Black Like Me

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The old saying is that you never know what someone else is going through or living until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes and frankly it’s impossible.  However, John Howard Griffin turned his skin black and tried to live as a black man for six weeks while travelling through the Deep South in 1959.  He persisted to take a medication which is normally prescribed to patients suffering from vitiligo, a disease where white spots appear on the body and the face, in conjunction with exposure to ultra-violet rays to darken his skin.  This process would take from six weeks to three months but since he wanted the process to be accelerated so that he could get on to his project, the doses were augmented so that he could start on his journey as a black man.

Now this is actually my second reading of this book.  I’d forgotten how powerful it is, not to mention I was only seventeen the first time I read it and really can’t remember what I thought of it.  I don’t usually have the habit of rereading books, but I think I may have to change that.  You do see things differently reading books at different ages.

Black Like Me really does explore the life of a black man, but directly through the eyes of a white man.  It’s like being a fly on the wall.  Griffin went through the Deep South in 1959, riding buses, hitchhiking, trying to find jobs, and meeting blacks and whites of all classes.  The book is recounted in journal entries since this is what he used as a way to record everything he’d seen and felt for the day.  So, it is like we have a sneak peek into his travels.

One main positive point of Black Like Me is that it is particularly well written and Griffin had an astute sense of analysis about the people he met along the journey, about some the things they said and even their body language and facial expressions.  He interpreted situations perfectly.  In fact, there were moments of high suspense where we as the reader feared for him.  All in all his experience helped him to tell the story of his journey.  Now I’m sure some African-Americans will have a problem accepting Black Like Me because it’s a white man telling it, so its authenticity is on the line and he was white so he couldn’t really know what black people were going through.  I get that, but I have to disagree, in this case.  Griffin approached this whole idea like a journalist but with the skin he was in he would have had to be blind not to feel some of the things blacks were feeling and going through at the time, for everyone that looked at him treated him like he was black.  He makes that point quite clear in the novel when he talks about the hard racist stares and how the blackness of the skin is what seems to be despised and why the black man was treated as inferior.  He reflects on this and explains how illogical this way of thinking is and the more and more that he continues on his journey the more that he feels like a shadow.  “I have held no brief for the Negro.  I have looked diligently for all aspects of “inferiority” among them and I cannot find them.  All the cherished-begging epithets applied to the Negro race, and widely accepted as truth even by men of good will, simply prove untrue when one lives among them.  This, of course, excludes the trash element, which is the same everywhere and is no more evident among Negroes than whites.  When all the talk, all the propaganda has been cut away, the criterion is nothing but the color of skin.  My experience proved that.  They judged me by no other quality.  My skin was dark.  That was sufficient reason for them to deny me those rights and freedoms without which life loses its significance and becomes a matter of little more than animal survival.  I searched for some other answer and found none.  I had spent a day without food and water for no other reason than that my skin was black.“(Black Like Me, p.115)

In essence, I believe this book was written for the white man.  Most people believed black people were poorly educated and probably dismissed their writings and absolutely didn’t believe that they were disenfranchised.  Whereas Black Like Me was like a ripple in the river that couldn’t be ignored, I remember hearing my Uncle Lawrence talk to me about this book when I was young, as well as Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Dick Gregory, W.E.B DuBois, and others.  He felt that Black Like Me was an accurate account and felt that every American should read it.  He used to say, “It happened, is still happening in some places, and we should talk about it.”

As I was reading Black Like Me this second time, I was thinking about my mother and my Uncle Lawrence and wondering how in the world did they survive all of that.  I wondered deep down inside if I would have been as strong and combative as they were.  I felt this especially at the moments in the book that  made me feel sick to my stomach and very fearful.  This just reinforces that history must be told in its entirety and truthfully.  We can’t afford to leave anything out.  Our youth and future generations are depending on our capacity to be thorough, but most of all honest.  Everybody needs to know where they’ve come from, how they’ve acquired what they have today, and what they hope for the future.

Evelyn Dove Britain’s Black Cabaret Queen

#NonfictionNovember2016 has come and gone. Sadly it coincided with the disastrous US Evelyn Dovepresidential election results.  I was down for a while but am slowly getting back to happy and Evelyn Dove was one of the books that brightened my November.  If #NonfictionNovember has taught me anything, it’s that I clearly need to read more of it.

