Category Archives: Women

Anita Hemmings, the First Black Student to Attend Vassar College

The-gilded-yearsKarin Tanabe’s gripping new historical novel, The Gilded Years (Washington Square Press, June 7, 2016) is based on the true story of Anita Hemmings, the first black student to attend Vassar College. With “spot on” dialogue and “narration reminiscent of novels of the 1890s” (Anna Jean Mayhew, author of The Dry Grass of August), Tanabe has crafted a tonally masterful yet supremely relevant narrative on race, women’s rights, and the challenges of finding one’s place in the world.

Since childhood, Anita Hemmings has longed to attend Vassar, the country’s most exclusive school for women. Now, a bright, beautiful senior in the class of 1897, she is hiding a secret that would have banned her from admission: she is the only African-American student ever to attend the college. With her olive complexion and dark hair, she has successfully passed as white for three years, but now finds herself rooming with Louise “Lottie” Taylor, the scion of one of New York’s most prominent families.

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Anita Hemmings (Archives & Special Collections, Vassar College Library)

Pulled into Lottie’s elite world, Anita learns what it’s like to be treated as a wealthy, educated white woman—the person everyone believes her to be—and even finds herself in a relationship with a moneyed Harvard man. With this closeness comes trouble, however, as Anita faces what it truly means to pass: the guilt of betraying her family, of lying to her friends, of cutting herself off from her community in exchange for an education. As Anita’s relationships with Lottie and her affluent classmates grow closer, she must make the near impossible decision of whether to choose the love of a man who can open doors she could not reach on her own, or to be true to her heritage and return home to her family after graduation, leaving the ease of white society behind in favor of a different sort of freedom.

Set against the vibrant backdrop of the Gilded Age, an era when old money traditions collided with modern ideas, Tanabe has written an unputdownable and emotionally compelling story of hope, sacrifice, and betrayal. The Gilded Years is a riveting account of how one woman dared to risk everything for the chance at a better life (Hemmings Photo Credit: Archives & Special Collections, Vassar College Library).


“An utterly captivating narrative that kept me turning pages late into the night.”–Kathleen Grissom, New York Times bestselling author ofThe Kitchen House

“Karin Tanabe limns the tensions of a young woman’s desire to participate fully in a world in which she doesn’t dare reveal her full self…Most impressive are the characters’ emotional complexity; Tanabe understands that human relations are never so simple as black and white.”
–Christina Schwarz, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“This engaging novel, set in a time of conflict between old money and new ideas, captures both the bravery and the heartbreak of Anita’s decision…Readers won’t soon forget Anita Hemmings or the choices she made.”
–BookPage

“In Anita’s captivating story, heightened by richly drawn characters, Tanabe insightfully grapples with complex and compelling issues.”
–Booklist

news-karin-tanabeKarin Tanabe is the author of the novels The List and The Price of Inheritance. The Gilded Years is her third novel. A former Politicoreporter and a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post, her work has also appeared in publications including The Washington Post,The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald,Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer and in the anthology Crush: Writers Reflect on Love, Longing and the Lasting Power of Their First Celebrity Crush. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and daughter.

Visit her web site: http://www.karintanabe.com


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Troy Johnson
AALBC.com’s, Founder and Webmaster

Black Women Lead the Way Promoting Black Culture through Books

“Where a woman rules, streams run uphill.” —Ethiopian proverb

AALBC.com’s Bestselling Books – January to February 2015

news-jan-feb-2015-bestsellerThe #1 selling book on AALBC.com, for January and February 2015, was Against All Odds: From The Projects to the Penthouse by Mahisha Dellinger (Brown Girls Publishing, February 2015). In fact, six of the top ten bestselling books, for this period, were published by Brown Girls Books. The Tithing Hoax: Exposing the Lies, Misinterpretations & False Teachings about Tithing (Lulu, March 2014), tops the nonfiction titles and has been a frequent AALBC.com bestseller since the original version was published in 2012.

Authors You Should Know

new-audre-lordeAudre Lorde

Lorde (1934-1992) was a recipient of many distinguished honors and awards, including honorary doctorates from Hunter, Oberlin, and Haverford Colleges. She was also named New York State Poet Laureate.

If you have not seen the video of Angela Davis speaking about Black-lesbian-feminist-mother-warrior-poet, Audre Lorde, during the “Audre Lorde: A Burst of Light Symposium” held at Medgar Evers College in March of 2014, please check it out. You will not be disappointed. More ▶

news-tiya-milesTiya Miles

Miles has published various personal essays on race, feminism and identity as well as academic articles on women’s history and black and Native interrelated experiences. In 2011, she was the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.

