Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Loads of love

I'm reading Black Water Rising by Attica Locke. (It's good y'all!) The opening scene includes the protagonist Jay remembering the black church ladies that came to court daily when he was on trial for being a young revolutionary. He remembers them looking at him like "We got you, son. We're not gon' let you fall."

It reminds me of the way black readers often are with black authors. One of the great joys of being a writer is having readers who prop you up when you feel like you're falling. I know we authors yell a lot over here about attracting other readers, but let me say for the record, we love, love, love us some black readers! And wouldn't make it at all without you!

I recently was blessed enough to receive an award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. The way those black librarians talked about books and writers! Oh my, it was balm for the soul! My brother-in-law attended and he said "the waves of love crashing over the podium" spilled out into the audience over to him and left him feeling warm inside.

So I offer a heartfelt thanks to all the readers who don't let us fall. And here are some links about some other authors that we (no matter our race) can share some love with:

E. Lynn Harris, who recently passed, gets a tribute from other writers at The Root.

Karen Simpson, friend o' the blog, recently announced the sale of her first novel! Read her story of deciding to go with Plenary Publishing after many rejections from mainstream (read mostly white editors/publishers) because they felt that black readers only wanted urban or romance and white readers won't read black authors. Oy. Act of Grace (speculative fiction) will be published in spring 2011 and we will definitely host a chat with Karen and/or review to celebrate!

Victor LaValle's 3rd novel Big Machine, to be released August 11, could be his big breakout. This Wall Street Journal article about the support he's getting is exciting. Here's a link to an excerpt from the book.

Yellow Moon Jewell Parker Rhodes' African vampire story comes out in paperback next month.

Cornered, Brandon Massey's latest thriller hits also stores next month.

Eisa Ulen lovingly reviews Paule Marshall's memoir of the writer's life, Triangular Road.

The Bottom of Heaven gives some geek love to Samuel R. Delaney's fantasy Nevèrÿon series.

Publishers Weekly showers the upcoming The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow with some pre-pub love.

Color Online is looking for love for authors of color. They're looking for reviewers for August who will read brown.

USA Today ran an interesting profile of author Stephen Carter, who is able to do something pretty amazing in his latest, Jericho's Fall: not identify the protagonist's race. I'm not sure less successful authors could pull this off. Publishers and marketers usually want to know the characters' race so they know how to position the book. So I'm willing to give Carter some love for breaking out of that box.

Speaking of publishers identifying race, by now you've probably heard of the YA book Liar with the black protagonist and the white author that has a photo of a white girl on the cover. But in case you haven't, I'll include a few links. First though my question: Does this mean the publisher believes that white readers will read a book by a white author about non-white characters, but only if a white person is on the cover? From the author of the book. Publisher's Weekly. Young, Black, A Reader responds. Another blogger asks white readers to respond to the publisher. I would suggest lovingly telling them that they're full of shit.

Now some love for a bookseller, a white bookseller who takes up the "White Readers Meet Black Authors" cause. The Inkwell Bookstore blog challenges readers to step outside their comfort zone: "I see this a lot at our bookstore. More often than not, White customers buy books by White authors. While this in no way makes them racist, their unwillingness to explore something outside their comfort zone does make them dull. What makes these FUBU buying habits even more frustrating is the fact that the majority of these White readers consider themselves to be highly liberal thinkers. They listen to world music, they donate money to Darfur, and they campaigned en masse to make Barack Obama the President of the United States. Still, I dare you to try and push Chester Himes' If He Hollers Let Him Go on a fan of Joan Didion's Play It As It Lays."

Everybody wins!

Between here and Facebook I got 15 comments and had 15 books for giveaway. If you left a comment, I will be in touch and congratulations!