I’m sure none of you have heard of Evelyn Dove. I was excited to receive this book for review  from Jacaranda Books, a London-based independent publishing company which publishes books that are culturally diverse from Africa and the Caribbean.  Stephen Bourne the author of Evelyn Dove Britain’s Black Cabaret Queen begins the novel as he’s searching for information on this forgotten star.

Evelyn Dove was a trail blazer for black women performers like Josephine Baker and Shirley Bassey.  She was born January 11, 1902, Evelyn Mary Dove.  Somehow her greatness has been lost to the past.  She was elegant, beautiful, and a wonderful singer, who mesmerized audiences all over the world – from Italy to France to New York and even India.  She starred in cabarets in all of these countries.

Evelyn Dove grew up between Ghana and London.  Her father, Frans Dove was a distinguished barrister from Sierra Leone. Apparently at the beginning of the twentieth century many Africans sought out higher education in Britain. It is there where Francis Thomas Dove met Evelyn’s mother, Augusta Winchester a white English woman.  So, Evelyn was naturally brought up in Britain.  She studied at the Royal Academy of Music and from there on her career in performing began.

The reader will be taken through a rich period of performing arts, while learning about Evelyn Dove’s life.  The book has plenty of pictures of Dove in costume throughout her career and pictures of her family.  For such a short book I can say I learned a lot about the performing arts at the beginning of the twentieth century.  For all of you looking for an interesting, easy to read non-fiction that will take you back in time, Evelyn Dove Britain’s Black Cabaret Queen is a must read. Check out the video I’ve linked below of Evelyn Dove performing the Negro spiritual, Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray.

“Stephen Bourne has been specializing in black British histories since 1991.  He has written over 15 books, including the acclaimed Black in the British Frame:  The Black Experience in British Film and Television Second Edition, Elisabeth Welch:  Soft Lights and Sweet Music and The Motherland Calls:  Britain’s Black Servicemen and Women 1939-1945.  Bourne received the 2015 Southwark Arts Forum Award for Literature for Black Poppies:  Britain’s Black Community and the Great War.  He is a regular contributor to BBC documentaries and has written for many publications, including The Voice, The Independent, BBC History Magazine and History Today.” (quoted from press release)

I’d like to thank Jacaranda Books for sending me this beautiful book for review.  I enjoyed every moment of my reading experience and finding this video on YouTube is the icing on the cake.

My Copy: Evelyn Dove Britain’s Black Cabaret Queen – paperback, 160 pages

My rating:  4 stars

 

 

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Here Comes the Sun

Nicole Dennis-Benn’s debut novel explores living on the island of Jamaica.  Masquerading img_3150behind a jovial gay cover in bright orange, yellow, and green, Here Comes the Sun, starts gently and insidiously goes places we aren’t prepared for.  The novel revolves around three unlikable main characters – Delores, Margot, and Thandi, who form an unforgettable trio.  Delores is a mother preoccupied with money and not enough to the real well-being of her daughters.  Margot her oldest daughter is motivated to work in the hotel and she gets to the point of selling her body to hotel guests to earn enough money to pay for Thandi’s education and the family’s house expenses.  Thandi, Delores’ youngest daughter, is 15 years younger than Margot.  She’s brilliant in school and is searching to be loved and accepted.  All the family’s desires of escaping poverty in River Bank are tied up in the hopes of Thandi succeeding at school and eventually going to medical school to become a doctor.

The setting of this novel is River Bank a quiet little village situated near a resort hotel, where cruise ships make frequent stops with nonchalant tourists.  Life in poverty on an island can make people do things they would have never thought of doing to survive.  The way Dennis-Benn uses light and darkness to convey the moods of the characters and to set a scene is masterly.  Told with luscious language and poignant analogies, she accurately paints the picture of the horrific situations facing Jamaicans in little sleepy towns near luxurious high-rise resorts.  As I was reading this novel, it made me think of A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid and the rage that ran through the novel.

