Category Archives: Books

Rachel Howzell Hall

I love a good mystery novel. However, I have a habit of reading the end of the book before reading the first page. A friend asked me once doesn’t that ruin the story for me, but I tend to lack patience. I want to know who the killer is… now! 🙂

It’s hard to find mystery novels written about black folks, by black folks. Especially, black women authors.  The only mystery series that comes to mind about/by a black woman is the Tamara Hayle adventures by Valerie Wilson WesleyI think she stopped writing the series a few years ago, though.

So, I was pleasantly surprised to read that a black mystery writer had fallen under my radar.  In the article, “Rachel Howzell Crafts a New Type of Hero in Her Detective Mystery,” I learned about newcomer Howzell. Well, actually she’s been around for a minute. Her debut novel “Land of Shadows,” featuring Detective Norton, came out in 2014.

It was exciting reading about the work of Howzell Hall. We need more black women writers across all genres of literature. With summer fast approaching, Howell’s latest novel Trail of Echoes should definitely be on folk’s reading list…

“On a rainy spring day in Los Angeles, homicide detective Elouise “Lou” Norton is called away from a rare lunch date to Bonner Park, where the body of thirteen-year-old Chanita Lords has been discovered. When Lou and her partner, Colin Taggert, take on the sad task of informing Chanita’s mother, Lou is surprised to find herself in the apartment building she grew up in. Chanita was interested in photography and, much like Lou, a black girl destined to leave the housing projects behind. Her death fits a chilling pattern of exceptional African-American girls–dancers, artists, honors scholars-gone recently missing in the same school district, the one Lou attended not so long ago.” http://rachelhowzell.com/

Faints. Sounds so good 🙂

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Hidden Figures

March is Women’s History Month. It’s a great opportunity to promote the upcoming film “Hidden Figures.”

“Set against the backdrop of the Jim Crow South and the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space program—and whose contributions have been unheralded, until now…Segregated from their white counterparts by Jim Crow laws, these “colored computers,” as they were known, used slide rules, adding machines, and pencil and paper to support America’s fledgling aeronautics industry, and helped write the equations that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.” http://io9.gizmodo.com/janelle-monae-will-co-star-in-a-movie-about-the-women-b-1763634154

The movie will star Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and singer Janelle Monáe.  I’m happy that Henson will get a chance to play a different black woman character. While I usually enjoy her work, she tends to be typecast. I was pleasantly surprised to hear about the addition of Monáe. She has a song on her album “Electric Lady” dedicated to Sally Ride, the first American woman to go into space. Obviously, she was made for this role.

Kevin Costner will portray the head of the space program, so there will probably be some white savior element to the film, but overall it appears the story will focus on these three amazing women. I hope the film is as promising as it sounds. “Hidden Figures” will be released in January 2017.

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Photo from: http://margotleeshetterly.com/hidden-figures-nasas-african-american-computers/

 

 

 

Black Women and the PIC

While I was banished to the land of sickness,  I was still able to see Kendrick Lamar’s interesting Grammy Performance. The 28-year-old rapper made a heartfelt statement about black men and the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC).

It was a bold stand at an event that has become too pop/boring/white washed.  I know I personally haven’t paid attention to the Grammy Awards show in years.

I read an article critiquing the lack of space given to black women prisoners in his performance. I’m willing to give Lamar a slight pass for this. As a young man, he’s probably had more experience with his male friends/relatives/young folks he mentors having contact with police/the prison system.

With that said, despite black women being incarcerated at an alarming rate as much/if not more so than black men, the focus still tends to be on black men in prison.

Years ago, I took a class on women and the PIC. Our class read “Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women,” by Victoria Law. Law, an anarchist writer and prison abolitionist, detailed her experiences working with women prisoners. A zinester/DIY artist, she helped the women create a zine showcasing their words/art on prison life. The majority of women she came into contact with had children.This brings me to why it’s urgent we also focus on black women in prison.

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The truth is, women tend to be the primary caretakers of their families. It doesn’t matter if there is a male partner in the home or not. This is particularly true in black communities, were we rely heavily on our extended female relatives.