Miles latest novel The Cherokee Rose, is about about the importance of the past to three women’s lives in the present day. The main characters — a wealthy African American interior designer from Atlanta, A biracial (black-white) journalist from Minneapolis, and a Native American historian from Oklahoma — all take different paths to the same place: a nineteenth-century plantation home in the state of Georgia on land that once belonged to Cherokee slaveholders. More ▶

news-dorothy-koomsonDorothy Koomson

Koomson has degrees in psychology and journalism from Leeds University. She has written for a number of women’s magazines and newspapers, as well as having had seven successful novels published in the UK and US. Her books have been translated into more than 28 languages across the world.

She is also the 2014 winner of the Go On Girl! Book Club Author of the Year Award, which will be presented at the 2015 Award Ceremony in Seattle, WA. More ▶

news-valerieValerie J Lewis Coleman

The bestselling author of Blended Families An Anthology, Valerie J. Lewis Coleman has helped thousands of families navigate the challenges of child support, visitation, discipline and more. With over twenty years of experience in family and relationships, she has given advice on various issues including baby-momma drama, defiant children and disapproving in-laws.

Valerie has helped women find relational fulfillment by identifying the four types of male hunters, avoiding seventy percent of men who only want the goody box and winning the heart of Mr. Right-For-You. She explains how in her novel The Forbidden Secrets of the Goody Box! More ▶

news-casey-curryCasey Curry

Casey Curry is the Director of Creative Writing at a fine arts magnet school in Tampa, Florida. She teaches poetry and fiction five days a week. The mother of four daughters, Casey spends her time writing, cooking with her retired husband.

Her first novel, Promises (Ellarose Publishing, July 2014), tells the story of Pamela Sloane who meets a young Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, and embarks on a thirty year journey of desire, death, determination and deliverance. More ▶

news-fannie-louFannie Lou Hamer

Fannie Lou Hamer was an voting rights activist, civil rights leader, and philanthropist. She was instrumental in organizing Mississippi’s Freedom Summer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and later became the vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

Hamer did not write any books, but many have been written about her. Most of us are aware of the impassioned testimony Hamer gave at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. But Hamer also gave speeches at the 1968 and 1972 conventions, and even spoke with Malcolm X in Harlem. Learn more about this powerful activist ▶

Book Reviews

loving-donovan_1_Loving Donovan by Bernice L. McFadden

McFadden continues to embellish her literary reputation and mastery of storytelling with her novel, Loving Donovan. In this tale McFadden focuses on the participants of a romantic relationship rather than the relationship itself—a refreshingly different perspective from what is displayed in most commercial fiction targeted toward African-American readers. Rather than the play-by-play Loving Donovan features the color and analysis part of the relationship. This is an insightful and engaging novel.

Loving Donovan (Akashic Books, February 2015, 2nd ed.) features a new introduction by Terry McMillan. More ▶

news-loneliness-black-republicanThe Loneliness of the Black Republican: Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power

The author’s cites the “Paradox of the Black Republican,” as contributing factors to the “confusion and chaos” and “colossal failures” of a group not only ostracized by their own race, but never fully embraced by white Republicans either. The problem ostensibly emanates from the fact that the present-day GOP “bears little resemblance to the Party of Lincoln” that freed slaves flocked to in droves in the 1860s.

Yet, some black families have stubbornly remained Republicans for generations, despite the party’s ideological shift to the far right. Thus, this insightful opus poses the probing question, what does it mean to be conservative and black? More ▶

news-risingRising Up From the Blood: A Legacy Reclaimed A Bridge Forward: The Autobiography of Sarah Washington O’Neal Rush, The Great-Granddaughter of Booker T. Washington

Despite being a direct descendant of Booker T. Washington, Sarah Washington O’Neal wasn’t born with a silver spoon in her mouth. Quite the contrary, she and her big brother James were raised on a rough side of Oakland, California by a single-mother who never mentioned their famous forebear. Perhaps she was ashamed by her relatively-lowly station and having to hold two jobs just to keep a roof over their heads after being abandoned by her husband. More ▶

Book Recommendations

news-bcala-2015First presented in 1994, the Black Caucus of the American Library Association’s Literary Awards acknowledge outstanding works of fiction and nonfiction for adult audiences by African American authors. Recipients of this award offer outstanding depictions of the cultural, historical or sociopolitical aspects of the Black Diaspora and embody the highest quality of writing style and research methodology. The Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc. (BCALA) will announce the awards will be presented in San Francisco, CA during ALA’s Annual Conference in June 2015. Discover all the award winning titles ▶

pleasantville_1_Pleasantville by Attica Locke

Attica Locke is a screenwriter who has written movie and television scripts for Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, HBO, Dreamworks and most recently the new Fox TV show, Empire.