“The darkness claims her, encircles her with black walls that eventually open up into a path for her to walk through.  She takes a few steps, aware of the one foot in front of the other; of the strangeness creeping up her spine, wrapping itself around her belly, shooting up into her chest, The scent of the bougainvilleas that line the fence is like a sweet embrace. The darkness becomes a friendly accomplice. Yet, the familiar apprehension ambushes her: Can she be seen?  She looks over her shoulder  and contemplates the distance it would take for her to walk to her house from here.  A good mile.  She stands in front of the bright pink house that emerges from the shadows.  It seems to gloss in the dark….”(Here Comes the Sun, pp. 15-16)

Here Comes the Sun is a novel that mixes a good plot with excellent character development. It’s obvious that Dennis-Benn set out to depict a story showing the sociological implications of the difficulties people on the island face, while balancing the plot with pertinent themes such as homosexuality, mother/daughter relationships, colorism, sexism, class, race, missing fathers and of course the long-lasting effects of colonialism on the thoughts and behavior of the island people.  You’re probably thinking that this sounds like a lot to put in a 345 page book, but it’s brilliantly balanced, paced, and speaks clearly to the reader.

Having four generations living under the same roof was Dennis-Benn’s way of having the reader follow and understand the difficulties of each character.  Dolores is a horrible mother but her discourse is obviously that of the after effects of colonialism.  Money is the only thing that she believes will get them out of where they are.  She would subscribe to the expression – You gotta do what you gotta do.  Delores’ voice and a few of the other secondary characters like Charles, Miss Ruby, and Maxi are always in Jamaican dialect which roots the reader into the tradition of life in River Bank.  The dialect isn’t hard to understand.  Saying the lines out loud can help you understand the meaning better if you struggle with reading dialect.  Margot hiding her homosexuality, her deep hatred for her mother, and her desire to earn enough money to leave River Bank and set up elsewhere drive her throughout the story and the lengths she goes to make this happen are mind-blowing.  Thandi who has the weight on her shoulders to succeed in school to save her family from poverty and at the same time doesn’t feel accepted in her school;  has seemed to take in all the derogatory things she hears about dark skin.  “Tsk, tsk. Well, God played a cruel joke on you.  Because, chile, if yuh skin was as pretty as yuh hair, you’d be one gorgeous woman.” (Here Comes the Sun, p. 25)  Sadly, she is so sure that she’ll be accepted if her skin is lighter.

You’ll be glued from the moment you begin to read this story, anxious to find out what’s going to happen next, shocked as you’re pulled through all the twists and turns.  All the secondary characters are just as memorable as Delores, Margot, and Thandi.  The only real problem I had with Here Comes the Sun was the ending, to be exact the last chapter.  I was really disappointed to not get the closure I was hoping for once the novel was finished.  I wanted to know what happened to the characters.  Chapter 40 left me dissatisfied.  I really enjoyed all the other parts of the novel and felt they were perfect.  Unfortunately, the outcomes of the characters are left hanging and inferred.  It felt like she had no idea how to finish this book or maybe she was reluctant to end the book with all the loose ends perfectly tied up.  Could she have felt that ending the book this way shows that life goes on, as if we the readers were just witnesses to a part of these characters’ lives?  I’m wondering if maybe she plans on using these characters for another book.  That would make a great second book. 😉  So, have you read this one and if not are you interested in trying it?

My copy:   Here Comes the Sun, 345 pages

Rating: ****

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The Blackbirds

The Blackbirds is the latest release from Eric Jerome Dickey, known for writing contemporary novels about African-American life.  Naughtier than Nice, the sequel to Naughty or Nice and One Night, a standalone were the last two novels he published in 2015.  For me, It’s been a while since I’ve read anything from him so I sort of knew what I was going to be getting into with this one.  Exquisite cover, 400 plus pages, this is that “girlfriend book” that everybody has been anticipating this 2016.

img_2867Four best friends as close as sisters, Kwanzaa, Ericka, Destiny, and Indigo are all trying to find love and solutions to their personal quandaries.  The novel is plot driven like only Dickey knows how to do.  He has his writing formula down to a science.  It’s funny, zany, sexy, over the top, heartbreaking, and explanatory.  Dickey has found a way to balance what would be considered a typical urban erotica novel, while packing it with loads of social commentary.  He makes references to all sorts of incidents from police brutality to political to social media, etc.  The Blackbirds is brimful of urban expressions and millennial lingo, so if you’re not hip to the groove I suggest you read it with the urban dictionary open.