The recommended Summer Reads included (check the comments; some folks here left multiple suggestions):

The Untelling by Tayari Jones
The Bishop's Daughter by Tiffany Warren
The List by Sherri Lewis
The Hand I Fan With by Tina McElroy Ansa
A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown
Wild Stars Seeking Midnight Suns by J. California Cooper
Passport Diaries by Tamara Gregory
The Fall of Rome by Martha Southgate
Too Little Too Late by Victoria Christopher Murray
Sex Murder and a Double Latte by Kyra Davis
Anything written by E. Lynn Harris
Lilith's Brood by Octavia Butler
When Death Comes Stealing by Valerie Wilson Wesley
Mama Day by Gloria Naylor
Hotlanta by Denene Millner and Mitzi Miller

Friday, July 24, 2009

RIP E. Lynn Harris

In his honor I'm re-running my brief post from when E. Lynn Harris was in town to promote his novel Basketball Jones. One of the things he said struck me. Paraphrasing him, he said, While I'm proud of all the adjectives used to describe me, I don't want to be limited to any kind of story. I want to write whatever kind of story God puts in my heart.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit

I try not to talk about myself too much (or at least too, too much) on this blog, but this blog happens to be the perfect place to share this. I'm doing a blog tour of the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit. 20+ non-black authors hosting a black author and her book on their blogs (I've also hosted them on my personal blog.). As much as I acknowledge the bad over here, have to also shine light on what's working. Thanks Girlfriends!

Keep reading for beach reads and giveaways.

Beach reads and FREE books!

Our last collaborative effort worked so well, let's do it again. Let's make a list of books great to read in a hammock, lying on a beach, on a towel at the pool (you know, as you're "changing the complexion" of the place) or on a blanket under a tree.

Some of mine:

Seen It All and Done the Rest by Pearl Cleage
Waiting in Vain by Colin Channer
Rhythms of Grace by Marilynn Griffith
My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due
Kiss the Sky by Farai Chideya
Seduction by Geneva Holliday
That Devil's No Friend of Mine by J.D. Mason
Taking After Mudear by Tina McElroy Ansa
The Sunday List by Stacy Hawkins Adams
Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead
Soul City by Toure
Kinky Gazpacho by Lori Tharps
Meeting of the Waters by Kim McLarin
The Interruption of Everything by Terry McMillan
Going Down South by Bonnie Glover
Third Girl From the Left by Martha Southgate
A New Kind of Bliss by Bettye Griffin
Sisters and Husbands by Connie Briscoe
This Side of the Sky by Elyse Singleton
Casanegra by Blair Underwood, Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes
Nappily Ever After by Trisha R. Thomas

Leave me a comment with one of your favorite beach reads and you'll be entered for a drawing of a signed copy of Children of the Waters or Orange Mint and Honey or unsigned copy of books that I like, but will part with to make room on my shelves and hopefully make some new readers very happy. Leave your email address and the book(s) you would prefer. On Monday, July 27 at 5 p.m. Mountain Time, I'll draw names at random and do my best to match you with your preferred book, but first pick goes in order of names picked. I'll announce winners on Tuesday, July 28. Spread the word!


Children of the Waters
Orange Mint and Honey
Seen It All and Done the Rest
Rhythms of Grace
My Soul to Keep
Kinky Gazpacho
Worth a Thousand Words by Stacy Hawkins Adams
Unsigned Hype by Booker T. Mattison
Wicked Ways by Donna Hill
If These Walls Could Talk by Bettye Griffin
Better Than I Know Myself by Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant
Fruit of the Lemon by Andrea Levy
Trading Dreams at Midnight by Diane McKinney-Whetstone
Gods and Soldiers: Penguin Anthology of Contemporary African Writing
R.L.'s Dream by Walter Mosely

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Diverse group of novelists

Hey y'all, check out Novel Spaces. Authors of different colors (!), gender (!) and genres (!) and their guests blog about writing and publishing. Most group blogs are monochromatic, literally and figuratively. Hurray for this group for shaking things up!