A disturbing trend I noticed in our class readings, is that whole black communities are being wiped out due to the PIC. It’s leaving significant amounts of black children without parents or guardians. Because not only are the mothers being overly incarcerated for minor/non violent offenses, but so are grandmothers/aunties/cousins etc. I remember reading about a grandmother and her daughter and the daughter’s daughter all locked up   in the same prison (drug addictions). The young daughter’s children were in foster care. There was no one to take care of them.

These mothers are losing custody of their children left and right. Obviously, they are in prison. They can’t just walk down to the local courthouse to attend court dates etc .

The PIC is destroying black motherhood/families. This issue really needs to be addressed in folks anti-PIC activism. Good job to Lamar for highlighting the problem of black men in prison, but we need to expand the conversation.

Black Future Month #2

When I first learned I was going to become a mother, I wondered how it would impact my work as an activist. The reality is, mothers tend to sacrifice the most of ourselves/time even if we have supportive allies in our lives. Then I came across the article “Claudia De la Cruz: Motherhood As a Part of Her Revolutionary Process.” Cruz, who identifies as Black Dominican or Afro-Caribbean, wrote about how motherhood influenced her role as a community activist. Motherhood doesn’t have to hamper one’s political goals. If anything, it can be used as a valuable tool.

It’s easy to forget the power of mothering. We live in a society that gives lip service to honoring mothers,  but only on the surface. Particularly, when it comes to mothers of color.  The Revolutionary Mothering Book Tour seeks to give space to marginalized mothers. The co-editors (Mai’a Williams, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, and China Martens) have created a gofund account to support their work.

“Our goal is to raise $10,000 to create a series of events, through a national tour,  that will truly embody the legacy of radical Black feminists and move their visions forward, because marginalized mothers are at the center of a world in need of transformation. We are now so excited to bring this vital work to your communities with readings, and a national tour, where we will do not only revolutionary readings, but also motherful community events, presentations, conference panels, and interactive workshops” https://www.gofundme.com/8qqthgbc

How we raise our children. What we teach them. And the wisdom/legacies we leave for our children is an integral part of the future of communities of color. The Revolutionary Mother Book Tour aims to remind us of that.

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Revolutionary reading with my little one (“A is for activist” and “Counting on Community” By Innosanto Nagara).

 

Ghost Summer Stories

I couldn’t sleep for weeks after reading Tananarive Due‘s “The Good House.” It was a deliciously disturbing book. I soon became a huge fan of Due’s work. Due tends to be lumped in with science fiction writer Octavia Butler, but Due dabbles more in the supernatural/thriller genre. Her work stands on its own.

When a good friend asked me if I wanted a book for my birthday (she knows I love to read), I said “Ghost Summer…please.” I’ve been itching to get this book. I was excited when it finally arrived in the mail the other day. The book contains 15 short stories. A perfect read for a new mom like myself.

I’m scared already 🙂

 

Favorite Things-2

These days there is a better selection of toys/books for Black children. If I had children, I would probably indulge them and buy everything.  Check out my favorite things for the young folks in your life 🙂

1) Little Miss Rue – Zuri Doll: I heart QuellyRue’s designs. As a fellow DIY (Do It Yourself) creative, I respect all the hard work she puts into her handmade products. She recently introduced dolls into her line. Little Miss Rue is adorable and looks oh so cuddly 🙂

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Photo from: http://www.quellyrue.com/product/zuri

2) “Flying Lessons” written and illustrated by Kayin A. Talton Davis: I actually got  a chance to interview Davis for a project, a year or so ago. She was very nice and has a lot of passion for her work. Her book “Flying Lessons” was inspired by the “The People Could Fly” a book about slaves who possessed magical powers to fly away to freedom.

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Photo from: http://shop.soapboxtheory.com/products-page/paperworks/flying-lessons/flying-lessons-a-lola-and-luella-adventure/

3) Doc McStuffins Puzzle: Whenever I give toys/books to toy drives, I make sure to provide culturally diverse items.  I came across the “Doc McStuffins” line by accident. I had never heard of the show, probably because I don’t have a lot of kids in my life. The creator of McStuffins, is actually a non-black woman. The show/merchandise is also promoted by Disney who I am usually giving the side eye to.  But how can you resist such a needed character in Black children’s lives?  I’ll give this one a slight pass 😉

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Photo from: abcpartyideasforgirls.org

 

Favorite Things-1

It’s that time of year for gift giving. I thought I would share a few of my favorite things this week for gift ideas. I wrote about how I failed my summer reading list, but I was able to read one of the books a month or so ago. “The Roving Tree” by Elise Augustave was a heartwarming read.