The themes seem to be typical of what Dickey writes – sexuality, homosexuality, male/female – mother/daughter – father/daughter relationships, cheating, female friendships, illness, etc.  It touches on just about everything. The thing that surprised me the most was the quantity of sex in the novel.  I knew it would contain sex but not to that extent.  Sex scenes took over the story in the second and third parts of the novel.  So if you have a problem with reading erotica, this won’t be the book for you.  Surprisingly, there is no mention on the stunning cover about the novel being erotica, but when you look on the inside flap it’s written at the top in red.  Now this has intrigued me because when books are written by white authors they always put some kind of trigger warning that it contains copious amounts of sex, etc.  So I’m wondering how is it that this novel has no mention of it on the front cover.  Could it be that Dutton thought that the way the book was going to be marketed that only black readers would be interested in it?  Or is it that Dutton assumed that black readers like reading about sex so no need to point out the obvious?  Or maybe it’s just that Dutton doesn’t think that white readers will go for this one anyway because essentially it will be in the black interests section in Barnes & Noble, so no need?

To exacerbate my previous questions, I saw a comment made in the review section of Goodreads where a white man said he was disappointed by The Blackbirds.  “He said he had to quit before he plucked out his eyes and that it was dreadful.  He then commented that he was obviously not the the target audience and moreover he thought Dickey’s talent would shine through. Alas!”  (Goodreads user)  I didn’t realize the reader had to be the target audience to enjoy a book.  That’s a new one for me.  Granted, Dickey’s book isn’t 5-star in my opinion, but it isn’t totally bad either.  If anything he’s guilty of, it is of sensationalizing his book with too much sex and trying to develop too many story lines at once; which I believe is always a trap when there are several main characters.  For instance, there are a few story lines which are thrown together quickly to end the book just over 500 pages.  Those story lines should have been treated with more care, but instead their development was bypassed for some juicy sex scenes, which made the last 200 pages feel rushed.

Nevertheless, The Blackbirds is a nice escape read that titillates, amuses,  makes you smile, makes the head shake, and the mind say Amen (at times). It’s loud, hysterical, ratchet, violent, sexy, etc.  It’s a story that reads quickly, plot developing as well as characters growing.  It’s definitely worth picking up if you want erotica with a bit more real storyline.  EL James could take a few pointers from Eric Jerome Dickey.  I’m just sayin’ y’all. 😉

My copy:  The Blackbirds – hardcover, 508 pages

Rating:  ***

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A Month of Favorites: 5 Faves by Theme

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2 – 5 Faves by a Theme {eg. Audiobooks, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Mysteries, Books with Surprise Twists, Surprise Endings, Non-Fiction, Books That Made You Cry, Laugh Out Loud, Cringe, Book Boyfriends That Stole Your Heart, Apocalypse, Dystopian, Best books with kick ass girls, favorite siblings, couples, friends, most hated and loved villains} – link-up hosted at Estella’s Revenge.

 

5 Fave Graphic novels/Comics:

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1.  Chroniques de Jérusalem is an excellent way to become better acquainted with the complexities of Israel through the eyes of Guy Delisle.  He and his family move to Jerusalem because his wife is working for Médecins sans Frontière (Doctors without Borders).  There he finds out things up close and personal in this true account. It’s frustrating, shocking, funny, and informative.  The schematic black and white artwork contains loads of detail and is more and more endearing as the story develops.  You can read it in English too. The title is called Chronicles of Jerusalem.

 

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2.  Storm is a comic which recounts her life and the beginning of her powers.  I enjoyed this one but I didn’t love it.  Storm is drawn as a twenty something when in fact through most of the book she’s about thirteen years old.  That was a bit strange.  Otherwise the artwork is well done with beautiful colours. I mostly picked it up because I wanted to see how Eric Jerome Dickey was going to handle writing a comic. Not too bad Dickey.

 

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3.  Saga is one of the most popular comics read this year.  This fantasy/science-fiction comic follows two soldiers from two different races and planets that fall in love and betray the expectations of their people by having a baby and trying to make a solid family.  Interesting commentary on society while dazzling the eyes with creative colourful beings and monsters from the two worlds.  Who won’t like Saga?  Those who prefer linear stories with normal looking people doing normal things and without too much sex. Personally I loved it!