Her next novel Pleasantville (Harper, April 2015), is a sophisticated thriller which catches up with, lawyer Jay Porter, hero of Locke’s bestseller Black Water Rising. Porter returns to fight one last case, only to become embroiled once again in a dangerous game of shadowy politics and a witness to how far those in power are willing to go to win. More ▶

balm_1_Balm by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

The Civil War has ended, and Madge, Sadie, and Hemp have each come to Chicago in search of a new life.

The New York Times bestselling author of Wench returns to the Civil War era to explore the next chapter of history—the trauma of the War and the end of slavery—in Balm (Amistad, May 2015) a powerful story of love and healing about three people who struggle to overcome the pain of the past and define their own future. More ▶

news-toward-anToward an Intellectual History of Black Women

Despite recent advances in the study of black thought, black women intellectuals remain often neglected. This collection of essays by fifteen scholars of history and literature establishes black women’s places in intellectual history by engaging the work of writers, educators, activists, religious leaders, and social reformers in the United States, Africa, and the Caribbean. Dedicated to recovering the contributions of thinkers marginalized by both their race and their gender, these essays uncover the work of unconventional intellectuals, both formally educated and self-taught, and explore the broad community of ideas in which their work participated.

Contributors are Jon Sensbach, Arlette Frund, Natasha Lightfoot, Mia E. Bay, Alexandra Cornelius, Corinne T. Field, Farah J. Griffin, Kaiama L. Glover, Thadious Davis, Maboula Soumahoro, Judith Byfield, Cheryl Wall, Sherie Randolph, Barbara D. Savage, and Martha S. Jones. (The University of North Carolina Press, April 2015) More ▶

spectacle_1_Spectacle by Pamela Newkirk

Newkirk, an award-winning journalist, reveals a little-known and shameful episode in American history, when an African man was used as a human zoo exhibit—a shocking story of racial prejudice, science, and tragedy in the early years of the twentieth century in the tradition of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Medical Apartheid.

In 1904, Ota Benga, a young Congolese “pygmy”—a person of petite stature—arrived from central Africa and was featured in an anthropology exhibit at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Two years later, the New York Zoological Gardens displayed him in its Monkey House, caging the slight 103-pound, 4-foot 11-inch tall man with an orangutan. The attraction became an international sensation, drawing thousands of New Yorkers and commanding headlines from across the nation and Europe. More ▶

news-octavia-broodThe visionary tales of Octavia’s Brood

Whenever we envision a world without war, without prisons, without capitalism, we are producing speculative fiction. Organizers and activists envision, and try to create, such worlds all the time. Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown have brought twenty of them together in the first anthology of short stories to explore the connections between radical speculative fiction and movements for social change. The visionary tales of Octavia’s Brood (AK Press, April 2015) span genres—sci-fi, fantasy, horror, magical realism—but all are united by an attempt to inject a healthy dose of imagination and innovation into our political practice and to try on new ways of understanding ourselves, the world around us, and all the selves and worlds that could be. The collection is rounded off with essays by Tananarive Due and Mumia Abu-Jamal, and a preface by Sheree Renée Thomas. More ▶

ordinary-light_1_Ordinary Light by Tracy K. Smith

From the dazzlingly original Pulitzer Prize-winning poet hailed for her “extraordinary range and ambition” (The New York Times Book Review): a quietly potent memoir that explores coming-of-age and the meaning of home against a complex backdrop of race, faith, and the unbreakable bond between a mother and daughter.

The youngest of five children, Tracy K. Smith was raised with limitless affection and a firm belief in God by a stay-at-home mother and an engineer father. But just as Tracy is about to leave home for college, her mother is diagnosed with cancer, a condition she accepts as part of God’s plan. Ordinary Light is the story of a young woman struggling to fashion her own understanding of belief, loss, history, and what it means to be black in America. More ▶

news-vintage-black-glamourVintage Black Glamour

Using rarely accessed photographic archives and private collections, inspired by her family history, Nichelle Gainer has unearthed a revealing treasure trove of historic photographs of famous actors, dancers, writers, and entertainers who worked in the 20th-century entertainment business, but who rarely appeared in the same publications as their white counterparts.

Alongside the familiar images and stories of renowned performers such as Eartha Kitt, Lena Horne and Aretha Franklin are photos of literary legends such as Lorraine Hansberry and Maya Angelou as well as images of less well-remembered figures such as Bricktop, Pearl Primus, Diana Sands. Vintage Black Glamour (Rocket 88 Books, February 2015) is a unique, sumptuous and revealing celebration of the lives and indomitable spirit of Black women of a previous era. More ▶

news-children-of-sabaChildren of Saba: Epic of Aphrike Book 1 by N.K. Read

Born in Kenya, and now living between Nairobi and Sydney, Australia, N.K Read is a storyteller and journalist who has written for several publications and news outlets in Kenya, Sydney and the UK. She has also directed three documentary films.