Guest blogger Lauren Fitata reviews Unsigned Hype

We have a guest blogger today: Lauren Fitata, a young lady with a book review. Please leave Lauren a comment to let her know if you found her review informative. She gives Unsigned Hype 3.5 stars and has this to say:

Unsigned Hype
By Booker T. Mattison
I would say that this is an average book, it was great in some parts and sometimes it was just went down a little. It's not really the type of book I would have chosen for recreational reading but I'm not lying, it was an interesting story. In some parts of the book I liked when Tory was deejaying at the block parties. Sometimes interesting things happened. Like when they heard gun shots and he bent down to protect Precious (His friend).

The book made me feel...happy, in some ways, and kinda scared and anxious when bad things happened. The book made me think about the things that happens in the hood, like when Tory's dad died before he was born because of a gang who beat him to death.

The story is about a 15 year old DJ that produces music and mixes up beats with old school music from waaaay before he was born. His partner is Fat mike who takes credit of all the music since Tory is to young to do this. When they win the first challenge in the contest of the Unsigned Hype, they get to meet Mixmastermagic, which is the host of the contest and host of the famous radio station Power 97. In the last round, Tory's opponent, BANGUPBLACK wins the first round of the contest, and they end up being partners for the last show together. Bangup is the rapper, and Tory is the producer of the music. In the end they all get to be what they've wanted to do all their life, Be A Famous Music Star!

Let me tell you a little about the main characters: Tory, BangupBlack, Mixmastermagic, Precious Lord, and her father, Mr. Lord.

Tory, the main character in the story, is a fifteen year old, goin' on sixteen, with a dream of becoming a famous producer of music. BangupBlack is a rapper who won the Unsigned Hype contest. Mixmastermagic, is the host of the Unsigned Hype, and he's also host of his show on Power 97. Precious Lord is Tory's friend from church, she is very polite with Tory, and He falls in love the moment he lays his eyes on her.Mr. Lord, Preciou's father, is technically Tory's ticket to being able to go to the Unsigned Hype, and his teacher.I think this would be good for readers who like recreational books, since it has somthing to do with music. The grade level should be around, middle school, I guess, from 5-8th grade, I would say, so you can understand it. Well that was all I could think of, and again, I really liked most of it! I give it three and a half stars!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Books for our times

Newsweek printed a list of 50 books they suggest you read now as a way to understand the current state of affairs in our world. It's a good list, and includes Walking With the Wind, Cotton Comes to Harlem and Things Fall Apart. But seriously a list of books that shed light on our times and no Invisible Man or The Fire Next Time? So I asked my friends on Twitter and Facebook to help me develop a list of books by black authors that "White Readers Meet Black Authors" suggest you read now. All of these books can be purchased through your local, independent bookstore or ordered through the following African American bookstores, which really need your support:

Marcus Books, Oakland, CA
Eso Won Books, Los Angeles, CA

And you can find other stores here. In no particular order, here are our suggestions:

Your Blues Ain't Like Mine by Bebe Moore Campbell (I'd also add her books 72-Hour Hold and Brothers and Sisters). She tells a fair and balanced story about oppression of minorities, women & the poor in this country.

Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler. From Amazon.com: Parable of the Sower is a hopeful tale set in a dystopian future United States of walled cities, disease, fires, and madness. Lauren Olamina is an 18-year-old woman with hyperempathy syndrome--if she sees another in pain, she feels their pain as acutely as if it were real. When her relatively safe neighborhood enclave is inevitably destroyed, along with her family and dreams for the future, Lauren grabs a backpack full of supplies and begins a journey north. Along the way, she recruits fellow refugees to her embryonic faith, Earthseed, the prime tenet of which is that "God is change." This is a great book--simple and elegant, with enough message to make you think, but not so much that you feel preached to.

Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama. Speaking of change, Obama's memoir has been on the NY Times list for a long while, so it doesn't need me to bring it to light but it really is must reading.

There is a River by Vincent Harding. An excellent exploration of slavery, and its spiritual and psychological effects on slaves and slaveholders and their descendants.