 

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4.  Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth was picked up on a whim.  I had heard a few people mention it and decided to try it out.  I was surprised by Chris Ware’s ability to convey so much sensitivity through the artwork, the graphics, and the mise en page.  It’s an autobiography about an ordinary man who one day has the possibility of meeting his father who abandoned him so many years before.  Every centimetre of this graphic novel has been thought out methodically to convey the emotions and themes of the story.  This is a really worthwhile graphic novel to pick up, especially if you haven’t yet found the style of graphic novel that speaks to you.  The cover and book size are very original.  This one is definitely a keeper.

 

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5.  L’Arabe du Futur (The Arab of the Future) is an autobiographical graphic novel that follows the life of the author Riad Sattouf.  The reader follows Riad and his parents (Syrian father and French mother) as they move from living in Libya under Khadaffi’s rule to the countryside of Syria in Homs.  It’s edifying seeing what it was like to live in Libya and Syria from 1978-1984.  I read this one in French, however it is available in English.  Those who have read this one can’t wait for part 2.

 

5 Fave Non-fiction:

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1.  Buck is the memoir of MK Asante.  He writes his story with a lot of passion and lyricism.  It’s like reading music.  If you’re interested in reading how someone who was spiralling downward manages to take control of his life and discover art, music, and the desire to create you should check this one out.  I liked it and I’m not always a fan of reading memoirs.

 

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2.  Red Dust Road is Jackie Kay’s search for her biological parents (her father a Nigerian and her mother a Scottish woman from the Highlands).  It’s poignant, sensitive, and uncomfortable in places.  It’s beautifully written and we as readers are really along for the ride as she searches for her parents. This was my first full length novel by Jackie Kay.  I first learned about her from Claire over at Word by Word.  She spoke to me about Kay’s poetry.  If you don’t know Jackie Kay you should definitely check her out because she’s a wonderful writer of color from Scotland. I can’t wait to read Trumpet and Reality Reality.  You can read her poetry online free of charge.

 

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3.  The Hare with Amber Eyes wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be but it is an interesting story of an extremely wealth Jewish family’s journey through Europe, and their netsake collection from Japan.  This is a story full of plush architectural descriptions to the idiosyncrasies of Edmund De Waal’s family.  From Russia to France to Austria and the United Kingdom, this story will teach you many things.  If you’re a history and art lover and appreciate intricate storytelling about real people and historical happenings you’ll love this one.

 

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4.  In the shadow of the Banyan is the stunning fictionalised true story of Vaddey Ratner’s years in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. This story is so well written it really took me aback.  The emotion described in this book was phenomenal!  All told through the eyes of a child and it’s this aspect that makes the story so special.  It will shock you and break your heart but this book is definitely a must read for those that want to know more about this dark period of Cambodia.

 

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5.  March is the first volume of the life of Congressman John Lewis.  This comic details the budding years of the Civil Rights Movement. March could be used as a teaching tool and is an excellent tribute to a great African-American.  The artwork is well done and has a unique style of mise en page.  I can’t wait to read volume 2!

One Crazy Summer

This summer I plunged into One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia.  Its attractive cover will definitely 13639804entice Middle Grade readers, as well as Young Adult readers to discover a crazy summer in Oakland, California in 1968.  The novel begins with Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern, threes sisters on their way to Oakland in pursuit of their mother that left them behind.  Their meeting with Cecile, their mother, alias Nzila, will lead the girls to more than who their mother is but to a better understanding of the fight for Civil Rights.

One Crazy Summer explores everyday life in the sixties, while depicting another aspect of the Black Panthers’ movement.  It’s a touching and informative lesson in Black History.  The story means even more since it’s being told through the eyes of Delphine, the oldest sister who is eleven years old and responsible for everything.  She is terribly veracious in recounting the story and her personal feelings.  You will feel attached and supportive of her.  Vonetta is the middle sister and she loves to be seen, while Fern is the youngest and follows her two big sisters and looks to them for solace.