“I discovered the link between the tribe of my birth, the Meru of Kenya, with the enigmatic Meroë who once ruled Nubia, were integral in the ancient Kingdom of Sheba and are connected further back in time with the ancient and mysterious ‘First Race’, I sought to bring their story to life. Thus Children of Saba was born.” (Afrikkana Books, March 2014, 2nd ed.) More ▶

Interviews

news-april-obamaApril D. Ryan Veteran Journalist and White House correspondent

Ryan, as a White House correspondent for the past 18 years, has covered the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations. She is also the authors of The Presidency in Black and White: My Up-Close View of Three Presidents and Race in America.

Here she answers, quite candidly, several questions, posed by AALBC.com Founder, Troy Johnson, about the Obama Presidency including, “What has been your biggest disappointment?” Read the Full Interview ▶

news-gloria-rolandoAfro-Cuban filmmaker Gloria Rolando

Afro-Cuban filmmaker Gloria Rolando is best known for her documentaries on the African diaspora in the Caribbean, and her latest film, Reshipment (2014) continues this theme.

It reveals the complex story of Haitians lured by the tens of thousands to work in Cuba’s sugarcane fields during World War I. These early 20th century immigrants were enticed to leave their island nation—home of the only successful slave revolt in the Americas—for the promise of a better life. Some of them were fleeing the oppressive U.S. occupation. Others were seeking better economic conditions. But what awaited most of them in Cuba was racism and strife. Read Rolando’s the full interview with cultural journalist Nicole Crawford-Tichawonna ▶

Events

Blogger Week 2015 Networking Mixer & Unconference – May 1-2, 2015 – Washington, DC

news-black-blogger-weekBlogger Week, the brain-child of Jessica Ann Mitchell, is a multicultural festival of bloggers, journalists & social media mavens. In-person events take place May 1st & 2nd at the University of the District of Columbia & Impact Hub in Washington, DC.

AALBC.com’s Troy Johnson will co-host an Unpanel: “How Bloggers Can Help Each Other Drive Traffic,” with Candice VanWye, the founder and editor of Brown Girl Bloggers. Also, check out Jessica’s interview with Troy held Thursday, April 2 on Twitter #BloggerWeek.

Go On Girl! Book Club 23rd Annual Awards Weekend – May 29-31, 2015 – Seattle, WA

news-advertise-go-on-girlWith over 30 chapters in 14 states, Go On Girl! Book Club is the largest national reading organization in the U.S. for black women. Founded in 1991, members meet face to face in their respective cities to discuss the club’s monthly reading selection. Feedback on each book is shared with the authors and publishers. Each year GOG hosts an Author Awards event to honor established writers and provide writing awards and scholarships to new talent.

Check out the print advertising opportunities in the Go On Girl! Book Club Magajournal which is given to all members of Go On Girl! Book Club and attendees of the Annual Author Awards Weekend. The Magajournal is also distributed at book fairs, GOG membership drives, street fairs, church gatherings, and more. Deadline for ads is April 10th. Learn more ▶

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Related Articles & News

news-are-negro-girls-getting-prettierAre Negro Girls Getting Prettier?

“Gone, …are the spindly legs, sagging bosoms, unruly rumps and ungroomed heads that marred many a potential lovely of yesteryear.”

This article appeared in the April 1966 issue of Ebony magazine, Ebony shared several letters to the editor in reaction to “Are Negro Girls Getting Prettier?” article. Some of the letters published, to Ebony’s credit, were quite scathing. The reaction, from some, 49 years ago was completely inline with the reaction one would expect if the article were published today. more ▶

Get Your “Mug Shot” on AALBC.comnews-aalbc-mug-shots
If you are one of the first five people to send us a photo with your AALBC.com mug, we’ll put your photo in our next eNewsletter. If you are an author feel free to include your book in the photo too!

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Women lead the way, as we close Women’s History Month by highlighting some of the many ways women nourish our minds, as publishers, novelists, journalists, critics, filmmakers, and supporters of literature.

This issue is also dedicated all of the women, too numerous to name individually, who have joined hands with AALBC.com in support of Black culture, in all of its diversity, through the written word. Without your financial support, your moral support, and all you do to share information about AALBC.com’s efforts, this site could not survive.

Peace & Love,
troy_signature_1_
Troy Johnson
Founder & Webmaster, AALBC.com

AALBC.com eNewsletter – March 31, 2015 – Issue #224
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