA (BCALA) and BiblioBoard announce the creation of an annual self-publishing award. Following the model of the current BCALA Literary Awards, the new award will honor the best self-published eBooks in fiction and poetry by an African American author in the U.S.
Authors who enter the contest will have the opportunity to opt into the SELF-e program and their own Indie State module, providing them with an invaluable resource for promotion and exposure of their work. SELF-e is a partnership between BiblioBoard and the Library Journal and is aimed at finding the best self-published books and making those books seamlessly available to library patrons.
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This month as been extremely busy as I continue to rebuild AALBC.com from the ground up. This major upgrade is scheduled for completion in early 2016. It is a massive undertaking to redesign a completely new website, migrate almost 20 years of content, while keeping both sites updated (say a prayer for me).
As always if there is a feature you’d like to see on the new website me know by emailing me or posting a comment on our discussion forum.
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AALBC.com eNewsletter – July 30, 2015 – Issue #227