Rita Williams-Garcia won four major awards – the Scott O’Dell Awards for Historical Fiction, the Newberry Honor Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, and was a National Book Award Finalist for One Crazy Summer along with many other literary distinctions.  The book is a lovely edition which contains Williams-Garcia’s acceptance speech for the Coretta Scott King award, a deleted chapter, and activities that could be used in schools to study this novel more in-depth.  Well worth the read and full of wonderful ideas for teachers that want to teach more African-American history. I rated One Crazy Summer 4 stars on Goodreads.  I’m very interested in discovering more of Rita Williams-Garcia’s work.  Some of her other titles include Blue Tights, Every Time a Rainbow Dies, Fast talk on a Slow Track, Jumped, Like sisters on the Homefront, and No Laughter Here.  This book seems to be a tribute to the children who lived through the vociferous times of the sixties.  …” “I had enjoyed my childhood.”  In spite of the necessary upheaval going on in the country and the world,….in spite of being reminded that tomorrow was not promised, I enjoyed my childhood.  My siblings and I indulged in now-vanishing pastimes.  We played hard.  Read books. Colored with crayons.  Rode bikes.  Spoke as children spoke.  Dreamed our childish dreams.  If our parents did anything for us at all, they gave us a place to be children and kept the adult world in its place-as best as they could.  But curious eyes and ears always latch on to something.” (One Crazy Summer, p.3 of Extras – An excerpt from Rita Williams-Garcia’s Acceptance Speech for the Coretta Scott King Author Award for One Crazy Summer)

After her father was discharged from the army, Williams-Garcia and her family moved back to New York where there was a strong presence of the Black Panther Party.  The image that she saw of them in her neighborhood didn’t at all equate to the image that was being delineated in the media.  She admits openly to members of her family being former Black Panthers and Black Nationalists.  Subsequently, this beautifully written story about the Black Panther Party’s handiwork in the black community and three little black girls discovering their mother and their civic duty is one you shouldn’t miss, not to mention it’s perfect for young readers. Click the link below to hear Rita Williams-Garcia speaking sprightly about One Crazy Summer and go to http://www.ritawg.com for more information about her work and her future upcoming events.

16. Home

In a way, home can be considered the beginning of us all.  For some it evokes nostalgia, comfort, warmth, love-a place one can’t wait to get back to.  For others it’s a place we’d like to forget completely or partly, and some wander aimlessly for a good amount of their lives trying to find one.   Home is our reference point.  The place which has made us in some respect who we are today.  Home is the story of Frank Money and his journey to his home after serving in the Korean War, which took place between 1950 and 1953.  Frank is a self-loathing African-American man who is searching for peace among all the horrors he went through during the Korean War, but that he can’t seem to shake.  He tries to subdue them with alcohol but that just disorients him. and gets him into trouble.  This novel is engaging, but very melancholy.  At some points, I got the impression that he felt he didn’t deserve to survive the war.  It’s very difficult to talk about this book without including spoilers but I’ll try.

The second main character in Home is Frank’s sister, Cee.  Cee is the reason that Frank finally goes home.  Growing up, Frank and Cee were very close to each other.  He protected his sister as if he were a parent.  Until then, we follow Frank through the ups and downs of being an African-American veteran in racist America.  Jim Crow Laws (1876-1965) are being enforced, separating blacks from whites, and preventing any type of equality.  The Korean War was the first time that whites and blacks actually fought in combat side-by-side in war.  Preceding this war, the military was segregated, although President Truman had signed the Executive Order 9981 in July of 1948.  It established equal treatment and opportunity in the Armed Forces without regard to race.  More than 600,000 African-Americans served in the Korean War and no one can begin to imagine the horrors they must have had to face in the US after what they had already been through in Korea.  What’s even more incomprehensible is that Korea integrated the armed forces.

Home is Toni Morrison’s latest and tenth book.  Morrison is 81 this year and still an extraordinary writer.  I hope she’ll continue to write these informative and important stories that we don’t have the possibility to read so often.  Before long,  I’ll be able to say I’ve read them all.  I still have Love and Paradise left to complete reading all of her genius works.  Home is a real gem!  Morrison does what she knows how to do best, which are descriptions and massively detail packed sentences giving you the character analysis,  scenery and time, but most of all feelings.  She really knows how to get to the crux of the subject and the emotion, which she explores thoroughly.  It’s like watching a movie and you’re afraid to blink because you’re afraid of missing something.  I hated putting it down because I just wanted to know more about what happens to the characters in the future.  I haven’t read anything before as a fiction novel on this subject, but Home reads quickly.  The proof, I read it in 2 days.  I probably could have read it quicker if I didn’t have so many classes to teach.  Approaching the end of the novel, I wanted to know more about the future of the characters.  It’s a lovely little 145 page book that I suggest all Morrison fans and newbies to Morrison should read.  I rate it 5 stars out of 5!  Happy reading……