Invisible Life by E. Lynne Harris. One of the first books to deal with homosexuality in the black community in an accessible, readable way. Vibe said of this book, "What's got audiences hooked? Harris's unique spin on the ever-fascinating topics of identity, class, intimacy, sexuality, and friendship."

The works of Toni Morrison. Self-explanatory, I believe.

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. In fast-moving times, how do we process information? Gladwell makes the surprising case for gathering less data and trusting first instincts.

Jump at the Sun by Kim McLarin. In these child-centric times, it's refreshing for a novel to take a real, hard look at the work of mothering.

On Beauty by Zadie Smith. A warm, humorous story about a mixed-race family of academics and America at the beginning of the 21st Century.

What Doesn't Kill You by Virginia Deberry and Donna Grant. A novel that puts a face on the economy, giving a real, and funny, account of what it's like to be laid off. From Freshfiction.com: "Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant have done it again. Every time I thought Tee had hit her lowest point—and Tee probably did too—the authors ramped up the stakes, finding yet another way to tilt Tee's world a few more degrees."

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. A haunting take on what it feels like to be a black man in America. From the book jacket: A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century.

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. "The way Baldwin sees the world for what it truly is, is just inspiring," said a friend on Twitter.

Black Boy by Richard Wright. Another classic.

Colored People by Henry Louis Gates Jr. From Library Journal: Laying out the social and emotional topography of a world shifting from segregation to integration and from colored to Negro to black, Gates evokes a bygone time and place as he moves from his birth in 1949 to 1969, when he goes off to Yale University after a year at West Virginia's Potomac State College.

Reposition Yourself by T.D. Jakes. A Facebook friend recommended this for those looking for a little spiritual direction during tough times.

What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage. Seems sometimes that a lot looks crazy lately, doesn't it? This story of an HIV-positive woman going back to her family home is enjoyable and relatable no matter your situation.

Caucasia by Danzy Senna. A great look at America during the 1970s and beyond. Glamour magazine called it, "Extraordinary....A cross between Mona Simpson's Anywhere But Here and James McBride's The Color of Water, this story of a young girl's struggle — to find her family, her roots, her identity — transcends race even while examining it. A compelling look at being black and being white, Caucasia deserves to be read all over."

I Asked for Intimacy by Renita Weems. This book of essays of "blessings, betrayals and birthings" is a lovely collection of writings about relationships, love and family.

The poetry of Yusef Komunyakaa. I was so happy when a Twitter friend suggested Komunyakaa and reminded me to include poetry on the list!

Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith. Poetry about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

Willow Weep for Me by Meri Nana-Ama Danquah. Anybody suffering from depression will relate to this beautiful memoir.

The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen Carter. From The Christian Science Monitor's review: "It's a light thriller for the beach; a wicked satire of academic politics; a stinging exposé of the judicial confirmation process; a trenchant analysis of racial progress in America...."

Erasure by Percival Everett. It's been discussed here on this blog before. From Bookreporter.com's review: "This book offers perhaps the first great protagonist of the new century. Thelonius "Monk" Ellison, college professor, author of 'dense' experimental novels, and recipient of 17 rejection letters, is forced to leave L. A. and return to his childhood home in D. C. to care for his ailing mother. He parlays his frustrations into 'My Pafology,' an exploitive novel that represents everything he hates about the publishing industry. The novel, written under the pseudonym Stagg R. Leigh, catapults him to the forefront of the literary scene, causing Monk's wildest dreams and worst nightmares to unfold simultaneously."

Upstate by Kalisha Buckhanon. A story in letters between young lovers while he's in prison. “Heart-wrenching and true. . .I’d read it again just for the power of the language.” - Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina and Cavedweller

Aya by Marguerite Abouet. From School Library Journal: "This realistic story immerses readers in the life of an Ivorian teen of the period. Yet for those familiar with the civil unrest occurring in this part of Africa during the ensuing years, the simplicity of life depicted can't help but be extra poignant; the subplot of one teen's unplanned pregnancy has universal elements."