“Elsie Augustave’s novel The Roving Tree has a surreal opening. Its narrator Iris Odys is giving birth to her daughter Zati and—hanging between life and death—she drifts into a deep sleep and receives a visit from a Vodun goddess. Her bed seems to be floating as the daughter she’s given birth to lies in an incubator. Little by little her story is sown together for the reader.”  http://kreyolicious.com/haitian-book-club-the-roving-tree-by-elsie-augustave/9549/

As a young Haitian girl, Iris is left with a white American family, due to unfortunate circumstances. She must learn where she comes from, to know where she is going. I teared up at the end of this book. I felt connected to Iris as she went through her journey of self-discovery, love, and family. This book is a good gift for the reader in your life 🙂

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Patient.

I follow a group of amazing women of color writers. I love the group because I get introduced to their latest work.  “Patient.” is a new release by Bettina Judd.  The book of poems was the 2013 winner of Black Lawrence Press’ 2013 Hudson Book Prize. Go girl!

“A researcher lives with the ghosts of enslaved women after they visit her hospital bed. To appease them, she traces the stories of Anarcha, Betsey, and Lucy, three of the women who were subject to experiments by the father of American gynecology and finds that she is entangled in a history of medical subjection and display.” http://www.patientpoems.com/

I’m usually not a big purchaser of poetry books, but this is one I will definitely be adding to my collection.  🙂

 

Domestic Violence Awareness Month (4)

“Sister, you’ve been on my mind Sister, we’re two of a kind So, sister, I’m keepin’ my eye on you.”–Miss Celie’s Blues

I was shocked recently when a black girlfriend told me she has never watched  “The Color Purple” in its entirety.

Now how has that happened?

I’ve seen practically every Tyler Perry film and I loathe Tyler Perry films, but my black female friends make sure I watch them. I’m surprised she has been able to get away without being made to watch it at the beauty shop or something 🙂

When “The Color Purple” originally came out in 1985, there was controversy that it depicted black men in a negative light.

The outrage over the film is said to have prevented it from receiving any Oscar wins, thus helping to stall the careers of some amazing black actresses in the film.

“The Color Purple” movie is based on the book of the same name. The author is black woman writer/feminist/womanist icon, Alice Walker.

 While the movie didn’t capture the  complexities of the book, Walker has been unfairly bashed for her work.

“She was accused of betraying her race, of hating black men, of damaging black male and female relationships, of being a lesbian.” http://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/jun/23/featuresreviews.guardianreview23

I thought “The Color Purple” (book/movie) was simply trying to show that black women are not only black, but also women and how the intersectionality of these identities contribute to the oppression (and violence) we tend to face in our daily lives.

The fact that many people feel overly comfortable being abusive towards us outside and in the black community.

The book/film is also about hope, and more importantly black sisterhood. Celie survives because of her own perseverance, but also because her friends Shug and Sophia had her back. This helped her to overcome the violence in her life.

Laverne Cox and bell hooks Talk About Feminism and Pop Culture

Whoa! bell hooks has been KILLING it these last couple of days, as she does another week-long residency at The New School. She’s had some great discussions with white feminist icon Gloria Steinman and fellow black intellectual, Cornel West (the two of them had me rolling).  My favorite conversation was the one between her and Laverne Cox.

Cox stars on the television show “Orange is the New Black.” I have not watched the show. It hasn’t really interested me (and in their talk) hooks articulated some of my concerns about the show.  However, it’s been great to see Cox get mainstream shine. It’s rare you see contemporary black celebrities knowledgeable about politics/social injustices. Particularly, the work Cox does around transgender rights.

Enjoy their fun and thoughtful discussion by clicking the link 🙂

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Photo from: http://colorlines.com/

http://new.livestream.com/TheNewSchool/bell-hooks-Laverne-Cox/videos/64265837