http://www.nj.gov/military/korea/factsheets/afroamer.html

8. A Mercy

Toni Morrison is one of my favorite authors – The Bluest Eye, Sula, Beloved, Paradise, Song of Solomon, etc.  I discovered her and her incredible novels in my second year of university, as an English lit major and have never stopped reading her since.  I always look forward to anything new she writes.  She is a writer, editor, and professor and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987 for the novel Beloved – a must read and for me a must reread.  However, she really became famous when she won the Nobel Peace Prize in literature in 1993, “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality”. Having read most of her books, Love and A Mercy were the last two left  on my list.  It’s almost done! I finally got around to reading A Mercy.  It was interesting to read about slavery in this way.  Morrison attempted to write about slavery at its beginnings before it became organized and regulated.  She brings together Florens a slave, Lina a Native American labourer, Jacob Vaark, and Rebekkah, Jacob Vaark’s wife, who was sent from the Old World.  These three women are slaves in their own ways and bound by their situations.  Their relationships which begins as unified and solid almost like a “family” slowly but surely deteriorates and becomes rash, desperate, and unkind.  The place is the New World in the 17th century at the beginning where everything is wild and up for grabs by all different nationalities.  The story is told in first and third person and is not easy to understand but by the third chapter things become clearer.

I think Morrison was trying to show that slavery wasn’t always connected to the hatred of the black man and that many people had slave-like status in the New World in which men and women were trying to survive.  I must admit I enjoyed the second half of this book a lot more than the first half.  I felt disconnected from the characters and I missed the in-depth characterization that Morrison usually does.  Maybe this was done on purpose to accentuate these very different people coming together.  In my opinion, I think this book was too short.  I did enjoy reading the connections between the  characters and the way the connections were made(skillfully done), although it’s not a joyful read.  Once I started to get into the book it seemed to fly by and I was looking for more and then “pouf” it was over.  It’s about 160 pages and beautifully written, as always.  Nevertheless, I wouldn’t suggest this title to someone who has never read Morrison.  I would say start with The Bluest Eye or Sula and then work your way through Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Paradise, and of course the crème de la crème BelovedBeloved is not an easy read but it’s all worth it in the end.  It’s one of my favorites and I need to reread it.  I say check out A Mercy if you’re a Morrison fan.  I give it three and a half stars.  I don’t hate it but it’s not in my top favorites of Morrison.  I’ll have to hurry to read Love, since I read somewhere that she has a new novel coming out in May called Home.  It looks intriguing.

Black History Month

It’s Black History month again for some but everyday is Black history for me.  This has become a controversial subject in the past few years, whether it should be celebrated or not.  This is the month that we celebrate African-Americans’ achievements and their central role in United States history.  Black History month was actually developed from  Negro History Week, which was launched in 1926 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson.  Negro History Week gradually evolved into Black History month in 1976.

For all you avid readers out there check out any of these great black writers to get an insight into black issues.  This list includes a lot of my favorites however there are many more that I haven’t listed.  It may not be mainstream literature to most but a lot of this literature deals with current issues that touch all races and cultures. Enjoy reading….

Maya Angelou, Tina McElroy Ansa, James Baldwin, Claude Brown, Octavia Butler, Bebe Moore Campbell, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Eric Jerome Dickey, W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Ralph Ellison, Ernest J. Gaines, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Nikki Giovanni, Alex Haley, Lorraine Hansberry, Lynn E. Harris, Chester Himes, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Jamaica Kincaid, Bernice L. McFadden, Louise Meriwether, Toni Morrison, Terrry McMillan, Walter Mosley, Jess Mowry, Gloria Naylor, Barbara Neely, Ishmael Reed, April Sinclair, Alice Walker, Margaret Walker, Dorothy West, Richard Wright, Malcom X….

Write in and tell me what you read and liked!

Here’s the main reason I love Black History month (all the interesting people I learn about):  I was reading a blog post a couple of days ago about inspirational black women, Phyllis Wheatley (1753-1784) the first published African-American poet was the center.  I ‘ve just learned about her and will be taking some time to find out more about her and to read some of her poetry. Check out his blog post on fleurdecurl.wordpress.com!