The Air Between Us by Deborah Johnson. Listen to the author discuss her work here. Part mystery and part romance, this is a tale about black and white families in the south. From Freshfiction.com, "Deborah Johnson does a fantastic job in this, her debut novel, of developing characters which leap off the page, casting a spell such that the reader has to know what happens to each and every one of them."

Anything We Love Can Be Saved by Alice Walker. The well-known writer discusses her activism. This is a great book for when you're discouraged about human rights or the environment. Even just saying the title makes me feel better.

The Fall of Rome by Martha Southgate. "It’s hard to think of another novel that has put the varieties of black striving and white piety so relentlessly under the microscope. What we find squirming there is never exactly what we expect: Striving, it turns out, can be a kind of piety, and vice versa. The wonder is that, in Southgate’s hands, the characters who embody these ideas are never hollow constructions but painfully real people grinding toward (or away from) their fate. That they never waste our interest, or deserve less than our full attention, makes each of them—and makes Southgate too, for that matter—a figure to be reckoned with, a voice we had best get to know." —Jesse Green, author of The Velveteen Father

Money Hungry by Sharon Flake. A YA, middle-grade novel about a girl who lusts after money, and the consequences that come with that. (Sounds like a lot of adults need to check this one out!)

Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers. Another YA, middle-grade book. Publishers Weekly said in a starred review, "Here it is at last — the novel that will allow American teens to grapple intelligently and thoughtfully with the war in Iraq." But how many adult novels are dealing with the Iraq War, which is certainly one of the biggest issues of our time?

What Obama Means...For Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Future by Jabari Asim. The 2008 election was something historians will be dissecting for ages. According to HarperCollins, this book "demonstrates how Obama turned the old civil-rights model of African American leadership on its head, and shows that Obama's election is evidence of the progress that has been made in healing wounds and broadening America's concept of leadership and inspiration."

Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston's autobiography. According to the HarperCollins website, "Hurston's very personal literary self-portrait offers a revealing, often audacious glimpse into the life -- public and private -- of an extraordinary artist, anthropologist, chronicler, and champion of the black experience in America. Full of the wit and wisdom of a proud, spirited woman who started off low and climbed high, Dust Tracks on a Roadis a rare treasure from one of literature's most cherished voices."

The works of J. California Cooper. Cooper is a sort of modern day Hurston, telling "deceptively simple" stories about people so real you believe you know them. Halle Berry's been quoted as saying, "My fifth-grade teacher...one day said, 'Instead of calling and asking me for advice, try reading J. California Cooper.'"

Race Matters by Cornel West. Publishers Weekly noted this important book is made up of "
eight cogent and profoundly moral essays on American race relations."

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. Angelou's 1st volume of her autobiography. It regularly appears on banned books list, which, I'm sure, continues to keep it popular.

The Souls of Black Folks by W.E.B. Dubois. "The book endures today as a classic document of American social and political history: a manifesto that has influenced generations with its transcendent vision for change." Change. There's that word again.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Because he helped black people see ourselves more clearly. Because he embraced Islam and after he did is when he began to champion people of all races. Because there would be no President Obama without him. Because he said, "People don't realize how a man's whole life can be changed by one book."

Every Goodbye Ain't Gone by Itabari Njeri. I loved this memoir and was happy to see a Facebook friend recommend it. I also love the internet because here you can see an interview with Njeri.

Them by Nathan McCall. This novel addresses gentrification and race, asking us all to consider the "other."

Mama Day by Gloria Naylor. The book jacket "On the island of Willow Springs, off the Georgia coast, the powers of healer Mama Day are tested by her great niece, Cocoa, a stubbornly emancipated woman endangered by the island's darker forces. A powerful generational saga at once tender and suspenseful, overflowing with magic and common sense." Because we could all use some magic and common sense right about now.

Assata: An Autobiography. Memoir of an activist.

What else would you suggest for a book that sheds light on current affairs or, perhaps, helps provide a good escape from troubled times?