2. The Science of Black Hair

Two years today I did a leap and big chopped* after transitioning* for four months to become natural.  I hadn’t seen my natural hair for more than 30 years.  I didn’t even know what my natural hair texture would be like.  The only thing I had to go on were many pictures of me with my long plaits hanging down on both sides, with hair ribbons and bows.  I’d completely forgotten everything about its texture and its length, but I did remember the discomfort of having my hair done, tender headed.  At the end of the summer in August 2009,  I was desperate for my scalp to stop itching after the last relaxer* that I had gotten on holiday in the States.  So I decided to only shampoo, condition, moisturize and air dry my hair during the transition period since my hair was very short anyway.  That went well until January 7, 2010 when I got fed up with scraggly ends which I was afraid would break, not to mention I was starting to look like a wet cat, and cut off all the relaxed ends.  I was left with 3cm of hair all over my head.  Somehow, I felt liberated and a lot of cold air on my scalp when I went out in the cold Normandy winter.  I regretted nothing.

Recently, natural hair has become more popular as an alternative to relaxing, weaves, and wigs. Although, black women who decide to big chop without having done research find their hair journey to be a trying and daunting task.  So, if there are any wannabee naturals, natural newbies, transitioners, loc wearers, or even relaxed hair wearers reading this post, I suggest you save yourselves the grief, the product junkie-ism, and wondering how to care for your hair.  Go out and get The Science of Black Hair!

This book is what we’ve all been waiting for.  It details everything from explanations on how hair grows, the structure of black hair, product analysis, regimens, children’s hair care, caring for relaxed hair, etc.  Everything is touched on in this book.  I read it in one week but my copy is full of highlights and dog-eared pages.  It’s the book you will refer to throughout your hair journey, whether you’re at the beginning or reached your hair goal.  There has been no other book like this written.

Basically, the book is about 250 pages and is separated into five major units:  1. The Science of Black Hair, 2.Healthy Hair Management, 3.  Working with Chemicals in a Healthy Hair Care Regiment, 4 Children’s Hair Care, and 5. The Hair-Total Body Connection.”  Under each of these units, there are various chapters that deal with the specificities of the unit, containing micrographic pictures (really cool!), graphs and information boxes.  There is a full in-depth index, a glossary, and product ingredient glossary in the back.  If you’re interested in doing more research on hair you can refer to Davis-Sivasthy’s references.  There you will find the references she used to write this informative book.  I also recommend buying the hardcover because it’s the kind of book you will refer to throughout your hair journey.

Today is my 2 year “nappy” anniversary and I’m proud to have made it from 3cm of hair length to the 21cm I have today.  I didn’t read this book until last week but it has confirmed the things I had to find out the long, hard way and enlightened me with new information, like the importance of a good balance between moisture and protein.  This is essential to healthy afro hair growth.  It’s also the most difficult to pinpoint because all afro hair is very different.  I feel as though after reading The Science of Black Hair that I’m getting even closer to perfecting this important combination.  Davis-Sivasothy has also added some Q and A street interviews, which add a certain authenticity to the book.  All in all an excellent, easy read and all for only $32.95 in hardback and $24,95 in paperback on Amazon.com

Look how far I’ve come.  After reading The Science of Black Hair I know I can go even further…….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those of you looking for supplementary information about natural hair there  are many hair care forums and You Tube channels that can help you along your hair journey.  My favorite hair care forum is NaturalSunshine.com.  Some of my favorite You Tube hair channels are MsRosieVelt, tastiredbone, africanexport, louloumatou, Naptural85, ahsiek1118, TheNaprika, 160Days2Lose2, tonidaley80, whoissugar, beuniquehaircare, FusionofCultures, and BlackIzBeautyful to name a few, but there are so many more……Once you start watching you won’t want to stop!

*Big Chop – BC: to cut off all relaxed ends of the hair leaving a very short afro known as TWA(teeny weeny afro)

*transition – growing out a relaxer and just trimming the ends regularly until all the relaxer is gone.

*relaxer – chemical processing the hair using a lye product, sodium hydroxide, which is put on the roots of the hair about every 6-8 weeks to keep the appearance of straight hair.